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?