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Five minutes with Stuart Cashman Page 4 Unapologetic, part 3: The problem of pain Page
Five minutes with Stuart Cashman Page 4 Unapologetic, part 3: The problem of pain Page

Five minutes with Stuart Cashman Page 4

Unapologetic, part 3: The problem of pain Page 6

Rejoicing in Hope (Romans 8:18-25) Page 10

GOSPEL OPPORTUNITIES (Page 8) Summer 2016 £1.50
GOSPEL
OPPORTUNITIES
(Page 8)
Summer
2016
£1.50

Philippians 1 v 9-11

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Philippians 1:9-11

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CONTENTS

03

First word

04

Five minutes with Stuart Cashman

06

Unapologetic, part 3:

The problem of pain

08

Gospel Opportunities

10

Rejoicing in Hope

12

HABAKKUK 1:12- 2:1

14

Fulfilment of the Prophetic Pictures of the Old Testament

16

From the churches

21

Praise & Prayer

23

Book reviews

24

Best of the blogs

FIRST WORD

Of all the disciplines to which we are called in the Christian life, personal evangelism is perhaps the one which strikes fear into the hearts of most Christians! We know that we ought to speak to others about Jesus, and yet we struggle to know exactly what to say. We worry that our friends might take offence at us for our beliefs. We are concerned that we might not know how to answer some of the difficult questions that might be fired back at us. For all these reasons, when the opportunity to speak of Christ arises, we stay quiet and let the opportunity pass us by.

F or those of us who find personal evangelism a real challenge, the words of the apostle Paul in

the opening verses of Colossians chapter 4 are a real encouragement. We can sum up Paul’s approach to personal evangelism with three words:

1) Praying (v2-4) As someone has put it, “effective evangelism begins with persevering prayer.” If we want to be effective witnesses for Christ, then this is where we must start. Paul encourages the Colossians to pray persistently, not giving up even though they may not yet see the fruitfulness that they long for. They are to pray watchfully, with one eye on the return of Christ, and therefore marked with the urgency with which his return fills us. And they are to pray thankfully, not simply making requests of God, but also expressing their gratitude to God for all that he has given to them in Christ.

to God for all that he has given to them in Christ. 2) Living (v5) Having
to God for all that he has given to them in Christ. 2) Living (v5) Having

2) Living (v5) Having prayed, the believers are then to go out and boldly live the Christian life in the sight of those around them. In the words of Jesus, they are to let their “light shine before others.” This will involve walking in wisdom, as they allow God’s word to shape their conduct. And it will mean making the best use of the time, as they shape their diaries around the priority of sharing Christ with unbelievers. They will need to invest their time in building up relationships with those who are not yet believers.

3) Speaking (v6) Having prayed, and lived, how Paul has called them to do, the Colossian believers will find that there will indeed be opportunities for them to be sharing their faith with those around them. In answer to their prayers, God will open up doors for the gospel (v3). As their friends, neighbours and colleagues see the transformed lives that these Christians are living, it will prompt them to ask why. It is then that these believers will be able to give an answer, with gracious words, to each person. Praying, living, speaking. Let’s be believers who do our evangelism like that!

CHURCH

PLANTING

Five minutes with…

Stuart Cashman

Hi Stuart, good to chat to you! Tell us a little about what is going on in Brentford these days; you’re involved in a new church plant there…

Brentford is in on the north bank of the River Thames in West London, about 9 miles from the city centre. Historically, it was a dock area, where the Grand Union Canal met the River Thames. Just over a quarter of the residents live in social housing. However in the last 5-10 years there has been a lot of new development. Now alongside the social housing, luxury new apartment blocks have gone up. It is fairly ethnically diverse too. For example, 56 different languages are spoken by children as they start at the school my children attend!

What was it about Brentford in particular that made you think this is somewhere to do a church plant?

There are two main reasons. First, the opportunity afforded by the population growth. Even more developments are in the

by the population growth. Even more developments are in the pipeline for the next 5 years,

pipeline for the next 5 years, so some people estimate the population will have increased by up to 25% over a 10-15 year period. Church planting experts say that new churches are often better placed to reach new residents than old churches. Second, there is the need in Brentford. The churches that do exist in Brentford are generally small, and while there are evangelical churches, there is no viable gospel-proclaiming Reformed church.

You have recently had your first “official” Sunday service; how did you arrive at that point? What goes on behind the scenes when getting a church plant up and running?

It has taken almost a year since we first announced to the

congregation at IPC (International Presbyterian Church) Ealing that we wanted to plant a church in Brentford, so it has taken

a while! We have had work on 3 fronts to get to this point.

First, we had to recruit and build a “Seed Group” to start the new church. We began last July, and started a Bible Study group back in September 2015 meeting in our home. From

January we began meeting in Brentford on Sunday afternoons

so a wider group of people could come and find out about

our vision and values. Second, we have been getting to know

Brentford better. That has included looking at census data,

but more importantly trying to get to meet people in the

community and understand their hopes, concerns, aspirations

and attitudes. It has also included building relationships with

the other church leaders. There is an ongoing aspect to all

this work of course. And third, there has been a fair amount

of logistical organisation to do. Finding a venue and raising

funds are perhaps the most obvious part of this. We are

grateful to the Lord for the school we are meeting in, which

suits us well.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced in

getting Immanuel Brentford started?

Finding a suitable venue has been a big challenge, but the

Lord has provided. Raising money is also a challenge. Our

group has given generously, but London is expensive so we

are still looking for more financial support. The other very big

challenge for us is to really get involved in Brentford. Paul

tells the Thessalonians that he and his coworkers loved them

so much that “we were ready to share with you not only the

gospel of God but our very selves as well” (1 Thessalonians

2:8). We believe this is what is needed for us to share the

gospel in Brentford too. However, most of our group live

around Brentford rather than in it. It is made harder by the

fact there is no real centre to Brentford. A lot of the new

apartment blocks feel more like dormitories for commuters

than homes for members of the community. So we all need

to make conscious, prayerful, costly steps to deliberately

get involved in Brentford, so that we can share not only the

gospel but our lives as well.

…and following on from that, what have been the biggest

encouragements you have seen over recent months?

The biggest encouragement has been the people the Lord

has brought to us. Only one person I attempted to recruit has

joined us! However, the Lord has brought many other gifted,

committed people who love the Lord Jesus. For example, one

single man has just deliberately bought a flat and moved into

the area. An American missionary family who are with us

are just about to move in to Brentford too. The genuine love

amongst the members of our little church is also wonderful.

In addition, I have been encouraged by the giving of the group,

and a couple of US churches who are supporting us.

Finally, tell us how we can be praying for you, your family,

and the church over the coming months.

Our first sermon series is on Ephesians, as I want us to see

the scale of God’s plans and the importance of the church in

that. So please pray for me, that I will proclaim the gospel

clearly and boldly, and that the Lord will build us up. Please

also pray for protection for us as a family and as a church.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6, our battle is not against

flesh and blood. And please pray that we as a family, and all

of us members of Immanuel Church, will truly get involved

in Brentford, and have opportunities, courage and wisdom

to share the gospel there. Obviously, we would love to see

people who do not yet know Jesus come to know him. There

is quite a large community from Central and Eastern Europe

in town. I’d love to see someone saved from that background,

who can then be an evangelist into that community. Thank

you so much for your interest and support for what the Lord

is doing through us.

www.immanuelbrentford.org

Thanks Stuart!

doing through us. www.immanuelbrentford.org Thanks Stuart! Stuart is being sent to plant Immanuel Church by the

Stuart is being sent to plant Immanuel Church by the International Presbyterian Church of Ealing where he served as Associate Pastor. He is married to Meriel, and they have two children, Zoë (6) and Joel (4). He holds an MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary. He used to work in toothpaste.

Unapologetic

PART 3: The problem of pain

A common protest from non-Christians is, “How can you believe in a good God when there is so much suffering

in the world?” It is an undeniable fact that there is suffering all around us. On television we can see the devastation caused by earthquakes, famine, floods and war in distant lands - troubles too big to comprehend - and closer to home we can see the effects of illness, crime, domestic upset and apparently random cruel fate. Suffering is unavoidable, and it is hard even for the most faithful saint to rationalise it all. The book of Habakkuk begins with the prophet’s lament regarding the state of affairs in his native Judah. He saw violence,

conflict, wickedness and corruption among his own people. He cries out to God, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help but you do not listen? ‘Violence is everywhere’ I cry but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery?” (Habakkuk 1:2-3). We too may echo his cry. We believe in an all-powerful God of love. We see such evil. How can this be?

Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga notes that the two propositions

1)

God is omniscient, omnipotent, and wholly good

and

2)

There is evil

are not, in themselves, explicitly or formally contradictory. Rather there is an implicit contradiction which may be worked out as follows:

1)

Evil and suffering exist in the world.

2)

If God were omnipotent he would be able to prevent

3)

these things. If God were wholly good (specifically, if he were a God of

4)

love) he would want to prevent them. Therefore, if there were an omnipotent and wholly good

5)

God there would be no evil and suffering. Therefore, as evil and suffering exist, there can be no God.

What then are the implications of this conclusion? If we deny that God exists, we are left with time, plus space, plus chance as the explanation for everything. If we deny absolute standards of good and evil then what we call “good” is merely the majority preference within a society of biped mammals with no special status, existing in a

precarious environment alongside many other species. In terms of ultimate morality our view of “good” can be no more important than other club rules.

If we accept no moral foundations then societal prohibitions against murder or violence are of no greater absolute significance than that society’s views as to whether a jacket and tie should be worn for dinner. Even Richard Dawkins’ appeal to the importance of the survival of the gene pool is of no ultimate value if there are no ultimate values. That Richard Dawkins and his fellow evolutionary biologists feel that realm of nature is important is irrelevant if everything is the result of chance. It is of no greater significance than whether they prefer strawberry to chocolate ice cream. If all is the result of chance then we cannot complain about the injustice of chance outcomes - however grave they are for those concerned. Such cold atheism has no words of comfort for the grieving. The question, then, is why do we get so upset by the outworking of random events? Why do we not simply stoically accept the outcomes? Instead we rail against the injustice of innocent lives lost or persons afflicted. We recognise that something is wrong. Why? The question is not then perhaps why suffering exists, so much as why non- Christians exhibit such anger against a God they deny exists. Indeed, we may reframe the argument as follows:

1)

If God does not exist, transcendent, objective values of

2)

good and evil do not exist. Evil does exist.

3)

Therefore objective values exist, and some things are

4)

really, basically, fundamentally bad. Therefore God exists.

CS Lewis follows a similar line of argument in the opening

chapters of his book Mere Christianity in a section headed

‘Right and wrong a clue to the meaning of the universe”.

We know when we have been wronged. Also, we experience

guilt when we do wrong. As Paul notes in Romans chapter 2,

we know God’s law ‘instinctively’ even if it is suppressed

and ignored.

So then, if the existence of evil does not mean that there is

no God it still leaves us with questions about his goodness

and his power. If he is loving, good, and all powerful, why is

there evil? The philosophical term for attempting to explain

the existence of evil within the plans of a loving, all powerful

God is theodicy - a word derived from the Greek for God

and justice. It is, as John Milton put it, an attempt to ‘justify

the ways of God to man’. This is a bold step as Paul reminds

us in Romans 11:33-34: “How impossible it is for us to

understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know

the LORD’s thoughts?” Rather than attempting a theodicy,

Alvin Plantinga proposes something less ambitious, but more

achievable; what he terms a defence. His arguments are

complex but, in essence, as God is all powerful and wholly

good, and evil does exist, then God must have good reason

for allowing this state of affairs. Plantinga argues that God’s

creation of man as a creature capable of morally significant

choices necessitates the possibility of morally wrong choices.

These choices have consequences: Evil and suffering. We

can perhaps more easily see the immediate consequences

of the evil acts of men such as violence, but there are other

more subtle consequences worked out over the longer term

- remember that the whole Earth was cursed and groans as a

result of the fall. (Genesis 3:17 and Romans 8:20-22)

We had mentioned the prophet Habakkuk earlier in the

article. God’s answer to his question must have taken his

breath away. God did not promise revival but judgement at

the hands of a ruthless and godless nation - the Babylonians.

Habakkuk’s short book concludes with him waiting quietly

for the prophecy to be fulfilled. He is trusting, even rejoicing,

in the God of his salvation. Though we, like Habakkuk, may

find ourselves bewildered by circumstances, we have an

advantage over the prophet. We have been let in on the secret

- God’s mystery - for we know that there will be a day when

God himself will be with his people. ‘He will wipe every tear

from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or

crying or pain.’ (Rev. 21:4)

And we know too that our part in this salvation has been

secured by Jesus through his suffering on the cross, and

that he can sympathise with us for he ‘understands our

weaknesses, for he has faced all the same testings as we do.’

(Hebrews 4:15)

In conclusion, that evil exists is undeniable, but the existence

of evil does not undermine our belief in a loving all powerful

God. It is true that we cannot know, cannot understand and

cannot explain the outworking of his purposes, but we can

trust him to act wisely and justly - even if, like Habakkuk, it

seems beyond our comprehension.

Postscript: This has been a difficult piece to write.

Not because of any philosophical or theological challenge but

because this is a topic ‘where the rubber hits the road’. In the

course of my work I daily see patients who are about to be

given news of life-changing or life-threatening diagnoses.

I see the effect this has on the individuals before me.

On occasion this comes closer to home - recently a colleague

was admitted under my care with a new diagnosis of cancer.

Times of high emotion like these are perhaps not the best

time to start to consider the problem of pain. We should, like

Habakkuk, aim to have our thinking clear before the storm

breaks. Evil exists, suffering exists, and, whilst we may not

understand how it serves God’s purposes, surely it is more

comforting to know that it is part of the plan of a good God,

than merely the chance outworking of blind circumstance.

There is no comfort in that.

of blind circumstance. There is no comfort in that. Michael Trimble has been attending Stranmillis EPC

Michael Trimble has been attending Stranmillis EPC since 1993, and works as a physician in the Royal Victoria Hospital. He is married to Rachel and they have three children, David, Sophie and Solomon.

Gospel Opportunities

(1 Corinthians 16:1-14)

Gospel Opportunities (1 Corinthians 16:1-14) The following article is adapted from one of the addresses given

The following article is adapted from one of the addresses given by David McKay at the Office Bearers’ Conference.

D espite what some Christians think, it is not unspiritual in gospel ministry to make plans – to look ahead and give careful thought to how and where witness should be carried on. The Apostle Paul, as the New Testament record shows us, was clearly a missionary who thought carefully about the next steps in his work and who had in mind places where he hoped to preach the gospel and minister to the Lord’s people

in

he indicates in Romans 1:10-12. There is the danger, however, that we come to rely on our plans (or methodology) instead of relying on the Lord. It is, after all, his work and we need to be seeking his leading and guiding regarding gospel ministry and must take the opportunities he provides. In this too Paul is an excellent example.

future years. Rome, for example, was much in his mind, as

Saviour’s words to the church in Philadelphia: ‘Behold, I have set before you an open door which no-one is able to shut’ (Revelation 3:8). It is the sovereign and gracious Saviour who provides gospel opportunities and in every sense this is his work. Several things follow from this fundamental truth:

(i) The need to discern the opportunities he gives. In looking for the doors he is opening, we may ‘push’ some doors in order to test what will happen, but we must never try to force them open. At times we may be guilty of deciding where we think there should be, or even where there will be, a church, and then persisting with efforts to plant one regardless of what response follows. Sometimes a lot of

personal prestige can be bound up with such efforts, so that no hard questions can be asked. It is no easy matter to decide at what point it is clear whether or not the Lord is opening

a door in a particular location, but the corporate wisdom of

a praying presbytery ought surely to play a significant role.

This requires a submissive spirit and contentment with God’s provision, whether it is in accord with our preferences or not.

(ii) The need to exploit the opportunities he gives. The open doors must be entered, not merely observed and discussed. Open doors are a call to action in faith and ought not to be missed. God opens doors for his church to go through, taking the word of life to those who need to hear. Planning and discussing, and (dare we say it?) even praying can become a substitute for the hard work God is giving us to do. How sad it is if we become experts in doors who always stand on the wrong side of them. Open doors are to be gone through.

1. The open door

Paul, writing to the Corinthians from Ephesus, is planning ahead. ‘I will visit you after passing through Macedonia’ (v5). He appears to have in mind the possibility of an extended visit, perhaps even spending the winter with them (v6). He then envisages going on to Jerusalem with their gift for the poor (v4). In all of this he is nevertheless conscious of an overruling factor: it will only come to pass ‘if the Lord permits’

(v7).

At present the Lord is overruling – ‘But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost’ (v8). He cannot move on yet, and the reason he gives is profoundly significant: ‘for a wide door for effective work has opened to me’ (v9). As Paul carries on faithfully in his assigned ministry, the Lord is providing significant gospel opportunities in Ephesus and Paul must respond accordingly.

A door ‘has opened’ – literally Paul is saying that a door

‘stands open and remains open’. In other words, this is not a fleeting opportunity, but one that should last for some time. The crucial question is of course, ‘How has the door opened?’

It certainly has not opened by itself nor has Paul produced an

open door by his efforts or his ingenuity. There is no doubt that in Paul’s view it is always God who opens doors of gospel opportunity. We can see this, for example, in II Corinthians 2:12 where Paul writes that when he came to Troas ‘to preach

the gospel of Christ’, he found that ‘a door was opened for me

in

the Lord’. We can be even more specific on this matter. It is

in

particular Christ who opens doors of opportunity. Note the

(iii) The need to pray for open doors. Note Colossians 4:3: ‘pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word’. Prayer to the sovereign Lord is essential. Paul, the great missionary, was absolutely convinced of that. Yes, prayer can be a substitute for action, but sometimes action can become a substitute for prayer. Being busy – even working ourselves to exhaustion - is not in itself proof that it is the Lord’s work we are doing. The objection ‘If you believe God is sovereign, why pray?’ is easily answered: it is because God is sovereign that we pray. If he is not, there is no point. If it is the Lord alone who truly opens doors for the gospel, how earnestly we ought to be praying that he will open the doors he has decreed for us to enter.

2. The effective work

What the Lord is providing for Paul is an open door for effective work. Note:

(i) The scope of the opportunity. It is a ‘great’ (NIV) or ‘wide’ (ESV) door. Paul had many opportunities for gospel ministry in Ephesus, work described in Acts 19, work among Jews and Gentiles, including the sick, practitioners of magic and even public officials. From this influential city the gospel spread – ‘all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks’ (Acts 19:10). Wherever God has placed his people – especially in an urban context – there is scope for gospel ministry that will make use of all their gifts and resources. Disciple-making (Matthew 28:19) is always possible. The opportunities may be more obvious in some situations than in others, but they will be there if we look for them.

(ii) The success of the work. It is a door for effective work. What defines effective gospel work? It is effective when the Word of God comes home to the hearts of men and women with transforming effect – bringing the spiritually dead to life in Christ and renewing them in his likeness. There is a new act of creation (II Corinthians 5:17) when any sinner is saved. This happens by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit – as expressed in John 3:8 as being ‘born of the Spirit’. When the Holy Spirit works, our labour will be effective and as we rely on him we can and should expect ‘success’ as God wills it – lives transformed by grace. Gospel work is effective. We do not for a moment buy into the head-counting numbers game that so infects many strands of evangelicalism, but we cannot remain indifferent when efforts to spread the gospel seem to meet with no significant response. At the very least we need to be moved to ask serious questions. Sometimes we can use the doctrine of God’s sovereignty to avoid facing up to our own failings. There is a properly biblical ‘success’ that we should seek and expect.

3. The many opponents

Paul’s experience in Ephesus offered dramatic evidence that ‘there are many adversaries’. There is no pretending in Paul’s assessment of his situation. He is utterly realistic about the warfare that inevitably goes along with the opportunities for effective work. Of course the enemies of the gospel will be stirred to opposition when effective gospel work is being done. Paul’s ministry is no exception. In Ephesus, for example, Paul encountered opposition from Demetrius and the silversmiths, among others, (Acts 19:23ff) because of the effectiveness of the work he was doing. He tells us, ‘I fought with beasts at Ephesus’ (1 Corinthians 15:32), indicating vividly that the opposition there was fierce and violent, and of course behind the human enemies stands Satan, who prowls around like a roaring lion (I Peter 5:8). Nothing has changed in this regard. Gospel work is warfare (Ephesians 6:10ff) – we are naïve if we think otherwise – and still there are many adversaries. The attitudes to the gospel that we encounter in our own local context indicate that increasingly that is the case, and, unless the Lord intervenes in a powerful way, we can expect the situation to get worse. Such an apostolic warning should protect us against overconfidence or, indeed, any confidence in ourselves. It should also keep us spiritually watchful, heeding the warning of I Peter 5:8 ‘Be sober-minded; be watchful’. The spiritual health of the witness is crucial, lest Satan gain a foothold. We should, however, be unafraid. The Lord we serve is victorious over all his enemies and it is only a matter of time until they are all put under his feet (I Corinthians 15:25). Nothing can derail his eternal saving purpose. The enemy is quite happy to see the Lord’s people intimidated into silence and inactivity, but we must not make the slightest concession to him. Effective work will be opposed: the Lord has warned us that this will be the case. Opposition may, in a paradoxical way, encourage us since it may well be an indication that the Holy Spirit is rescuing sinners from the enemy’s grasp and so he is stirred into resistance. With the blessing of a sovereign Saviour, Gospel work done in his strength and to his glory will be ‘effective’, and the glory will be entirely his.

will be ‘effective’, and the glory will be entirely his. David McKay has been a minister

David McKay has been a minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church for over 32 years and has been minister of Shaftesbury Square congregation in Belfast since 2007. He also serves as Professor of Systematic Theology, Ethics and Apologetics at the Reformed Theological College.

Rejoicing in Hope

A Sermon on Romans 8:18-25

(All Bible quotations from the ESV.)

T he presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer makes a

fundamental difference. Christians live according to the Spirit and no longer according to their flesh. The presence of the Spirit enables them in a number of significant ways: walking through life in a new way, according to different

principles (8:5); relating to God as Father and not as judge (8:15); having an assurance they really are children of God and heirs with Christ (8:17). There is, of course, a little proviso in v17: “…provided we suffer with him”. This is a reminder to us that becoming a Christian is no easy thing. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not

hold out to us an easier life of material prosperity. Instead it holds out to us the prospect of spiritual warfare. It is not easy to bear down on sin in

your life or to continually remember that God is your heavenly Father or that we have an inheritance that cannot fade. We face continual temptation from the world, the flesh and the devil. Paul is being transparent about what this Christian life is like now, but he is also clear about the need for patience in the midst of all this suffering. There is much to look forward to: not only for us but also for the whole of creation. He paints a glorious picture which helps us rejoice patiently in glorious hope.

The Whole Creation

The future of the whole creation matters to Paul. He mentions it in each of verses 19-22. By “creation” I believe he means the physical universe, including creatures, but excluding angels or demons. In other words, the universe that a modern scientist would observe.

Paul says three things about it: firstly, he says that creation is unwillingly under subjection. Something has happened that has put the put the whole of creation under an authority that it was not willing to be put under. Now it is in “bondage to decay” (v21). As it were, creation is under lock

and key, in chains and in a state of deterioration. How did that happen? The answer is drawn from Genesis 1-3. Paul is here speaking about

the consequences of that Fall of man. Genesis describes how God made a world that was very good and he was pleased with all he had made. But then we see how man succumbed to temptation and disobeyed God with devastating consequences for the whole of mankind. These were as a direct result of the curse of God bringing death to all, the need for toilsome labour on the land, and the pain of childbirth for women. It was God’s curse that put creation into bondage. It is worth pausing for a moment to think about that. When we see a

“There is much to look forward to: not only for us but also for the whole of creation. He paints a glorious picture which helps us rejoice patiently in glorious hope”

disaster on the TV, or have one happen to us, we are tempted to get angry with God. But does it ever occur to us that perhaps God is angry with mankind? And that he has every right to be so? That he sees our sin, and that a disaster is an alarm bell that calls us to repent even when we do not personally suffer? The second observation Paul makes is that creation is subjected to futility (v20). He is saying that the creation in its current state serves no ultimate useful purpose! Now it is true, that a universe without God – the atheist’s universe – is pointless. It is the message of Ecclesiastes where the writer tries many ways to find meaning and satisfaction from this world alone, only to find that everything is “vanity”. We can’t get rid of that gnawing feeling that there is something fundamentally unsatisfying about the world we live in when God is excluded. What makes it pointless in the end is the inevitable march of corruption and decay. Whatever is achieved in our lives, if something else doesn’t destroy it, the second law of thermodynamics will. Moths and rust get everywhere! Creation is utterly pointless without God. If you think it through clearly you find that there is no longer room for those concepts of truth, beauty and meaning. It is this, I suggest, that drives our western world increasingly towards nihilism and the pursuit of instant pleasure. There is nothing of lasting value, so “eat and drink for tomorrow we die!” (1 Cor. 15:32).

But Paul is saying even more than this. He is saying that God does exist, but it is still futile - not just that it feels pointless if we think about it but that this creation really is futile! So, Paul’s third observation, is that the creation groans (v22). What kind of groaning is it? Could this be the final groans of death he is talking about? No. A different kind of groaning – it is like the groans of childbirth (v22). Now, childbirth is painful, but it is not death. It is a painful prelude to something wonderful! This is what Paul is leading to: though to our limited human perception this world is broken and dying, in the redemptive plans of God there is a purpose even for the creation – to be set free from the bondage that it is now in. When is this moment of freedom going to come?

The Revelation of the Sons of God

It is going to come at the revealing of the Sons of God (v19). Paul links closely the future prospects of creation with the future prospects of the children of God i.e. the church of Jesus Christ. Paul is picturing this created order waiting with longing for this future great event - the revealing of the sons of God. Clearly Paul has in mind the people he had spoken of earlier in v15, the sons of God. Whatever we see of Christians today, there is going to be an unveiling later. What we see now is in the shadows, but one day it will be in clear daylight. What can Paul possibly mean? To see this we need to look on a bit further to v23, “…not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” The “redemption of our bodies” is important. Two things which coincide are intimately linked. First, there is a future adoption as sons and, second, redemption of the body. What Paul has in view here is the final resurrection of our bodies, and that is the revelation of the sons of God for which the creation eagerly waits. This will be a state of true glory and it is in this state that true freedom comes to us. Indeed, the whole creation will then also

be freed from its bondage. Let’s pause for breath and fit it together with what we now know. When you become a believing Christian you have the indwelling Holy Spirit who brings about a changed life, but remember there is still sin present in our members. We are dead to sin – it has no authority over us – but it is not yet dead in us.

Sin is still something of a ball and chain weighing us down in this life. To be free of that will require the death of our bodies and a subsequent

resurrection into a new sinless body. At that point we truly enter into glory and we will be finally and fully revealed as sons of God. Along with that comes the

freeing of the old creation to become a new, free creation. Friends, this is the prospect that awaits Christians: that of unlimited glory in the presence of Jesus, with new glorious bodies, able to fully enjoy a new creation in his presence without all the problems that sin brings. Paul wants to encourage his readers with this picture. They may well be suffering in various ways, perhaps through external opposition to the gospel or the continual battle against sin in their lives. But knowing this description of the future gives us hope.

to the Lord the first tenth of the harvest. It was only a token but recognising that the whole harvest belonged to the Lord. Christian, whatever you are tasting now as a result of the presence of the Holy

Spirit in your life is only the firstfruits. What awaits you at the resurrection of your body is the full measure of the blessing and the glory of God! Because we are tasting it now, it fuels our hope for the future, and it gives us patience to endure the present suffering.

Friends, the trouble that

This will be a state of true glory and it is in this state that true freedom comes to us. Indeed, the whole creation will then also be freed from its bondage.

you are facing in your life just now, as long as you are killing sin, is not a sign of the absence of blessing of God. Actually, it is the normal

Christian experience of

waiting and longing and groaning for something much better. Just as the pain of childbirth is the normal experience of a mother looking forward to the glorious birth of her child, so we wait and long for the glorious freedom that the resurrection will bring for us and all creation.

Patience and Hope

In the last three verses (23-25) Paul

speaks of the patient hope Christians have even as they groan inwardly.

It is strange to describe Christians

groaning, but it’s a bit like this: can you ever remember a time when you wanted something really badly? For example,

it might have been a person you fell in

love with and sometimes you felt the longing so badly that all you could do was sigh or even groan? Paul describes this for the Christian who receives the Holy Spirit - a longing and sighing and groaning for the glory to come.

With the presence of the Spirit, you get

a taster of it now – how do I know that?

The Christian gets the “firstfruits of the spirit” (v23)! “Firstfruits” is a reference to the Old Testament practice of giving

is a reference to the Old Testament practice of giving Stephen Dancer is married to Susan,

Stephen Dancer is married to Susan, and father of one. He has a PhD in physics. He worked for 14 years in the aerospace industry and became a chartered engineer. He also has a BA in Theological Studies. He has been a minister of the gospel at Solihull Presbyterian Church, part of the EPCEW, since March, 2007.

HOLDING ON TO THE TRUTH HABAKKUK 1:12- 2:1

I f you’ve ever had opportunity to use a rock climbing wall you know it looks very daunting, but you soon start to realise

there are places to put your hands, places to hold on. You look for where you can get a firm grasp and where you can put your feet. The same principle applies in our spiritual lives. What will you hold on to when you face perplexing and difficult times in your own life? Where can you get a firm grasp? Where will you feel

you’re on solid ground? In the opening chapter of Habakkuk the prophet is facing very perplexing questions. The state of the land of Judah,

God’s people, is deeply troubling. There is violence, disorder,

a lack of justice, everybody doing what they want to do, and

Habakkuk is crying out to God concerning this – he keeps on

crying out – ‘how long shall I cry and you will not hear?’ He is troubled that the Lord isn’t intervening. But then the Lord does answer, and he promises to act in

a powerful way. He’s to judge his own people – but his

instrument is none other than the Chaldeans, the Babylonians

- a pagan land, a land described here as terrible and dreadful

in what they will do. And Habakkuk’s perplexity is now even increased. What is the

Lord doing using the Babylonians? How are we to understand what’s going on?

1. KNOWING GOD (1 v. 12)

We come to Habakkuk’s prayer in verse 12. We need to see that whilst Habakkuk is perplexed by what he sees unfolding, his faith in God is still clear. He knows who God is – he holds on to the truth about God impressed on his mind and heart. He knows where to place his hands and feet when climbing the wall. What is the truth that he confesses here in verse 12? First of all God is eternal. ‘Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my

1212

God, my Holy One?’ Habakkuk knows to whom he is praying - not someone confined and limited by time. God has no beginning or end. Our lives are very short; we’re very limited; we see things from a very short-term perspective – we can change our views and our thinking from one day to the next. But God isn’t subject to changes and whims as we are - he’s the eternal God. What a sure and certain truth to hold on to – Habakkuk in his perplexity comes to the eternal God. How much we can rely upon God – the God who has eternal strength, eternal wisdom, eternal power and love, and whose plan and purpose is from all eternity. What a God to trust in! The everlasting God; the unchanging one. But that’s not the only truth that Habakkuk confesses here. ‘Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my holy one?’ God is holy: utterly pure and perfect. We don’t want a God like us, a God like sinful man – no, he is utterly different from that. He cannot even bear to look on iniquity. God’s purity is such that he can’t for one moment view sin with indulgence or complacency – it’s always offensive to him. The holiness of God is something to strengthen our faith. We worship the one who is glorious in holiness, whose purity is like a burning light. We rely on one whose perfect character and ways will not change. Habakkuk knows God is the holy one. Habakkuk also confesses the God who is faithful to his people:

‘O LORD my God’. He knows that he belongs to the Lord – that he belongs to the God who will ever be faithful to his people. That’s why he can end with that conviction, ‘we shall not die’. God will be faithful to his people, and faithful to his own word. He has made an everlasting covenant: ‘I will be your God and you will be my people’. Habakkuk remembers God’s promise. He believes God’s people will not be wiped out. When Habakkuk sets out to pray at this difficult time, he’s already reminding himself of the great God to whom he is praying. When in perplexity are we able to remember for a moment who God is? ‘Be still and know that I am God’ the Psalmist reminds us. When we know these great truths about God, surely our feet are on firm ground. The truth can keep us from slipping. The times in which Habakkuk lived were confusing and perplexing, but the truth hadn’t changed. He could continue to confess his faith in the eternal, holy, faithful, Almighty God.

2. SEEING EVIL (1 v. 13-17)

We come then to the heart of the problem. Because Habakkuk knows and is convinced that God is holy, and perfect, and faithful in all his ways, he cannot understand how the wicked can grow in strength and prosper. Habakkuk is well aware of the sins of Judah. He cries out to God because of the violence and injustice that he sees. He knows the Lord’s response is to appoint the Chaldeans to bring judgement, as we see at the end of verse 12. This is what God has said he will do. But it’s perplexing because he knows of the wickedness of the Chaldeans.

The prosperity of the wicked is always something which has baffled God’s people. Where is justice? The Psalmist in Psalm 73 says his feet had almost slipped when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. They acted corruptly, violently, proudly. And yet they had good health; their riches increased.

‘What’s wrong?’ the Psalmist is saying. ‘Why is it like this?’ Habakkuk is facing the same difficult question as he looks at the strength of the Chaldean army approaching –why does God allow the wicked to ‘devour someone more righteous than he’? It’s not that the people of Judah were particularly righteous

- we know they weren’t - but compared to pagan Babylon,

Judah did have God’s word and there was still a faithful remnant who served the Lord. They weren’t ruthless like the Chaldeans. The Chaldeans were much worse. Habakkuk gives us a close picture of the Chaldeans. They had risen to such power over the nations that they could gather people up like fish into a net. They were tyrants; they did with their captives what they wanted to do. They had no conscience about the cruelty they carried out. They could easily overwhelm their enemies. They celebrated and gloated over their military successes. They worshipped their weapons. They had no thought for the true and living God, but instead venerated their own successes. They could enjoy plenty, have sumptuous feasts as the fruits of their actions. It’s still the case today that people will celebrate their own unrighteous actions, glory in things that should be their shame. People boast about their cleverness in deceiving someone; talk about the malicious things they’ve done to someone they don’t like. People want to let everybody in the office know how they lived it up at the weekend. The Chaldeans boasted that they could ruthlessly plunder the nations around them. This is Habakkuk’s question: ‘Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity? How long will they carry on?’ Habakkuk is troubled and perplexed by the evil he sees around him – and so he brings a powerful plea to God about the things that are happening. That’s something we too can do when we’re troubled. Our instinct at times is to complain to one another and yet be slow to pray. But the example of Habakkuk here is that the things we don’t understand we leave with the Lord, our faithful, Almighty God. Why, Lord, why? We don’t know – but you know and we leave it in your mighty hands. Prayer waits on God even when we don’t understand; even when we don’t see immediate answers.

3. WATCHING IN FAITH (2v.1)

But the prophet then sets himself apart to watch. He’s prayed and pleaded with God about what’s happening, and now he’ll watch and wait for the answer. He doesn’t pour out his heart

to God and then forget it – in faith he continues to look to the Lord. So Habakkuk describes himself going up into the watchtower to see what will happen, like someone waiting to see if there is

a messenger coming from far away in the distance.

Of course, it’s picture language because Habakkuk isn’t waiting for a messenger as such, but waiting for the Lord’s response.But he goes apart to do that, confident that the Lord will give an answer. The reply may not be immediate but he’s confident in the Lord and is looking to him. He says he ‘will watch to see what he will say to me.’ Now we’re not quite in the same position as Habakkuk. We’re not waiting upon the Lord for revelation in the same sense that Habakkuk was as a prophet. We have the complete Scriptures; we have God’s word. Yet we do need to come to God’s word with that readiness to see what he would say to us, with that desire that he would show us his ways. We need to have ears that are ready to listen to all that he would say to us, and be ready to embrace that word in faith, and find the peace that it brings. We need to place our feet on that solid ground. Like Habakkuk, we face our own perplexities at times, perhaps through difficulties that we have to struggle with. Perhaps like Habakkuk we are concerned about the things that are going on around us, perplexed that wickedness seems to prosper in the land, and that the church of Christ is all too weak. Where do we go in that perplexity? Like Habakkuk we must wait upon God in prayer. We go to the true and living God with faith and expectancy. But we should never see prayer as some magic formula where we just come with a list of things that we want to happen. The Lord would have us bring our petitions and concerns to him and leave them with him - like Habakkuk, wait upon him. We need to remember that God does speak to us through his word, that this isn’t just a book for us to know, but that the Lord uses it in our lives. It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It does point us to certain truths. And in a world of injustice when ‘the wicked devours a person more righteous than he’, we remember that God speaks of how his Son suffered, ‘the just for the unjust to bring us to God’: that great mystery that the sinless Son of God should be put to death by lawless hands for sinners like you and me. We have that great truth of God’s word to hold on to in all our times of perplexity. Habakkuk knew what to hold on to. He didn’t come up with pat answers but he confessed his faith in the eternal, holy and faithful God. He waited upon God with expectant faith.

and faithful God. He waited upon God with expectant faith. Marcus Hobson has been minister of

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.

Fulfilment of the Prophetic Pictures of the Old Testament

(Matthew 26:17-35)

Atonement, Part 3:

In these studies on the cross of Christ we have already seen two glorious pictures of the cross on which Jesus died. Firstly, the death of Christ on the cross was in absolute conformity to the Father’s will, and secondly, the death of Christ on the cross was in absolute conformity to the prophetic word concerning his cross. But there is something else in the Old Testament that pointed to the cross; the Old Testament pictures, types and shadows concerning his cross.

i) The picture of Isaac on Mount Moriah.

Here we have one of the most moving stories in the Old Testament. In Genesis 17, we discover the prophecy of the birth of Isaac. It is quite an amazing prophecy, because Abraham is 100 years of age, and his wife Sarah is 90 years old. But it is the covenant keeping God who makes this promise of a child, a son, and his name would be called Isaac. Then, God tells Abraham that his covenant would be established with Isaac and it would be an everlasting covenant. In chapter 21, we have the birth of Isaac, just as God had promised. But then we are faced with a very dramatic and unexpected situation in chapter 22. God tests Abraham and calls him to go to Mount Moriah and offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice there. God stresses the fact that Abraham loves his son Isaac. Abraham will remember not only his love for his son, but that all

the promises made by God revolved around Isaac.

The promise of a covenant, and the blessings that would come from the covenant, would all come

through Isaac.

That everlasting covenant would be

with Isaac’s descendants after him. He would be a great nation, he would beget twelve princes. All this would come through Isaac; that was God’s promise! Yet now, God asks that Abraham offers Isaac as a sacrifice! Amazingly, Abraham, while not understanding what God was going to do, obeyed God. We can just imagine the scene. A servant goes along with them for most of the journey. But then he is left and Abraham makes

an amazing statement: ‘Stay here with the donkey, I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.’ Abraham was convinced that they would both return, but how?

He did not know, but he trusted God.

considered that God was able to raise him from the dead.’ But that was something that had never happened in the history of the world. As the story continues we find Isaac asking his father, ‘Where is the lamb?’ The reply was, ‘God will provide for himself the

lamb for a burnt offering, my son.’

Abraham and Isaac were at Mount Moriah, which in Christ’s

day was called Mount Calvary; the very place where Christ was crucified. Mount Moriah was actually a range of mountains

including the Mount of Olives and the temple mount.

picture here before us is that of the Father willing to offer his beloved son as a sacrifice; exactly what God did in Christ Jesus. The great difference was that God stopped Abraham from making a sacrifice of Isaac, and a ram took his place. But at Calvary, no one took the place of Christ. The first was a picture, the second the reality.

Hebrews 11:19 says, ‘he

Many scholars believe that

The

ii) The picture of the Passover lamb.

In Exodus 12, we read of the institution of the Passover. Then in 1 Corinthians 5:7 the apostle Paul reminds us, “cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” Here is another great picture from the Old Testament which is fulfilled by Christ on the cross. Again, Luke in his gospel takes up this picture telling us what happened at the institution of the Lord’s Supper and how the Lord himself made this connection between the Passover and himself (Luke 22:19, 20). The significance was that the events of the cross took place at the time of Passover. That was why the disciples were in the upper room with the Lord, to keep the Passover.

There are a great number of parallels between the Passover lamb and the Lord himself. The Passover lamb had to be a lamb without blemish. No defects whatsoever. It had to be a male and

a year old or less. Thus it was in its prime. It was essential that it be kept from the 10th day to the 14th day. Then it had to be killed. Next, the blood of the lamb must be applied on the doorposts and lintel of the home. The lamb had to be eaten that night roasted, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. God promised that when he would see the blood he would Passover that house and those in the house would be safe. What a glorious picture this is of the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God who died for us. In Egypt, the judgement of God fell upon the Egyptians, but those sheltered by the blood of the Passover lambs were safe, totally safe. Christ, our Passover lamb, shed his blood so that we would be kept safe, sheltered by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. The Passover meal was to be kept through their generations by Israel; it was a memorial to be kept every year. In a similar way, we have the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to remind us of the dying of the Lord on the cross for us. Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Here is safety from the wrath and judgement and condemnation of a holy and righteous God on sinful men and women. Jesus was our Passover lamb

sacrificed for us.

reality of the picture shown to men and women for hundreds of years.

He cried on the cross, “finished!” He was the

iii) The picture of the brazen serpent.

This is a very strange picture of the Lord Jesus Christ! The

background was that the people of Israel, having left Egypt, were

now on their way to the Promised Land.

years old, Aaron and Miriam were both dead, and Moses would also die a year after this. Serpents came on the people because of their sin, as they grumbled against God and against Moses. It seems that the people spent a lot of time murmuring and complaining. They had manna and water as well, but they were longing for something more exciting, something different. How natural, and how sinful! In actual fact, they should have been in the Promised Land already, but they had turned back and refused to enter, not trusting God. Because they had turned aside from God’s way, he had sent serpents among them. They were called fiery serpents. Either this could have been because of their colour, or else, most likely, because of the burning sensation of their poison and the terrible thirst that accompanied a bite from these serpents. They are also called flying serpents. Not that they actually flew, but because they would coil themselves and suddenly spring at people. Apparently they exist in that area to this very day. But the lesson to be learned is that of rebelling against God. Charles Haddon Spurgeon speaks of the fiery lusts which tempt us and do so to make us rebel and sin against God. Amazingly, this picture is taken up by Christ himself in John 3. He is speaking to Nicodemus and says, ‘as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.’ This is another glorious picture. The people had sinned, and they should have died for their sin. But this serpent was made of bronze and placed on a pole. All who looked were saved from this painful death. Christ himself would be lifted up at Calvary,

Moses was now 119

and those who looked to him, in faith, would be saved.

the simple message of the cross of Jesus. That is exactly what Jesus says, ‘that whoever believes in him might have eternal life.’ There was a picture; Christ on the cross was the reality.

This is

iv) The picture of the rent veil

When Jesus was on the cross, some amazing things happened. One was the three hours’ darkness. Another was that when he

yielded up his spirit, after crying ‘finished,’ Matthew tells us that the veil in the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. This was a very significant thing to happen. This veil was a large heavy veil, not a thin curtain like we might have in our homes. Its purpose was to divide the holy place from the holy of holies. In the holy of holies, there was the Ark of the Covenant, and in

it were the tablets of the Law. Above it, the golden mercy seat,

and watching over the mercy seat and the tablets of the Law

were the cherubim. Only the high priest could go into that place, and only once a year, bearing the blood of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. That veil was there to remind the priests and the people that there was this great barrier between God and themselves. Only the blood of a sacrifice would allow the high priest to enter that place. But when Christ died, that massive veil was torn from top to bottom. This was God’s doing, not the work of man. Here we must emphasise that it occurred when the Lord Christ cried in triumph, “Finished!” Listen to the writer to the Hebrews:

‘Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is his flesh.’ (Hebrews 10:19, 20) What a wonderful word is “tetelestai”: “Finished!” Christ finished the work the Father gave him to do. He finished all the prophecies concerning the cross. He finished all the pictures of the Old Testament on the cross. Surely the Christian must rejoice at such a wonderful saviour and such a wonderful salvation. Our response must be, ‘for all the Lord has done for me, I never will cease to praise him.’

I am aware that there might be those who read these words and

yet are still in that dreadful condition, a sinner before a holy and righteous God. You have seen something of the work of Christ here. What is your response? Surely it must be, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner.’

Surely it must be, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner.’ Jim McClatchey has been in

Jim McClatchey has been in the ministry for the past 45 years, and has served in Lancashire, Lincolnshire, and Scotland. He now lives in Fermanagh and is a member of Omagh EPC. He still preaches regularly at home and in England and Scotland. Jim is married to Irene, and they have 4 children, 9 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

FROM THE CHURCHES

Banner of Truth

FROM THE CHURCHES Banner of Truth Around 12 noon on Thursday 14th April, the Banner of

Around 12 noon on Thursday 14th April, the Banner of Truth ministers’ conference concluded with the singing of the closing verses of Psalm 72. “Why,” you might ask, “is such a non-event being reported in the pages of the Evangelical Presbyterian?” Simply because it was an historic moment. The conference has met at the university of Leicester since 1962, but from next year will be moving to a new venue. Over these years, numerous EPC ministers have benefited from the excellent ministry that has been a hallmark of the conference. Rev WJ Grier was closely associated with the conference from its beginning, and even at this year’s conference was referred to on several occasions with obvious affection and respect. Serving ministers continue to enjoy the teaching and fellowship of the Banner Conference. Please pray for the work of the Banner of Truth Trust and especially for the ministers’ conference as it moves in 2017 to Yarnfield Park.

YPA Missionary Project

Each year young people from Ballyclare congregation raise money for the YPA missionary project by laying on a meal after a morning service late in June (fondly known as “Stew Day”). Other efforts have included taking part in the Belfast Marathon, Fun-run and Walk, and significant amounts of money have been raised which have been of help to the people and projects supported. Let us introduce you to the man who has been chosen to benefit from this year’s missionary project. His name is Samuel Cowan and he doesn’t travel more than a few miles from his home in Bangor to reach out to the nations of the world. How can this be? Samuel is a friend to the seafarers who enter the port of Belfast, mainly as crew on board cargo ships, but increasingly on board the cruise ships which stop off in the city. He serves with SCFS, the Seamen’s Christian Friend Society, and his work is truly a labour of love in the Lord’s name as he climbs the gangplanks of newly docked boats, offering friendship, practical help, Bibles and gospel literature, prayer, fellowship and Christian teaching. Ballyclare young people have not been the only ones supporting the missionary projects over the years, but what about your YPA? Is there something they could be doing to help? And wouldn’t they profit from learning what God is doing in our own country among the sailors who pass through for only a few days? If you want to learn more about the work this year’s money will be supporting, visit www.scfs.org/supporters/ports/belfast or ask Samuel to come to speak at a meeting in your church.

be supporting, visit www.scfs.org/supporters/ports/belfast or ask Samuel to come to speak at a meeting in your

FROM THE CHURCHES

United Beach Missions

United Beach Missions (UBM) is an organisation running missions for the whole family on beaches throughout Ireland, England, Wales and continental Europe during the summer months. In addition Christian Answer teams (involving open air outreach) and International Student Outreach teams run in various cities in the UK and Ireland. UBM first started in summer 1950 in Blackpool and came to Ireland not long after. For summer 2016, 90 separate missions are planned including 18 weeks of mission in Ireland at 7 locations (Downings, Portnoo, Tramore, Ballybunion, Kilkee, Rosscarbery, and Ardmore) and a Christian Answer mission in Galway. Over the years the work of UBM has changed to adapt to a changing society but the aim of sharing the good news of Jesus with those we meet has always remained the same. Beach Missions are family outreach, our activities geared to children, teenagers, parents, friends and onlookers. During the day we run lively programmes on the beach including games, quizzes, memory verses, singing, competitions, telling Bible stories and teaching Gospel truths. Specific family events are held in the evening/afternoon where the Gospel is shared publicly, and a range of Christian literature is given out, but the real value of a beach mission is the opportunity for the team members to get to know the people we meet and to have individual conversations about the gospel and to share their testimony. It is great to see many of the people we meet wanting to know more, accepting Bibles and other literature, and some coming to trust Christ.

and other literature, and some coming to trust Christ. We have both been involved in UBM

We have both been involved in UBM teams at various places throughout Ireland since our teenage years. It has been great to see God working in people’s lives through simply sharing the gospel with people on the beach. UBM has also been of great benefit to us, helping us to grow in our faith, to learn how to clearly explain our faith and share our testimonies, teaching us to trust Him when we feel inadequate, unworthy and fearful sharing the message of Jesus with others.

and fearful sharing the message of Jesus with others. This summer we plan to go on

This summer we plan to go on a team with our children Esther and Nathan to Downings, Co. Donegal, from 2nd to 9th July. We thank God for his blessing on the work of beach missions over the years and we would ask for prayer that this summer there would be enough leaders and team members to run the planned missions. Please also pray for the ongoing preparations including stories, gospel talks, literature and planning of events. Pray that God would bring families along to the activities to hear the good news and trust Christ. If you would like to be involved in a beach mission team this summer you can find out more at www.ubm.org.uk. United Beach Missions (UBM) provides a great opportunity for Christians to serve, whether old or young, extrovert or quiet. All that is required is a desire to share the Gospel. UBM is a great way of reaching people today, but more than this, your faith will grow as you share fellowship in God’s work. Anyone who is a Christian and aged 15 or over is welcome.

Paul & Rachel Brockbank - Stranmillis EPC

FROM THE CHURCHES

By Honour and Dishonour

FROM THE CHURCHES By Honour and Dishonour By Honour and Dishonour, the book telling the story

By Honour and Dishonour, the book telling the story of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, was launched on Monday 14 March in our Knock church. The launch included a lecture on The Confessional Church given by the author, Ernest C Brown. The event was repeated on the following evening in our Omagh church. But these were no dry and academic events. The opening praise and Bible reading were followed by Rev. Robert Johnston preaching on 2 Corinthians 6:1-10. He spoke of five marks of “workers together with Christ”, marks which distinguished Paul’s life, which were present in the forefathers of EPC and which we should look for in our own lives. This was followed by the singing of All hail the power of Jesus’ name, the hymn sung on 28 January 1928 by the 26 people who gathered in the early days of what is now the EPC. Ernest’s lecture then captured our interest, stretched our thinking, challenged our living and warmed our hearts, before leading us into the singing of Psalm 87, a psalm which presents an Old Testament picture of the Christian church and speaks of the love of God for all the nations. Presentations were made to Ernest and Shona, in appreciation of the work undertaken in the writing of the book. At the conclusion of each launch, books were available for purchase and fellowship was enjoyed by the many who remained for supper. Altogether, these were memorable evenings. We trust that many people will have been inspired to read By Honour and Dishonour, to study the Westminster Confession of Faith, and to recognise the Christian life as a life of constant learning. Copies of By Honour and Dishonour are available from the Evangelical Bookshop or through EPC congregations.

learning. Copies of By Honour and Dishonour are available from the Evangelical Bookshop or through EPC
learning. Copies of By Honour and Dishonour are available from the Evangelical Bookshop or through EPC
learning. Copies of By Honour and Dishonour are available from the Evangelical Bookshop or through EPC

FROM THE CHURCHES

PRESBYTERY DAY CONFERENCE
PRESBYTERY DAY CONFERENCE

Where would you go to find

• 140 people of all ages

• Hearts and voices united in praise

• Biblical preaching

• A busy crèche

• Fun & learning in the children’s meetings

• Coffee, scones and fresh cream

• Wise words from an outgoing Moderator

• Reports on a year in EPC

• Wise words from an incoming Moderator

• Greetings from kindred denominations

• Prayer for grace, unity and expanded vision

• An extensive book stall

• Good food in good company

• A mission report from Cork

• Time for new friendships and the renewing of old ones

• A sense of God’s presence

• A reminder of the unity and fellowship in Christ that is ours in EPC?

Answer: the Presbytery Day Conference held in Belfast Bible College on 23 April 2016, when Prof Carl R Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary was the guest speaker and Mr Mervyn Langtry installed as Moderator for the coming year. Recordings of the three preaching sessions are available from Stranmillis EPC.

To quote from Prof Trueman’s blog:

was preaching at the

Any general

assembly that does its work in one hour -- yes, one hour! -- has to be a model for the rest of the Presbyterian world. And the EPC is like the OPC – a small, no-frills Presbyterian denomination. It is a reminder that Christianity is at its best on the ground, where ordinary people simply believe and seek to live as Christians.”

“The highlight of (my Belfast) trip

, EPC family day/general assembly on Saturday

Belfast) trip , EPC family day/general assembly on Saturday The first person to correctly identify the
Belfast) trip , EPC family day/general assembly on Saturday The first person to correctly identify the

The first person to correctly identify the wearer of this sock will win a chocolate bar, paid for by the Editor!

FROM THE CHURCHES

Peter Grier Interview

FROM THE CHURCHES Peter Grier Interview It has become customary at the Presbytery Day Conference to

It has become customary at the Presbytery Day Conference to interview one of our EPC members involved in mission. This year’s interviewee was Peter Grier, a member in Hope Fellowship.

Peter, where are you working, with whom & for how long? I’m living in Cork and working in universities and colleges in the whole Munster area with Christian Unions Ireland. I’ve been there for four years and expect to continue for a few more. Tell us about a typical week, if there’s such a thing. I’m not sure that there is. In general, my work is inspiring and equipping students to reach out as mission teams. That sometimes means teaching evangelism skills, but also Bible- handling skills. Through Bible study, students will grow in their own faith and this in turn will fuel them for mission. I am often involved in 1:1 discipleship, perhaps with leaders in the CU or with new Christians. I also liaise with churches

Some of the wives who were present on the evening of Monday 8th February for an informal gathering of ministers and wives to recognise the retirement of Robert and Doreen Beckett. After a meal in the Yum restaurant we returned to the Stranmillis hall for desserts, games and presentations.

- there has been astounding growth in the number of Christians in the region, but that means church life is messy and help is needed. Can you share some encouragements with us? It is encouraging to see what God is so graciously doing, especially outside the more secular Dublin towards the west of Ireland. I am conscious that I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, who sowed the seed through difficulty and hardship. Now is a reaping time, with people coming to faith. We have seen encouragements through gospel projects as we bring God’s word to students for whom to be Irish is to be Roman Catholic. We use resources such as “Uncover”, which invites people to “see for yourself” what the gospel of John says about Jesus. We have seen individuals, initially suspicious of the Bible, coming to meet with the Jesus of the Bible. Chinese and Arabic versions of “Uncover” are also being used among students. And finally, how can we help? By praying. The Christian Unions and churches are all made up of first generation Christians. Often they look to me for help which I feel unequipped to give. Please pray. (If you would like to receive Peter’s prayer letter, contact him on peter@ifesireland.org or 07840117278)

letter, contact him on peter@ifesireland.org or 07840117278) Congratulations to the following children who won prizes in

Congratulations to the following children who won prizes in the 2016 Sunday school project. Projects were on either Samuel Bill or Brother Andrew.

Prize-winners:

Pre-school & P1

1.

2. Sophie Johnston

3. Jonathan Wright & Amy Nelis

Highly commended Esther Brockbank, Timothy Hawkes, Benjamin Johnston, Luke Johnston, Sarah McMullan, Isaac Nelis, Joshua Schmidt, Rebekah Woolsey, Elijah Underwood, Ezra Underwood, Joseph Underwood, Moses Underwood

P2- P3

1.

2.

P4- P7

1.

2.

Katie Graham

Joshua Graham

Juliette Hall

Joel Beattie

Peter Wright

3. Noah Fitzsimmons & Daniel McMullan

3. Emma Watson & Lauren Wright

“Thank you and well done!” to everyone who took part. A special thank you to Marcus and Alison Hobson and Karen Langtry who marked the entries.

FROM THE CHURCHES

Licensing Service for Trevor Kane

On the evening of Thursday 3rd March 2016 Trevor Kane was licensed as a Probationer for the Christian Ministry by the Presbytery of the EPC. Licensing is the recognition by Presbytery that a candidate for ministry has successfully completed his college course as well the various other requirements which the church lays down, such as Presbytery exams and pastoral placements. Rev Robert Johnston, Moderator of Presbytery, presided and Harold Gibson (Clerk of Presbytery) put the prescribed questions. A comprehensive report detailing something of Trevor’s experience in Christian work and his sense of call to the ministry, as well as detailing for us Trevor’s successful completion of his theological studies, was given by Rev Dr Sid Garland, Convenor of the Training and Ministry Committee. The highlight of the evening was an excellent exposition of God’s Word by Rev Prof John Angus MacLeod, Vice Principal of Edinburgh Theological Seminary. John Angus was an appropriate choice as preacher, for Trevor had studied at ETS and had greatly benefited from the fellowship and teaching there. The sermon on 1 Timothy 3 v 1–16 is available on the Stranmillis website – www.atstranmillis.com – and will be a blessing to your soul if you download it today. Please continue to pray for Trevor, Suzanne and the family as they seek to know the Lord’s will in future days.

GNB

as they seek to know the Lord’s will in future days. GNB Pray for blessing and
as they seek to know the Lord’s will in future days. GNB Pray for blessing and

Pray for blessing and guidance for Trevor and Suzanne Kane and the boys as they discern God’s will for the future

Thank God for enabling John Roger to complete his first year of training for the ministry successfully. Pray that John’s summer placement in Omagh will be very useful to him and the congregation and for safety as he travels

Pray for David Burke as he approaches the end of his three years as youth evangelist at Hope Fellowship and seeks God’s guidance for his next steps. Pray too for the future of Hope Fellowship.

Praise God for calling young men into the ministry and pray that they will be faithful servants of God and of His church

Pray for the work of UBM this summer, around Ireland and further afield. Pray that families would hear the gospel and respond in faith. Ask God to uphold Paul and Rachel and all those who serve on UBM teams

Thank God for every child and young person attending our church camps this year. Pray for safety and happiness and a sense of God’s presence. Pray for hearts to be open to the word of God and for young lives to be delivered from the evil one. Praise God for leaders who want to serve in this way

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Thank God for the freedom we have to run Holiday Bible clubs and pray for His strength and enabling for every leader. Pray for the outreach week in Knock in August

Praise God for the regenerating work of His Spirit in lives in the South of Ireland. Pray for Christian students as they reach out with the gospel and for Peter Grier as he teaches and equips them

Thank God for the time of teaching and fellowship enjoyed at the Presbytery Day Conference. Pray for Mervyn Langtry as he takes up Moderatorial duties. Pray for God- given unity, wisdom and vision in a new season of Presbytery meetings

Praise God for His faithfulness to us as a denomination over the generations. Pray that the publication of By Honour and Dishonour will prove helpful in individual lives and congregations and will bring glory to His name

Thank God for the Banner of Truth conference and the help it is to ministers every year. Pray that our ministers will know refreshing times over the summer

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FROM THE CHURCHES

OMAGH OFFICIAL OPENING

The newly extended and refurbished sanctuary of Omagh EPC was full to overflowing on the afternoon of Saturday 26 March as friends from around the province joined Rev. Andrew Lucas and his congregation to mark the official opening of their building. Hearts were raised to God in praise and prayer, after which Mr William Johnston reported on behalf of the deacons’ board. He traced the project narrative from the origin of the church in 1990 to the purchase of the present site and opening of the original building 10 years later (at a total cost of £62000). As the congregation grew, however, so did their requirements; plans were made and approved for a hall, a larger sanctuary, a crèche and a minister’s room, and the work was given to church elder Mr Kenneth Condy of Cornerstone Developments Ltd. William thanked the Gibson Primary School for accommodating them during the renovation which began late summer, 2014. Sincere gratitude was expressed to Ken Condy for the hard work, diligence and expertise which he had demonstrated during the construction. Thankfulness was also expressed to Crumlin EPC for their generous funding and to all who have given towards the cost. Everyone present accorded with William’s closing words:

“Above all, we must be thankful to God for His grace and goodness to us His people. We acknowledge His guiding in all the decisions that had to be made, we praise Him for His caring hand upon all the workers who entered the site, we are grateful for His provision to meet the costs of the extension. God has blessed us with a new building suitable for worshipping Him and for reaching out to others. Our prayer is that we His people will, by His grace, use the extension of this meeting house to further the extension of Christ’s Kingdom in Omagh and beyond and to the glory of His name.” We were then taken on a tour, not of the church building, but of the Old Testament tabernacle, as Rev. Robert Johnston preached from Exodus 26. Our attention was drawn to the Contrast (so dull, but so beautiful), the Presence of God (so near and yet so far) and to the Salvation Christ Provides (so narrow, but so wide). “But never be satisfied with a tour of the tabernacle,” we were told. “Look to Jesus.” With these words in our ears and in our hearts, it was a joy to sing together O Lord of hosts, how lovely is your dwelling place and to enjoy refreshments and fellowship together following the service. If you are holidaying in the Omagh area this summer, why not join the folk there for worship in their new building? (Sunday services at 11:30am and 7pm)

BOOK REVIEWS Title: The Incomparable Christ Author: John Stott Publisher: IVP Published: 2001 Pages: 250

BOOK REVIEWS

Title: The Incomparable Christ

Author: John Stott

Publisher: IVP

Published: 2001

Pages: 250

RRP £10.99 Our Price £6.75

Published: 2001 Pages: 250 RRP £10.99 Our Price £6.75 “Regardless of what anyone may personally think

“Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of western culture for almost 20 centuries.” So begins John Stott’s study of the life of Christ and of his influence on history. This book is based on Stott’s London Lectures in Contemporary Christianity series given in 2000. In the introduction Stott notes that Christ is the centre of history, the focus of Scripture, and the heart of mission. Stott then elaborates this by attempting to answer four questions: ‘How does the New Testament bear witness to Christ?’, ‘How has the church portrayed Jesus Christ down the centuries?’, ‘What influence has Christ had in history?’, and ‘What should Jesus Christ mean to us today?’ In answer to these questions, Stott structures the book in four parts: the first, The Original Jesus, considers the witness of New Testament writers, both in the Gospels and epistles. The second part, The Ecclesiastical Jesus, considers how the church has presented (and at times misrepresented) Christ through the centuries. Stott gives brief critiques of writers as diverse as Justin Martyr and NT Wright. In part three, The Influential Jesus, Stott considers how Christ has inspired people through history - from Francis of Assisi to William Wilberforce. In the final section, The Eternal Jesus, Stott presents a series of studies of Christ as portrayed in the book of Revelation - from his rule over the church to his coming in glory - and considers how Christ challenges us today. This book is interesting, informative and scholarly with a clear devotional element - especially in the first and final sections. Despite its length of 250 pages it is easy to read, as the main sections are broken down into several short chapters, many of which are self-contained, allowing the reader to dip in and out. However, the person and influence of Christ remain the overarching theme which holds the book together. Growing up as a Christian in the 1980s the works of John Stott were essential reading. IVP have recently reissued a number of titles including this volume. The reissued book benefits from a clear typeface and font size. For those unfamiliar with Stott I would encourage them to try this volume. For those who already have some of his books in the bookcase, this would be a welcome addition from a reliable author.

Michael Trimble

Title: Developments in Biblical Counseling

Author: J. Cameron Fraser

Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books

Published: 2015

Pages: 124

RRP £7.99 Our Price £6.75

Published: 2015 Pages: 124 RRP £7.99 Our Price £6.75 Cameron Fraser hails from the UK and

Cameron Fraser hails from the UK and from the Scottish Free Presbyterian denomination. He was a contemporary of mine at Westminster Seminary in the 1970s. After seminary, Fraser stayed in north America, serving in Canada with the Christian Reformed Church. He was at Westminster in the days when Jay Adams was having a big impact across the evangelical world in advising pastors

(through Competent to Counsel and other titles) that they had the tools in the Scriptures to help their members. As a pastor I endeavoured to make use of the insights of Adams and the training we received at the Christian Counseling and Education Center.

I have also seen Nigerians appreciate the Bible-based

approach of Adams and his colleagues. But like Cameron Fraser I have even more appreciated the second generation of teachers and counsellors who have modified and strengthened the Adams approach. The work of David Powlison, Paul Tripp and Ed Welch has been widely appreciated. This second generation have changed the terminology to “biblical counselling” rather than “nouthetic

counselling”. David Powlison, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Tim Keller have very helpfully drawn attention to the idols of the heart, those wrong desires that warp our lives. Alongside Lloyd- Jones, J. I. Packer, Sinclair Ferguson and Tim Keller, today’s school of biblical counselling shows more appreciation than Adams, for the beneficial influence of the Puritans. The work of the demonic was too hastily dismissed by Adams and from my experience both in Ireland and in Africa

I appreciate the more balanced approach of Martyn Lloyd-

Jones, John Nevius, Fred Leahy and David Powlison. In the African context the pastor must depend on the Word and Spirit in a way that the counsellee will understand, and so

exorcism cannot be ruled out. Many are sure to benefit from understanding the history and ongoing development of the biblical counselling movement. I welcome the growing appreciation of CCEF in the UK.

I also commend the irenic spirit and practical suggestions of this book.

Rev Dr Sid Garland

Best of the Blogs

A selection of online blogs and articles to challenge and

encourage you in your walk with God and his people…

Everyone has a Regulative Principle (David Murray)

(http://theaquilareport.com/109660 )

“Every Christian believes that there is an acceptable and an unacceptable way of worshipping God. Every Christian has

a regulative principle, a rule (or rules) which regulates the content and conduct of worship. Even the most extreme worship leader has some limit on what he or she deems acceptable in the worship of God.”

Theological Primer: The Holy Spirit (Kevin De Young)

(https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/

kevindeyoung/2016/04/19/theological-primer-holy-spirit)

“Many Christians rarely think about the Holy Spirit. God the Father we know about. God the Son we think about all the time. But God the Holy Spirit? There are fewer songs to him, fewer meditations about him, and fewer churches named after him. But this may not be altogether a bad thing…”

Reformed Theology is Covenant Theology (Richard Pratt Jr.)

(http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/reformed-theology-

covenant-theology)

“Reformed theology is often associated with “covenant theology.” If you listen carefully, you’ll often hear pastors and teachers describe themselves as “Reformed and covenantal.” The terms Reformed and covenant are used together so widely that it behooves us to understand why they are connected.”

The Belfast Job (Carl Trueman)

(http://www.alliancenet.org/mos/postcards-from-

palookaville/the-belfast-job#.V26XG5X2YWw)

“The highlight of the trip, though, was preaching at the EPC family day/general assembly on Saturday and then at

Stranmillis EPC in Belfast on Sunday. Any general assembly that does its work in one hour -- yes, one hour! -- has to be

 

a

model for the rest of the Presbyterian world.

And the EPC

18 things to pray for your church (Jonathan Leeman)

is

like the OPC – a small, no-frills Presbyterian denomination.

(https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/18-things-to-

pray-for-your-church)

“It’s comparatively easy for you and me to pray for ourselves, our families, and our friends. But how can we learn how to pray more fervently and consistently for our local churches? For one, we just need to start doing it—and encouraging others to do so.”

Is Infant Baptism a Roman Catholic leftover? (R. Scott Clark)

(http://heidelblog.net/2016/03/is-infant-baptism-a-roman-

catholic-leftover)

“I began my Christian life in an evangelical (Southern) Baptist

setting. As part of my initiation into that culture I was given an explanation for why there are other approaches to reading Scripture, beyond those I saw and experienced in my evangelical Baptist circle. E.g., I was told that Roman Catholics baptized infants but that was purely out of tradition. Ours, I was told, was the biblical practice. When I learned that there were Protestants, however, who baptized infants that was more difficult.”

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It is a reminder that Christianity is at its best on the ground, where ordinary people simply believe and seek to live as Christians.”