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Pastoral reminiscences Page 6 The blessings of the new covenant Page 9 From fear to

Pastoral reminiscences Page 6

The blessings of the new covenant Page 9
The blessings of the new covenant
Page 9

From fear to faith Page 12

The Christian & The WORLD PART 1: The christian & the law (Page 4) WI
The Christian & The WORLD
PART 1: The christian & the law
(Page 4)
WI NTER 2017 £1.50

Philippians 1 v 9-11

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Philippians 1:9-11

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First word


The Christian and the world Part 1: The Christian & the Law


Pastoral reminiscences


The blessings of the new covenant Jeremiah 31:31-36


From fear to faith Habakkuk 3:16-19


Children For Christ, Romania




From the churches


Praise & Prayer


Book reviews


Best of the blogs


It is always a great encouragement to turn to the ‘news’ pages of this magazine and to read reports of gospel ministry taking place in other parts of the world – be that missionary work in far flung countries, reports from summer camps, or events in one of our congregations. It provides a great fillip to hear about what God is doing in other places, even as we seek to serve him in our own vicinity.

T he closing words of Acts 14 strike a similar note. Paul and Barnabas return to Antioch in Syria, gather together the congregation which had sent them out on the first missionary journey, and declare to the church all that had taken place through their ministry. As they do so, we notice three principles for gospel ministry, which apply in all times and places.

Firstly, gospel ministry is done in God’s grace. Luke tells us that Paul and Barnabas “sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled” (v26). It is only in the grace of God that any of us, even the apostle Paul himself, can be involved in the work of ministry. We don’t deserve to be involved in it, and God certainly does not need us to be involved in his work, because he can do whatever he wants without us. And yet God, in his grace, uses sinful, finite, fallen people like us in his work. He graciously calls us and equips us and uses us in the work of ministry. When we remember this truth, it empties our ministry of pride, and it will flood it with humility. It is impossible to be arrogant about what you do to serve God when you remember that you do so only in his grace.

Secondly, gospel ministry is done under God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is underlined twice in verse 27. It is underlined firstly in that Paul and Barnabas describe their ministry as what “God had done with them.” Yes, they themselves had been the ones who had travelled and preached. But nonetheless, they acknowledge that over and above their own exertions, it was actually God at work. They were merely God’s instruments and agents. That note of God’s sovereignty is underlined again when we read that God was the one who “opened a door of faith.” God was the one who made it possible for the gospel to be preached, heard and subsequently believed by those in Antioch, Lystra, Iconium, and all the other towns in which

Antioch, Lystra, Iconium, and all the other towns in which Paul and Barnabas had been ministering.
Antioch, Lystra, Iconium, and all the other towns in which Paul and Barnabas had been ministering.

Paul and Barnabas had been ministering. Paul and Barnabas understood, as must we, that the success of ministry depends ultimately not on us, but on the sovereign God, using his people, and opening the right doors.

Thirdly, gospel ministry is done for God’s purposes. Remarkably, this door of faith had been opened up “to the Gentiles”! This great purpose of God had been announced way back in Genesis 12, where God promised Abraham that through his offspring, God’s blessing would be enjoyed not only by the biological descendants of Abraham, but indeed that all the families of the earth would be blessed. Jesus, the offspring of Abraham, is the one through whom God’s blessing will reach to the ends of the earth. How does that blessing get to the ends of the earth? It does so through God’s people taking this message to the world. Jesus said to his apostles in Acts chapter 1, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” As he gives his missionary report to the church in Antioch, Paul declares that this ancient purpose of God is now being fulfilled, as the gospel of Jesus is taken to the nations, and even the Gentiles put their trust in the Messiah, and receive God’s blessing.

This is the same work in which we are involved today; taking this same gospel to the nations, announcing to them that through faith in Jesus they too can become a part of God’s people, and receive his salvation. As we face this unfinished task, let’s remember that our ministry is always in God’s grace, under God’s sovereignty, and for God’s purposes.

The Christian & The WORLD

PART 1: The christian & the law

I magine the situation – you have been working for your employer for a number of years and when you interviewed for the job you made it clear that, as a Christian, you would not be able to work on Sundays. At the time this wasn’t a problem – there was no requirement for Sunday working – but things have changed and your boss has warned you that if you won’t change your views, you may lose your job.

This was exactly the scenario that Celestina Mba found herself in. Celestina was a care worker in the London Borough of Merton and had told Merton Council (her employer) before accepting the job that she was unable to work on Sundays. However, the Council subsequently changed their policy, requiring Sunday working from employees as a part of their core hours. Celestina took the Council to an employment tribunal, claiming constructive dismissal and specifically seeking to clarify legislation on Sunday working. While she ultimately lost her case, Celestina won a victory of sorts for Christians. The Court of Appeal confirmed that Sunday is a ‘Christian day of rest’.

Over the next few editions of this magazine, we are going to be thinking about the Christian’s worldview. And Celestina’s case raises a number of questions for us concerning our first topic – the relationship between the Christian and the law of the land. Is a Christian required to keep the law? Are there any occasions when it is Biblical to break the law? And to what extent should we seek to influence existing and developing legislation?

Authority – does a Christian have to obey the law? As we begin to answer this question, it is important that we remember that as Christians, we are called to serve God. This is clear in both the Old Testament (Deut.10:12) and the New (1 Thess.1:9). Every aspect of our lives is to be governed by, and submitted to, the lordship of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

However, Scripture explains that God has delegated authority to governments and rulers, who govern us by enacting and enforcing laws. In Romans 13:1-7 the Apostle Paul, writing to a church based in Rome, tells them “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities”. He continues, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”. This was Rome. Immorality, dishonesty and evil were rampant. At this point in history the Empire was becoming increasingly intolerant of the new and rapidly spreading faith of these believers. Yet Paul couldn’t be clearer. The Christians were to obey the Roman authorities. Why? God had put them in their seat of power.

As this article is being written, Donald Trump has become President- Elect of the United States of America. That a man with such questionable personal morals could rise to the ‘most powerful position in the world’ may concern us. And yet Paul’s words apply equally to believers in America in 2017. They are to be subject, even to Donald Trump. His authority does not need to be earned, it has

Trump. His authority does not need to be earned, it has been given to him by
Trump. His authority does not need to be earned, it has been given to him by

been given to him by God. Perhaps in Northern Ireland, where many of our leaders have committed evil acts that have caused deep and lasting pain, we need to be reminded of that truth. They too have been given authority by God and we are therefore subject to the laws that they pass.

But you may be asking, why has God delegated this authority? Paul goes on to explain. “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad”. God has put rulers in place to restrain evil. In his wisdom God uses even evil and wicked rulers as a channel of his common grace, to keep humanity from becoming as evil as it could be. This is a wonderful mercy of God, for as Paul reminds us, rulers are “God’s servant for your good”. Laws, the governments who create them, and even the traffic police who enforce them, are all for our good! This is illustrated by the freedom for our consciences when we obey the law (v.5) and in Paul’s warning that the punishment for breaking the law is both fair and right (v.4). And it extends even to how we treat our taxes and rates (v.6-7).

What a challenge that is to our hearts and minds. How we think and speak about our lawmakers must be shaped by the Bible. The simple truth is that authority does not need to be earned, it has been given. The Christian is to obey the law.

Disobedience – does a Christian always have to obey the law? But what happens when the law of the land comes into conflict with the law of God? What about Celestina Mba, or Ashers Baking Company, or the many other Christians who face legal challenges because of their faith? Is it ever right for a Christian to disobey the law?

The short answer is yes. While God has delegated authority to governments and rulers, every human being is ultimately required to obey him. Therefore, when our governments and rulers create or interpret legislation in a way that asks us to disobey God’s law, we must obey our heavenly Father. This was the example of Peter and John in Acts 5. Filled with jealousy at the influence of the Apostles as they preached the gospel message, the Jewish authorities had arrested and imprisoned them, warning them to stop preaching.

In reply Peter and John exclaimed, “We must obey God rather than men”. This is to be our principle. Where we cannot obey a human law without breaking a divine law, we must obey God rather than men.

Yet in doing so, we must be balanced. In telling his disciples that he is sending them out like sheep amongst wolves, Jesus commands them to be “as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves” (Matt.10:16). The Bible is bursting with records of Christians who have gracefully and winsomely disobeyed the law of the land. Daniel and his three friends resolved not to eat the defiled food from Nebuchadnezzar’s table, and asked for permission to do so (Dan.1:8). David refused to harm the Lord’s anointed and bowed to him, even when Saul was trying to murder him (1 Sam.24:8-15). Esther graciously asked permission to approach her husband, King Xerxes (an illegal act), and seek to overturn the law that would have exterminated God’s people (Esther 4:16, 5:5-8, 7:2-4). We too are to be gracious and winsome if and when disobedience is required.

Influence – how should a Christian try to influence the law? As our country becomes increasingly secularised, the laws that our politicians pass, and how our courts are enforcing them, are making life difficult for Christians who want to obey God. So how can we best influence the law in a way that honours God? In discussing some relevant legislation and case-law, we have suggested three practical principles below.

1. Pray for and honour government

principles below. 1. Pray for and honour government The Bible commands us to pray for and

The Bible commands us to pray for and honour our government (1 Tim.2:1-2, 1 Pet.2:17). As we have already discussed, honouring our leaders affects how we think and speak about them. If we truly believe that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord” (Prov.21:1), we will be asking God to turn it in a direction that honours him. We need to examine ourselves in this area. Can we be guilty of moaning about our leaders more than we pray for them? Pray that God would use our government to develop laws that uphold Biblical principles. The Westminster Confession of Faith highlights our particular duty to uphold Christian politicians in prayer (see ch.23.4).

Three areas that need our urgent prayer are:

• Religious Freedom and the proposed Extremism Disruption Orders

(EDOs). These orders would grant the government a legal form of censorship over “extremist groups”. While this may sound helpful, the definition of an “extreme group” appears wide and could result in faithful Christian preaching being hindered.

• Marriage legislation and the repeated attempts by our Assembly to

redefine marriage. Pray for a positive outcome in the ongoing legal

case involving Ashers Baking Company.

• Education, particularly in Scotland. The Scottish Assembly is

pursuing an aggressive agenda of sex education for children as young as two, which includes encouraging them to explore gender, feminism, sexuality and queerness. While this does not directly affect us in NI, it is a worrying development that could influence our own politicians.

2. Live consistent Christian lives

our own politicians. 2. Live consistent Christian lives Living lives that are shaped by the Bible

Living lives that are shaped by the Bible and empowered by the Holy Spirit may be our most effective witness to the world and positive illustration of the gospel’s power (1 Pet.3:13-17). And when we come into conflict with the law of the land, the world will quickly spot our inconsistencies. This was illustrated in Celestina Mba’s case, where the original High Court judgement had held that as many Christians no longer believed Sunday to be a day of rest, it was not a core principle of the Christian faith. How consistent our Christian life is may have an impact on others, and even on how the law is applied.

Similarly, in the case involving Ashers, one aspect of the Court of Appeal’s judgement was to note that the company was prepared to bake Halloween Cakes, which secular legal counsel recognised as being against Biblical principles. That is not to criticise the company – but we should learn to examine every aspect of our lives. The world might say, “don’t sweat the small stuff” but they will notice if we don’t.

3. Be ready to stand

but they will notice if we don’t. 3. Be ready to stand Ultimately, we must be

Ultimately, we must be ready to follow the example of the Apostles and “obey God rather than men”. This is our Christian duty and in recent times we have seen the powerful examples of Lilian Ladele, John Craven and Peter and Hazelmary Bull. Each of these individuals stood for God in a work context. Lilian was a registrar who politely asked to be excused from providing civil partnerships on the ground of conscience. John was a street preacher who quoted the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality. Peter and Hazelmary ran a B&B and refused to allow a homosexual couple to share a room (as was their policy for all unmarried couples). While legal proceedings have met differing levels of success, God has been honoured in their testimony.

Of course our most wonderful example is always our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He stood for the honour of his Father when he cleansed the Temple (John 2:17). His life under the law was so consistent that Pilate could ask, “What evil has he done?” (Mark 15:14). His food was “to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34). As we seek to influence the law positively for God’s glory, let us fix our eyes on him, “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb.12:2).

seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb.12:2). John is a student for

John is a student for the ministry, currently in his second year at Reformed Theological College, Belfast. He previously worked for a professional services firm for 7 years, is married to Claire, and Dad to Meredith!




I can now look back with the wisdom of hindsight on my pastoral ministry which was mainly in North Belfast. I began work in Crosscollyer Church as

a summer student assistant in 1979

and again in 1980, and was ordained to pastoral ministry there on 7th October 1981. I continued as minister

there until the end of 2015 and am still involved in a supporting role. Coming from a rural farming background to inner city Belfast was

a huge cultural shock that required

many adjustments. However, I quickly recognised that there were similarities

also, as both communities preferred frank and open discussion of everyday events. The church had been vacant for a number of years, had a very small elderly congregation, and the building was not in good repair. The work had


been held together by Mr George Bellew who had simultaneously been elder, treasurer and Sunday School Superintendent for over 50 years. The “Troubles” were at their height and the church was situated at the heart of it. Over the years 25% of all the troubles related deaths in N Ireland (700+) would occur within three miles of our church door. During my ministry four different peace walls would be established within 400 yards of our premises. That set the context for the type of ministerial approach that we should follow.


Lots of things beckoned to be done but the manpower to do them was severely restricted. In addition, I had also accepted a call to a small church at Clintyfallow situated between Dungannon and Aughnacloy. For nearly

four years I made the round trip of 100 miles every Sunday afternoon and each Thursday afternoon and evening to conduct worship services and do pastoral visitation. I still remember the first time Doreen, who later became my wife, attended Crosscollyer with me. The first words said to her were, “Can you play the organ?” There had not been any musical accompaniment for many years and Doreen readily filled that role. ‘Campaigners’ had closed a short time before my arrival due to the effects of the troubles and the breakdown in family structures resulting mainly from fathers receiving lengthy prison sentences for terrorist crimes. The Sunday School had one teacher and 3 pupils and there was a small weekly Good News Club staffed by CEF. In 1982 soon after our marriage we began the first youth club in our area in an effort to reach with

the gospel the numerous kids who hung around the streets and were easy recruits for the paramilitaries. Mervyn Kelly and Billy Thompson from Stranmillis church volunteered their help and were vital cogs in our youth programme for many years. Depending on the events of the previous few days the state of mind of the young people could range from being fairly peaceful to ‘tense as a guitar string’ and there were many challenging moments. The club would continue until 2002 when I could no longer maintain it as well as the youth club in Somerton. It was a useful bridge into the community as well as a diversion for the young people from antisocial activities. Many personal friendships were forged that continue until this day. God providentially provided help from the Limestone Youth Training Project based in Jennymount Mill, who worked on the building for over a year installing new barge board and guttering. They also replaced our rusted through railings and gates and painted the building inside and out. It provided a great opportunity to build bridges into our community for sharing the gospel, and we presented each of the staff and workers with a Bible as a mark of our appreciation. For much of my early years I was “ploughing and not yet sowing” as I established credibility in a community which was distrustful of everyone.


In my second year as minister the Sunday School grew to 13 kids but we had only one teacher. It was a wonderful answer to prayer to receive a phone call from the Johnston family telling me that God was leading them to transfer their membership

to us from Stranmillis. They made an immense difference and soon the Sunday School had expanded to over 60 pupils. With three new teachers and a Superintendent, all from the Johnston family, we were able to cope. Alex Johnston was soon elected as an elder and also functioned as our treasurer, while his wife established the first Mother and Toddlers group in our district. The assistance of the Gilliland family was also crucial as Trevor became the unofficial Sunday School “sweetie man” as well as teacher, assisted by several of his daughters. He was later elected to the eldership. The help of these two committed families transformed our witness to the area. In the early years we also received help in outreach from YPA members who came during the Halloween and Easter breaks to conduct door to door surveys and youth programmes. Later we were able to get help from student outreach teams from Belfast Bible College and every year we did door to door outreach covering both

sides of the peace line. The teams also held several missions

in the church, led by Rev Dessie Maxwell. Despite the escalating violence between the two communities we always were welcomed

warmly on our visits to the Catholic New Lodge area and gospel literature was received gladly. I also received a similar response when I made many difficult home visits to offer my prayerful sympathy to catholic families who had loved ones murdered by loyalist paramilitaries. I visited in prison some of our former youth club members who had been arrested for crime and later received

into membership some ex-prisoners who had been converted in the Maze Prison. North Belfast was very troubled for many years with frequent police and army road blocks. Wearing a clerical collar was a useful means of identification to all warring parties and helped to speed my journeys by car.


For many years we held a Sunday evening Coffee Bar for local youth after our evening service and this was sometimes taken by the Stauros Testimony Band led by Tom Eakin. The band was a means of helping those recovering from addiction to stand for Christ and to re-integrate back into

church and society. As the troubles subsided it was evident that in our area major problems of addiction continued unabated. Usually men were addicted to alcohol and women to prescribed nerve tablets such as Valium and Librium. Illegal drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy were also becoming an issue. The statutory authorities were not interested in tackling the problem

so in February 1999 with

the help of Stauros we began the Helping Hand addiction support group. God supplied wonderful helpers in John McClure and Shirley Steen, and

the work progressed from once a fortnight to twice each week. Many lives were transformed by the grace of God, health restored and family links re-established. Many are now integrated into the regular life of the congregation and many more have died in Christ.

Many lives were

transformed by the

grace of God,

health restored and

family links



Following the Good Friday peace agreement and decommissioning of arms there was little change in the daily lives of people in our community. For many years it had been largely policed by paramilitary figures who were moving increasingly into crime. To report anything to the police resulted in being branded as a “tout” and subsequent harassment. After more than 30 years of continual violence only the older people had ever experienced ‘normality’. The community needed help to move towards becoming a normal society. Christians

are called to be both ‘salt and light’ and this we aspired to do as we worked with some

paramilitary leaders who were committed to law and order through government supervised transition schemes.

For several years the community moved rapidly forward as drug dealing, demanding protection money, unlicensed money lending and other forms of crime were reported to the police who now were welcomed into the area. While there has been some slippage in recent months much of the progress has been retained and the relevance of the churches to the

community is being re-established. Through my contacts with other local clergy I was able to encourage more church involvement in community affairs, and different initiatives were made. The clergy and prayer meetings of the local churches now meet together on a regular basis for fellowship and mutual encouragement.

Road and helped in the establishment of the new outreach work through Hope Fellowship. It was a great joy to see nearly all of the elderly folks

attending profess faith in Christ in their later years. My great desire is that this new work should grow and flourish to the glory of God in an equally needy district. For twelve years I had the privilege of travelling regularly to help in the establishment of both the Presbytery of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales and also the congregation in Blackburn. It is a delight that both are functioning well. I also twice represented our denomination at the

It was a great joy

to see nearly all

of the elderly folks

attending profess faith

in Christ in their later years.
in Christ in
their later years.

International Conference of Christian Churches in Holland and in Seoul and also at the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church

(Liberated) in Holland. I greatly enjoyed being involved for more than 40 years in our church camps both as camper and leader and benefited greatly from them. I believe we should be rightly proud of the wonderful young people we have in our churches and their commitment to the reformed faith. I also, as opportunity afforded, gave talks in defence of the reliability of the Biblical account of creation, understanding it as fundamental for the survival of orthodox Christianity.


All my efforts would not have been possible without the wholehearted support of my wife Doreen and the understanding of my family. We are indebted to Stranmillis YPA and church camps for the fellowship they gave to our children. The elders and congregations at Crosscollyer


For the last twenty years I also pastored the congregation at Somerton

and Somerton have always been very supportive, prayerful and generous in their giving and this has been a great encouragement throughout my ministry. As we have remained small we are indebted to other congregations for their financial and prayerful support through the denominational Central Fund. Above all gratitude must go to our loving heavenly Father who called me to this work and in many wonderful ways has sustained us and supplied all our needs both as a family and a congregation. To Him be all the glory.

as a family and a congregation. To Him be all the glory. Robert Beckett recently retired

Robert Beckett recently retired from being minister of the joint charge of Crosscollyer Street and Somerton Road congregations in North Belfast.


Jeremiah 31:31-36

C hapter 7 of the Westminster Confession of Faith is entitled “God’s covenant with man”. It begins as follows:

“The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant”. In layman’s language, the Confession is saying that there is a great chasm between the creature and the Creator (Isaiah 55:8). And if that creature/ Creator distinction isn’t wide enough already, sin has widened it further (Isaiah 59:2). In fact, this gap is so wide that it can only be bridged by God Himself, and He has graciously condescended to do this by way of covenant. The history of the covenant is really the history of the bible, and God’s word will make little sense to you unless you see this “common thread” running throughout its entire contents, from Genesis to Revelation. The bible describes God entering into several covenants with man. The first one is the so-called “covenant of works” with Adam, described in Genesis chapter 2. Adam broke that covenant when he partook of “the forbidden fruit”, but God had already planned the “covenant of grace”, which He intimated in the first gospel promise (Genesis 3:15). After that, there followed a whole series of covenants, each one building on the previous one. Scripture records God’s covenant with Noah (Genesis 9), with Abraham (Genesis 17), with Moses (Exodus 24), with David (2 Samuel 7), culminating in the new covenant described in Jeremiah chapter 31, which the New Testament applies to Christ. When God entered into covenant with the nation of Israel at

Sinai, the people responded by saying: “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7). However, it soon became clear that they were anything but sincere, because no sooner had Moses gone up the mountain to commune with God, than the people managed to persuade Aaron to make a golden calf (Exodus 32). Tragically, their future history was really no better and is best summarised in the words of Isaiah 65:2: “I have stretched out my hand all day long to a rebellious people”. Such was the sinfulness of this nation that after they split in two in the time of Solomon, not one good king ruled over the Northern tribes. As a result the “children of Israel” were carried away into captivity by Assyria in 740 BC for their sin. The “children of Judah” fared a little better, because there were some good kings among them, but sadly they too learned nothing from their Northern counterparts and went astray as well. In the time of Jeremiah the “cup of their iniquity was full”, so to speak. The “curses of the covenant” were about to be poured out upon the covenant people, and the instrument God used to mete out His judgment was Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. He carried them away into captivity in several transportations around 587 BC. It was at that point, at a time when the sound of soldiers’ voices and the clash of soldiers’ swords could be heard outside the city, that Jeremiah received this revelation from God (Jeremiah 31:31-36). In this article we consider the six blessings of the new covenant, which are all fulfilled in Christ.

1) Reconciliation

In verse 31 God promised to unite His people: “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of

Judah”. These two nations had been separated from the time of Solomon onwards, but God now promised to unite them as one. Ezekiel predicted the same reunion in Ezekiel 37:15- 17 using the imagery of two sticks becoming one. All of this is fulfilled in the church, as Hebrews chapter 8 reminds us. The commentator PE Hughes puts it well: “The promise of the reunion of Israel and Judah was symbolical of the healing of every human breach and the reconciliation of all nations and persons in Christ”. That’s why Paul could say of believers:

“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we are all baptised into one body, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, bond or free; and have all been made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This union already exists among God’s people, although it is also capable of being undermined or promoted, hence the command to “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Fellow believer, this means that as a lover of the new covenant, you ought to be at one with your fellow Christians, as far as that is possible. Sadly, the church is still “by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed”. And the more I live in this world, the more I look forward to that day when God’s people will be perfect and of one mind in everything. But perhaps you are an unbeliever and do not belong to this privileged group! What about your future? Because we are all “gregarious” creatures, we don’t like being left out. It’s part of our humanity, after all, to “belong” to something. May I therefore attract you to the only group worth belonging to? It is described beautifully in Hebrews chapter 12:22-24: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant”. You too can belong to this group through repentance and faith in Jesus!

2) Regeneration

In verse 33 God promises to renew His people: “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts”. At Sinai the law of God was written on tablets of stone; in the new covenant God writes it upon “the fleshly tables of our hearts”. It’s the difference between a cold external code and a warm internal motive. The old covenant brought condemnation because mankind couldn’t do what the law demanded. However, what the law could not do, God the Son was able to do (Romans 8:3). That’s because in the New Covenant God provides what He requires; the desire and ability to do His will. This is the same law that God wrote on Adam’s heart prior to the fall when He pronounced him “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Tragically, as a consequence of the fall, this handiwork of God has been almost obliterated. Fallen man has now the “work of the law”, written on his heart (Romans 2:15), which explains

why even those who have never heard the commandments know the difference between right and wrong. But in the new birth God writes this law anew on our hearts, so that we are created afresh in His image. Through sanctification, this image of God becomes progressively clearer as “we work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13). Then when we die, all traces of sin will disappear forever and we will become absolutely perfect (Hebrews 12:23). The basis of this great change is the “finished work of Christ” and the “gift of the Spirit” which He purchased for us. Many people are into renewal today. Folk are constantly trying to improve their minds, their bodies and their homes. Bookshops are full of self-help books which teach you how to pass exams, increase your self-esteem, cope with worry, make money and have a happy marriage. Tummy tucks, nose jobs, teeth whiteners and hair transplants are all big business! Many TV programmes also focus on home improvements. God can do something far more radical than any of these things - He can change your very nature. Compare what God can do with our state by nature (Jeremiah 17:1).

3) Instruction

In verse 34 God promises to teach His people: “No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother saying, ‘know the LORD’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD.” This does not mean that there is no place for teachers in the New Testament economy, because Ephesians 4:11 teaches otherwise: “And he Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets; some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers”. What Jeremiah means is this: in the Old Testament economy God taught His people indirectly through prophets, intermediaries and priests. A prophet would receive a message from God and then convey it to the people. An intermediary such as Moses would go up the Mount and receive God’s law. An appointed priest would perform the necessary functions to procure pardon. In other words, every blessing was enjoyed indirectly. The people wouldn’t dare approach God directly, otherwise they would die. Tuition could only come through God’s appointed messengers and in God’s appointed way. Everything is very different today. In this era, in addition to the teachers that God gives His church, we can open our bibles, ask for the help of the Spirit and enjoy personal illumination: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things The anointing which you have received of Him abides in you, and you need not that anyone teach you” (1 John 2;20,27). We learn directly, whereas those in the old dispensation learned indirectly. Matthew Henry explains: “All shall know Me, all shall be welcome to the knowledge of God and shall have the means of that knowledge; His way shall be known upon earth, whereas for many ages, in Judah only was God known. Many more shall know God than did in the Old Testament times,

which among the Gentiles were times of ignorance, the true God being to them an unknown God. The things of God shall in

gospel times be made more plain and intelligible, and level to the capacities of the meanest, than they were while Moses had

a veil upon his face.”

What a blessing it is to be taught by God! Pastor John McArthur once had a row with an atheistic professor. In typical blunt fashion he said: “You know nothing about anything that matters, you don’t know where you’ve come from, where you are going, why you are here, how to have a good relationship with your wife, how to have peace in your soul, how to cope with problems, and I have the answer to all of those things”! People today thirst after knowledge, but what sort of knowledge are you seeking? Is it of any lasting value? You can know God and discover the answers to the questions that really matter through studying the bible, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

4) Union

In verse 33 God promises to be the God of His people: “I will be their God and they shall be My people”. The great “King of

kings and Lord of lords” says that He is willing to save us. He

is willing to bring us into “the number”. He promises to meet

all our needs for time and eternity, but there is a condition to be met on our part. We have to “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15), although amazingly God also provides what He demands. That’s why Ephraim [v.18] prayed in this very chapter: “Restore me, and I will return, for you are the LORD my God”. When we comply with these demands, everything changes entirely (2 Corinthians 5:17). Scripture teaches that we are saved by “faith alone”, but saving faith is never alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). And there is nothing more noble or satisfying in all the world than being caught up in this relationship. As Augustine said: “God has made us for Himself and we cannot find our rest until we find our rest in Him”. Are you caught up in “the bundle of life with the Lord our God”? Who is your God/god? Is it someone or something that you have conjured up in your own mind, or is it the God of the bible? “If this God is for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31), but “cursed is the man who trusts in man” (Jeremiah 17:5).

5) Pardon

In verse 34 God promises to forgive His people: “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more”. All our “lack of conformity unto and transgressions of God’s law” can be pardoned through the New Covenant. God promises to wipe the slate clean and to remove our guilt. The devil may still condemn us, conscience may condemn us, others may condemn us, we may even condemn ourselves, and there is a certain truth in all of these verdicts, but God says “I will cast all your sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). When

Howell Harris met George Whitefield for the first time, he asked him a very strange question. He asked him: “Do you know that your sins are forgiven?” He didn’t assume that because he preached his sins were forgiven. The two ought to go together, but don’t necessarily. In the Apostles’ Creed we proclaim “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”. This blessing can only come to us through the New Covenant.

6) Preservation

In verse 35-36 God promises to preserve His people: “Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (the Lord of hosts is His name): If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever”. Jeremiah reminds us here of some “fixed laws of nature” - the sun that shines by day, the moon that shines by night and the tidal system. He’s talking about certain aspects of God’s providential activity which never change and which we all take for granted. Day after day God “makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good” (Matthew 5:45). The same is true of the moon and the stars at night. As for the waves of the sea, God says: “thus far you shall come and no further” (Job 38:11). These natural activities fall out as a result of His fixed decree, but here’s the point: these activities will cease, but God’s covenant mercies towards His people will never cease. As verse 3 of this chapter states “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. Geerhardus Vos elaborates further:

“The best proof that God will never cease to love us is the fact that He never began”. In closing, note well that all these blessings only come to us through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Reconciliation - Galatians 3:28; Regeneration - Galatians 4:1; Instruction - Matthew 11:29; Union - 1 Timothy 2:5; Pardon - Ephesians 1:7; and Preservation - Jude 24. “Hallelujah, what a Saviour!”

Preservation - Jude 24. “Hallelujah, what a Saviour!” Jeff Ballantine, a native of Co. Tyrone, has

Jeff Ballantine, a native of Co. Tyrone, has been a minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church for 25 years. He is currently ministering in Groomsport, Co. Down, having previously served in the Lisburn Road congregation.



HABAKKUK 3:16-19

D r. Martyn Lloyd-Jones published a series of sermons on Habakkuk in the 1950s with the title ‘From fear to faith’ (a book

still in print today). We see what an apt title that is as we come to the end of Habakkuk.

Habakkuk had come to the Lord with his questions. He couldn’t understand why Judah was in such a mess, and he cried out to God because of it. And the Lord responded. He gave his word to Habakkuk; he told him what he was going to do, how he would raise up the ruthless Chaldeans against Judah, and how they would take possession of the land. That was what was coming. So, what’s the end of the story? How are things resolved? We come to these last verses, 3v16-19. Where do we go in times which make us afraid? Where is solid lasting joy to be found? What hope do we have for the future? Habakkuk has an answer at the end of the book. These final verses are words of profound faith in God.


Fear does strange things to us, doesn’t it? The heart is pounding, the stomach is churning, perhaps your palms are sweating. It has an effect upon us. Habakkuk describes fear’s very real effect upon him. He’s afraid in such a way as to be left physically and emotionally drained. ‘My body trembled, my lips quivered at the voice, rottenness entered my bones.’ Fear left him feeling weak and exhausted. What has left him so afraid? It is what he’s heard: ‘When I heard, my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice.’ This revelation of what God is going to do has a great effect upon him. He’s vividly anticipating what is to come. This is bad news; it’s real. The Babylonian troops were coming with all their strength, power, and ruthlessness. And Habakkuk knew that Judah would be given up, taken captive, the land ransacked. He was certain of that because this is what God had promised would happen. It had been promised long ago in God’s law given to Moses (Deut. 28:33, 36-7). This was what would happen if God’s people were not faithful, if they went away from his ways, that another nation would come and take them captive. They would be taken away from that beloved, Promised Land where they lived. Now God had revealed to Habakkuk how this would come to pass in his day. Habakkuk was afraid. He believed God’s word and he trembled. The


prophet Habakkuk wasn’t some sort of superhuman; this affected him physically. He understood it clearly enough, and was afraid. Fear affects us. Even the Apostle Paul preaching in Corinth said ‘I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.’ So Habakkuk took God at his word and it deeply affected him. But what does he do in this situation? The first thing we’re told here is that he rested or he waited patiently (v.16). He waited to see these things unfold. He knew it was in the Lord’s hands. There was nothing to do but to wait for the Lord; he knew that the day would come when their enemies would be overwhelmed. Habakkuk couldn’t do anything about the Babylonians, but he continued to wait upon the Lord and to hope in him. It wasn’t just resignation, but continuing to look to God. The book of Lamentations written not long after this, lamenting the fall of Jerusalem, reminds us, ‘It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.’ We can rest assured of the purposes of God. His purposes don’t fail, his ways don’t change, we can rest in him. Habakkuk learned to wait on the Lord, to rest in Him.

2. REJOICING STILL (v. 17-18)

The prospects awaiting Habakkuk and the land of Judah are fearful. The land was about to be overwhelmed; it would be a time of want and great difficulty. He sums it up in these memorable words of verse 17. ‘Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food;

though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in

the stalls

This was a time of no harvest. And it wasn’t just a case of what if this happened - he believed it certainly would happen when the Babylonians came and took over the land. What would be left? The things that Palestine grew so abundantly – the choicest of foods, the fig trees, the vines, the olives, the produce they enjoyed so much - gone. Not only choice foods, but necessary foods as well – no bread, no milk, no meat. No herd left, the fields not producing anything. The land that they loved devastated. The cupboards bare and empty. Remember that God created this world and he provided for man. Out of God’s goodness there is an abundance in creation to be enjoyed.


The Psalms rejoice in God’s goodness – Psalm 65 says: ‘You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.’ And Habakkuk was there in Judah, in the Promised Land, the land that flowed with milk and honey - but how different verse 17 is to that. This was a hard thing to bear for Habakkuk. We can’t always explain times of hardship, and we have to be careful how we interpret events, but in this particular situation Habakkuk knew it had happened because of the sins of Judah. It was God’s chastening. This was a time of sorrow. “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD.” Here’s the turning point. At this difficult time when the things he might ordinarily enjoy weren’t there – Habakkuk can still rejoice in the Lord. In the midst of everything there is something which isn’t taken away from him - he still knows joy in the God of his salvation. This isn’t just a stoical spirit, a readiness to bear things, but a genuine joy in the Lord. This is finding joy in knowing our great God, in knowing his love for us, in knowing his grace towards us, knowing that he doesn’t change. Habakkuk knew the Lord as the ‘God of my salvation’. He knew the Lord and trusted Him. Habakkuk knew the Lord as a God who is gracious, as a God who saves, a God who is faithful. As we look at chapter 3 as a whole we are reminded of God’s mighty power, his great acts in the past, how he went forth for the salvation of his people, how he had delivered them in the past from their enemies. God was faithful in saving his people; Habakkuk knew that. Whatever was going on around him, he could depend upon God’s grace. What it is to know God as our God, to know his gracious smile, the God of our salvation! We can know that assuredly in Jesus Christ – that in Him we are reconciled to God, at peace with God. We have so much to rejoice in in Christ: the abundance of the love of God towards us in him, a love that passes understanding; each and every sin blotted out in Christ’s precious blood; guilt removed; the assurance of him keeping us by his mighty power; the loving care of our Father in heaven; knowing the almighty only true and living God as our God. Such a great God is concerned for us. Let’s be quick to rejoice in the God of our salvation!


Lastly, we see how the prophet has confidence in God for all that is to come. He had all his questions; he was filled with great fear about what lay ahead of Judah, but now in verse 19, the end of the book, his faith and dependence upon God come through. How can Habakkuk keep going when there’s adversity ahead? ‘The LORD God is my strength’. The word for strength which is used here is one which is often used to speak of having great power or wealth, great resources at your disposal. When Habakkuk looks to the Lord, he realises that there he finds the resources of heaven. He’s not strong, he was shaking like a leaf in verse 16, but ‘the Lord is my strength’: he knows he can depend and rely on him. The Apostle Paul knew Timothy well, knew his weakness, knew the things that he would be facing – how does he encourage him? ‘Be

strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim. 2 v. 1). Christ is our sufficient help, we can turn again to him, we can renew our strength in him. Habakkuk knows that in faith he can look to the Lord for strength. And then he takes a promise from Psalm 18 – ‘he will make my feet like deer’s feet, and he will make me walk on my high hills’. What a way for Habakkuk to end this book – on the heights. He thinks of how a deer can move swiftly over the rugged mountains, get up into the high places nimbly. Israel is a place which has rugged mountains. And the Lord promises that his people will ride upon the heights, they will take possession of the land; it will be theirs. Those high places shall belong to them. Habakkuk knows how God will give him strength and take him above and beyond what he expects. Not in his own strength will the heights ’

be his but in the Lord’s. ‘He will make my feet like deer’s feet

will be with him all the way, he will triumph in the end, he’ll walk on high places. What high places will we walk on? What heights will be ours? You might say this is just poetry - we’re down-to-earth people, we’re not

going to be walking on the heights. But the gospel promises us triumph.

Paul says he’s reaching forwards, pressing towards the mark – for what, Paul? For the ‘high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Phil.3 v.14), to be in heaven at last, to reach glory. Whatever we may have to face along the way there is triumph at the ’

end. ‘We are more than conquerors through him who loved us

belong to Christ, that’s how we’re described - we’ll reach the end of the road. There’s triumph to come. Habakkuk was full of questions. He could ask ‘What’s going on around me? Why so much wickedness, why so much injustice?’ We can ask those questions too - we live in a fallen, corrupt, sinful world. That’s why Christ had to go to the cross – our sins have to be dealt with. But Christ rose again triumphant. So we don’t have to end Habakkuk with the afflictions that he was experiencing – we can have the great hope in God that he held onto through it all. ‘The just shall live by faith’ – Habakkuk exemplified that, didn’t he? He lived by faith not by sight. In spite of what was happening in the world around him, he knew and trusted the Lord, he knew him as the ‘God of my salvation’.


If we

he knew him as the ‘God of my salvation’. God If we Marcus Hobson has been

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.

Children For Christ, Romania

Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me”

We live in a country where we can meet freely and openly for Sunday school, children’s clubs and youth meetings. Do we ever stop and thank God for the blessing that is?

Unfortunately, today, in many countries, persecution of Christians is an all too familiar story because of Communist (or other) oppressive rule; Christians worship in secret and are

in fear of arrest or worse. This was the reality of life for Vio -

a Christian convert during Communist rule in Romania.

During Communist rule, Vio had a huge desire to let children know they had a hope for their life through trusting in Jesus.

It was her desire to reach children with the gospel and she did

this at risk of being caught and arrested. One day, she was driving a group of children to a location where they planned to share a time of praise, prayer and learning more about Jesus. However, police stopped her car. She said she was bringing the children to a ‘party’ and was free to go! Later, the children prayed. They prayed that Communism would fall so they would be free to worship God. That very winter, in a neighbouring town of Timisoara, the uprising began and by Christmas, Communism had fallen. On hearing this, the children believed it was their prayers to their almighty God that contributed to the fall of Communism; it’s hard to argue against that faith!

During September 1991, two Scottish CEF workers (Harry and Wilma) met Vio during a humanitarian aid visit to an

orphanage in Arad, Romania. She shared with them her need of good children’s materials and visuals to use in her Sunday school. She also shared her desire to train others to teach boys and girls effectively in Sunday schools and clubs.

Harry and Wilma felt burdened to help Vio. Soon it became clear that their call from God was to leave home and family and move to Romania. Wilma met the children from Vio’s Sunday school and was present when they prayed for a place to have a camp of their own. Wilma went with Vio to the CEF European training centre to train fully in all aspects of children’s ministry, whilst Harry stayed in Scotland to sort out practical matters. They looked for a site for a camp and God provided one in the beautiful mountain village of Varfurile, two hours from Arad. The charity, Copii Pentru Cristos (Children For Christ) had begun!

With the donation of an old portacabin from Scotland, the first camp took place in 1993. Varfurile became Harry and Wilma’s home whilst Vio’s home in Arad became the head office. They are non-denominational and hold monthly training for leaders, (new leaders, experienced leaders, home Bible club leaders camp leaders etc). All their teaching, memory verses and children’s choruses are totally Bible based. They run 9 summer and 2 winter camps, aid shops, and design and print Bible materials for the Bible clubs, Sunday schools and summer camps. By training Sunday school and Bible club teachers, God’s word has been taught clearly and effectively throughout western and southern Romania. Some of the children who have come up through camp are now missionaries in poorer areas of Romania. Vio, Harry, Wilma and Casi (who has worked with CFC for twenty years) have often said, God has blessed CFC ‘‘more than we could possibly ask or imagine’’.

A big part of our support is the sending of an aid lorry once a

A big part of our support is the sending

of an aid lorry once a year to Romania

filled with good quality clothing, shoes,

cuddly toys etc. People have really taken

to this part of the ministry and we are

very thankful that we are never short of

aid. However, our biggest need is that

we do not have somewhere to sort and

store the aid here in NI. We have been

using our houses and garages but do

not have one location. This poses many

logistical problems when it comes to

finalising the aid for the lorry. Perhaps

In 2013, sadly Harry passed away. He

had been in charge of all the building

work at camp, and the final stage (a

sports hall and children’s home) was

only partially begun. Wilma and Vio

didn’t think it would be possible to finish

the building. However, God did! He sent

a skilled team of builders who finished

the work in 3 months! In 2014 the

children’s home, Casa Harry, opened and

the ‘house parents’ Paul and Christina

and the ‘house mum’ Neli look after 8

children age from 3 to 13.

you know of someone who has dry, secure storage that’s

accessible for an articulated lorry, or a site where a portacabin

could be placed? This really is an essential and urgent matter

and I would be glad if anyone could let me know of a suitable

provision. If so please get in touch via email.

I first visited CFC in 2006. The role of a visitor at camp is to

encourage and support the leaders through practical help

such as cleaning, washing dishes, sorting aid or painting, as

well as spending time with the children and being part of the

leaders’ devotional meetings each day. The Romanians do all

the children’s Bible teaching and it is amazing to watch and

learn from them. I have been humbled, spiritually challenged

and hugely blessed by being part of CFC. The workers always

give us a warm welcome and they radiate God’s love in a truly

inspiring way. The full-time workers face many challenges,

and so in 2008, some of us in Northern Ireland decided to

form a support committee for the charity, with the help

of established trustees in Scotland and England. We are

delighted to host CFC workers for deputation visits (most

recently in 2016 when Vio, Wilma and Paul visited the Knock

and Finaghy EPC churches). We primarily encourage others to

pray for CFC, and update folks on the work. We also organise

fundraisers and visit Romania whenever possible.

With the freedom we have to reach and teach children so

openly here in NI, I encourage you this year to continue to

prayerfully support those in your church and local area to

faithfully, accurately and wholeheartedly teach children

the only way of salvation. Praise God for the faith of little

children! May the ‘little children’ continue to come to Him

both here and throughout the world.

For more information visit or

Facebook Children For Christ UK.

Judith Taggart

world. For more information visit or Facebook Children For Christ UK. Judith Taggart 15 15


ANNOUNCEMENTS Theological Study Conference 2017 The Christian Church: Its Mission in a Post-­‐Christian Culture
Theological Study Conference 2017 The Christian Church: Its Mission in a Post-­‐Christian Culture 1-­‐3 March
Theological Study Conference 2017
The Christian Church: Its Mission in a
Post-­‐Christian Culture
1-­‐3 March 2017
King’s Park Conference Centre, Northampton
How should the church respond to the rapidly increasing
hostility it faces in the Western world? What should we do
when public discourse, government, education and the
media try to eradicate all Christian influence? Do we seek to
engage and transform, just maintain a faithful presence, or
perhaps withdraw and preserve our faith communities?
Speakers: David Green, Chris Bennett, Paul Helm,
Lee Gatiss, John Stevens & David McKay
The conference brings together pastors, church leaders,
theological students and others who wish to respond
biblically and theologically to one of the pressing issues of
our day. Come and join the discussion – the conference is
open to both men and women.
For more information and to book online: or phone 07989 773043.
book online: or phone 07989 773043. SHAFTESBURY SQUARE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (Dublin


(Dublin Road, Belfast)



Marking the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation


Rev. Gareth Burke

(Stranmillis Evangelical Presbyterian Church) will consider the life and work of Martin Luther

Prof. David McKay

(Shaftesbury Square Reformed Presbyterian Church) will consider the relevance for today of the principles of the Reformation

Everybody very welcome!


of the Reformation Everybody very welcome! A HEART FOR GOD AND A HEART FOR PEOPLE IN


Knock HBC

Many of our churches held Holiday Bible Clubs last summer. In this article Julie Johnston reflects on the Knock EPC Youth Outreach, 1-5 August 2016.

It always amazes me to think how real the Bible is. Despite being written over 2000 years ago it has all the help and guidance we need for every aspect of our lives today. It is relevant in the lives of our young children as they face the challenges of growing up.

Young and old, God has made us emotional beings. Children

know what it is like to be scared and feel left out, to struggle with anger and guilt and to deal with peer relationships. At the “Inside Out” Holiday Bible Club this summer in Knock EPC we considered the topic of our emotions. Using the characters from the Blockbuster “Inside Out” movie we looked at what the Bible has to say about our feelings of sadness, disgust, fear, anger and joy. We considered the life of Jepthath, Ruth, Samuel, Peter and the conversion of Matthew. It was a joy ”

to teach the children “Create in me a clean heart

them to learn they can “Cast their burdens upon the Lord”. They learned about that real true joy that we can only have in Christ when our sins are forgiven.

and for

We are thankful to God for the 60 children who attended each day (80 over the course of the week) and how they listened and behaved really well. The minibus and games were incident free. Many children asked for Bibles and nine were delivered into non Christian homes. A good number of

the children have begun to attend our Friday Club Children’s Meeting which has known great blessing. In the evenings the Teen Club had about a dozen young people enjoying a photo challenge, a Bake Off competition and a challenge night, concluding each evening considering who Jesus was from the four different angles of each of the four Gospels. It was challenging for all to hear such clear presentations of Jesus as King, Servant, Son of Man and Son of God; listening was good.

The week ended with a well attended Family Fun Night on the Friday, and a full house at the Family Thanksgiving Service on the Sunday evening. On the Sunday night we considered from the Psalms how the Lord knew King David ‘inside out’, and how, when disgusted with his own sin, he cried out to God for forgiveness, and only then did he know true joy.

We are indebted to our team who worked tirelessly organising craft, playing football in the rain, planning quizzes, competitions, stories and talks, and for the hard work in the kitchen. The fellowship in the team, who came from a number of our congregations, was a blessing. We are thankful to our Lord for His faithfulness. We pray that God would use this work to see children, young people and their families saved. We are excited as we consider next year’s outreach week. Perhaps you would like to join our team; look out for the flyers in your church in the New Year or contact us at


Bingham Academy

FROM THE CHURCHES Bingham Academy When I think of Bingham Academy in Ethiopia, I think of

When I think of Bingham Academy in Ethiopia, I think of a bag of mixed nuts! I think about a hive of 24/7 activity; about deep, genuine love; about open communication between staff and students; about hardship and harmony in a compact and intimate environment.

I first went to teach Geography at Bingham in January 2013. Bingham has become a dear place to me over these past 4 years. A lot has happened since then. I met my husband at Bingham. I led Bingham’s first International Geography field trip (to the Seychelles Islands). I oversaw the school prom’s pirate-themed set preparation one year, which included building a ship the size of a building. I taught alongside my ‘in-laws’ for a year, and had the opportunity to attend professional development workshops in Zimbabwe and England.

Who goes to Bingham?

1. ‘Missionary kids’: perhaps their family has lived in Ethiopia

all their lives or perhaps they have just arrived in Addis Ababa. Bingham was set up to support missionaries across the country with the provision of education.

2. Many others: if you are exclusively an Ethiopian citizen, you

are required to follow the Ethiopian school curriculum, which is not an option at Bingham. Anyone holding another passport may enroll at Bingham in its Cambridge curriculum. Many children of returning Ethiopian diaspora and of African Union delegates attend the school; their parents appreciate the school’s relatively affordable fees and strong moral backbone.

The diversity of Bingham’s students fills me with wonder at God’s creativity. It could be assumed that Bingham students are Christian, but not all would say that they desire a relationship with Jesus. So for me the challenge is to remain approachable as I try to help students discern between culture and real dependence upon Jesus (we need this discernment in Northern Ireland, too). Some students communicate quite frankly that they don’t know Jesus and are ‘smothered’ by Christianity at Bingham. Others are happily ‘going through the motions’. Others still are shining testimonies of Jesus Christ.

Others still are shining testimonies of Jesus Christ. One of the biggest things I have learnt

One of the biggest things I have learnt is to be more vulnerable, open and relational about my faith as a teacher. Bingham’s environment encourages approachable teaching styles. Often we are told to keep faith and school subjects separate when teaching in Northern Ireland’s schools—or to keep discussions about faith for ‘Scripture Union time’. At Bingham we have freedom to express ourselves as believers within our profession. This is a great privilege.

Such an open environment means that we have to be ready both professionally and personally to be accountable to our students. Some students have had Christianity in their school day since the age of 4 and, as I taught secondary and sixth-form classes, I was faced with senior students feeling like they were ‘done’ hearing about Jesus. These situations required a lot of listening and at times it felt like we were getting nowhere. I also try to stay in contact with students beyond their time at Bingham. This time of exploration and questioning can sometimes soften them and make them a little more reflective about past conversations.

Prayer for Bingham:

1. Bingham is a melting pot of cultures and denominations.

The teachers are often over-worked and have the pressure


of delivering Western-standard education in an environment that often makes this difficult (especially when it comes to internet access). Times of reflection are needed to re-focus on one’s mission/ministry due to the busy timetables in this 24/7 community. Pray for the challenges that teachers at BA face with pressured workloads and the emotional burdens they carry for students.

2. Bingham needs long-term teachers to help with the

continuity of the learning process—even teachers who will commit to 5 years. Many only stay for 2 years, which is unsettling for students, causes inefficiencies within the school, and brings a huge human resource burden upon the administration.

As I begin a new chapter of life as a full-time mother in Addis Ababa, I am thankful that I am still able to dip in and out of this community and use the gifts God has given me to reach out to young people and encourage Bingham staff as they provide high-quality Christian education that equips students to impact the world for God’s glory.

Jenni Ray, Stranmillis

high-quality Christian education that equips students to impact the world for God’s glory. Jenni Ray, Stranmillis
high-quality Christian education that equips students to impact the world for God’s glory. Jenni Ray, Stranmillis


Office Bearers’ Half Day of Prayer

FROM THE CHURCHES Office Bearers’ Half Day of Prayer The Office-bearers’ half day of prayer was

The Office-bearers’ half day of prayer was held on Saturday 12 November 2016 in Finaghy church. As normal, it was presided over by the Moderator who introduced the time of prayer with a brief devotional based on Psalm 81v11b. We heard from each of our congregations in turn – of conversions and of struggles, of blessings and disappointments. We were able to call on God for His blessing in a variety of areas – but specially pleading that the contacts made in congregations would be translated into conversions. Oh that God the Holy Spirit would hear our weak prayers and answer abundantly.

The Clerk of Presbytery with the Moderator

Presbytery Day Conference

of Presbytery with the Moderator Presbytery Day Conference Belfast Bible College Saturday 22 April 2017 Guest

Belfast Bible College Saturday 22 April 2017

Guest speaker: Prof. Bob Akroyd, Edinburgh

Installation of new Moderator and presentation of annual reports

New elder for Stranmillis

and presentation of annual reports New elder for Stranmillis At the evening service on Sunday 20th

At the evening service on Sunday 20th November a Commission of

Presbytery consisting of Rev Robert Beckett, Rev Andrew Lucas and Mr

Trevor Gilliland visited Stranmillis for the installation of Mr David Gordon

as an elder in the congregation. David had been recently elected by the

congregation and, having been interviewed by the Presbytery commission,

was found to have the necessary gifts for the carrying out of this important

office in Christ’s Church.

The service was initially conducted by Rev Gareth Burke who interviewed

David concerning his conversion and his thoughts on entering into eldership.

Harold Gibson gave a short narrative, Trevor Gilliland put the required

questions, Rev Andrew Lucas prayed and Rev Robert Beckett preached a

suitable sermon on 1 Peter5 v1 – 11 entitled ‘Shepherding God’s Flock’

which can be heard on the Stranmillis website (

Please pray for the Session of Stranmillis – Gareth Burke, Harold Gibson,

David Gordon, Mervyn Kelly and Colin Moore – as we seek to give good

spiritual direction to the congregation at a time of change and development

in the life of the church.


Calling all Campers! your diary Dates for Junior Camp Reunion Saturday 18 February, Ballyclare Senior
Calling all
your diary
Dates for
Junior Camp Reunion
Saturday 18 February, Ballyclare
Senior Camp Reunion
Friday 10 –Sunday 12 February, Ganaway
Activity Centre, Millisle
(Inter Camp reunion to be arranged)
Booking forms and more details available in your church or on the
church website at

Farewell for Trevor

“During the Autumn we were sad to say farewell to Trevor Kane and family, but thankful to God for the opportunity for ministry which has opened up elsewhere. Trevor has been called by Dumfries Free Church of Scotland to provide ‘Resident Supply’. Over the next few months, Trevor plans to apply to the Free Church of Scotland and meet any requirements of the Board of Ministry; following that process, it is expected that he will be called as minister to the congregation. We give thanks for this opportunity for Trevor and Suzanne to put their gifts to use, and we pray that in the coming months the Kane family, and the congregation at Dumfries Free Church, will know God’s rich blessing upon them as they enter into this exciting new chapter.”

upon them as they enter into this exciting new chapter.” Thank God for our ministers and

Thank God for our ministers and office- bearers and for their prayerful and practical concern for the flock. Pray that more people would want to attend mid-week prayer meetings and that these times would be blessed by God.

Praise God for the encouragement of conversions in several of our congregations. Pray for growth and steadfastness for those new in the faith and ask that God would use the testimony of changed lives to challenge others.

Pray for young people growing up in the church. Pray that they would hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him.

Give thanks for the work of Bingham Academy, Ethiopia, and for the Christian teaching and example it provides. Praise God for the faith of many of the children and ask that students who are not yet His would not harden their hearts. Pray that staff would know the joy of the Lord as their strength and would seek daily wisdom from Him.

Pray for a return to good health for Rev Billy Elliot and for the needs of the church in Richhill in his absence. Thank God for Trevor Kane’s time there and pray for Trevor and his family as he takes up his new position in Dumfries.

Ask God to bless any in our church family who have health problems. May they know His all-sufficient grace in difficult times. Thank God for the medical resources and expertise readily available in our country.

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Pray for safety and happiness at each of

the camp reunions and for spiritual benefit

for the children who attend. Pray that busy

leaders would be walking with the Lord.

Praise God for how He is working in

Romania, especially through the work of

Children For Christ. Ask Him to provide

for the needs of Vio, Wilma and the other

fulltime workers and pray that many

children would come to know Jesus as their

Saviour and Lord. Give thanks for Judith

and those who support the work from NI

and pray that a suitable storage facility will

become available here.

Thank God for progress towards a new

church building for Stranmillis. Thank Him

also for the recent missionary weekend,

praying that in all our congregations our

eyes and hearts and hands would be open

to the needs of the world.

Thank God for a faithful EPC witness in

North Belfast over many years and for each

one brought into the kingdom of God. Pray

for Christians to be rooted and built up in

Christ and for families and communities to

be transformed by the gospel. Ask for God

given wisdom for those who oversee the

work in both Somerton and Crosscollyer.

who oversee the work in both Somerton and Crosscollyer. BOOK REVIEWS Title: Do More Better RRP:


Title: Do More Better

RRP: £7-99 Our Price: £6-50

Author: Tim Challies

Publisher: Cruciform Press

Published: 2015

Pages: 120

Publisher: Cruciform Press Published: 2015 Pages: 120 This recent publication from Tim Challies is a short

This recent publication from Tim Challies is a short but excellent introduction to the subject of productivity. Challies is not some

kind of productivity guru! He is a busy church leader, blogger, author, husband and father with many responsibilities to pack into each day. Before he started to write books, he was involved in IT, and because of this background, he has some unique insights into how we can maintain productivity in today’s high-tech age. This book reflects what he has found most helpful in this area, it is personal in that it is written from experience and it is practical in that Challies wants his readers to consider how they may integrate his advice into their busy lives. Laying the foundation, the author states that our main preoccupation should be to glorify God in all that we do. In order to achieve this, he addresses common obstacles to productivity, the reasons why we should strive for productivity, tools that help us get things done and the benefit of weekly routines, before concluding the book with


section called ‘20 Tips to Increase Your Productivity’ which


extremely helpful. Among the advice listed are tips such

as ‘turn notifications off’, ‘don’t send unnecessary e-mails’ because they will invite unnecessary and unwanted replies, ‘don’t leave e-mail open’ but set aside designated times for this, create a ‘not-to-do list’ on the basis that it is easy to write a ‘To Do list’ of things we need or would like to achieve, while neglecting to consider things that we ought not to be doing. Challies believes we should focus on these areas too so that we make a conscious effort to avoid sin in advance. He suggests that we make ourselves accountable to someone who can check in with us every now and again to make sure we are following this advice and calls us to appropriate levels of rest and exercise. This is such a helpful little book which punches well above its weight! It challenges us to be diligent in carrying out our duties in family life, church life, business and in our social lives. It is under-pinned by a solid grasp of what the Bible says on these issues. It is a short but important book, the reading of which may be one of the best uses of your time in weeks!

Colin Campbell

Title: A heavenly conference – between Christ and Mary Author: Richard Sibbes Publisher: Banner of
Title: A heavenly conference – between Christ and Mary Author: Richard Sibbes Publisher: Banner of

Title: A heavenly conference –

between Christ and Mary

Author: Richard Sibbes

Publisher: Banner of Truth

Published: Reprinted 2015

Pages: 167

This paperback is one of the many

in the Banner of Truth’s series of

Puritan Paperbacks. It deals with

the encounter Mary Magdalene had with the risen Christ on

the first Easter morning. It originally formed part of the Works

of Richard Sibbes Volume 6, also available from the Banner.

For those who have profited from Sibbes’ work “The Bruised

Reed”, this book is in a similar vein. Warm hearted, practical,

pastoral, it points us to Christ and Christ alone.

The focus of the book is the text “to my Father and your

Father, to my God and your God”. John 20:17. Sibbes believes

that “this is the most fundamental comfort that we have. For

from this, that God is our God, cometh all that we have that is

good in nature and grace. Whatsoever is comfortable cometh

from this spring, that God in Christ is our God, our reconciled

God”. What comfort it must have been to Mary that morning

to hear these words. For all the caricatures of the Puritans,

some of the sweetest and loveliest writings ever about Christ

come from the Puritans. Christian are called to live as joyful,

thankful, cheerful and rejoicing people in the light of Christ. It

is no wonder that Sibbes was called ‘The Sweet Dropper’.

This work comes to 167 pages on one text. Such is the rigour

and learning of the Puritans that they can write at length

but winsomely and with great benefit. It is in essence a

treatment of our union with Christ. This doctrine can often be

neglected but it drives at the heart of daily Christian living and

cannot help but undergird our assurance. If this work has an

overriding objective it is to help believers enjoy the comfort

that comes from knowing that Jesus’ God and Father is our

God and Father too. By adoption, we have the most amazing

elder brother, who is also our Saviour and Lord. When we are

united to Christ we know we share the secure standing of

our firstborn brother before God our Father. Michael Reeves

in his foreword to this book states that Sibbes “exudes an

irresistible delight in Christ”. He also states that Sibbes moves

from dead orthodoxy to captivating people with the inward

beauty and glory of Christ”. Sibbes, like the Catechism, seeks

the glory of God.

Mary is commended for her diligence in seeking Christ.

Christ is never far from the seeking soul and we should be

comforted that Christ loves us before we love him. He also

calls us before we call him. There is a beautiful quotation in

the book’s introduction:

“Blessed is that man or woman that hath an interest in him

who is the Father of Jesus Christ by eternal generation, and of

all believers in Christ by adoption and regeneration; in which

inheritance and portion, that thou mayest have a share.”

The breadth of the book prohibits me from a detailed

overview, but issues covered include Communion with Christ,

Christ our brother, Christ’s ascension and ours, Christ’s Father

and ours, and Christ’s God and ours. One is struck by how our

relationship is defined by a sweet familial bond to uphold and

support the despondent Christian in their struggles but not

to give hope to false professors. There is a clear absence in

modern evangelical preaching about making our calling and

election sure and to give a reason for the hope that is within

us. Sibbes addresses that need for balance beautifully and

there is no trace of cheap grace in this work. A quote below

outlines this and bears repeating.

“It is a good plea to God, Lord I know not what to say; my

sins are more than the hairs of my head. Satan layeth hard to

me. I cannot answer one of a thousand. I confess all my sins.

Hear me, and hear thy Son, for my sake. He is now at thy right

hand, and pleadeth for me.”

These words are as relevant now in the demands of life in

2017 as they were in 1654. There is nothing new under the

sun. I commend this work to you as a beautiful, pastoral, pithy

but practical treatment of our union with Christ.

Will Gibson

Best of the Blogs

A selection of online blogs and articles to challenge and

encourage you in your walk with God and his people…

Why Church Membership Matters (Michael J. Schout)

Confessing The Creed: I Believe (Donny Friederichsen)



“It’s not a salvation issue,” the saying goes, “so why do Reformed churches make such a big deal about becoming a

church member? Isn’t it just a piece of paper? Can’t I get all the same benefits of the church without joining it? Are you saying a person can’t be a Christian unless he or she becomes

a church member? What about the people who worship

regularly, participate consistently, and serve willingly, but aren’t technically members? Is it really that big of a deal?”

“The Apostles’ Creed is a 2,000 year old confession of the basic contours of the Christian faith. From the earliest beginnings of the New Testament Church, the Church began articulating a “pattern of sound words” (2 Tim 1:13) of what Christians believe.”

Confession and Orthodoxy: Covenantal Thinking (Tim Bertolet)

Why do we exist? (Mark Johnston)

“It was a stroke of theological genius on the part of the Westminster divines to begin this wonderful little document by asking ‘What is man’s chief end?’ and then supplying the answer, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’.”

What God does with your sin (Tim Challies)

“God comforts us not only with descriptions of what he does with our sin, but also with vivid illustrations. Are you distressed by what you’ve done? Do you hear whispers that you have sinned beyond God’s desire or ability to forgive? Let these illustrations comfort you. Listen to—no, see!—all that God does with your sin.”


“When I was in seminary, our apologetics professor regularly reminded us that all of God’s relationships with humanity are covenant relationships. The covenant ungirds every facet of our existence as humans. Not only has the truth of this affected me since then, but also I remember it well because I missed a question on the final exam wherein we were asked to cite from memory chapter seven section one of the Westminster Confession. With that in mind, let’s look at an overview of the Confession’s chapter on the covenant.”

Seven principles for angry parents disciplining angry children (Kevin De Young)



“I hate to admit that the title of this blog post too often

describes my household. I never (or at least it seems that way to me) lose my temper with my wife, my staff, or my congregation. But sadly, I too often feel (and act?) like that little Anger guy from Inside Out when it comes to my kids. Too many frustrated sighs and raised voices and sharp tones (and that’s just from the parents!).”