Teaching children reverence and joy in worship


Last Saturday, Lydia, Hannah, Daniel, Carla and Willow went over to Northern Ireland for the annual Family Day Conference. This year, the RPCNA's David Whitla (who was the speaker at our Firm Foundations weekend In October) was speaking on the subject 'Teaching children reverence and joy in worship'.

You can listen to the audio of the talk above. Click here to view the accompanying Powerpoint Presentation.


Are you being lied to?

Are you being lied to? I fear that many are. I'm not talking here about being lied to by the media or the government - but by the church (or at least by some who are outwardly part of it). Jesus warned us this would happen. He told his followers to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. So just because someone is dressed in clerical garb or speaks from a pulpit or has a Bible in their hand - don't assume they're telling you the truth.


So how can you know whether to believe them or not? Jesus said 'you will recognise them by their fruits'. That fruit consists of both what they say and how they live.

So what message do they preach? Is it one of morality and respectability and good works? As if those things were enough to get people into Heaven? Or do they teach the clear teaching of the Bible that we're all born as sinners under the just condemnation of a holy God? Do they present Jesus as a good teacher; a nice sort of chap who walked round telling us all to be decent to one another? Whose tragic death was above all a good example? Or do they speak about him as the sinless Son of God, who died in place of his people, exactly according to plan, absorbing the wrath of God that otherwise would have fallen on them? Who one day is coming back to judge all those who have refused his offer of forgiveness? Do they stand up at the funerals of those who clearly had no interest in the things of God and assure the assembled congregation that they're now in Heaven?


You can also recognise false teachers by their lives. Are they more concerned about pleasing God or pleasing man? Do they genuinely, if imperfectly, strive to live a life of obedience to his commands? Are they living for something beyond this world?

Imagine a doctor reassuring their patients that there was nothing wrong with them, even though scans said they had a life-threatening condition that needed immediate treatment. Imagine if the patient had the official results in their hands, but the doctor told them not to take them too literally. It would be despicable! And yet that's 'only' a matter of life and death. Your eternal future is at stake. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Published in the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 8th March 2018.

Camp Reunions 2018

Last weekend one of our young people, Hannah, attended Girls' Discovery Camp Reunion (10-12 year olds) in Northern Ireland. Here are some of her highlights:


"The talks at camp reunion were on the Armour of God. We learnt about what it was and all the different parts of it. The activities we did were very fun, we went to jump lanes and went for a walk to the beach too. We played lots of games. We also had some craft activities. I most enjoyed the talks and seeing friends from the Summer camp the most . The crafts were also really fun"

Earlier in February, our minister Stephen was over helping out at Senior Camp Reunion (16+). The talks were given by Andy McKelvey, a medical doctor and deacon in Cullybackey RPC (the home congregation of Stornoway minister Stephen McCollum).

Some of the young people from Airdrie and Glasgow also attended. When they got home, they answered a few questions for the RPCS website:

What were the talks on?  What was something that really stood out to you or made an impression from the talks?

Emily: The talks mainly focused on body and soul and how they are integrated. Throughout the weekend Andy explored mental illness and the idea of us all being so dependent on other people throughout our whole life and how we should always be aware that even one simple conversation could be moving people towards or away from God. I found all the talks extremely interesting as nobody really talks much about mental illness, even though it was a bit different from usual talks. 

Eilidh: Over the weekend the focus of the talks were on body and soul. On Friday night the talk was on Humanity and what really stuck with me was that we are the image bearers, all of us, even from the womb and because we are made in God’s image we’re able to see the difference between right, and wrong.  On the same night Andy spoke on suffering. He said that we all had faced suffering at least once and that as we get older we will experience much more, for example bereavement. In these times of suffering, no matter how painful God IS with us, and we depend on him to guide us in both the big things and the small things. 

Jess:  The talks were focused on Body and Soul. I felt they were very different to our usual talks as Andy spoke about things that are very relevant in today’s society but stuff that isn’t really spoken about. It really helped that Andy explained how we should be with people with mental illness and how we should always go to them and speak to them and how they will push us away. One day we also heard how we should love all of those fellow Christians no matter what they’ve done and to always look out for each other. Also what he said about suffering – saying that all suffering has a purpose, and we might not ever know the true reason until we are in heaven and God reveals his plan to us.

camp reunion.jpg

What were some of the activities you enjoyed from Camp Reunion?

Emily:  My favourite activity from camp reunion was the game in Portrush. We were given an ornament of a whale and had to trade it in different shops to see who could get something with the highest sentimental value. Our group managed to get a t-shirt with our picture printed on it saying “ Camp Reunion 2018”. It took some serious negotiation skills!

Eilidh: On Saturday we drove down to Portrush. We did a trade for trade and my team ended up with two extra freebies!! It was a pretty gray day but had so much fun!

Jess: I think I’ll just go with Emily on that one. We were in the same team except I got to keep the t-shirt!!!

What was your favourite part about Camp Reunion?

Emily: My favourite part of Camp Reunion was being able to have fellowship with other young people, learning more about such an interesting topic, and renewing friendships from camp in the summer. Roll on camp 2018!

Eilidh: The highlight of reunion was definitely seeing everyone again and having fellowship together. It all passed SO quickly!! Can’t wait to see everyone again in the summer!

Jess: My favourite thing about camp was definitely getting to catch up with everyone and speak to new people! My least favourite thing was how cold it was the first night! I went to bed with a jumper, hoodie, and jacket on as well as my towel!!! All because Eilidh forget to put the radiator on!

Danger in the Deep

A few weeks ago, a proposed bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland was back in the news, with a top architect claiming one would be viable. However it seems that the biggest obstacle wouldn't be cost, or even the depth of Beaufort's Dyke, the 250-metre deep underwater trench that lies a mere six miles off our coast. The real problem is that the dyke contains around a million tons of munitions, dumped by the Ministry of Defence between the end of World War I and 1976. In fact, many didn't even make it to their intended destination and were dumped in shallow waters around the dyke. In one month in 1995 more than 4500 World War II bombs were washed up on beaches after an attempt to plough a trench near the dyke for an underwater gas pipe linking Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  Image: New Scientist

And so more than just scuppering plans for a bridge, the bigger concern is that we're living mere miles from Europe's largest underwater ammunition dump. Its very existence was denied for years, but once the bombs started washing up on the shore it became harder and harder to cover up. And as the munitions continue to age and lose their ability to withstand corrosion, the full consequences of what was done long ago are still to be revealed.

And yet we have a far more serious problem than buried bombs. As human beings, we have each committed millions of offences against our Creator. We may be moral, respected and even religious, but none of that can make up for our acts of treason against God. Many try and deny the existence of these acts which the Bible calls 'sins'. Others shrug their shoulders and say 'who cares'. But just like the discarded devices in the dyke, our sins are ticking time-bombs which will one day come back to bite us.


There is one way to avoid that fate - but only one. It's not by cleaning up our act or taking up religion, but by trusting in Jesus Christ. By dying on the cross he jumped on the grenade of God's wrath that his people deserved to face. Yet if you refuse to let Jesus shield you from the blast, you will have to face the eternal effects of it yourself. So will you face up to those time-bombs now - or wait until it’s too late?

Published in Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 22nd February 2018

New year, new you?

We’re now ten days into the new year. There’s something about a new year that excites us isn’t there? The possibility of a fresh start, with new possibilities and opportunities. And yet not a lot has changed. Just days into the new year a suicide bombing in Kabul killed at least 20 and injured many more. On the same day a young Japanese man was murdered in Ireland, the victim of a random attack after he took a different route home from work. On Sunday night, a car bomb in Syria left 25 dead. Closer to home, a man who had £50,000 raised for him after claiming he rushed to the aid of victims of the Manchester bombing, admitted stealing a purse from a lady as she lay injured. In Northern Ireland, an MP has been suspended after a social media post which appeared to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the terrorist massacre of 10 men on their way home from work.


And yet while it’s always tempting to point the finger at others, if we look at ourselves we have to acknowledge that we haven’t really changed either. Even if we’ve made a big effort to turn over a new leaf, statistics show that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. And even if we manage to beat the statistics, a few new resolutions can’t really change our in-built selfishness, anger, negativity or self-righteousness. Advances in technology and better education can’t mask the fact that humanity is fundamentally broken. And that includes each of us.

Now that might seem a negative note on which to start a new year. But if you go to the doctor and are diagnosed with cancer, you wouldn’t tell the doctor ‘Don’t be so negative’. Instead you would say: ‘Tell me what I have to do!’

The gospel of Jesus Christ is fundamentally ‘good news’ – it’s what the word means. But before we can see the good news for what it is, we must be willing to listen to the bad news. According to the Bible, humanity isn’t just sick but dead (Ephesians 2v1). And yet the reason the Bible was written is because there is a God who raises the dead. Don’t start another year trying to pretend that things are better than they are. Face up to the bad news, so that you can hear the good.

Published in Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 11th January 2018