Thursday, 27 February 2014

Northern Ireland's Lottery funded churches

At the beginning of last year we highlighted the fact that a number of churches in Northern Ireland had received funding from the National Lottery as a means of carrying out work on their buildings, or funding events that they were running. (That article can be read here) The funding received by those churches totaled over £570,000.

In 2013 the number of churches seeking funding from the National Lottery, and the amount of money received by churches was greatly diminished. That said, it is evident that there are still a number of churches which are prepared to use this avenue of funding their work.

The Church of Ireland
Once again the Church of Ireland was the greatest beneficiary of lottery funding, with almost £80,000 obtained by various congreagations:
1. Billy Parish Church received £7,176 from the Big Lottery Fund to purchase equipmemt for their church hall. This was the second year in a row that they looked to the National Lottery for funding.
2. Trory Parish Church received £6,779 from the Big Lottery Fund for their youth club to run a number of activities.
3. Holy Trinity Parish Church Lisnaskea received £9,890 from the Big Lottery Fund in order to purchase tables and chairs for their building.
4. Derryvolgie Parish Church received £50,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to carry out a number of repair and improvement works to their church building.
5. The Church of Ireland's Board for Social Responsibility received £5,006 from the Big Lottery Fund to deliver a seminar training and counseling services.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland
The Presbyterian Church officially is opposed to the use of Lottery money, yet for the fourth year in a row Friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church obtained a lottery grant. This was received from the Arts Council in order to host the Portaferry Proms. The sum obtained was £5355. Any claim that it is not the church itself which applies for the funding does not wash, particularly as they are in the process of the applying for further funding for the restoration of the building. Since 2010 Friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church has received a total of £1,019,690 of lottery funding.

Independent Churches
Redeemer Central Church in Belfast received £8,447 from the Big Lottery Fund to establish a open cinema club.
Addullum Christian Ministries in Larne received £8748 from the Big Lottery Fund to carry out a study into the development of a rehabilitation.

The most ironic of the above applications must be that of the Church of Ireland's Board for Social Responsibility. Gambling is one of the great causes of social problems today and to be looking to the National Lottery for funding Christian projects is surely a matter of social irresponsibility! 

When Abraham met the King of Sodom the king offered him goods as payment for what he had done in rescuing Lot and other inhabitants of Sodom. Abraham refused to take them, saying 'I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich'. If only those churches listed above had the same conviction as Abraham. The Lord's work cannot be supported by that which has been received from immoral sources, and hope to receive his blessing.

A list of all Lottery grants relating to Northern Ireland can be found here.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Lessons from Nehemiah on doing God's work: Part 3

Previous posts:

13. God's people are to support the work financially
'And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasure of the work twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand and two hundred pound of silver. And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand pound of silver, and threescore and seven priests' garments.' (Nehemiah 7:71-72)
How did Nehemiah meet the great cost of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem? In the same way that Moses was able to meet the cost of building the tabernacle; it was achieved by the sacrificial giving of the people. Both small and great gave to the work as the Lord had blessed them. Nehemiah did not have to organise a car boot sale or a cake sale in order to finance the work. Nor did he go out among the heathen and take up a street collection to support the work. The methods that may be appropriate for charities seeking to raise funds should not be copied by the church. The responsiblity and duty for supporting the financial requirements of God's work lies with the believer. 

14. God's work can be infiltrated by false teachers
'And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah' (Nehemiah 13:4)
Tobiah was of notorious reputation among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for he was one of the principal opponents of the work to rebuild the walls of the city. Yet within a short time, Nehemiah being temporarily absent from Jerusalem, Tobiah had formed an alliance with Eliashib the priest, and had even obtained lodging within the house of God. No matter how faithful a church may be to the gospel, it can still be infiltrated by those who teach another gospel, leading God's people astray. Every Christian must be on their guard against the subtle heresies of the devil, and where they are detected in the church they must be dealt with. Nehemiah on his return did not seek to negotiate with Tobiah, or tolerate his presence, but he immediately cast him out and had the chambers cleansed.

15. There will be those who refuse to help in the work
'And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.' (Nehemiah 3:5)
Although there is a work for everyone to do in the church, that does not mean that everyone will work. The reason that the nobles did not help with the rebuilding of the wall is not given, yet for whatever reason it may be they refused to help, even though others were toiling hard in the work. It is often said that 80% of the work in a church is done by 20% of the people; not because they monopolise it, but because so many are unwilling to help. Such an attitude is discouraging to those who willingly give of their time and effort. Often we will consider how much more could be done, if only there were more of God's people involved in the work. Yet even the few can do a great work for the Lord, 'for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few'.

16. The leaders of the work are to be an example
'Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day. So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.' (Nehemiah 4:22-23)
Nehemiah was a leader who led by example. He did not ask the people to do anything which he was not prepared to do himself, indeed he was the first to do whatever task there was to be done. No work can expect to prosper if the leaders do not set an example to the people in labouring for God. 'Do as I say but not as I do' will inspire no-one. The leaders should be found to be those who work the hardest; who are there before others arrive and after they leave.

17. The work is not ours but the Lords
'And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.' (Nehemiah 6:16)
The great assurance which we have in the Lord's work, is that it is his work. It is not our work, nor that of our church or denomination, but it is the Lord's. If the work were of man, then it would fail, yet because it is of God then it cannot fail. So evident was it that the building of the wall of Jerusalem was a work wrought of God, that even their enemies could do nothing but acknowledge that fact themselves. Let us never imagine that the work is about us, it is only about God, and the glorification of his name.

18. The work of the Lord is not about individualism
'And next unto them repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz. And next unto them repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabeel. And next unto them repaired Zadok the son of Baana.' (Nehemiah 3:4)
Everyone involved in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem had a place and a task given to them by Nehemiah. They worked together as part of the same team. There was no place for anyone to go and build their own little wall, but they worked together under the authority of the the leaders in Jerusalem. Whilst we all have individual responsibility, there is no biblical mandate for us to reject the leadership of the church and work without any authority over us. C.H. Spurgeon said that 'Christian labours, disconnected from the church, are like sowing and reaping without having any barn in which to store the fruits of the harvest; they are useful but incomplete.'

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Lessons from Nehemiah on doing God's work: Part 2

Lessons one to six on doing God's work can be found at the previous post in this series on Nehemiah which is located here.

7. God's work requires the people to be of a common purpose
'So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.' (Nehemiah 4:6)
Inspired by the vision of Nehemiah the people of Jerusalem had one clear goal; to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. They had a mind to work; they had that common purpose and desire to see the city restored to its former glory. Their 'mind to work' was not merely some vague aspiration, but it was a burden and desire which they had in common, and which evidenced itself in action. The had a mind to work and so they did work. For the Lord's work to advance the people need to be of a common purpose. Personal disagreements and differences (where not of major theological nature) must be set aside and the people must unite in that common desire of seeing the work built up. Pray God would give us all a mind to work.

8. Discouragement will come in the Lord's work
'The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.' (Nehemiah 4:10-11)
The wall of Jersualem was in a poor state of repair. The effort that would be required to rebuild it was aggravated by the amount of rubbish that needed cleared from around it. On top of that there was the constant threat of attack from their enemies. Is it not understandable that their initial enthusiasm would give way to discouragement when they realised all that was arrayed against them. So we too must expect to meet with discouragement, in various forms, as we engage in the work of the Lord. As we seek to serve God we can be sure that discouragement will come, but if we look to the Lord he will bring us through and do 'exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.'

9. There is a work for everyone to do
'the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; ... They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon' (Nehemiah 4:16-17)
The talents and abilities allotted to the people of God are varied and necessarily so, for there are many different tasks to be done. As some were involved in building up the wall itself, so others stood guard, whilst there were also those who bare burdens. No-one was without a task to perform. As the hymn-writer said 'let none hear you idly saying, There is nothing I can do, While the lost of earth are dying, And the Master calls for you; Take the task He gives you gladly; Let His work your pleasure be'. There is a role for everyone in the work of God. Pursue the talent that God has given you to work for him, doing all to the glory of God.

10. The Lord's work requires commitment
'So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.' (Nehemiah 4:21)
There are no quick fixes in the Lord's work. What is required is commitment; that ability to persevere, to stick with the work and labour on despite the circumstances. From the time that the sun rose in the morning until it set again at night the people laboured in the work of rebuilding the wall. There are many who will make a start in serving the Lord, yet like Demas will soon forsake it. What is needed is the infilling of the Holy Spirit so that we would be committed to the work, not only in the times of blessing, but also when things seem to be barren. We cannot expect to have it easy all the time when we are serving God, but we must commit ourselves to the work even when things are difficult. This is only possible by having a burden for the work, and realising that the work is of God.

11. God's work requires courage
'And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.' (Nehemiah 6:11)
Closely aligned to the need for commitment, is the need for courage. They were no idle threats which were made against Nehemiah by the enemies of God. Yet he would not be swayed or put off by them. He could easily have returned to his service in the court of the king, or hidden in the temple as was suggested to him, yet he did not do so. To serve the Lord will require courage for there is nothing easy about speaking to a soul about their need of salvation. It is not easy to knock a door and invite someone to a gospel service. To stand up for the cause of God requires courage. Where do we get that courage? We do not find it in ourself, but it is given to us by the Lord. 'Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart'.

12. God will finish his work
'So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.' (Nehemiah 6:15)
Despite the difficulties that they faced and  the discouragements that they suffered, the people of Jerusalem saw the work that they set out to do accomplished, and in the remarkable time of fifty two days. The efforts of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem to hinder the work were in vain. Often we can look at the church and fear for the future, yet those fears have no foundation. God has promised that he will build his work, and we can be certain that every one of God's elect will be brought into his kingdom. The gates of hell are unable to slow the onward advance of God's kingdom, but all that he has purposed he will accomplish. The wall will be built up and finished, regardless of the difficulties we may encounter as we engage in the work.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Lessons from Nehemiah on doing God's work: Part 1

When Nehemiah set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem he faced a monumental task; the report which he received from Hanani was not an encouraging one. The report was one of a city in ruins and of a people in great affliction and reproach. Yet in the remarkably short time of fifty two days Nehemiah oversaw the rebuilding of the walls of that great city, an achievement that caused even their enemies to perceive that the work was of the Lord. Throughout the book of Nehemiah there are many great principles and lessons which we can glean for ourselves as we engage in the work of the Lord. Although our work is not to build the walls of the physical Jerusalem, but the spiritual, the lessons of Nehemiah are most beneficial to us.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

When our faith becomes a fad

What is a fad? The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as 'an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived; a craze'. It is a temporary trend or idea that is popular for a while, and followed enthusiastically by people for the time that it is in vogue. Very quickly however it will be replaced by another trend and that which had previously been in fashion is discarded in a manner that belies its earlier popularity. We can see this on social media, in how people dress, in what music they listen to, and in many other things. People will go with what is in, and whenever it ceases to be so they will move on to the next trend.

The question we wish to ask is this; is it possible for our faith to become a fad? Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians warned them against being 'tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine'. Of those in Athens it was said that they 'spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing'. Whilst those whom Paul wrote to in Ephesus were believers, and those in Athens to whom he preached to were not, yet all could be susceptible to the same fault of looking for and following after new and fanciful teaching.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Mass: What is it?

The issue of the Roman Catholic Mass, and whether Protestants should attend it, has been much in the news recently. Those who have objected to attending the funeral or wedding of a Roman Catholic, because of the mass, have been derided as bigots, of being stuck in the past, and as not being representative of evangelicalism as a whole. We therefore have to ask ourselves what is the mass, and thy is it such a big issue as to whether a believer should or should not attend it. In times past it was an issue of such importance that men and women of God were prepared to die rather than attend the mass. In his famous Book of Martyrs John Foxe records the following about the actions of the Duke of Savoy towards the Waldensians concerning the issue of the mass:
He, accordingly, issued express orders for all the Waldenses to attend Mass regularly on pain of death. This they absolutely refused to do, on which he entered the Piedmontese valleys, with a formidable body of troops, and began a most furious persecution, in which great numbers were hanged, drowned, ripped open, tied to trees, and pierced with prongs, thrown from precipices, burnt, stabbed, racked to death, crucified with their heads downwards, worried by dogs, etc.
Rather than attend the Roman Catholic Mass they preferred to suffer the most cruel tortures and were 'persecuted this way unto death'. This attitude to the mass was not limited to the Waldensians, but has been held by many people down through the ages, who would rather suffer the flames of martyrdom, than give in to their conscience on this matter. In his Institutes of Christian Religion John Calvin says that 'in the mass intolerable blasphemy and insult are offered to Christ'. What is it about the mass that roused the fury of the reformers and caused the blood of the martyrs to flow before they would attend it? Perhaps the lax attitude of many believers toward being present when the mass is celebrated is due to their lack of understanding as to what the mass really claims to be. Its is not the same as the communion celebrated by Protestants, but is so far removed from it as night is from day. In looking at what the mass is, we do not want to be accused of misrepresenting Roman Catholicism, therefore all of our observations about the mass will be based on what the Church of Rome itself says in its own documents.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Offensive play at Mossley Mill Theatre - Recommended Articles

We would recommend that our readers take the time to view the following articles by Rev Brian McClung in relation to the recent controversy surrounding the production of the play 'The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)' which was held at the Mill Theatre in Newtownabbey. We would commend all those who took a stand against this play, which clearly mocked the word of God and made light of sin. It is sad that some professed Christians in positions of authority did not share this view but expressed their support for the play going ahead. Pray that God would bless the witness and stand which took place against this event, and that through it God's name would be glorified and the hearts of the people would once again be turned to the Lord.

Video: Protesters claim show makes ‘a mockery of the Word of God’
Free Presbyterian Protest
Dirty Tricks by the Artistic Board over Offensive Play
Why we oppose offensive play: "The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)"
Offensive play at Mossley Mill has been cancelled!!
Offensive play at Mossley Mill

A statement has also been put out by the Caleb Foundation in relation this play which can be viewed here:

The Caleb Foundation