Thursday, 31 October 2013

SIN..Easier in the Afternoon

As a former Deputy Head Teacher in a large Scottish secondary school, I was occasionally called upon to deal with pupil indiscipline. This sometimes involved interviewing a number of pupils in an attempt to get at the truth following an incident. It was often the case that the ‘interviewees’ were invariably the ‘usual suspects’ when it came to challenging behaviour. Their stock initial response when questioned was, “it wisnae me”. I often wondered if that was the family motto of some of my more regular ‘interviewees’!

While most pupils were honest and truthful most of the time, a small minority who struggled with issues of behaviour were challenged by an inability to truthfully account for their behavioural failures. Some feared the consequences of their behaviour: exclusion from school and parental involvement, while other more culturally deprived youngsters were simply unable to be truthful with ‘the authorities’.

Recently reflecting on this aspect of my career, I was amused to read that researchers at Harvard University in the USA have found that our ability to tell the truth is linked to individual self control. Apparently when this is weakened through tiredness we are more likely to lie!

According to journalist Fiona MacRae, writing in The Mail Online: ‘The Harvard University study said the more fundamentally honest someone is, the more likely they are to succumb to the 'morning morality effect'.

Through a series of three experiments the Harvard researchers found that: ‘people are vulnerable to a gradual depletion of self-regulatory processes as a result of unremarkable daily activities. This depletion can, in turn, lead them to act in ethically questionable ways.

Unfortunately, it might be that the most honest people are most susceptible to the negative consequences associated with the morning morality effect. In other words, our findings suggest that the mere time of day can lead to a systematic failure of good people to act morally.’

Interesting though the research is, I do not as a born again Christian, accept that it tells the whole story. For me, the Bible gives a much clearer and simpler explanation to the human inability to tell the truth all the time, and it’s all down to sin.

The Bible describes sin as the breaking, or transgression, of God's law. It is defined in the Old Testament as disobedience or rebellion against God. The original translation means "to miss the mark" of God's standard of righteousness.

Now here’s the good news for every human being: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Saturday, 26 October 2013

No Bad Language in Church

Keen to promote cultural relevance between the body of born again believers and wider society, the ‘By the Way’ team has been researching the language of communication within the church. A number of commentators refer to this strange language with its own words, nuances and meanings as ‘christianese’.

To new believers and visiting ‘enquirers’ or the ‘church curious’, listening to Christians communicate, both formally and informally is often amusing, occasionally naff and daft, but mostly bewildering. The following examples of ‘christianese’ exemplify how it is a ‘language unto itself’.

Christians in communication:

ü  Pray for a ‘hedge' of protection

ü  Covet the prayers of others

ü  Make ‘love offerings’, ‘praise offerings’ and even... ‘clap offerings !’

ü  Talk about 'fellowship’, ‘quiet times’, ‘the flesh’, ‘devotions’.

In a recent article published in RELEVANT magazine, writer John Acuff satirises ‘christianese':

‘In Christian Love’  is a cousin phrase of ‘Bless her heart.’ This is the phrase you drop in right before you verbally punch someone in the face. Allow me to demonstrate: ‘John, I hope you can hear this in Christian love, because that’s how I mean it. Your books are horrible. They are really poorly written and I hope no one buys them. In Christian love.

‘I’ll pray about it’
is a synonym for ‘no’.  If someone asks you to pick up bulletins at the end of church, you probably don’t need to say, ‘I’ll pray about it.’ You can just pick up the bulletins. I’m not sure that’s something you have to approach the throne with.

‘Just’ This is just the most commonly overused word in public prayer. And I have just ruined you. I apologize. The next time you hear someone pray, it will be impossible to not hear them say, ‘Lord just hear us, just know us, just, just, just, just, just!’ This word is like salt we sprinkle on prayers.'

More seriously, the blogger Nicole Unice talks about the danger of ‘christianese’ as a barrier that does more to exclude people than draw them to Jesus. Taking the outsider’s perspective using the Urban dictionary, a popular user-driven website that defines slang, Unice notes........  “It says ‘christianese’ is:  the language spoken by Christians. It makes no sense to anyone unfamiliar with biblical texts, but earns you major points in the eyes of other Christians’............ It's all too easy to hide behind our washed-in-the-blood, princess-for-Jesus verbiage. Instead, let's consider our words thoughtfully, strive to promote understanding with those who don't speak the language, and be brutally honest with ourselves before we choose the easy way of ‘christianese’.”

Finally, Don Moen writing in Preaching Magazine provides an amusing translation for some ‘christianese’, in the summary below.

Christianese                                                Translation

 "That's not my spiritual gift"                     "Find someone else."

 "Fellowship"                                             "Organized gluttony."

 "The Lord works in mysterious ways."     "I'm totally clueless."

 "Lord willing . . ."                                     "You think I'll be there, but I won't."

 "I don't feel led."                                       "Can't make me."

 "God led me to do something else."        “ I slept in instead of going to church.










Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Escape From Hell

Survivalist Bear Grylls is back on TV. He has a new series now showing on the Discovery Channel entitled ‘Bear Grylls: Escape from Hell’. This time however, it is not the world renowned adventurer who is putting himself into dangerous situations. Instead his expertise is used to reconstruct some true life stories of ordinary people who have had to face life or death situations.

The media release on the Discovery Channel website gives the new series an appropriate build up: “From bandit attacks, to avalanches, being lost in ferocious sand storms to being confronted with real life bears… these are stories that none of our survivors anticipated but which they all fought tooth and nail to survive. Bear will bring to life their key moments and experiences, the trials and terrible realities they faced and how each of them found themselves in a genuine life and death struggle with the wilderness. Whether it be jungles, snow-capped mountains, burning deserts or steep canyons.”

In the course of the series, Grylls evaluates what each person did correctly in order to survive. He also points the near fatal errors which almost brought disaster to some individuals.  According to the Discovery Channel, Grylls. “will celebrate their ingenuity, their humanity and their sheer drive to, truly,  ‘Escape From Hell’”.

While I am neither a survivalist nor an adventurer, I do have one thing in common with Mr Grylls.......I have escaped from Hell!  As a born again Christian, I have escaped the penalty of my sins, which according to the Bible is death, and have inherited eternal life in Christ.

In a recent interview for ‘Relevant’ magazine, Grylls a born again Christian, talked extensively about his faith: “Christianity is not about religion..............It’s about faith, about being held, about being forgiven. It’s about finding joy and finding home. We all want that, but nobody wants religion. Why do people turn away from faith?  They’re not, they’re turning away from religion most of the time. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t want to be forgiven or held or find peace or joy in their life. We try loads of other stuff—we think booze or foxy women or whatever will fill it—but it doesn’t fill the hole.”

Anyone can escape from Hell and the Gospel of John in the Bible tells us how.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Simple really !!!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Made Up Jesus Fiction

I have heard it all now!  According to a recent article in the Independent newspaper, Joseph Atwill, self styled American ‘Biblical scholar’ has just published a book entitled 'Caesar's Messiah: The Roman Conspiracy to Invent Jesus'. As keynote speaker at the 'Covert Messiah' conference, at the Conway Hall in London, he  asserted that Christianity did not have its origins in Judaism. Apparently he has discovered that the entire Christian faith was actually a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of the Roman Empire.

Atwill contends that the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats and that they fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ!

Writing on his website at  Atwill says, ‘Christianity may be considered a religion, but it was actually developed and used as a system of mind control to produce slaves that believed God decreed their slavery.’ He further argues the Romans developed a ‘peace and love’ narrative centred on Jesus to compete with the nationalist ideology of some Jewish sects who were awaiting the arrival of the 'warrior Messiah' in Palestine. For Atwill, the Romans had resorted to ‘psychological warfare’ to solve a political problem

In Atwill’s words: “Instead of inspiring warfare, this Messiah urged turn-the-other-cheek pacifism and encouraged Jews to 'give unto Caesar' and pay their taxes to Rome."

No doubt Mr Atwill’s book will sell well, particularly amongst the ‘conspiracy theorists’ and secularists who will endorse any crackpot theory which seeks to undermine the Biblical account of Jesus’ life. However, when submitted to rigorous academic examination by real, accredited, Biblical scholars who know their Greek and Hebrew, Mr Atwill’s work fails to stand up.

As a work of fictional entertainment it ranks alongside the scripts of movies such as ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ or ‘The Life of Brian’.

According to the Independent article: “Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and author, well known for his anti-religion views, yesterday tweeted a link to the press release advertising the event in London. However, he later tweeted: I'm not qualified to judge Atwill's thesis. Just thought it might be worth a look."

Clearly Mr Dawkins lacks the ability to discern the difference between fiction and non-fiction.

As a born again Christian, I’m with the Apostle Paul, when almost 2000 years ago he wrote: “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength”.

I don’t think many Christians will be rushing out to buy Mr Atwill’s book. Fewer still will be moved to abandon their faith. This is because true faith is rooted in a personal living relationship with the author of the Bible: the living God.



Monday, 21 October 2013

‘Millennials’ Challenge Church to Change

I recently received an interesting piece of research from Barna Research  Focussed on the social, cultural and religious attitudes of ‘millennials’, it concluded that meaningful connection with this growing segment of the population presents a massive challenge to the 21st century church.

The term millennials  is widely used by sociologists, advertising agencies and opinion polling organisations. It refers to the generation of people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s. Millennials are also known as Generation Y, coming after Generation X — those people between the early 1960s and the 1980s.  Millennials have also been described as the ‘boomerang generation’ because a growing number move back to live with their parents following their college or university education, delaying some of the typical adulthood rites of passage like marriage or starting a career.

What are the key characteristics of millennials that pose the challenge to our churches? Described as, ‘digital natives’, millennials are the most ‘technology savvy’ generation in history.  In contrast, the Church is essentially conservative and exceedingly slow to adapt to social and cultural change.  The habitual practices of Sabbath observance, attendance at Sunday services, scripture reading, prayer, corporate hymn singing and the sermon—have been part of the Church throughout the centuries.

Does the church in Scotland have the will and the capacity to adapt to the millennial generation, and if so what needs to be done? The following detail from Barna Research might provide Christians with ideas for change:

Ø  Seven out of 10 of Christian millennials read Scripture on a screen. One-third of all millennials say they read Scripture on a phone or online, demonstrating how broadly the digital trends are shaping this generation.

Ø  Millennials are heavy users of online videos pertaining to faith—54% of Christian millennials and 31% of all millennials engage in this activity.

Ø  About one-third of millennials use online search to check out a church, temple or synagogue online. 56% of Christian millennials  do the same. Millennials, check out a faith community online from a safe distance prior to showing up in person.

The biggest challenge for the church is how to engender real dialogue between believers about faith. According to Barna Research: ‘The one-way communication from pulpit to pew is not how millennials experience faith. By nature of digital connectedness, millennial life is interactive. For many of them, faith is interactive as well—whether their churches are ready for it or not. It’s an ongoing conversation, and it’s all happening on their computers, tablets and smart phones. What’s more, many of them bring their devices with them to church. Now with the ability to fact-check at their fingertips, millennials aren’t taking the teaching of faith leaders for granted. In fact, 14% of millennials say they search to verify something a faith leader has said. A striking 38% of Christian millennials say the same’.

President of Barna Group, David Kinnaman recently pointed out the implications of the research for change in the church: ‘Millennials live in an era of radical transparency, powered by social and digital tools. Any leader or organisation who wants to engage millennials must learn this—whether from the pulpit or the front of the classroom, whether fundraising or marketing. If millennials are doing their own research on what happens from the stage, leaders need to take care not to make false promises or exaggerations in their messages. Millennials, who already exhibit institutional distrust, have heightened sensitivity for artificiality and false promotion’.

This is highly significant research which demands a response from Scotland’s church leaders. Is it not time for our Ministers, Pastors, elders and deacons to take their heads out of the sand, get on their knees and ask the living God for a little of His creativity of thought to bring about the massive radical change needed to engage with ‘Generation Y’.......the millennials, and the up and coming ‘Generation Z’.

Surely more of the same cannot be an option !!!


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Fatherless Families Face Fearful Future

As a former teacher, I welcome Tuesday’s speech by Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools and Social Care. Courageously highlighting absent fathers and the breakdown of family life as a root cause of many of the country’s social problems, Michael Wishaw has merely articulated what teachers in Scotland have always known: ‘doowally kids have doowally parents’.

As one of the first education leaders in the country to break the taboo of not speaking publically on the issue, risking the wrath of the mealy mouthed ‘PC’  establishment, Wilshaw did not mince his words saying: ‘Some people will tell you that social breakdown is the result of material poverty...... It’s more than this. These children lack more than money: they lack parents who take responsibility for seeing them raised well.’

As a former deputy head who has chaired hundreds of meetings with parents and their behaviourally challenged children to negotiate a return to school following a period of exclusion, I can categorically state that in most cases, the troubled behaviour of the child was rooted in fecklessness of their parent(s). Indeed some of the parents I encountered were less mature than their child.

Wilshire’ analysis of feckless failing families is supported by data from the Office for National Statistics showing that the proportion of babies born to married couples is at its lowest ever having dropped to 53 per cent last year from 59 per cent a decade previously. In 1962, the figure was 93 per cent.

Further shocking statistics reveal the extent of the dysfunctional family unit in the UK today. Earlier in the year the Marriage Foundation reported that: ‘nearly nine out of ten babies born to co-habiting parents this year will have seen their family break up by the time they are 16. For babies born to married parents, the prospects are enormously better’. The Centre for Social Justice also reports that a million children are growing up without a father, with the number of single-parent families is increasing by 20,000 a year.

In his speech, Sir Michael Wilshire claimed that 100,000 children are being raised by people addicted to hard drugs. As he spoke, Ofsted reported that 700,000 young people in England and Wales grow up in homes blighted by drug or alcohol addiction.

Many write off such families as part of an inevitable underclass which will always be present in society. Not so!!!

As a Christian I know that every adult and child matters to God. The Bible is clear about the premium God places on the family and the role of mothers and fathers. The church itself is referred to as the family of God.

The Apostle Paul writing to the Christians in Ephesus said: ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.’

We should pray for and encourage our churches to be more relevantly involved with families. Let’s have fewer expensive empty church buildings and more investment in Christian community outreach workers who have the credibility and skills to positively support families.   





Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Vanilla Vulgarity Vs Timeless Truth......No Contest!!!

In recent decades, many of Scotland’s evangelical churches have changed the way they worship. Organists and hymn books are out. The worship leader and his/her 3-4 piece band and powerpoint  presentations of song lyrics are now ‘de rigeur’ in the church that aspires to be ‘contemporary’.

Don’t get me wrong, as a bass guitarist and worship leader, I am passionate about enabling people to move into the presence of God through the medium of music. Effective praise and worship is the best preparation for receiving God’s word via the preacher. I do however sometimes worry that much of the contemporary praise and worship music served up in our churches is shallow, repetitive and theologically questionable.

While the composition, production and marketing of contemporary praise and worship music is a growth industry, much of what is produced is second rate. In my experience, only one song in twelve from the average praise and worship CD is worthy of use in a church service. Meanwhile, much of the huge catalogue of what is now described as ‘traditional music’ has been consigned to the dustbin of history, by the up and coming younger, enthusiastic and, performance orientated worship leaders. As a result, this has fuelled a ‘dumbing down’ of the worship experience, producing an ethos and environment of bland, ‘vanilla vulgarity’ in some of our churches.

I was therefore greatly encouraged when I came upon an article entitled: ‘The power of a great hymn’ by Bill O’Connor. He argues that there is a clear case for maintaining the best of our so-called traditional hymns, particularly when they are given a contemporary arrangement. Here are some of the very good reasons keeping traditional hymns:

*      Great hymns keep us in touch with our Christian heritage.

*      Hymns expose us to poetry and some o the greatest music ever written.

*      Hymns give our worship a sense of majesty and beauty and embed Christian truths in our minds and hearts.

*      Hymns are one of the most effective ways to teach Christian doctrine.

*      Hymns help us lift our hearts to God and exalt and magnify the Lord Jesus Christ.

For me the power of our great hymns is such that when exposed to them with an open heart, worship takes’s inevitable.

Hymns when well arranged, rehearsed by a group of skilled musicians pave the way for the sermon and give the message a better chance of making a lasting impact. The key to a well-rounded worship experience is a balance of theologically sound contemporary songs and great hymns.

The simple 3-4 chord repetitive contemporary songs have their place. They are ‘happy clappy’ catchy tunes which require minimal musical skill or rehearsal time but offer instant gratification. When mixed with the ‘strong meat’ of a traditional hymn from the great gospel writers such as Moody and Sankey, real worship takes place.  







Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Secularists Continue Assault on Faith

According to a recent article in the Scotsman newspaper by journalist Craig Brown: “Unelected, unscientific and self-serving” church leaders should not have the legal right to make decisions on school education.

This was the preamble to his piece focussing on a petition from Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) to the Scottish Parliament to repeal Section 124 of The Local Government Act which compels local councils to appoint three religious representatives to their education committees. In most local authorities, this means the education committee comprises councillors, a representative from the Church of Scotland the Roman Catholic Church plus one of the other denominations.

The ESS petition is supported by The National Secular Society, the Humanist Society of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh Humanist Society. Individuals supporting the petition include Green MSP Patrick Harvie and SNP councillor Sandy Howat.

The ESS argues that because the last census showed that nearly 50% of Scots said they had no religious beliefs: “To afford a particular section of society a privileged position within the decision making process based solely on their particular and personal religious beliefs is profoundly and inherently undemocratic, unfair and discriminatory.”

Predictably, the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland have both rightly condemned the petition.

As a born again Christian and professional historian, I fully support our churches. The ESS petition is simply another aggressive act by a militant minority to drive the Christian faith from Scottish society and it won’t work.

The secularists conveniently forget that today’s national system of free and compulsory education was founded through the persistence of protestant reformer, John Knox and his colleagues.  The task was undertaken by church parishes over a 200 year period, transforming Scotland from one of most backward and illiterate counties in Europe to a nation of inventors, economists, writers, doctors, entrepreneurs and missionaries.

The Church has been an enormous force for good through its passion for education. It still has a vital role to play today. Many of the religious representatives on our education committees are former teachers who bring a wealth of experience to groups of politicians who have little understanding of schools and the educational issues of the day.

We should be defending and celebrating the role of religious representatives on our education committees not campaigning for their abolition.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Carry On Street Preaching.... It’s Legal......Even in Perth!!!

In common with tens of thousands of Scotland’s Christians I was perturbed by the recent arrest of Pastor Josh Williamson for preaching the Gospel of salvation on Perth High Street. As a supporter of our police my initial reaction was disappointment, but acceptance that most of the time, police officers usually get things right.

However having read Pastor Williamson’s description of what happened, and given that the events were captured on video, the Pastor would have no reason to exaggerate or fabricate what had taken place. Looking at the evidence, it is clear that Police Scotland has a big problem in terms of its officers’ knowledge and understanding of the law.  

This was confirmed through a little internet research which led me to article in the online journal ‘Sovereignty’ . I am therefore taking the step of quoting a large part of the article because it relates to the fundamentals of democracy...freedom of speech.

The preamble to the article states that: ‘It examines the legality of street preaching, yet is applicable for all activists, including those who find themselves speaking politically at hustings or in the street. It is reprinted with permission and slightly abridged from Christian Voice, Dec 2002. It is the law in England and Wales, but the same general principles apply in Scotland.’

Summary of article from Sovereignty:

“Preaching in the street is lawful, even if it is contentious, unwelcome or provocative, and police officers may not ask preachers to be silent, according to a landmark ruling made in the Supreme Court in July 1999 as detailed here. This is the law of the land in England and Wales.

In the case of a threatened breach of the peace, the police must ask themselves where the threat is coming from. Disproportionate behaviour from a crowd will not allow a presumption that the preacher is responsible for the threat.

Street preachers wrongly arrested or convicted may be able to claim damages from the Crown Prosecutor or the Police.

Regarding the use of amplification, the holding of placards, and alleged obstruction when preaching or giving out tracts, the key test is reasonableness.

Many council bylaws and police instructions used against preachers may be unlawful, but will only be tested when someone is arrested and convicted and appeals to the High Court.”

Christians should continue to support our police. They should pray that Police Scotland will continue to effectively educate its officers in a clear understanding of the law, so that those who are gifted and tasked by God, can take His message of salvation to the streets of Scotland’s town and cities unmolested. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

No Free Speech in Scotland!!!!!!!

So the persecution of Christian open air preachers by those who are tasked to uphold the law, already commonplace in England, has moved to Scotland. This time the democratic principle of freedom of religion and speech was trampled into the gutter by Police Scotland in the city of Perth.

The Revd Josh Williamson was recently arrested on two occasions for preaching the Gospel on Perth High Street. The first encounter with Police Scotland occurred on Wednesday, 18 September 2013, and the second was on Saturday, 21 September 2013.

The Police have given a number of reasons for their uninformed and heavy handed actions. Officers have variously alleged that Williamson was ‘too loud’, yet he was using no amplification or voice enhancement. It has also been alleged that the content of his speech was the problem, yet at the time, Williamson was reading from Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians.

In a recent press interview, Williamson said: "I think it is a form of discrimination and I think that comes back to the content. It becomes dangerous when police say it's due to the content, you get into a position where you wonder what part of speaking from the Gospel is illegal."

According to Peter Norris, spokesperson for the legal support group, Christian Concern, it is not uncommon for street evangelists to preach on the "High Streets" or main roads of towns in the UK. Norris states: "Its public property and they are free to preach there. Sometimes you have to get a permit for bigger things, but for these guys it's perfectly legal for them to preach on the street."

Christian Concern takes the view that the wave of recent arrests across the UK is most likely due to a lack of legal understanding by the police, who out of ignorance or malice have mis-applied England's Section 5 of the Public Order Act and Scotland's Breach of the Peace laws.

The ‘By the Way’ team believes that this is a fundamental issue of freedom of speech in a parliamentary democracy. We therefore agree with Peter Norris in his assertion that this battle with the authorities is one in which all citizens should have an interest........."We are just trying to profile the cases so that it comes to public attention that it needs to be addressed because it's a freedom of speech issue which is in everyone's best interest. Thriving democracies depend on freedom of speech being preserved."

All Christians, particularly, Ministers, Pastors and Priests should wake up, write to their MSP and Chief Constable of Police Scotland and stand up for the principle of free speech in a democracy.   


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Defiance.....A Quality to be Admired!!

I must confess to being an admirer of Malala Yousafzai. This sixteen year old Pakistani girl has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her defiance of the local Taliban. The determination to stand up for a righteous cause almost cost Malala her life.

Surprisingly she  does not come from a rich or privileged Pakistani family. Malala was born and brought up in the small market town of Mingora in the Swat valley. Her parents while comfortable, were by no means rich, but put a premium on their children’s education.

When Malala as a bright, energetic and articulate young girl began to speak out in favour of more and better education for girls, she put herself on a headlong collision course with the ultra conservative Islamist Taliban.

Life for Malala changed the day that two Taliban gunmen, flagged down and boarded her school bus, asked for her by name and shot her in the head. The attempted assassination of a child shocked the world. It also demonstrated that there were no limits to the Taliban’s barbarism.

Miraculously, Malala’s life was saved thanks to the skills of Pakistani surgeons and later treatment and rehabilitation in a British hospital.

She is now in the process of writing a book about her experiences: no mean feat for a 16 year old. A passionate believer in the truth, Malala’s simple values, beliefs and actions put many of this world’s adults to shame.

I had assumed that Malala Yousafzai would be regarded by the people of Pakistan as a hero for her defiant stand against extremism. Not so.

In a recent article in the Telegraph newspaper, journalist Rob Crilly explained: “although the attack immediately prompted deep soul searching among the country’s chattering classes, her message of peace through education has found little purchase among most of the population.

Plans to rename a string of girls schools after Malala also had to be reversed when pupils protested that it would mark them out for reprisal attacks.

Instead, opinion has hardened against the campaigner. In July, when she spoke at the United Nations, Malala was widely condemned by Pakistani commentators and nicknamed Malala Drama-zai on social media sites.
A lively denial industry has sprung up, claiming that Malala was not even injured in the attack.”

We should honour Malala Youafzai for her courage and her defiance of those who would deny life and prosperity to the young.

The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible beautifully describes the value of education:  ‘For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.’
Let’s pray that the protective hand of the living God will preserve Malala’s life from the continuing Taliban death threats.   

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Follow, Follow, we will Follow.......?

A number of years ago the novelist Anne Rice rejoined the Catholic Church. Miraculously she had been drawn back to a life of faith after many years of questioning the existence of God and flirting with atheism.

After a time Ms Rice was shocked and became deeply disheartened by what she found. Too often, she observed that the Christians with whom she was having fellowship, based their own identity in terms of the ideas and people they were against. In particular she found that many Christians were hostile to Muslims, Jews and those who supported same sex relationships.

Knowing that as a Christian her own identity was rooted in her personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Ms Rice left what she had returned to. She wrote that she left the church ‘in the name of Christ’, adding that ‘following Christ does not mean following his followers.’

At a recent conference, the author Brian McLaren, addressed what he called "The Crisis of Christian Identity."

He argued that across the denominations, some believers have a "strong-hostile" religious identity; while others, careful not to offend, have a "weak-benign" identity.

McLaren argued that neither of these is satisfactory.  Based on a thorough study of the Gospels, he said the ideal that best reflects the values and practice of Jesus is a strong religious identity based not on hostility to others but on benevolence toward them. Sadly, much of church history has been about the dishonouring of this ideal.

What do 21st century Scottish evangelical Christians base their identity on? Do we play the game of ‘follow the leader’...........TV evangelist, apostle, pastor, or are we true followers of Christ truly walking in His light with His power and guided by His values and His presence.

Just in case there is some confusion on this issue, scripture is very clear. Here’s what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Galatian church...................

‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’

Let’s follow Jesus and show benevolence towards others with our words and deeds.



Monday, 7 October 2013

Telling the Truth?

There’s trouble brewing with our court system. In England, the Magistrates’ Association will later this month debate scrapping the traditional religious oath in criminal trials. If the change is approved by the organisation, its influential policy committee will submit a plan for change to the Ministry of Justice.

Currently all trial witnesses take the oath by raising a hand and repeating after the judge the words: ‘I swear by Almighty God that I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’ Rules allow for the oath to be taken with reference to the Koran for Muslims, the Old Testament for Jewish witnesses, and without any reference to sacred texts for the non-religious.  

Those who favour scrapping the traditional religious oath argue that many individuals giving evidence in criminal trials today no longer take it seriously. A new oath would still compel witnesses and defendants to promise to tell the truth but with no reference to God. Instead they would have to acknowledge that they could serve a term of imprisonment for giving false testimony. Supporters say that the new oath would be fairer. Witnesses and defendants would have a clear understanding of the importance of what they are undertaking.

The proposed new oath would read: ‘I promise very sincerely to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and I understand that if I fail to do so I will be committing an offence for which I will be punished and may be sent to prison.’

While this might look like an entirely sensible proposal to some, there are strong dissenting voices from some church leaders who argue that the change will further erode Britain’s Christian heritage.

Writing in the Mail Online, Nick Constable and Martin Beckford say that senior figures in the Church of England see the move as, ‘another attempt to chip away at the country’s Christian foundations.’ They quote the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester who says: ‘This could be the slippery slope towards the increasing secularisation of society. Where will it end – with the Coronation Oath? The Bible is bound up with the constitution, institutions and history of this country. It is right for people to have a choice of oath, a religious or non-religious one. But we are being urged, in the name of tolerance and secularisation, to restrict that choice.’

As a born again Christian I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed by Michael Nazir-Ali. However, perhaps all church leaders should examine why our legal system is having to adapt itself to the rising tide of secularism.

From where I sit the answer is clear. The Church has for decades, manifestly failed to take the message of salvation to the ordinary citizens of Britain in a meaningful and relevant manner. So rather than whingeing on about ‘rising tides of multiculturalism and secularism’, perhaps Christian leaders at all levels should repent and start to carry out the Great Commission, given to the Church by Jesus himself. This would undoubtedly strengthen rather than erode our Christian heritage.

It’s not too late, but the clock is ticking!!!




Saturday, 5 October 2013

Anti-Theistic Fascism Alive & Well in Scotland

I see there’s been a bit of a ‘stooshie’ at Lasswade High School in Midlothian. Apparently a physics teacher of 27 years experience was discussing the ‘Big Bang’ theory of the origins of the universe with his S3 class. During the discussion he was alleged to have said that ‘people must stop putting their faith in things that cannot be proven’.

This remark reported by one S3 pupil to her parent has provoked an amazing outbreak of anti-Christian bile. The pupil’s father Mr Adrian Smales, a scientist has objected to the mentioning of creationism by the teacher who is presumably a Christian. Indeed he has gone to the press and is demanding that the school and the EA take action against the teacher.

Having spent 34 years teaching History and Modern Studies, I have some advice for Mr Smales: ‘get off your high horse’. S3 pupils do not welcome the kind of attention that you are drawing to them by your ranting.

When teaching, I was always up front about my faith. Pupils often asked for my perspective on the issues of the day which I was always pleased to give with the caveat: ‘this is what I think...... you may think differently’. This approach always encouraged excellent debate with of the key principles of Curriculum for Excellence.

What is most disturbing about the Lasswade High School Case is the uninformed anti-theistic ranting which the Scotsman newspaper seems to be pleased to air via its online edition. An article by former teacher Hugh Reilly entitled, ‘Creationists Threaten our Social Evolution’ plumbed new depths of uninformed and anti-theistic fascism.

According to Mr Reilly: ‘Creationists should be banned from school premises........creationists are a danger to our children.......they imperil our kids because, sadly, there are always going to be vulnerable youngsters who will embrace this gibberish version of the beginnings of life.’

As a former teacher I take issue with Messrs Smales and Reilly. Their attitudes are a huge insult to Scotland’s school pupils who want to be able to engage in debate and have informed discussions about the origins of the universe, evolution, creationism and intelligent design.

Perhaps we should ask them what they would like to learn about rather behaving like the thought police.

After all, one of the fundamental approaches to Curriculum for Excellence is the interdisciplinary approach to learning, where single subjects are no longer taught in isolation. This applies particularly to science where scientific issues should be considered in their moral, ethical, social and religious contexts.

Far from being hounded and labelled as a bigot, the science teacher in Lasswade High School should be lauded as one of the few teachers who has  understood and implemented the new curriculum.

He should go to the top of the class!!!!

Dunces caps for Smales and Reilly !!!!





Friday, 4 October 2013

Stand With Israel

Today ‘By the Way’ is reposting the article below from the United with Israel website These are challenging days for Israel. Christians should continue to pray for and support Israel as it takes its stand against those who threaten the peace of the world. 'By the Way' is proud to stand with Israel.

 The Biblical Roots of Israel Standing Alone

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly and told the world that Iran’s nuclear threat is a clear and present danger. Netanyahu announced, “If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone, and in standing alone Israel will know that we will be defending many many others.”

Netanyahu is the not first Jew to declare the People of Israel’s willingness to be different from the rest of the world. In the Book of Genesis, God asks Abraham, the first Jew, to “go from your land, your relatives, and from your fathers house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) According to Jewish tradition, Abraham rejected idolatry and was the first to choose monotheistic faith based on the belief in God’s unity. In the Torah, Abraham is called the Ivri (the Hebrew) for two reasons. On a literal level, Ivri refers to “the other side” of the Jordan River, from whence Abraham originated. On a deeper level, Torah commentators explain that Abraham stood on the opposite side of everyone else with regard to his values and faith.

In the Book of Numbers, the prophet Bilam, while gazing upon the tents of Israel, prophesized, “Behold! It is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.”

Thousands of years later, these words continue to resonate. During Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the Six Day War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and all other major military conflicts, Israel received support, yet the nation remained the sole active defender of her sovereignty.

In connection to Netanyahu’s recent UN address, Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, a teacher and community activist in Jerusalem, commented, “The Prime Minister was accurate in assuming responsibility for the world and for the region, but we shouldn’t forget that responsibility is something that is special, that the Jewish people share with God, and the Jewish people are never alone.”