New SU group starts in Rephad

Last week, a new Scripture Union group began in Rephad Primary School. It is being organised by Amy, a teacher in the school who attends our church. Stephen will be going along each week to help out.

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The group meets after school and will initially run for 6 weeks. The theme of the talks is ‘God’s Rescue Plan’. We would appreciate your prayers for this new endeavour!

Last month, Stephen also had the opportunity to take a week of ‘Time for Reflection’ assemblies in Stranraer Academy.

Karina Sisi, 1947 - 2019

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A week ago, one of our most committed members, Karina Sisi, passed way following a short illness.

Today, we held a Service of Thanksgiving for her life. For those unable to make the funeral, the audio of the address is available below:

In light of Karina’s passing, Stephen preached on the Christian hope of the resurrection at our morning service yesterday. You can listen to it below:

It was a joy to know Karina. We will miss her, and we assure her family of our continued prayers in the days ahead.

A New Year's Letter

The following letter was written by the minister of Stephen’s home congregation of Faughan in 1887 to the members of the church looking back on the year that was past.

131 years later, it’s still very relevant as we close out one year and begin another:

ANNUAL REPORT: Faughan Reformed Presbyterian Church, 1887

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To the Members of the Congregation

Dear Friends,

In the good Providence of God we have been brought to the termination of another year of our congregational life; and it may not be inappropriate for me to briefly review the past, to glance at the future, and to put present duty before your minds. As we look back to the past, we are constrained to acknowledge the goodness of God, erewhile mixing trembling with our thankfulness. Another fifty-two Sabbaths are gone for ever, and what report have they borne on high? Certainly every one of them shall meet us again. Think you shall that meeting be joyful or sorrowful? We may not recal the past, we can improve present opportunities; let us do it in the diligent and attentive use of the public and private means of grace, divinely appointed as the scene of spiritual blessing. Death, whose hand is never still, has been busy during the year, some of our oldest members have been called home; but our sorrow is not that of those who have no hope. We desire to hear the Master’s voice saying – “Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” Affliction, too, has cast its shadow over some homes – remember it has not come unsent; and realise that, though your tears may have washed your affections white, you have been in a Father’s hand, who, though smiting, can heal again.

The role of membership remains substantially the same as during the last year. Would that our list of members were all true members of Christ’s body; growing up to the fulness of the stature of manhood in Jesus Christ! Looking to the future, let us encourage one another, provoking to works of faith and labours of love; let us manifest the charity that suffereth long and is kind; let love unfeigned rule in your hearts, and in all things act worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, being in your walk and conversation living epistles, requiring no translation – read of all men.

The cause of Temperance demands your active sympathy. Drunkenness is slaying its thousands. Can you, as Church members, be indifferent? In the good work of Temperance, be fellow-labourers with Christ; coldness ought not to retard you, for Christ Himself was discouraged when among men; here, as everywhere else, “in due time ye shall reap if ye faint not.”

The Faughan church building as it was at the time the letter was written

The Faughan church building as it was at the time the letter was written

The young of the congregation I would earnestly urge to acquire the knowledge, which is “the best of the sciences” – the knowledge of Bible truth. If parents neglect their home duties of teaching and catechising, they are making their children pass through the fire to the Molech of ignorance and sin. The Church cannot take the place of family training; it can only assist it, and for this purpose all who are able ought to attend the Bible class on Sabbath mornings in the Church.

In conclusion, we crave anew an interest in your prayers, that the preaching of the word and administration of the ordinances in your midst may be blessed, and that journeying to the common home of the redeemed we may each one be drawn more closely together in the bonds of true sympathy – the sympathy founded upon love to God and truth – and thus in our different positions “serve our generation by the will of God.”

Commending you each one to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified,

I subscribe myself, dear Friends,

Your Minister,

SAMUEL FERGUSON.

(Trevor Magee, Planted By A River, p. 64.)

Related Links: Don Whitney: Questions to ask at the start of a new year

2019: What we can and can't know

The prospect of a new year brings many uncertainties. But what if it didn’t have to? What if we could find out what lies ahead? Many try, through fortune tellers, clairvoyants, mediums and so on. In general, we would be right to be sceptical. A couple of years ago, a tweet about a clairvoyant’s show being cancelled due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ went viral. If the dictionary defines them as ‘someone who claims a supernatural ability to perceive events in the future’, then cancelling a show due to unforeseen events is a bit of a hint that such a claim is unfounded. And yet people continue to turn to them. In words attributed to the novelist G. K. Chesterton, ‘When a man stops believing in God he doesn't believe in nothing, he believes in anything’.

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And yet God does not forbid his people from consulting fortune-tellers and mediums because they do not work – the only extended description of a medium in the Bible features someone being successfully called up from the dead. Rather, the prohibition is because going down this route will stop us relying on God.

God wants his people to seek information about the future in a different way from those around them. God does tell us what lies ahead – but he does so in big picture terms. We don’t need to know the details, and we couldn’t cope if we did.

What we can be certain of is that God’s plans for his people are ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’. That doesn’t mean this life will be easy. Many of God’s people around the world face persecution for their faith. Christians aren’t exempt from illness (physical and mental), tragedy, bereavement and family conflict. Jesus said ‘in this world you will have trouble’. But he also claimed that ‘everyone who believes in me will have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’. 

One of the great uncertainties for many is what comes after death. Even many who are devoutly religious hope they’ll be in Heaven, but are not sure they have done enough to get over the line. That is one thing we don’t need to be in darkness about, however. If we’re hoping that we’ll be good enough to make it, we’ll never get there – but if our faith is in Jesus, our future is secure.

Published in the Stranraer and Wigtownshire Free Press, 27th December 2018

Children in church

Update: Here’s another helpful article, which deals with some criticisms of this position, written after what follows was posted: Mark Jones - Shall children listen to sermons?

Recently, Stephen preached a couple of sermons about Public Worship. In the second sermon, he focused on the question of whether children should be in worship or not.

As promised in the sermon, below are a number of helpful resources on both the theology and practice of having children in worship from as early an age as possible, as well as a number of related issues. Note that a link isn’t necessarily an endorsement of the author or everything they have written.

Articles

Rich Holdeman (RPCNA) - Where should your children be during worship?

Daniel R. Hyde - Training children in worship

R. Scott Clark - The mystery of children’s church

Jeremy Walker - Attendance of children in public worship

John & Noël Piper - The family: together in God’s presence

John Piper - Should children sit through big church? (audio below)

Chad Bird - The church doesn’t need children’s church

Micah Anglo / Carl Trueman - How skipping church affects your children

Erik Raymond - Helping children benefit from the sermon

Scott Brown - Why You Ought to Have Your Children With You in Church

Ben Zornes - Corralling the kids as an act of worship

Christina Embree - Church is boring

Nick Batzig - Five reasons to keep the kids in

Tricia Gillespie - Teach kids to sit still

David Robertson - Children, the family and the church

Nicholas Davis - Let the little children come into big church

Neil Stewart - Remember, remember

Books

Robbie Castleman - Parenting in the Pew

Daniel R. Hyde - The Nursery of the Holy Spirit

Jason Helopoulos - Let the Children worship

Previous sermons

Stephen has previously touched on this topic in sermons on Mark 10:13-16 - once at a baptism the week we started our current crèche (where he explained the intention that children would need it for as short a time as possible), and once as part of a series on Mark’s gospel.

Both times he quoted Gordon Keddie, formerly the RPCS minister in Wishaw and now in America, who said:

‘One of the huge errors in Scotland been the banishment of children from church life until they were in their teens. At which time they rightly said if you didn't need us till now, you won't need us from here on’.

Audio

James Torrens (Highland International Presbyterian Church) gave two very helpful talks at the IPC British Presbytery in September 2018. They are available to listen to on the IPC website.

Video