Saturday, 21 December 2013

Celebrity preachers and star-struck Christians

There are many Christians today, who claim to hold to the fundamentals of the faith, and who attend churches where the gospel is faithfully preached, yet who are also fans of big name celebrity preachers that are anything but faithful to the word of God. Men like Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren and Joel Osteen, women like Joyce Meyer, somehow attract a following within conservative denominations, their status as a celebrity preacher being such that many believers are either deceived or ignorant as to their true nature; that they are 'false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves'. How is this so, that so many within the evangelical church today are attracted to the teachings of these false prophets, and have become 'star-struck', unable to see beyond the name and the personality.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Punctuality for church: 5 reasons why we should practice it

Whilst on some occasions there are genuine reasons why people cannot be punctual for church meetings, such as work commitments or family difficulties, in general it is not a practice that we should allow ourselves to fall into. Unforeseen circumstances may cause us to be late occasionally, but it should not be our habit to be late for church services. We should seek to be at the house of God early, for whilst it may be 'better late than never', it is even better to be never late. We do not like to be late for important appointments in our employment, or in our social life, and so it should also be the case when it comes to religious worship. We give 5 reasons why we should be punctual for the worship of the Lord.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Ignorance is no defence

Ignorantia legis neminem excusat

Translated from the Latin this phrase states that 'ignorance of the law excuses no-one'. It is the legal principle that simply because a person is unaware of a particular law, this does not excuse them from the penalty of breaking that law. You cannot hope to be escape punishment by claiming that you were not aware that your actions were illegal. Even if you find yourself in a foreign country, with unfamiliar laws, to be ignorant of those laws will not be sufficient for you to escape punishment for the crime. The rationale behind this principle is clear, for if ignorance were an excuse, then a person charged with a crime could simply claim that they were unaware of the law in order to avoid liability, even though in truth that were not the case.

Friday, 22 November 2013

When no-one can tell the difference

George Orwell's political satire Animal Farm ends with these words; 'The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.' The group which had sought to provide a better alternative to the previous regime, had now become so like those whom they had sought to replace, that it was no longer possible to tell the difference between the two. This illustration can also be applied, not only to the political sphere about which Orwell wrote, but also to the religious world today. The church, instead of providing a better alternative to what the world has to offer, has in many cases become so like the world, that it has become difficult to tell the difference between them.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Husband and wife co-pastors

There is a growing trend within Christianity today, particularly among churches of a neo-evangelical persuasion, for husband and wife co-pastors. Indeed more than a growing trend, it now seems to have become the preferred model of ministry for many churches. Joel and Victoria Osteen, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Randy and Paula White are examples of high profile couples who have adopted this approach to ministry, yet this is not a purely American phenomenon, nor is it restricted to mega-churches. The same pattern can also now seen in many smaller churches. It is quite likely that the new, vibrant, modern, family friendly church which just recently established itself in your town will have a husband and wife co-pastor team. Vineyard Church, Exchange Church and Life Church are but three local examples of churches in Belfast where both husband and wife are described as pastors or leaders of the church. Yet whilst this may be an increasingly popular approach as to how the leadership of a church is organised it raises many questions when compared with the Word of God. It has long been the traditional and biblical view that the position of pastor is not to be taken by a women (a view which has been abandoned by many denominations), but what of a co-pastor? Is that any different? Is it acceptable for a woman to take this position alongside her husband and to join him in the pulpit in a teaching capacity?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Reasons to remember the 5th of November

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

If all four lines of this verse are not familiar to everyone, the first line most certainly is. Who has not heard of the phrase 'Remember, remember the fifth of November'. Yet the reasons why the events of that date ought to be remembered are almost forgotten. We know a little of the events; that on this date a plot to blow up Parliament was foiled with Guy Fawkes being discovered underneath Parliament surrounded by gunpowder. Whilst the event is commemorated across Britain with the burning of a 'Guy' little thought is given to why we should remember 'the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot'. It is our desire to simply highlight three reasons why we ought to remember this event, that we might know better how God delivered the nation on that occasion.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

A pivotal verse for a pivotal day

31st October 1517 was a pivotal day in the history of the church of Jesus Christ. The nailing of Martin Luther's 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral has been seen as the spark which lit the fires of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. Whilst earlier men such as Wycliffe and Hus had also rejected the teachings of Rome and sought to turn the church back to the teachings of the bible it has been the actions of Martin Luther which have been traditionally viewed as the start of the Reformation. So significant were his actions on 31st October 1517 that this date has become known as Reformation Day, although sadly that fact has been forgotten by many Protestants. What better verse then to consider on this day but the words with which Luther had struggled, yet were also the means of converting that great Reformer, and bringing him out of the darkness of Romanism into the glorious light of the gospel:
'For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith'. (Romans 1:17)
For a long time Luther had struggled with a sense of guilt of his sin. Although he had lived the life of a monk, and been devout in doing so, he knew that was still unrighteous in the sight of God. The demands of the law were such that all his prayers, penance and pilgrimage had not given him peace, either within himself or with God. When he considered the justice and righteousness of God, he could not understand how a man could possibly be justified in the light of God's holy justice. Luther's own words describe how he felt:

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

No beauty contest

Today's Northern Ireland news has featured the fact that Parliament Buildings in Stormont will host the Miss Ulster beauty pageant at the weekend. The news has caused significant debate, particularly because of the entry requirements for the competition. The news that entrants must be aged 18 - 24, be at least 5ft 7ins tall and must be between a size eight and twelve has caused two of the judges to withdraw from the event, stating that they had been unaware of these restrictions. It is not our intention to comment of the rights or wrong of such an event, but simply to use it to as an illustration of an important truth; how will be be judged when we meet God?

1st Samuel 16:7 says that 'man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart'. Whilst the Miss Ulster competition will be concerned mainly with the outward appearance, it is our spiritual condition that will be important when we stand before God on the great day of judgement. Your size, age and looks will matter not, nor will many or those things which people often rely on for acceptance with God. The church you have attended, your baptism, your membership of various religious institutions will count for nothing. You will not be asked about your contribution to the social needs of society, nor how much you have given to charity, nor the list of good works you have done. The only question which will matter on that day is what have you done with Jesus which is called Christ. Social standing, wealth and popularity will mean nothing.

Perhaps you look like a Christian, you act like a Christian and you talk like a Christian. If lined up alongside other people you would be picked out as the one who must be a Christian. You would win the contest. But have you ever been born again? If not then you are disqualified and when you stand before God you will hear those awful words 'I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity'. You have the perfect outward appearance, yet inwardly it is a different matter. Perhaps it is now time to concern yourself with the soul which will live forever rather than the body which will die and corrupt in the grave. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God'.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Why I am a Free Presbyterian

Why am I a Free Presbyterian? First and foremost I am of course a Christian, but why do I attend the Free Presbyterian Church? Perhaps it is a question you would also do well to ask yourself if you too attend the Free Presbyterian Church. If attend another denomination it may also cause you to ask some questions about the church which you attend. Yet first of all there are issues which we must clearly state are NOT the reason we are Free Presbyterians.

Family influence: Perhaps you are a Free Presbyterian simply because your parents and grandparents before were before you. This is a very perilous position to be in, to be without a personal conviction about the stand of the denomination but to be part of it just because those before you were also. Personal conviction about the truth of God’s word is essential for the future of the denomination if we are to stand steadfastly in times of testing and trial. I am a Free Presbyterian because it is the church I choose, not because of others.

Hope of salvation: I am not a Free Presbyterian because I believe it save my soul. If you hope that your Free Presbyterianism will somehow help you in the day of judgement then you are greatly mistaken. If you have not accepted Christ as your own and personal saviour then you may as well have sat in the chapel all the days of your life listening to a priest blaspheme the name of Christ for it will do you as much good as having been a Free Presbyterian. Acts 4:12 says that ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’. Salvation is not found in any church but in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Protestants and images of Christ

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6)

When God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai the application of the second commandment was clear to all. Having come out of the land of Egypt, the Israelites had been surrounded by idol worship, the many Egyptian gods depicted in the form of statues and hieroglyphics. The children of Israel had been living among the Egyptians for many years and had been influenced greatly by that idolatry. Evidence of this was clearly seen by Moses as he descended from the mount to find the people worshipping a gold calf which they had instructed Aaron to build. This was not to be the last time that the people would turn to idol worship, indeed not until they had endured seventy years of Babylonian captivity did they finally turn from it.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The awe of God

Psalm 33:8 says 'Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him'. This verse gives us a principle which ought to govern every aspect of our lives; namely that we should be in awe of God; having that feeling of fearful wonder coupled with adoration. The Collins English Dictionary gives two definitions of awe; Firstly that of it being 'overwhelming wonder, admiration, respect, or dread' and secondly that it is 'power to inspire fear or reverence'. These definitions do go some way to explaining how we ought to be in awe of God, and the effect that awe should have upon us. So much of the awe of God has been lost in today's church, and one reason for this must surely be that we do not have the right understanding of the person and nature of God.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The need for a 'breach of the peace'

Twice within the last week baptist pastor Josh Williamson has been arrested in Perth, Scotland whilst preaching in the open air. The allegation was that his preaching was causing, or was likely to cause a breach of the peace. What many people do not realise is that a 'breach of the peace' is exactly what the United Kingdom currently needs. By that statement we do not mean that there is a need for public disorder or violence, but that there is a a need for people to be shaken out of their indifference to the gospel, their lives disturbed and changed by the preaching of the word of God. Throughout our land the vast majority of people are peacefully unaware of their need of salvation. Their lives are comfortable and they have all the possessions that they require. They are living for pleasure and for self, and have no desire that anyone would disturb them. The same is true also of many Christians. They have become indifferent to the spiritual condition of the land and are content to drift along through life without seeking to win the lost for Christ. Just like the lost their peace also needs to be disturbed and their conscience awakened to the need of the hour. Are we involved in behaviour that liable to cause a breach of the peace in a spiritual sense? If not then we ought to be, that people would find true peace and rest for their souls. Let us commit ourselves to disturbing Britain's peaceful neglect of spiritual matters and may there be regular breaches of the peace throughout our nation as men and women are directed to the cross.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Whitewell guest speaker's acceptance of homosexuals

From 22nd to 29th September Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast in holding its 'Alive Belfast' mission. The guest speaker at this event will be Jay Lowder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries in Texas, USA. Several Christian websites have made reference to the fact that during this mission he will be addressing the issue of suicide and how he suffered with the same feelings himself yet found a reason to live through Jesus Christ. Considering the high suicide rate in the Belfast area, and amongst young people in particular, no fault can be found with Whitewell for undertaking such a venture. Where there is cause for concern however is in their guest speaker's views on homosexuality, and how he believes the church should react to it. 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Unconsidered difficulties for Christians in the face of moral decline

There is currently no pressure group making greater advances in today's society than that which advocates the cause of homosexuality. Almost on a weekly basis it appears that decisions are made to accommodate their desires, with anyone who opposes it being labelled as a bigot and homophobic. The recent law to allow gay marriages in England and Wales has already given rise to one homosexual couple launching legal action to force the Church of England to carry out gay marriages on their premises. Beyond the area of homosexuality, stories have been run recently by the BBC on 'polyamorous relationships' where four people live in simultaneous relationships with each other. Meanwhile in Kenya two men have announced an agreement to marry the same women in a wife sharing deal. When we consider such immorality we often think of its general effect of society, and of the pressures which churches and Christian businesses will be placed under, yet we often forget the difficulties which will arise for individual Christians in their normal daily life as such standards become more widespread and accepted.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Repentance unto life

What is repentance? We could answer the question cynically by saying that repentance is something which is rarely mentioned, for in many churches today it is no longer preached upon, the truth of the gospel being watered down so much that sin and repentance are absent from most sermons. The seeker sensitive method of preaching is employed instead, leading men to preach only upon that which the people wish to hear. The need for sinners to repent is not popular, therefore it is disregarded and left out of the message. Yet however unpopular and unpalatable the doctrine of repentance many be to sinful man, it is a necessary part of true conversion and something which needs to be repeatedly brought to the attention of those who are outside of Christ. Question number 87 of the Shorter Catechism describes repentance unto life as 'a saving grace, whereby a sinner out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience'. This statement gives a very clear description of what true repentance is, identifying five distinctive characteristics:

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Was Christ really punished for our sin?

The Presbyterian Church (USA) recently created controversy with its decision to drop the hymn 'In Christ Alone' by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend from its new hymnal. The reason for this decision centred around some of the lyrics found in verse two which stated 'on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied'. The presbytery committee in charge of the new hymnal had wanted to substitute 'the wrath of God was satisfied' with 'the love of God was magnified'. When the authors refused their permission for this change, the committee then took the decision to drop the hymn rather than include it with the original words. The reason for their taking issue with the words of that line centred around the word 'satisfied' and its link with the doctrine of penal substitution; that Christ as our substitute bore the wrath of God on the cross which we deserved and so satisfied the divine law. So are the PCUSA right in their view that the cross is not an instrument of God's wrath or did God really punish Christ on the cross?

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Why Integrated Education is detrimental to the future of Protestantism in Northern Ireland

In 1981 Lagan College was opened as the first integrated school in Northern Ireland, with the purpose of educating Roman Catholic and Protestant children side by side. Today some 22,000 children attend over 60 integrated school across Northern Ireland, at both primary and secondary level. The issue of integrated education has become prominent once again in the media over recent months, and all of the main political parties in Northern Ireland have come out in favour of a single educated system. Whilst some have described their preferred option as being shared education, as opposed to integrated education, the differences between the two are minimal for they both have the same purpose, to break down barriers between the Protestant and Roman Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. It is clear that the future of education in Northern Ireland will be strongly influenced by the shared/integrated model with more children being educated this way.

Monday, 22 July 2013

A Royal Birth

The media frenzy surrounding the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge came to a height on Monday with the news that she had been taken to St Mary's Hospital in labour. The press reporters who had been encamped outside the hospital for the last week were finally rewarded with the news that the Duchess had delivered a baby boy at 16:24pm. Understandably the nation's, and indeed the world's attention has been focused on this happy occasion and we would also congratulate the royal couple at this time, but it also causes our thoughts to turn to another birth spoken of in the Bible; that of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Archbishop's dose of the measles

An article carried in The Telegraph newspaper this week of an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has highlighted the gross apostasy at the very heart of the Church of England. In that interview he makes the shocking statement about his conversion that 'I was desperately embarrassed that this had happened to me, it was like getting the measles'! The content of the Archbishop's interview make it abundantly clear that he has never had the experience of the new birth, and that he has no true understanding of the gospel. That this can be said of the pre-eminent church leader in England is a sad state of affairs, indeed the spiritual darkness in England should be no surprise where men like this proclaim to be teachers of God's word. When we take into account the fact that Justin Welby is described as being on the evangelical wing of the Church of England it is evident to all just how far that denomination has fallen.

Friday, 5 July 2013

The alternative to 'Gay Pride'

Tomorrow Belfast's annual Gay Pride parade will once again take place on the streets of Belfast. The hundreds, if not thousands, of participants will display their pride in their homosexuality during the parade around the city. Some small groups of faithful Christians will make a stand against this display of sin, not as many would claim, out of hatred for homosexuals, but out of love for their souls. Sadly other churches will join with those who delight in their sin, with St Georges Church in Belfast's High Street having held regular services this week in association with 'Faith and Pride'. That group describes itself as 'an organisation with one simple point: you can be Christian and Gay'.

The Bible however holds a different view, not that you can be 'Christian and Gay' but that homosexuality is wrong. Yet there is a deliverance from all manner of sin for the following words are found in 1st Corinthians 6:9-11:
'Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God'.
Paul here speaks to men and women in the church who had previously been involved in all manner of sin, including homosexuality, yet they had been redeemed and were now part of the church. They had left their sin behind them and turned to Christ. They had no pride in their sin such as many tomorrow will exhibit, nor did they describe themselves as Christian and gay, but they were now sanctified by the Holy Spirit, new creatures in Christ.

This is the alternative to Gay Pride; humble repentance. It is a far better alternative, one that does not delight and take pride in sin, nor to try and make it an acceptable part of the Christian life. It is an alternative which brings everlasting life and delivers us from the curse and penalty of sin. 'Repent and believe the gospel' for 'Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.'

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Five Joyce Meyer quotes you won't post on Facebook

Joyce Meyer is one of the most popular Christian speakers and authors around today. In 2005 TIME Magazine placed her 17th in their list of the most influential evangelicals in America. She has sold millions of copies of her books and it would be hard to find many more popular names within Christianity today. Popularity however is not to be the measure by which we judge a person but we are to 'try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world'. Matthew 12:37 says 'by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned'. It is biblical to look at a person's words that we might test them by scripture to see if they are true, but sadly in Joyce Meyer's case we find that there is much to be concerned about. Although she is often quoted by Christians on social media, there is nothing in the following statements which any believer could recommend to their friends. (It is not our desire to quote anyone out of context and if it can be shown that any of the following quotes have been taken in such a manner we will gladly remove them)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

How essential are the non-essentials?

Within Christianity there are many doctrines which are absolutely fundamental to the faith; the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, Justification by Faith to name but three. Across denominational lines all believers will hold to these truths, they are essential doctrines. One cannot truly profess to be a Christian and deny such things. Yet there are also many matters which are of lesser importance such as the issues of head covering, our view on the millennium or the form of church government. Our salvation is not dependent on us having the correct view on these issues, so how then are we to approach them? Are we to be indifferent towards them and consider anything beyond the fundamental doctrines of the faith to be of no importance? How essential are the non-essentials?

Monday, 27 May 2013

Robert Shaw quote on toleration and liberty of conscience

In today's politically correct society where all beliefs are considered to be equally valid, and toleration is presented as making no distinction between them but allowing all views, the following quote is of interest to the Christian. It is taken from the introductory essay in Robert Shaw's Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

'But there is a very prevalent and yet very false method of thinking, or pretending to think, respecting toleration and liberty of conscience. Many seem to be of the opinion that toleration consists in making no distinction between truth and error, but regarding them with equal favour. This opinion, if carefully analysed, would be found to be essentially of an infidel character. Many seem to think that by liberty of conscience is meant that every man should be at liberty to act in everything according to his own inclination, without regard to feelings, convictions and rights of other men. This would, indeed, be to convert liberty into lawlessness, and to make conscience of licentiousness. But the Confession proceeds upon the principle that truth can be distinguished from error, right from wrong; that though conscience cannot be compelled, it may be enlightened; and that when sinful, corrupt and prone to licentiousness, men may be lawfully restrained from the commission of such excesses as are offensive to public feeling, and injurious to the moral welfare of the community. If this be intolerance, it is a kind of intolerance of which none will complain but those who wish to be free from all restraint of law, human or divine.'

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Christian living for the weekend

Many people today live for the weekend. Their employments and duties during the week can be endured only with the prospect of 5 o’clock on a Friday evening when they can once again engage in their social life. The entertainment of the world is all that keeps them going during the week; once Saturday night has ended it appears to them that those things which they enjoy most are finished for another week. Next Friday cannot arrive soon enough for them. When we make this statement you might imagine that we are referring to unbelievers, yet it is equally the case with many Christians. They too, like the world, look forward more than anything to those social events at the weekend when they can get back to enjoying themselves. Whilst a time of lawful recreation and relaxation is not to be denied, the spiritual benefit or appropriateness of that which many Christians involve themselves in is questionable to say the least. Are our weekends spent more in the company of the unsaved than with our fellow believers? Do we find ourselves at ease with, and desirous of the atmosphere and pleasures of the worlds entertainment? Is this not a cause for concern? The weekend ought to be a time that the Christian looks forward to, yet for a different reason to the world, for the reason that it includes that one day in seven set aside for the worship of God. Do we look forward to the weekend because we have a hunger for the preaching of God’s Word, or do we live for the weekend in the same manner as the world?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Jeremiah, Judah and Northern Ireland

This week Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson launched an attack on his critics describing them as 'a tribe of Jeremiahs'. No doubt he chose the term considering them to be nothing but doom and gloom merchants, yet it was a very poor comparison to make and detrayed an ignorance of scripture. Jeremiah was God's appointed prophet, sent to warn the people of Judah against the judgement which God would very soon visit upon their land. Whilst to many at that time this seemed to be a very depressing message, it was not a message of Jeremiah's choosing, but that which God had revealed to him. In the eyes of the Lord Jeremiah was a faithful servant, one of but few in a time of spiritual apostasy. For the First Minister to describe others as a Jeremiah in a derogatory sense indicates that he looks at Jeremiah from the viewpoint of the ungodly, something which he would do well think over. The faithful Christian would not be disheartened to be described as a Jeremiah, indeed our province could do with many Jeremiahs, a tribe of them would do the land no end of good. Peter Robinson's comments were unwise and unscriptural, and although they were used in the political sphere, they give us cause to think of spiritual matters, of Jeremiah's ministry and what comparison can be made with the times we live in, particularly the spiritual state and direction of Northern Ireland.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The exclusivity of heaven

There is a very prominent view in Northern Ireland society today that everything we do must be inclusive. Catholic and Protestant must be brought together in education and social venture. Every event organised by local councils must be branded as being inclusive, no-one should be left out. Right across the United Kingdom and indeed across the world, the message that is promoted is that all religions are to considered of equal value, each offering its own way to God. To suggest that there is only one way to God, that certain lifestyles are incompatible with Christianity, and that not all are worthy of heaven is to be a bigot, to be narrow minded. Or so we are told.

Although this view is prominent in society, and even in many Christian circles today, such a teaching is contrary to scripture. That there are many ways to heaven and that we should be inclusive is our views is politically correct and popular, yet it is not the view of the bible. Jesus Christ said in John 14:6 that ‘I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by me’. Heaven is not inclusive but exclusive, it is not open to those professing all faiths or none, but to one faith alone; that which is founded in Jesus Christ and his all sufficient sacrifice for sin.

The way of life is narrow, not broad, for Revelation 21:27 makes it very clear that there is a great restriction on entrance into the kingdom of God; ‘And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life'. Only those who ‘are written in the Lamb’s book of life’ will be admitted, but all others will be excluded from the presence of the Lord forever, not because of class or race or creed, but because of their sin. All of mankind, without the cleansing blood of Christ, is defiled in the sight of God, working iniquity, and bringing upon themselves the judgement of God. Such a condition leaves them outside of the kingdom of heaven, and there are no exceptions. There is no salvation  or forgiveness of sin to be found in the religions of Islam and Buddhism or any other of the worlds religions, nor in the nominal observance of Christianity. Whilst heaven is not exclusive to a particular denomination it is still exclusive to those who have been washed in the blood of Christ, those ‘whose hope is in the Lord his God’.

The question for you then is will you gain access to the kingdom of God? Have you been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ or will you be counted among those who shall ‘in no wise enter into it'? The rules concerning our entrance into God’s kingdom are not flexible but the same for all men. You cannot barter your way into heaven, there is but one way, through God’s own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you trust in him today then you will be brought into that family of God, and partake of all the benefits which are exclusively bestowed upon his children. If not, then you will be barred from heaven and the presence of God for all eternity.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

10 Tips for using Facebook effectively in Christian witness

The rise of social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter has had a huge impact on how people interact with each other. Our lives are now communicated to others 24 hours a day, news travels faster than it ever did before, almost instantaneously. We communicate with more friends, more often, and more easily. Whilst social media websites can bring problems they have also brought many opportunities, not least for how Christians can seek to spread the message of the gospel and be a witness for Christ. Here are 10 tips on how you can use websites such as Facebook effectively as a Christian.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

'Christianity Lite' - The most popular brand in today's church

Many manufacturers and companies today will offer their products in a 'lite' version. It may be food producers with their low fat and diet products, described as being more healthy, same taste but better for you. It can be software manufacturers selling simpler, trimmed down versions of their products. It can indeed be a great variety of items, all marketed as 'lite', lacking in those things which are considered either undesirable or unnecessary. The purpose is that we can choose the version which suits us, with just what we need but nothing more. Such an approach is also evident in the form of Christianity which many adhere to today, even in reformed evangelical circles. Many believers only have a desire for a 'lite' Christianity, one which places no great demands on them, but which gives them just what they need and no more; their passage to heaven, but with no 'added extras' which might cause them inconvenience. This lite Christianity appears to be more popular than any other form today, yet just as many lite products in the supermarket lack that real flavour, so lite Christianity lacks the real substance of a living faith. There are many evidences of this lite Christianity in congregations today, yet it is something which is detrimental to the church and to the lives of believers.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Ecumenical childrens service in Newtownards

On 23rd April St Marks Church of Ireland in Newtownards held their annual school celebration with over 600 P6 and P7 children from the town's schools in attendance. The schools represented were Londonderry Primary, Model Primary, Regent House Prep, Victoria Primary and West Winds Primary. Only Castle Gardens Primary and Abbey Primary were absent. However also present at the service were St Finians Primary, the town's Roman Catholic maintained school. During the service, amongst other things which took place, prayers were said for the local parish priest 'Father' O'Hagan and for all associated with St Finians because of recent bereavements. (We hold no ill-will towards any Roman Catholic in their grief but in this instance only seek to highlight some of the ecumenical nature of the service.) At this service both Protestant and Roman Catholic children were brought together as one, doubtless with the desire that they would be of the view that there was no difference between them but that they are all fellow Christians. The ecumenical nature of this service is not a new development, but has been its theme for the past number of years. St Marks has previously expressed its delight that 'Father' O'Hagan has been able to join them at this service and indeed he has participated in the event in the past alongside other so called Protestant clergy from the town. It is not known at present whether he was in attendance or participating on this occasion, however if he was absent it is certainly not because he was not welcome.

Ecumenism is little highlighted today however that is not an indication that it has gone away. Ecumenical services such as this still happen regularly across our land but few voices are raised. The great danger with this particular service is that Protestant children will likely get the view that there is no difference between their faith and that of their Roman Catholic neighbours, and get that view at the time in their life when they are most impressionable. They will view the priest as just another minister, not as he truly is, an imposter and blasphemer. Such events are not likely to become less frequent, but indeed more regular given the desire that there is among many people for integrated and shared education in Northern Ireland. We do not desire conflict with Roman Catholics but neither do we desire unity with a system which is clearly anti-Christian. That children from Protestant and Roman Catholic schools come together in a service like this will seem to many to be a small matter, yet there are no small matters where the defence of the gospel is concerned. True biblical Christianity can have no communion with the errors of Rome. How many parents in Newtownards, including Christian parents, will have been unaware that their children have been at a service of this nature? It is likely that are many. We trust it will be brought to light and that they will ensure that their children are kept from such compromise in the future.

'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.'

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Irish Presbyterian Elder investigated over Gay Marriage views

A report carried in today's Belfast Newsletter has highlighted the fact the Alliance Party leader David Ford has stepped aside from his position as a ruling elder at Second Donegore Presbyterian Church whilst the Templepatrick Presbytery investigates his support for Gay Marriage. Despite the opposition of the Presbyterian Church to the introduction of Gay Marriage, Mr Ford a long standing member of the denomination, declared his support for the move last September despite having previously been opposed to it. What action will be taken against Mr Ford by the Presbytery remains to be seen, however it clearly runs contrary to the teaching of scripture for anyone to remain a member of, much less be an office bearer in, a Christian church whilst espousing their support for this legislation.

The issue raises many questions for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland given that other members of the denomination have also voted in favour of Gay Marriage, most notably Naomi Long MP, a deacon in Bloomfield Presbyterian Church. Ministers such as Simon Henning of Ballyblack Presbyterian have also shown their support for the homosexual agenda in the past, despite the teaching of God's Word. Our preferred outcome for such cases is not that these people would be thrown of their churches, but that they would repent of their erroneous views. If however no repentance is forthcoming, then there is no option left but for the church to enforce discipline. What will happen to David Ford? We shall wait and see.

The Newsletter article in relation to this can be read here:

Another article on the matter as carried in the Antrim Guardian can be read here: 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Are we guilty of taking the Lord's name in vain?

The words of the third commandment are well known to most believers; 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain'. The application of these words in the lives of many is however very limited. There are few Christians who would believe themselves to be guilty of breaking the third commandment for their view is that it only refers to those occasions when people will use the name of God, and that of the Lord Jesus Christ, as a swear word. As such they believe that they are not guilty of breaking this commandment. To use the Lord's name in such a manner most certainly is to break this commandment, including the popular abbreviation of 'OMG' as so often used today in text language. The scope of the third commandment is however much wider than that of simply using the Lord's name as a swear word, so much so that in truth we must confess that we are often as guilty as those who will use the name of the Lord as a swear word. Questions 54 and 55 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism give us some insight into what the Lord requires of us in obedience to the third commandment:

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Should Christians use the phrase Rest in Peace?

When reading through the death columns of a newspaper it is common to find the phrase 'Rest in Peace' or RIP at the end of some of the entries. It can be seen on gravestones, occasionally as a newspaper headline when a celebrity died and now frequently on social media when showing our sympathy. Whilst the phrase has been traditionally associated with purely Roman Catholic epitaphs it is now not uncommon for professing Christians to also use it. What then are the origins of 'Rest in Peace', what does it mean, and is it a suitable statement for a Christian to use on the occasion of a death?

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Are you really a Protestant?

A couple of months ago an open air preacher was approached by a group of men on Belfast's Shankill Road who objected to his preaching the gospel. In his defence he told them that he was preaching a Protestant message, surely thinking that no-one in one of Belfast's most historically Protestant roads could openly object to his preaching when it was couched in those terms. The response of the men however was that they were not Protestants, they were Loyalists. Such an incident is a sad indication of how Christianity has declined in Ulster in recent decades, a land once renowned for the preaching of the gospel has, even in one of its most staunchly 'protestant' areas, no time for the Word of God. There is however a great truth in the response of those men on the Shankill Road, for being Loyalist or Unionist does not necessarily mean being Protestant. There are many people who have grown up in Loyalist areas and when asked what religion they are, they would immediately give the answer that they were Protestant. In the majority of cases however, what they are simply saying is that they are not Roman Catholic, their answer it political and cultural more than religious. In the 2011 Northern Ireland Census over 875,000 people described themselves as Protestant. Yet there is no doubt that in many of these cases their Protestantism is simply a historical one; their parents or grandparents went to a Protestant church so they also consider themselves to be Protestant. Yet the true definition of a Protestant is not found in our cultural identity, nor is it not defined by the waving of Union Flag or the wearing of a t-shirt stating that we are 'Proud to be a Prod'. The true definition of a Protestant is rooted in a faith in the Word of God.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Testimony of St Patrick

The Roman Catholic Church has long claimed St Patrick to be its own; a representative of the Pope sent to evangelise the heathen Irish. Yet of all the stories and legends that exist around Patrick, only two documents have been preserved that are accepted as genuine by both Roman Catholic and Protestant historians; his Letter and his Confession. Reproduced below is his confession, one which has nothing of Romanism about it, nor does it give any indication of his ever having been an emissary of the Pope. It is but the confession of a simple sinner, one trusting in the redemptive work of Christ alone for his salvation.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Thomas Cranmer, Justin Welby and the Pope

With the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis the stream of professed Protestants lavishing their praise upon the papacy has continued in full flow. The recently elected Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has offered his warmest welcome to this man of sin in a statement which can be read here. In his statement he wishes the Pope his every blessing, desires that they would soon meet and be able to work together in the spirit of ecumenism. To describe the Pope in the manner he does, as an evangelist who shares the love of Christ is to display a great ignorance of the truth of Scripture, and of the true nature of the papacy. How far removed this is from the words of that great Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, who on the day of his execution said 'as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine'. What a change there has been. The views of the current Archbishop are at great variance with those of Cranmer, contrary to the teaching of scripture, and indeed opposed to the Church of England's own Articles of Faith. It would be of great benefit to that church if it were to return to the 39 Articles and to the word of God! How we need more Thomas Cranmers and fewer Justin Welbys. Sadly it appears that we are bereft of the former and surrounded by the later. Our only prayer for the papacy is for its downfall, for that day when Christ will overthrow antichrist and banish all false religion to the bottomless pit.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Jesus Christ the ETERNAL Son of God

There are few verses in the Bible better known than John 3:16 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life'. This verse had been described as the gospel in a nutshell, and such a description is apt for in just twenty five words it proclaims the good news that God gave his Son to be the Saviour of men. However in some modern translations of the scriptures this verse has been very poorly rendered, in such a way that the eternal sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ is denied. Translations such as the New International Version amongst others have removed the phrase 'only begotten Son' and replaced it with 'his one and only Son'. While to the casual reader this may not appear to have much of an effect on the message of the verse, yet no-one ought to be a casual reader of the scriptures. A closer look at the meaning of the words will reveal the importance of the truth that Jesus Christ is God's only BEGOTTEN Son.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Why the homosexual lobby is winning the battle for Britain's morality

If the Her Majesty's Government has its way, it will be very soon passed into law that marriage can be defined as a union between two men, or between two women. The traditional, and more importantly, the biblical definition of marriage as the union between one man and one woman will effectively be consigned to history, a change that will have great implications for society. Such a move would have been unthinkable only a generation ago, indeed even when civil partnerships were introduced eight years ago the assurance was given that it was not gay marriage. However just a few years on polls have found that 60% of people support the introduction of gay marriage. Even here in Northern Ireland where the gay marriage legislation will not come into effect there is, in truth, little opposition to it. Our province, which just over 30 years ago still considered homosexuality to be a criminal offence, is now open to it, with even professed Christian ministers being found among its supporters. Everywhere we look the sin of Sodom is promoted and recommended and the battle for the morals of our land appears to be lost as biblical principles are trampled under the cause of equality and human rights. The every demand of the homosexual lobby is met with open arms by our government and by the population at large, indeed it has come to the point where to be homosexual almost has an air of trendiness to it and to display any opposition is to bring the accusation of bigotry. In such a state we must ask ourselves how it has all gone so wrong, how have we lost the battle for the morality of our nation?

The bias of the media
One factor which has contributed to the rise in acceptance of homosexuality is the increase of it's promotion through the media. So much is homosexuality pushed into the faces of people today that they have become accustomed to and accepting of it. That which only a short time ago was outlawed in our land is now a source of entertainment, indeed hardly can we turn on the television but we are bombarded with homosexual story lines and homosexual celebrities. So called stars such as Elton John and Gok Wan regularly fill our television screens and every soap opera has its homosexual characters to keep us entertained. In 1994 when Brookside screened the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss on British television it generated considerable headlines, however today homosexual story lines are the norm. A BBC report commissioned in late 2012 has even recommended that the organisation should be more creative and bolder in how it depicts homosexuals in it's programming, it has even said that children's television should be used to help familiarise children with homosexual characters from an early age. What a sign it is of how far our country has fallen that the innocence of children would be exploited by those who seek to advance their own perverse agendas. Yet what is saddest about the promotion of homosexuality through the media is that it has not changed the viewing habits of many Christians. Although their favourite soap operas, dramas and sit-coms have become the medium of promoting the homosexual agenda, yet they still find themselves glued to them every night of the week. Such a reality is but indicative of the fact that, in truth, many Christians are indifferent to the advancement of the homosexual cause that is so evident around us.

The indifference of Christians
It is a great indictment on the Christian church today that so many are indifferent to the advances of the homosexual lobby and to its dangers. Whilst it is not a great surprise that liberals and modernists have supported it demands, it is more sad that the majority of so called evangelicals, those who ought to be at the forefront of opposition to moral decline, have been found wanting. In word they may be opposed to it, yet in deed so few are found to make any true stand against it. When the 'Gay Pride' parade is held in Belfast each year there are but a smattering of Christians prepared to make a visible witness against, their numbers being vastly overwhelmed by the general population who come out to support it. Many believers are found at home, opposed to it in principle, yet not found to be putting that principle into practice. The word of God is clear that Christians are 'the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted'. Where the majority of evangelical believers have failed to take a stand against moral decline, what hope is there that others will do so. The silence and inactivity of many Christians can only be explained by the fact that they do not realise the inherent dangers in the current rise of homosexuality. Like Lot they have lived in Sodom, surrounded by and accustomed to its sin, but undesirous of speaking out against it. If the Christian response continues to be as it has, what can we expect but that our country will fall further into the abyss morally, each generation becoming more wicked than the previous.

The failure of politicians
When the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association was established in the late 1970s to push for the decriminalising of homosexuality in Northern Ireland, it was met with the response of the 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' campaign. Christians politicians were vehemently opposed to the suggestion of homosexuality being legalised. Yet fast forward a few decades and the response has been considerably diluted. Whilst many of Northern Ireland's politicians do still oppose homosexuality and have voted against gay marriage, the signs are there of a significant shift in their attitudes. When the civil partnership bill was introduced in 2005 it passed through every Northern Ireland council without hindrance. Barely a voice was raised in protest, the attitude being taken by many of 'what can we do'. The seeds of this failure are now becoming clear for all to see, with funding for homosexual groups continuing despite the presence of Christians in our government. Last years Belfast Pride event had representation from all the major political parties; with UUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance members walking in the parade, and the DUP Lord Mayor taking part in a question panel. The first step for that party, sadly it is likely to be one of many steps on a downward slope. What is clear for all to see is that politicians here, and across the United Kingdom have failed in their duty to uphold moral standards. Their failure has contributed to the advancement of the homosexual agenda and will be doubtless have great consequences for the generation of children growing up today. 

In the midst of all this we must ask ourselves, what can we do? 2 Chronicles 7:14 says that 'If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.' We must give ourselves to prayer, we must bear a clear witness for biblical standards and must be that salt, that light which is so greatly lacking in our land. Only the Lord can turn our land once again to him, can direct our politicians aright and can reform the morals of the people. We pray that he would do so, that we would not be as Sodom and Gomorrah, but that we would be spared and delivered from the wrath of God.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Man's purpose in life

The question has often been asked, what is the meaning of life? It is similarly phrased in the first question of the Westminster Short Catechism with 'What is man's chief end?' The answer given is that 'Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever'. This matter is well considered by Thomas Vincent in his book 'The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture' where he ask the following questions, all of which with their answers, are well worth us taking our time to consider:

Q. 1. What is meant by the chief end of man?
A. The chief end of man, is that which man ought chiefly to aim at or design, to desire, seek after, and endeavour to obtain, as his chief good and happiness; unto which his life and his actions should be referred and directed; which is the glorifying of God, and the enjoying of God for ever.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Your local church: Sponsored by the National Lottery?

When the National Lottery was launched in 1994 it was met with opposition by many Christians. They viewed it as being detrimental to the lives of many people, knowing the sorrow caused to families because of the curse of gambling. The few who would become rich pales in comparison with those who find themselves caught up in the web of addiction. The catch line of 'It could be you' was meant as an enticement, giving people that hope of a win of millions and their life changed forever. It could however be more appropriately be applied to the prospect of losing all to a gambling addiction, for that could most certainly be you. The opposition of Christian churches to such a venture was justified because of the sorrow that is brought about by gambling. Surely then no church would consider using National Lottery funding as a means of supporting the Lord's work. Sadly that is not the case, for last year a number of churches in Northern Ireland chose to turn their backs on the Word of God and seek funding from the National Lottery, largely to carry out renovations and improvements to their buildings.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Martin Luther's idea of recanting

When Pope Leo X issued his Papal Bull against Martin Luther on 15th June 1520 he left him no room for manoeuvre. There was no offer of a discussion on the issues of difference, Luther was not given the opportunity of explaining from scripture why he held the views that he did, but was given the ultimatum of recant or be excommunicated. Luther response was to publicly burn the Bull at Wittenburg and respond to it in a tract entitled 'Assertation of all the Articles Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull. The tone of his response gives an indication of what he thought of recanting his views, and of of the Pope's demands.

Friday, 1 February 2013

The greatest question of all

Almost 2000 years have passed since the question was put to the Jewish people by Pontius Pilate; ‘What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?’ It was a question which at that time brought a vociferous response from the crowd, for there were none gathered in Jerusalem who had not some opinion on Jesus Christ. Persuaded by the chief priests and scribes, the answer which came from the gathered mob that day was one of rejection, for they cried ‘Let him be crucified’. When given the choice of whom they would have Pilate release they chose Barabbas, a murderer, over the Son of God. For those in Israel 2000 years ago it was a question of great importance yet their answer was one that brought with it great and terrible consequences, for in rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ they rejected the long awaited Messiah and only begotten Son of God.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Sinfulness of Sin

Sin, the Plague of Plagues. Such was the title give to a work published by the English Puritan Ralph Venning in 1669, shortly after the Great Plague of London had killed an estimated 20% of the city’s population. This horrific event would have been fresh in the minds of his readers, and for them the comparisons were easy to make between those two fatal epidemics; each bringing widespread death and destruction, one physical, the other spiritual. Today it is rare for us to see firsthand death and disease on such a vast scale, yet sin, that plague of plagues is still with us. Bringing death and destruction with it sin saturates our modern, advanced society, infects every respectable home and drags the prospering multitudes of this world down into the depths of hell. 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

For God and Ulster

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force by the Ulster Unionist Council and Sir Edward Carson. Their purpose was not to terrorise the inhabitants of Ulster but to defend them, should Home Rule be imposed. Following on from the rally at Balmoral at Easter 1912, the Carson Trail and the signing of the Ulster Covenant on 28th September 1912, the formation of the UVF was seen as the next step in ensuring that Ulster remained British. The purpose of their formation could truly be said to have been for God and Ulster, to defend their land should it be cut off by Britain, against the repercussions of 'Rome rule' that would surely follow.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Why there is rioting on the streets of Belfast

Fifteen years ago the Good Friday Agreement was signed by the majority of political parties in Northern Ireland. It was endorsed in a referendum by 71% of the population and was seen as a historic breakthrough in the peace process, a way of putting 'The Troubles' behind us. In 2006 the St Andrews Agreement was the means of restoring those institutions set up in 1998, the agreement of all the main political parties surely the sign of a new Northern Ireland, one where the violence on the streets would surely be a thing of the past.

Yet the events across Northern Ireland in recent weeks have shown that little has been achieved by these two agreements. Indeed it could be said that the situation is worse now than it has been for several years. So called dissident republican groups continue to target members of the security forces and loyalists have engaged in rioting in recent weeks as a result of the removal of the Union Flag from City Hall. Why are such problems still evident in Northern Ireland society. Loyalists will say that their rioting is provoked by the erosion of their British culture. When republicans riot they will often blame an Orange march. Yet this does not truly answer the question. Why, in such circumstances do people respond with violence. What is the mindset that causes a youth to throw a petrol bomb as their response to a band parade? 

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Importance of Flying the Flag

On 3rd December 2012 the decision was taken by Belfast City Council that the Union Flag would no longer fly from City Hall 365 days a year, but only on a small number of designated days. This decision has understandably been met with anger by many in the Loyalist and Unionist community who have seen it as a further erosion of their British culture and identity. For the last month street protests and rallies have been held across the province in opposition to the Council's decision. Sadly on some occasions legitimate protest has also been accompanied by violence and intimidation.

Many people have claimed that it is 'only a flag', yet the flying of a flag is an important issue because of what a flag represents. It is not simply a piece of cloth but is an important symbol to people of who they are. For any countries flag to be removed will naturally be met with a hostile reception by those loyal to it, as it will be viewed as an act of surrender and retreat. There are 5 things symbolised by the flying of a flag which show why it is so important: