Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Death of Humility…..Maybe!

BBC radio presenter Andrew Martin has been preparing a series of essays for Radio 3. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph he describes the series as being, “about national characteristics that have, for better or worse (usually worse), been dispensed with in the past 30 years.”

In his article entitled, ‘The death of humility is nothing to boast about’, Martin bemoans the demise of the human characteristic and value of humility in 21st century narcissistic culture.

Sadly the age of Facebook and Twitter has seen the rise of contemporary role models such as Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Simon Cowell who promote arrogance as an acceptable lifestyle choice. This is the age of the ‘selfie’ the practice of taking a self portrait which is then posted on social media as a form of self- promotion. Plumbing the depths of bad taste, the selfie taken by the Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt of herself, David Cameron and Barack Obama during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesberg brought new levels of conceit, arrogance and dishonour to an event intended to honour the passing of a humble man.

Speaking of his own past, Martin acknowledges the role played by the Bible in his own family as the source of its frequent injunctions to espouse the value of humility. Comparing his own lost youth with the values of contemporary life, Martin can only look back with nostalgia to a bygone, gentler, and more civilised era: “The bighead is now the norm, whereas in the books of my youth, the boastful character was a freak, who pointed up the virtues of the hero.”

The church has been negatively impacted by the changing moral landscape according to Bible teacher, John MacArthur : “Perhaps the fastest growing phenomenon in modern Christianity is the emphasis on pride, self-esteem, self-image, self-fulfillment, and other manifestations of selfism. Out of it is emerging a new religion of self-centeredness, pride…….even arrogance. Voices from every part of the theological spectrum call us to join the self-esteem cult.”

While there is clear evidence of a growing and unhealthy obsession with elitism and self promotion in some Christian circles, the Bible is very clear as to what is expected from the genuine true believer.

Writing to the Christians in the city of Philippi, the Apostle Paul explains clearly how the true believer ought to behave: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

The death of humility is nothing to boast about, but may be premature. When a person becomes a follower of Jesus, and genuinely ‘walks the talk’, true humility is always evident.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Reinventing God

‘Have We Forgotten Who God Is’ is the title of an article by Kate Smedley in a recent edition of the on-line publication, ‘Christian Today’.

Razor sharp in her perception, Ms Smedley cuts to the chase: “As Christians around the world fight for the right simply to own Bibles and worship without fear of death, here in the UK, we are seemingly preoccupied with making Christianity palatable to the masses. The problem is, that in seemingly 'dumbing down' the Christian faith, we risk distilling the presence of God into a 'one size fits all' figure created in our image, rather than the other way around.”

For many Christians it means attending a ‘fast moving’ Sunday service where the worship often consists of facile, repetitive theologically questionable worship songs, some prayer and a simple ‘vanilla’ message. Such a form of service is designed to avoid offending anyone and meet the needs of the congregation by portraying God as a benevolent ‘uncle or grandfather figure’, who gives people things!

Often a simplified version of God’s Holy Word like ‘The Message’, by Eugene Peterson, written in street language, to improve accessibility, is used. Sadly such versions of scripture have merely served to further distort the understanding of who God is. With only 38% of the 16-44 year old age group reading the Bible daily, sanitising, simplifying and rewriting God’s Word in the linguistic style akin to the SUN newspaper has had little effect.

Contrast the UK view of God with that of believers in North Korea, who are daily prepared to risk execution or imprisonment of themselves and their extended family for simply owning a Bible. It is clear that North Korean believers have a true understanding of who God is.

Later in her article, Ms Smedley rightly focuses on the key question: Have we lost sight of who God is? One answer comes from Cistercian monk Michael Casey. In his recent book, Casey points to a lack of reverence for God amongst 21st century Christians which he sees as 'an indication of deficient understanding'.

What are the key things which Christians need to understand about the nature of God? Here is a summary of key elements:

Ø  God is an eternal spirit…..One God has always existed as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Ø  God is by nature sovereign. He has absolute authority over the entire universe and everything in it.

Ø  God is omnipotent……all of His ways are right. Whether mankind thinks God’s ways are ‘fair’ is an irrelevance.

Ø  God is immutable…….he does not change, being the same ‘yesterday, today and forever’.

Ø  God is holy. This is the most important element of God’s nature. Holy means ‘set apart’. Holiness is the foundation of all other aspects of God’s character. God’s holiness makes Him the ‘consuming fire’ that will judge all sin.

Ø  God’s wrath is based on His holiness. He has a righteous anger against sin. Because God will judge every person who has ever lived, everyone needs the gospel message of grace and salvation.

Ø  God is literally the essence of love. His love is eternal. Because He is immutable, His love never changes. It is perfect and holy. It is God’s nature to love. In His love for the world, He Himself came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ to redeem us. Nothing less than a perfect sacrifice would do.

When believers truly come to know even a fraction of God’s nature, their worship is transformed from the banal and narcissistic to the truly genuine, because it is founded on the clear understanding of who God is, and a personal reverential relationship with Him.

When next worshipping the Lord God Almighty in spirit and in truth, singing and clapping along with songs such as, ‘we bring a sacrifice of praise’, believers should remember the words of Psalm 51: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

The Bible makes it clear that only those who come before the Lord with such an attitude are deemed to be true worshippers.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Genuine Article OR Cheap Imitation?

One of my favourite factual TV programmes, ‘Fake or Fortune’ has returned to the BBC for a third series.  In the art world where fortunes can be made and lost, the series investigates the provenance of paintings in order to establish whether they are genuine or fake.

What makes the series compelling viewing is the way in which the hosts, Fiona Bruce and art expert Philip Mould unravel the truth about each painting. Since the beginning, the programme has thrown up some fascinating surprises including the discovery of a painting by Winslow Homer. The painting with an estimated value of around $250,000 was found near a rubbish dump.

The programme also discovered a painting by Monet which had been lost, and proved that a 17th century Dutch painting from a prominent European collection was a fake.

Interviewed by Gabriella Griffiths for ‘London loves Business’, Philip Mould was asked to describe the investigative process used in ‘Fake or Fortune’: 

“The first part is just the eye – there is a lot of Sherlock Holmes in it, it is about noticing things which have specific characteristics of the artists involved, as opposed to general characteristics of the era. Brush strokes can work like fingerprints………………The eye can appear to be airy and poetical and so forensics is a good way to back you up.  

You can look at the materials used, where the paints originated from, identify the canvas but also look for things invented after the artists lived. That’s often a big give away……..It’s all evidence that would impress juries!

The third is the history of the painting, who owned it? The idea is to dig down layer after layer, find out who passed it to whom and hopefully bring it back to the artist. Place it on their easel.”

Working out the difference between the genuine article and a fake is a skill which every individual learns in life…..some better than others. These skills of investigation, questioning and comparison are applied by most people day and daily as a matter of routine to most areas of life.

As a Christian who lives in a multi-denominational society, I have often wondered if every person who claims to be part of a church is the genuine article. Given that these are difficult times for genuine true believers, how do Christians differentiate between the genuine and the fake?

The Bible provides a clear answer to this question. The following list is a summary of personal qualities scripture tells us should be evident in those who are ‘the genuine article’ as opposed to ‘cheap imitations’.

True believers are those who:

ü  Can testify that they have been born again by the Spirit of God.

ü  Believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.

ü  Have a hunger for God’s Word.

ü  Pray to their Heavenly Father.

ü  Love their fellow believers.

ü  Attend a Bible believing church.

ü  Obey the Lord (keep His Word).

ü  Do not continue in sin but aspire to live humble, righteous lives.

ü  Do not enjoy living in sin.

ü  Love their neighbours and perform good works.

ü  Confess Christ before men in all situations.   

In the final analysis, only God knows the genuine from the fake, and no doubt there will be many surprises in heaven, given Scotland’s denominational mix. However, those who concur with the list above should rest assured that they are most certainly one hundred per cent, the genuine article.

Monday, 20 January 2014

The New Illiterates

Scotland’s education system owes much to the church. With its beginnings dating back to the Reformation, the emerging Protestant church aimed to engage ordinary Scots with Biblical truth through the provision of basic education in every parish.

In the 21st century, literacy continues to be a major priority in Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence. While primary teachers have always had the responsibility of developing literacy in their pupils, the new curriculum has added this task to secondary teachers who until recently had regarded themselves as ‘subject specialists’ as opposed to general teachers of literacy. Curriculum planners hope that this measure will help develop and maintain high levels of literacy.

Within the church however, levels of Biblical literacy are a cause for concern, particularly amongst the traditional Bible-loving evangelical sector. Research in recent years by the Evangelical Alliance involving a survey of 17,000 Christians has revealed some exceedingly disturbing trends.  

There is widespread consensus and certainty amongst evangelicals that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and that it has supreme authority in their lives. 93% strongly agree that the Bible is the inspired word of God.

There is less certainty, and a broader range of opinions as to whether or not the Bible, in its original manuscript, is without error. Only 54% agree that the Bible, in its original manuscript, is without error……a clear disconnect with the previous statistic, pointing to uncertainty about what the Bible really is.

The most disturbing figures however concern engagement with the scriptures by age group as outlined in the table below.

Percentage of respondents who read (or listen to) the Bible everyday

16-24              25-34              35-44              45-54              55-64              65+

38%                38%                38%                50%                59%                69%

Church leaders ought to be very concerned by these figures, particularly the lack of regular and consistent engagement with the scriptures by the 16-44 year old age group, the group most traditionally involved in the leading of worship and youth work in evangelical churches. It should be a concern that those with an important role within the church would appear to be the least Biblically literate and equipped.

Jamie Smith, writing recently on ‘The Berean Call’ website spells out the consequences of Biblical illiteracy for evangelicals: “In spite of the importance God places on the knowledge in His Word, there is a definite weaning of evangelicals away from knowledge and understanding of and a dependence upon the Word of God. This ‘dumbing-down’ of the flock produces biblically illiterate Christians who have little or no defence against "ravenous wolves" that come forth, claiming to be "evangelical," but in reality are not…….. "ravenous wolves" who make claims of new revelation through the rhema of God that the flock should recognise as being counterfeit but do not, because they do not know the genuine article (the logos) well enough to spot a fake. The flock has no means of reliably testing what these false teachers claim, because the sheep no longer recognise the shepherd's voice. As such, the sheep rely on their own understanding and desires to discern what is and is not true”.

There is therefore an urgent need for church leaders to address the issue of Bible illiteracy. This can only be done at individual church level, but takes determined, creative and energetic leadership that is prepared to harness all of the human resources that God has made available. The question is: Do our church leaders recognise that there is a problem, and are they up to the task of equipping those in their care?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Five Steps Towards Being ‘Spiritually Savvy’

Spiritual discernment is vital if all of Scotland’s true believers are to stand in an increasingly uncertain world. Too important to be delegated to ministers, elders and deacons, discernment is the responsibility of all, and it starts with the desire for it. If a Christian merely seeks to be happy, healthy and wealthy, he/she will not be spiritually discerning. Humility is the starting point. Every believer must be humble enough to admit their need of spiritual discernment and follow the path that leads to it.

In the Book of Proverbs it is written: “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God”.

The second and obvious step on the path towards discernment is to pray for it. In the Old Testament, it is recorded that King Solomon prayed for wisdom.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.”

In the New Testament Book of James, the Apostle says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him”.

A third step along the path towards spiritual discernment is to be prepared to listen to and learn from the example of gifted mature believers in the church. Some in the early church were specially gifted to discern between divine truth and error, an essential gift since false teachers had attempted to destroy the church with their heretical teaching. The Apostle John attested to this in his letter when he urged true believers to: “test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world”.

That same gift is available and more necessary today than in the days of the Apostle. Fortunately there are Bible scholars today who are gifted by God to unmask false teachers. They have a special ability to think carefully, critically and analytically. They are the church’s guardians of truth and all true believers need to learn from what they teach and write.

True believers should also follow the example of other mature believers. As it takes years of parental training for children to grow and mature into responsible adults, so it takes years of Godly training for believers to become spiritually mature. It’s not a matter of praying one evening, “Lord, give me discernment”, in the hope of waking up the next morning and having it. Spiritual maturity is the result of being nourished by God’s Holy word.

A fourth step on the path towards spiritual discernment is to depend on the Holy Spirit, the true discerner who leads believers into all truth. Writing to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote: “The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit who is from God, that we might know the tings freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”

The final step on the path towards spiritual discernment is consistent and faithful study of God’s Word, the Bible. Believers will not be spiritually discerning, even though they may desire it, pray for it, learn from the gifted and mature and depend on the Holy Spirit, unless they diligently study God’s Word. Only there can the principles for discerning between truth and error be found.

In the book of Acts, it is recorded that the Jewish community in the town of Berea received the Apostle Paul’s preaching with enthusiasm. They took the message away, and compared it to the teachings of the Old Testament. As a result many became believers.

In the same book, Paul warned the church leaders in Ephesus about false teachers who would infiltrate and corrupt the church: “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

What about the true believers in Scotland’s evangelical churches? How is God’s Word regarded and studied? In a superficial and careless manner, or with thought, care and fervent prayer?

There is no doubt that the proper study of God’s word takes effort, but it is worthwhile because: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”.


Monday, 13 January 2014

'Rip-off' in Christendom

I have to admit to being captivated by the writings of the Apostle Paul. In his letters he deals with timeless issues which impact the church and the individual true believer.  Spiritual discernment which is the skill of separating divine truth from error is an important element in the Apostle’s letters. Writing to the church at Thessalonika, he encourages the believers to, ‘examine everything carefully’ and this skill of spiritual discernment is as important today as it was in the Apostle Paul’s time.

Many Christians find that spiritual discernment is hard: they are constantly fighting their own sinful desires; they are confused and confounded by an adversary whose primary tactics are doubt and deception, and they are inundated with unholy influences from a corrupt media.

Large parts of the so-called ‘Christian’ media broadcast via satellite from the USA has had a corrupting influence on some areas of the church with its emphasis on the gospel of prosperity. As on writer has said, ‘Christianity began as a personal relationship with Jesus. When it went to Athens, it became philosophy. When it went to Rome it became an organisation. When it went to Europe it became a culture. When it came to America, it became a business’.

Individuals such as the late Paul Crouch became fabulously wealthy through his ‘business’, the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Crouch’s organisation appealed annually to Christians for funds, promising that God would in turn bless the donors with wealth. Upwards of $90 million dollars was donated annually, mainly by the poor and elderly, much of which funded the ostentatiously tacky lifestyle of Paul and Jan Crouch.

Similar methods are employed by Scotland’s newest independent evangelical church brand. Based in Glasgow, and describing itself as a social enterprise, it has branches springing up across the country.

Essentially based on dubious experience and image, these churches attract the young and spiritually immature who are apt to swallow wrong teaching because they’ve not been taught to discern between spiritual truth and error.

Writing to the church in Ephesus, the Apostle Paul made the argument for sound teaching in the church: “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

An in-depth understanding of God’s word is the key to spiritual maturity. The writer to the Hebrews highlighted the effect that neglect of sound teaching can have on the church: “Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern between good and evil.”

Most of us are discerning in the everyday affairs of life. We read dietary guidance and take exercise because we want to be healthy. We read the fine print before signing legal/financial documents. However are all Scotland’s born again Christians confident that they can discern between spiritual truth and error, given what they are subjected to via the internet, conference headlining spiritual ‘gurus’, and TV? 


Infinite Shades of Grey

In recent blog posts we have been focussing on the need for Biblical discernment amongst Scotland’s Christians.

There is no doubt that Christians should be in tune with the contemporary world and a number of Scotland’s independent evangelical fellowships and some more mainstream churches have chosen this path. However, a disturbing by product of this process is that some churches have at the same time have abandoned foundational Biblical teaching. Lacking clear scriptural direction, Christians have developed a continuum mind-set……one which has no discernible division into parts. Thus, rather than seeing things as black and white; right and wrong or true and false, attitudes, values and behaviours are seen as infinite shades of grey.

In his classic allegorical work, ‘The Screwtape Letters’, CS Lewis wrote of a senior demon who instructed an apprentice demon to, “keep his human victim’s mind off the plain difference between true and false”.

In reality, Satan uses this strategy very successfully. In many areas ranging from the personal moral behaviour of leaders to the unthinking endorsement of extremist ministries who exploit and manipulate the uninformed, Christians continue to fail to distinguish between truth and error.

Lack of spiritual discernment also leads to a preoccupation with image and influence as a key to evangelism. Many of Scotland’s evangelicals believe they can win the lost by winning their approval. Christians adopting this methodology no longer teach the Biblical doctrines of sin, hell, repentance or the cross because those would offend the lost or make them feel uncomfortable. Instead they market themselves as benevolent, non-threatening people whose primary goal is to achieve prestige, popularity and cultural acceptance among the lost. Their premise is, ‘if they like us, they’ll like our Jesus’.

The Apostle Paul gave a stinging rebuke to the church in Corinth for its obsession with image rather than the truth. The same is true today. One only needs to read any church’s Facebook traffic to see the evidence.

There is no doubt that Scotland’s evangelicals need to develop a Biblical mind-set. Dr Jay Adams has written: “People who study the Bible in depth think in terms of contrasts or opposites. From Genesis to revelation, God’s thoughts and ways are set over against all others. The Bible does not teach that there are numerous ways to please God, each of which is as good as the next. Nor does it teach that various opinions are more or less God’s ways. What it teaches everywhere is that any thought or way that is not wholly God’s is altogether wrong and must be rejected”.

There is only one God, and only one way of life….His!

It’s not easy being a Bible-believing true believer in 21st century Scotland. In some evangelical circles, true believers are labelled as ‘legalists’ and frequently marginalised.

Jesus saw that this would come when he said to his disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” 

Friday, 10 January 2014

Contending for the Faith in Scotland

In the last blog post, ‘Beware the Trojan Horses’, we began to examine the process of ‘entry-ism’ by which certain groups and individuals attempt to impose their extremist and unbiblical ideas, beliefs and practices on the church i.e. the body of born again believers. (The term ‘entry-ism’ comes from the strategy used by the Marxists of the Militant Tendency in their failed attempt to take control of the British Labour Party in the 1970’s and 80s).

There is no doubt that entry-ism is on the rise in Scotland’s evangelical community. One of the main causes is a weakening of clarity and conviction about belief and the scriptures. Today many of Scotland’s Christians have only a shallow knowledge of God’s Word. In his book, ‘A Call to discernment’ Dr Jay Adams writes: ‘self-styled ‘experts’ in psychology, sociology and education who hold Ph.D’s in their field and ‘Sunday School’ degrees in Bible Study pontificate on Christian teaching and life on TV, radio, conferences and the internet, setting themselves up as spokespersons for God…..Their teaching and use of the Bible (when it is used) often bears little resemblance to what the scriptures, properly interpreted, really say.

What is the upshot of all this? One obvious result is that few people have the discernment necessary to identify and refute such errors. And if they do sense that something is wrong, their powers of discernment are too weak to put their fingers precisely on where the error lies. Or if they do point out error, other people denounce them as heresy hunters”. (Those who exposed the activities of Marxist extremists within the Labour Party were denounced and threatened by the Militant Tendency in a similar manner)

Because experience and emotion, philosophy and political correctness have been elevated above divine revelation, many who call themselves Christians have no Biblical basis for doing so.

John MacArthur, America’s foremost Bible teacher in an interview on a supposedly Christian radio station was asked by the programme host: “How does a person become a Christian?” He replied: “He must realise that he is a sinner and that he cannot save himself, repent from this sin, and cast himself on the mercy of God. He must believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, whose death paid the price for his sins and whose resurrection proves his justification”. The host asked: “You don’t believe that everyone who is a Christian must believe that do you?” MacArthur responded emphatically in the affirmative. The host replied: “I certainly did not deal with any of my sins when I became a Christian”. John MacArthur asked: “What do you base your salvation on?” the host replied: “I was into drugs and alcohol, living with my boyfriend and into ‘Science of the Mind’ for six years. One day I just got Jesus’ phone number and knew where he was”.

Not everyone who talks about Jesus knows Him as Saviour!

There is no question that Biblical truth divides. When Christians set aside Biblical truth for the so called ‘experiential’ and remain silent for fear of offending people, opposition will disappear along with truth, holiness and God Himself.

The New Testament Book of Jude exhorts true believers to, “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed…..who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ”.

Are Scotland’s true believers prepared with the courage to stand up and contend for the faith? If so we all need the tools to do so and the key is discernment.  

Beware the Trojan Horses!!!

I recently cancelled my subscription to SKY TV. My family decided the £65 plus monthly subscription would be better spent on a foreign holiday than the programming on offer.
Reflecting on our fifteen year relationship with the broadcaster, I must admit that I was excited when we first signed up. Wall to wall football plus a large number of Christian channels appeared to be a real attraction. I soon lost interest in the so-called 'Christian channels', most of which turned out to be a mix of contemporary heresy and plain fraud.
With a little research, I found that many of the Christian media stars while consistently asking for donations towards their particular ministry are paying themselves more than premiership footballers and living lifestyles which do not reflect Biblical principles. Examples of outrageous fraud include being asked to pay $135 in order to receive a 'Boaz anointing' and the 'free' green miracle prosperity handkerchief which is delivered in return for personal details which are then sold on to retailers across the world.
A Christian friend recently likened these and other deceptions happening in the church as being similar to the famous antiquarian story of the wooden horse of Troy.
As the tale goes, Greek soldiers had laid siege to the city of Troy for ten years, all to no avail. Ulysses, a brilliant strategist, decided to have a large wooden horse built and left at the city gates as a supposed gift. The Greeks then sailed away in apparent defeat while the curious and proud Trojans brought the wooden horse inside their fortified walls. That night, Greek soldiers hidden inside the horse crept out and opened the city gates to allow entry to the returning Greeks who massacred the inhabitants and looted the city. Ever since, the Trojan horse has been a symbol of infiltration and deception.
Throughout its history, the church has embraced many Trojan horses. The evil one has and is effectively using people, ideas and practices disguised as gifts, wrapped and presented attractively with media slickness to lure people away from the truth of God into destructive error.
To discerning bible believing Scottish Christians this should come as no surprise. After all we live in the last days. Writing to Timothy, the Apostle Paul warned the church about such things: "In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips,  without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power".
Scottish evangelicals are being bombarded as never before with a huge variety of weird, extreme doctrines and practice which have more in common with shamanism, eastern religions and bogus 'psycho-babble' than the Bible.
Time for Bible believing Christians to stand up for the truth as revealed in the scriptures.      



Tuesday, 7 January 2014

What’s in a Name?

As a former teacher, I was occasionally amused by some of the names that parents inflicted on their offspring. Sadly some well-meaning adults chose names for their children which inevitably led to incidents of name-calling and bullying in school. I recall one child with a German sounding name who having been subjected to some name related abuse took matters into his own hands. He told his primary head teacher that he was changing his name and would only answer to the English name which he had chosen. Now an adult, that person is still known by the name which he chose!

National Records of Scotland recently announced that Jack and Sophie were again the most popular Scottish baby names in 2013. Sophie has been the top female name for the past nine years, while Jack has been the top male name for the last six years.

Apparently, out of the 26,700 boys and 25,200 girls registered, parents chose more than 7,400 different first names. Thankfully, none of the top one hundred boys or girls names are unusual to the point of having the potential to cause their owners difficulties in later life.

In the USA, things are different. In a country where a high percentage of the population claims to be Christian, Biblical names such as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are popular. Less conventional Old Testament names such as Benjamin, Caleb, Levi and Shiloh are also common.

I was however ‘gobsmacked’ to find that some Americans have started using 'Messiah' as a name for their children. The mind boggles at the difficulties a ‘Messiah MacDougall’ might have in a Scottish secondary school.

According to the US Social Security Administration, Messiah was the 387th most popular boys name in the US in 2012, and it is increasing in popularity!

Opinion pollsters, LifeWay research has confirmed the increasing use of Messiah as a child’s name. Surveys consistently show that most Americans agree that parents should be free to give their child religious names including Messiah.

While some Scots parents do choose really daft names for their offspring, they don’t go to the extremes of America.

After all, there’s only one Messiah!