Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Permission to Speak

A while back I wrote to my local MP...

On another subject, you'll be aware of increasing concern among Christians about the proposed EU Directive on Equal Treatment, and in particular the 'Harassment Provision'. This legislation if approved would make saying anything of a religious nature that was deemed to be offensive by a third party an offence - further the burden of proof would lie on the 'offender' to prove what they said wasn't offensive to the offended! The legislation is apparently so vague as to make it impossible to anticipate what another person may regard as offensive.

All this is explained by a Professor of Law on video at the following website:

I would be grateful if you shared these concerns, about what many believe to be an insidious threat not just to religious liberty but to freedom of speech in general, if you were able to communicate them to Harriet Harman who will be discussing these proposals at the Council of Ministers. As ever thanks for your time in this and your work generally, Regards

I'm pleased to say I have now received the following reply....

Further to our previous correspondance, I have now received a reply from the Government Equalities Office regarding your concerns over the European Equal Treatment Directive, in particular the Harassment Clause.

In his reply, the Minister explains that, owing to the evidence collated during the consultation process, a harassment clause has not been included in the Equality Bill. This is because it was felt that harassment protection on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion or belief was covered by other discrimination provisions or not within the scope of discrimination.

It should go without saying that the concern expressed by myself was not that Christians should be free to harass others - the teaching of Jesus is to treat all people with respect and kindness (which is not to say that we need agree with all that they do). Rather that there is a creeping trend of legislation that threatens to criminalise the expression of any views not acceptable to liberal minded secularists. This 'concession' is not likely to reverse that trend in itself - but it removes a certain level of intimidation against the expression of Christian beliefs. It is also an encouragement for us to keep on interacting with our law-makers on such matters.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bible Ready in 2010

Now is the time to organise your Bible Reading Plan for 2010 (don't want to be found short on 4th Jan!).

The ESV website has a good range of plans (which can of course be used with any version).

See HERE to check them out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Check out the new blog from John Thomson - CAVE ADULLAM

John has been a Biblical mentor to many through his articles and personal input - if there is a theology book JT hasn't read there is a good chance it hasn't actually been written - so for thoughtful and challenging theological reflections this will be a must for your 'Favourites'.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

realism & encouragement

Esther ch.4 shows how Mordecai responded to Esther’s hesitation when asked to go to King Xerxes and plead for the Jewish people. Esther’s dilemma was acute: Xerxes hadn’t shown much interest in her for about a month (4:11), ‘Vashti-gate’ (ch.1) had revealed he was no fan of independently minded women; furthermore he was the kind of guy who agreed to genocide over a beer (3:15) – so the risk, in Esther’s mind, of being put to death by him was genuine.

Mordecai response to this contained two key elements – elements that are at the heart of a balanced Christian life – realism & encouragement.

Firstly, he reminds her that the problem (the planned destruction of the Jewish people) is just as much her problem as anyone else's – she is a Jew herself after all. It is a problem that won’t go away – so she must be face up to it. Secondly though, there is encouragement – because there is an opportunity here to do something significant for God. By stepping up to deal with this problem, Esther has the chance to make her life really count and to make her mark for God’s people.

The New Testament recognises the need to hold both these truths – realism & encouragement. We need them both or we will swing to unbalanced extremes. On the one hand we need to be realistic about ourselves and the nature of the world in which we live. We have to face up to the fact of our ongoing sinful tendencies – the struggles against the flesh and just how powerful that old part of us is. Equally, there ought to be no rosy-eyed naivety about this world’s approach to God – it is not a friend of Jesus, it is at its heart implacably opposed to His rule, it is the domain of the devil and to be a Christian in it will inevitably create a tension as we go against its grain. Without such realism – we will quickly become disillusioned by the struggles of faith, doubts will creep in about the reality of God’s care and power in our lives, we will think either we’re not ‘real Christians’ or perhaps the gospel isn’t true.

On the the other hand the New Testament is a book of encouragement – because despite the real difficulties we face there can be progress. We can move forward by God’s Spirit in increasing Christ-likeness, we are not doomed to failure every time temptation arises, the Gospel can and does influence societies when it is clearly and faithfully proclaimed. Ultimately we are encouraged by the knowledge of a sure and certain hope – a future that will be safe & secure in the presence of God forever.

All realism – and we could quickly become despondent and cowed by the problems. All encouragement – and we could become triumphalist and cocky in our attitudes. Christian maturity, let me suggest, is holding the two together.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

On the side of caution...

Don Carson on 1 Corinthians 8

Paul judges it dangerous for Christians to defy their consciences, because if they get in the habit of ignoring the voice of conscience, they may ignore the voice even when the conscience is well informed and is warning them off something that is positively evil. Doubtless in the long haul Paul would like these weak Christians to grow in their knowledge of Scripture and the gospel so they will not think something is evil that is not (like eating meat that had been offered to idols); but until they have reached such maturity, they must not defy their own consciences.

The Cross and Christian Ministry (p123)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

9 Marks Conf - Edinburgh, Feb 2010

9 Marks Conference 2010 @ Charlotte Chapel Edinburgh

The 9Marks Conference 2010 aims to help build healthy local churches by encouraging leaders and members to re-establish their Biblical bearings and re-think their ministry methods.

Friday 12th February 2010 (registration 6.30pm, 7pm start)
Saturday 13th February 2010 (8am-4pm)

Charlotte Chapel, 204 West Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4AZ.

Who is speaking?
Mark Dever,
Capitol Hill Baptist Church , Washington D.C.
Paul Rees, Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh
Liam Garvie,
St Andrews Baptist Church , St Andrews

Full details & bookings - HERE

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Be a tent peg...

Let me play about a little with Paul’s ‘cork on the water’ metaphor – you know the one about not being tossed back and forth by the waves or blown about here and there by every wind of dodgy teaching (Eph 4:14). Paul’s point being that Christians need an anchor in their lives – otherwise they will be at the mercy of every passing trend and gimmick that rolls through church-culture.

Even as individual Christians need such anchor points (i.e. firm, stable, Bible rooted theology) – so do churches. For just as Christians can lurch from one fad to another, so can churches. You don’t have to look far to see the exhausting run-around that many seem to be caught in – a ‘new template for ministry’ every 3 years, followed by a 5 year plan, followed by the adoption of some best-selling mega-church blueprint. Then there is the need to follow the latest fashion in ‘Spirit lead’ ministry – I mean, how 1990s to still be ‘hunting demons’ when everybody is now ‘doing Transportation’ (like the guy who kept his 1970s flares I’m just waiting for the Bible to come in again!). Decade after decade we hear the confident announcement from some quarter that God is about to ‘really do something amazing’ or that the ‘start of something really world changing’ has begun. Back and forth, up and down, here and there, this runaway train careers.

Our churches need stability - firm anchor points, an allegiance to good traditions (1 Cor 11:2), and to provide constancy for pilgrims in the fickleness of life. Don’t mishear me – I’m not arguing for stagnation, or that we fossilise in a particular era of church culture. What we do need, however, is a maturity and a realism about the world – that as much as things change, underneath they stay the same.

When was the last time you heard a sermon on making ‘it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands’? Hardly inspirational world changing stuff we think – no, we all want to be leaders, radicals, cutting edge revolutionaries – or at least we labour under the burden of such sermons, books and altar calls. Yet, that call to get on with ‘ordinary life’ is exactly what Paul tells the Thessalonians to do (1 Th 4:11). Of course some, like Paul, are called to extraordinary ministries – but even in the 1st Century most Christians weren’t Paul*. Most had ordinary jobs, went to their local ‘ordinary’ churches, got on with raising families, being responsible citizens and good neighbours. They did what the Bible asked them to do – ‘win the respect of outsiders’ while ‘holding out the word of life’ (1 Th 4:12 / Php 2:16).

They lived out their faith day by day, month by month, year by year – they were the steady & reliable 'salt & light' of their communities that avoided the boom & bust of so much contemporary Christianity. They gave stability to the church – they resisted the lure of quick fixes, flash in the pan theology and ministry by management technique. It is upon their faithfulness that the church kept going between revivals. When the storms of opposition came or the giddy rush of ‘success’ that blew others adrift - they kept grounded in God’s Word.

They were the ‘tent pegs’ that kept the apostolic tent in place over the centuries. Not much glamour in that – constantly having the tension of being pulled elsewhere, being called a ‘stick in the mud’ for your lack of enthusiasm for ‘all things new’, doing the dull dirty work of maintaining the foundations – but like those parts of body that seem ‘less honourable’ they are the very parts deserving of ‘special honour’ (1 Cor 12:23).

So be a tent peg – the church needs you more than ever.

*John Newton famously commented after applying to himself God’s promise to Paul not to be afraid because had ‘many people in this city’ (Acts 18:10) – that it wasn’t long before he realised that ‘John was no Paul & Warwick was no Corinth’.