“I joyed when to the
house of God’” (Psalm 122:1)
As the world attempts to come to grips with the Coronavirus pandemic, a new term has thrust itself into our vernacular. “Social distancing” – the maintaining of a physical distance between people and the refraining from gathering together in groups – has become commonplace throughout the world in a way that few could have predicted. Word(s) of the Year, referring to the most important word(s) or expressions(s) in the public sphere during the course of a year, have in recent times boasted such selections as “selfie” in 2013 and “fake news” in 2017, with social distancing no doubt a likely contender in 2020.
Social distancing, however, is by no means a new concept. Almost 700 years ago the Bubonic Plague, or Black Death as it later came to be known, originated in China and spread west along trading routes, eventually arriving in the British Isles in June, 1348. As the overwhelmed doctors and health workers fought against this devastating outbreak, the implementation of some of the world’s first anti-contagion measures were put in place, foreshadowing today’s social distancing practices.
Continue reading “Virtual Church”
“Go therefore and make
disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all
things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20)
W. Robert Godfrey noted that one of the tendencies of the modern church, borne out of an essentially good desire to see the church revived, is to be persuaded that the way to advance evangelism is to pursue a minimalist Christianity. The motive, he says, may be commendable, but it is a fundamental betrayal of the Great Commission. He states, “the Great Commission was not, “Figure out the minimum number of things you can say about me and get people to believe those.” The Great Commission was, “Teach them to obey all things I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). There’s maximization to the Great Commission.”
Continue reading “Minimising the Great Commission”
“Fear not, for I have
redeemed you” ( Isaiah 43:1)
At the moment, it is difficult to avoid hearing about the Coronavirus (Covid-19), a new flu-like virus, which was first encountered in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and has since spread all over the world. In total, there are 590 confirmed cases in the UK, sadly with 10 deaths. America has seen infections pass the 1,000 mark, with deaths rising to 33, as President Trump has today suspended travel from European countries for 30 days. Italy has the highest number of cases out with China, with more than 12,000 confirmed cases and 827 deaths, and in is in a state of lockdown, as travel is restricted and public gatherings are forbidden.
Continue reading “Thoughts on the Coronavirus”
“Therefore let him who thinks he
stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
Corinthians chapter 10, verse 12, is a powerful passage. It is seldom applied
within the church today. It concerns the danger of spiritual pride and sin. For
those of us in the Reformed church, do we not sometimes look at ourselves collectively
and say, despite numerical weakness compared to former days, that we are
spiritually strong? We have been privileged to sit under sound preaching for
many years where the Lord has blessed His cause.
May we not also be tempted to look at ourselves individually and say, “I have taken a difficult stand in the church,” or, “I have sought to be faithful. By God’s grace, I am knowledgeable in the Scriptures, active in the Lord’s cause and spiritually strong.”
Continue reading “Cultivating Suspicion”
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”” (Acts 16:9)
The account of the birth of the church at Philippi is one of the most extensive accounts of church planting in the New Testament. Paul had intended to devote his second missionary journey to Asia. However, when Paul and his companions had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia,” and when they tried to go into Bithynia, “the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:6-7). As they came to Troas, “a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”” (Acts 16:9)
Continue reading “The Church in Europe”
“For even the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Service is not a uniquely Christian concept. The language of service is something engrained throughout society. Politicians are expected to serve their constituents, businesses serve their customers and teachers, social workers and many others spend their lives serving others. In some cases, great acts of valour are carried out in the service of others, by those who put themselves in harm’s way, even to the point of death. Continue reading “Serve Others”
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…their works follow them” (Revelation 14:13)
David Brainerd (1718-1747) was an 18th century American missionary to the native American Indians of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) was a 19th century Scottish minister in Dundee. These two men lived in different centuries, were born in different countries, ministered in differing circumstances and therefore, in some senses, had little in common. However, in another sense they had much in common: each were called to be ambassadors for Christ, gave much in His service, died at 29 years of age, yet were to greatly influence generations to come.
Continue reading “29 Years”
“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
A slate engraving and a stone cairn were recently unveiled in Stornoway as the first in a series of events to commemorate the centenary of the Iolaire disaster (Here). Before being used by the navy in anti-submarine and patrol work, the Iolaire had been a luxury yacht prior to the First World War. It was 31 December 1918, the war was over, peace was restored amongst the nations, and, after four long years, the men who had served King and country were on their way home.
The Kyle of Lochalsh quay was crowded with servicemen, and the steam ferry, the SS Sheila, was soon packed to the rafters. The Iolaire was sent for from her berth in Stornoway to transport the extra men back home to Lewis. She was kitted out with only two lifeboats and 80 lifejackets as 283 servicemen made their way up the gangplank and onto the ship.
Continue reading “Holding the Rope”
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
The Lord’s Supper was celebrated throughout congregations in Stornoway last weekend, where church members ate bread and drank wine to proclaim the Lord’s death till he comes. The question is often asked, who should partake of the communion and sit at the Lord’s Table. This question was addressed in the “fencing of the table” in our own congregation by the Minister, Rev. Stephen McCollum.
The fencing of the table is a word of explanation given by the Minister as to who ought and who ought not to participate in the communion. The idea is that the minister is figuratively putting a fence around the table to illustrate the distinction in the congregation. It is something which was traditionally practiced in Presbyterian congregations, dating back to the reformation, but seems to be seldom practiced in the Scottish church today.
Continue reading “At the Same Time, Righteous and Sinners”
“The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” (Isaiah 57:20-21)
The Isle of Lewis is steeped in history, heritage and distinctiveness. It may seem strange to those of us who have been born and brought up here, but a visit to the Outer Hebrides is considered a must by many would be travellers. Travel blogs and tourism websites speak enthusiastically of the beautiful beaches, the stunning landscape, the welcoming people, the distinctive culture and the sense of tranquillity and escape.
Continue reading “The Troubled Sea”