The Spirit and Scripture

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)

What is it to be “inspired?” We regularly hear and read of the term, commonly used in everyday life. Authors are said to be inspiring if they write a page turning novel, or a powerful real life story that motivates or encourages. Political leaders or ordinary members of the public are referred to as inspirational if they show great leadership or courage in the face of adversity. Musicians are referred to as inspiring if they write or perform a beautiful piece of music. In the sporting world we often hear of inspirational substitutions, which changed the course of a game.

What do theologians mean when they say that the Scriptures are inspired? Whilst the Scriptures certainly motivate and encourage, as well as cultivating leadership and courage, whilst the Scriptures are beautiful, leading to transformative change, that is not primarily what we mean by the inspiration of Scripture. What we mean when we say that the Scriptures are inspired is that the Bible is breathed out by God, as He prompted the writers of Scripture, who were moved by the Holy Spirit. “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The idea is that the Spirit breathed the Word into men’s hearts and minds, so that they wrote exactly what He wanted them to write, and so that they were preserved from error, which would have otherwise been natural to them as sinful men. As they wrote, they recorded God’s own thoughts, as James Bannerman put it, “making the voice of God speak to us in a human accent.”

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The Church in Africa

“…and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8)

At the beginning of the twentieth century, from an estimated population of 140 million, there were around two million Christians in Africa. By the end of the twentieth century, the population had grown to around 810 million with around 380 million Christians.  

In Africa, as a whole, Christianity and Islam are split relatively equally, each representing around 45% of the population with the remainder represented by indigenous African religions. Christianity is more dominant in the south, whilst Islam is more dominant in the North. Africa’s population grew hugely in the 20th century, yet at the same time, Christianity saw a tremendous growth during that period.

Africa is one of the world’s richest continents, in terms of natural resources, yet it has some of the world’s poorest people. Poverty has a long history in Africa and the continent has a disturbing past, associated with colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade. At the same time, Africa is a continent of thousands of languages and cultures, with a vibrant and innovative people, along with some of the fastest growing economies in the world, including Rwanda and Tanzania.      

Having said that, when we consider Africa, what significance, if any, does the African church hold in our thinking?

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An Interview with Steven Lee, Sermon Audio Founder

On a recent visit to Scotland, along with his wife and 6 children, Steven Lee, the founder of Sermon Audio (Here), spent a few days in Lewis. We were thankful to meet him for a short time of fellowship and took the opportunity to  interview him.

What brings you to Stornoway and have you visited our islands before?

I have never been to Scotland before but it was always a personal dream of mine to visit the Isle of Lewis because of all that I read and heard about the revival that took place here on the island during the early 1950s under the ministry of Duncan Campbell. We don’t live in the past, but I believe it is both helpful and Scriptural to have a healthy remembrance of what God did in history so as to keep the fires of our hearts burning for the future. 

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A Better Country

“But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country” (Hebrews 11:16)

One of the issues which has dominated British politics over recent years is immigration, both legal and illegal. In terms of legal immigration, critics of Brexit sought to portray leave voters as xenophobes who wanted to raise the drawbridge to those who desired to enter our country. In reality, most supporters of Brexit simply wanted the freedom to implement immigration policies suitable for our own country. The EU ideal of the free movement of people no longer found sufficient support. A new system was preferred – a points based system – which swapped low skilled EU migrants for high skilled migrants drawn from throughout the world. As expected, movement from the EU has since fallen and migration from elsewhere in the world has significantly increased.

The issue of illegal immigration was brought to the fore two years ago when a prominent politician recorded boatloads of migrants crossing the English Channel illegally in the hope of claiming asylum. Most of them appear to be undocumented young men. It came to light that many of the boats were escorted by the French into British waters, and, in turn, the British government were failing to implement our own border controls. This has left Britain wide open to illegal immigration and has encouraged many to attempt the perilous journey across the Channel. These journeys are generally facilitated by criminal gangs in overcrowded dinghies which are highly unsuitable for the voyage. Sadly, many lives have been lost in attempting to make this treacherous crossing. This issue, which was initially ignored by the mainstream media, has now become a very visible problem. This has been particularly highlighted by the British government’s proposal to deter crossings by sending illegal migrants to Rwanda for processing.

It is strange that there are many living in Britain today who seek to decry everything about British culture and heritage, whilst on the other hand many throughout the rest of the world see things quite differently. Many are willing to risk their lives to reach our shores, considering Britain, in their estimation, a better country.  

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The Wisdom of Men

“Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5)

The world watched as NASA’s Perseverance Rover completed its seven month journey to Mars, entering the Martian atmosphere, descending and successfully landing on 18th February. Perseverance landed in a crater that scientists believe once held a lake, there being evidence of both an inflow and an outflow channel. The Rover is a motorised vehicle intended to travel across the surface of the planet. The purpose of the mission is to explore the planet, seeking for signs of past life. The Rover will collect rock and soil samples as well as testing oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.

Unmanned missions to Mars are not new, dating as they do back to the Soviet Union’s failed 1971 mission. NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission, which landed in 2012, collected a series of fascinating images of the Red Planet (Here). Perseverance is said to be an upgrade of Curiosity, carrying 19 cameras, microphones and a miniature helicopter, with an on-board camera powered by a solar panel. Ultimately, the mission is said to be a stepping stone towards human exploration of Mars. This NASA plans to achieve by 2033. The world’s richest man, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, has even more ambitious plans, aiming to land humans on Mars by 2026 to establish a small human colony focused on the establishment of manufacturing, food production and power plants. Eventually, Musk intends to establish cities on Mars by transporting 100 people at a time in a reusable starship.

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Who am I to Judge?

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

In a day and age where the Bible is increasingly dismissed, it is strange to hear so many appealing to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. “Judge not, that you be not judged,” is one of the most quoted texts in the whole of the Bible. It is often quoted and misunderstood from within the Church. Likewise, it is frequently cited and misused by those out with the Church.

There are many who have misinterpreted the meaning of these words. For instance, Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, grossly misapplied the verse by stating that Christ is forbidding judgement by law courts, “take no part whatever in the administration of the law.” The common usage within the church today tends to be, “I’m not judging,” or “who am I to judge?” Similarly, out with the church, we are likely to hear “don’t judge me,” or “is that not you judging?” Effectively, when framed as such, the implication is a prohibition against asserting that any specific course of action is wrong, whatever it may be, as that would be “judging someone.” We should never judge, we should never condemn any action, as tolerance is one of the highest of virtues. Is that the correct understanding of these words?

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Christ or Chaos

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27)

There was cause for widespread outpouring of grief at the brutal killing of a black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a white police officer. The officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes whilst Floyd begged him to stop as he repeatedly said, ‘I can’t breathe.’

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Virtual Church

“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.  

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Minimising the Great Commission

“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.”

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Thoughts on the Coronavirus

“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.

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