Why and How we Must…...
EARNESTLY CONTEND FOR THE FAITH
On our EPS website, we state that our motto is “promoting and defending the historic evangelical Protestant faith”. As we enter 2011, the general state of Protestantism in our land offers little cause for optimism. Many of today’s Protestant churches are weak, ineffective and compromised. Modern society in Ulster is turning its back on the church and, as church attendances (not surprisingly) continue to decline, shallow gimmicks in some churches have replaced the vitality and centrality of the preaching of the Word of God in an attempt to bring people in.
There are various reasons for this sad state of affairs, but, in the main, it is the result of damage and corruption which have stemmed from within. False ecumenism and false doctrines have crept in over many years, and their poisonous and debilitating impact has left the church an easy prey to its enemies. The leaders of the Church of Rome must have been greatly encouraged by what they witnessed during the Papal visit last September. The key aim of the papal visit to theUKlast September was to advance and strengthen the Papacy’s position inBritain, and the organisers of that visit will have seen little in the Protestant churches to cause them any alarm or concern. Indeed, as Her Majesty the Queen and a whole raft of “Protestant leaders” - including several fromUlster- greeted the pope and paid homage to him, papal officials will have felt confident that their strategy to return Britain to Rome was advancing very nicely. Since the visit, indeed, several Anglican bishops have defected toRome.
In this dark scenario, all evangelical Protestants have a solemn duty to speak out against false ecumenism and apostasy and to expose and oppose it with resolution and determination.
Other believers have faced similar challenges down through the centuries, and we must learn from their example. In AD66, the apostle Jude wrote to his fellow-believers. He wanted to write to them a devotional letter about their “common salvation” in Jesus Christ (Jude 3). We rejoice indeed that, no matter what our background or our views, we all share in that common salvation because our faith is in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a glorious Gospel!
But Jude realised there was something more pressing, for this precious Gospel was threatened - not by enemies outside the camp but from within! Just a few decades after our Lord had ascended to heaven, false doctrine had emerged. Certain men had “crept in unawares” (Jude 4) and Jude therefore felt it necessary to urge his fellow-Christians to not only rejoice in and proclaim the common salvation but to“earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.(Jude 3).These are well-known and well-loved words, but let us refresh our understanding of them in order that we might apply them in the year ahead. First, we will consider what we mean by the faith, and second how we might best contend for it.
I. THE FAITH DEFINED
Prince Charles has said that when he becomes king he wants to be “defender of faith” rather than “Defender of the Faith” (Fidei Defensor). Under the present constitutional arrangements, the Monarch is (or is meant to be!) the defender of the Protestant faith. In essence, the Protestant faith is the faith of which Jude speaks, for, at the Protestant Reformation, the corruptions and perversions of Christianity which had crept in under the Church of Rome were, by the power of the Holy Spirit, case aside and the light of the glorious gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone shone brightly once again. It is that faith that Jude exhorts us to defend.
It is revealed to us in the Bible and the Bible alone. We cannot find salvation anywhere else. Jude says the faith was “once delivered” (v3),which means that it was given to us by God and is now complete. The psalmist says,“Forever, O Lord, thy Word is settled in heaven”.(Ps 119:89). We are warned not to add to it or take away from it, but that is what the Church of Rome does by placing its traditions on a par with, or higher than, Scripture.
It is in the Bible that we find God. There we are confronted by his majesty and his glory, and his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. By contrast we see mankind made in the image of God but depraved by sin. We realise that God hates sin and will punish all who persist in it, and then we come face to face with the goodness and love of God who is“not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9). The Bible contains the good news of salvation. There we learn that we can be reconciled with God and have peace with Him through the sacrificial and substitutionary death of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”- Ephesians 2:8.
This is the faith of which Jude speaks. It was the faith loved, held and preached by the patriarchs, prophets and apostles. It was the faith loved, held and preached by the early church, the Reformers, the Puritans and many others down through the centuries.
Is it your faith? It is all very well to give intellectual assent to it, but that will not save. It is vital that you have a living personal faith in Jesus Christ, for that, and that alone, will save.
II. THE FAITH DEFENDED
We note that the faith was delivered to the saints. But what does Jude mean by “the saints”? To many people, a saint is an exceptionally good-living person.Romeasserts that a person can only be made a saint after their death and upon completion of a rigorous assessment byVaticanauthorities. Cardinal John Henry Newman is a recent example of this. But the Psalmist exhorts the saints to sing to the Lord (Psalm 30:4) and Paul wrote to the saints at the various churches, so saints must be those who are alive – both physically and spiritually.
The faith has been delivered to believers and it is their honour and privilege to have been entrusted with this most solemn and important of responsibilities. There are many important tasks in life, but surely the most important of them all is to protect, preserve, promote and defend the faith, for it involves the eternal well-being of the souls of men.
We are the custodians of this faith. We need to be like watchmen! We have to treat God’s Word as a pearl. We must “buy the truth and sell it not”(Proverbs 23:23).
Jude warns us of the subtle nature of the enemy. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, they have crept in unawares. They appear to be our fellow-soldiers but their friendship is false and their aim is to destroy the faith from within. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul refers to the many perils he had suffered for Christ, and he includes “perils among false brethren”. I suspect that was one the hardest perils he had to endure.
Faced with such circumstances, we have a solemn responsibility to contend. Contending demands strength and determination. But while the world rejoices in physical and mental strength, our battle is a spiritual one. Paul reminds us that, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds”- (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Our contending is to be earnest. In Greek the word translated “earnestly” is unique. It means to strive hard, wrestle hard and to keep on wrestling. It is a very hard and dangerous battle. It will sap our energies and leave us weary and tempted to give up. But God tells us,“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness”(2 Corinthians 12:9).He is with us in the battle. We must pray for each other and support each other. What true fellowship there is when believers are actively and earnestly contending!
Paul did not shirk from the challenge. He said hewas “set for the defence of the Gospel”(Philippians 1:17), and in Galatians 2, he speaks of his visit to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus and how“because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you”.
In the midst of the battle, it is important also for us to draw aside occasionally and to make sure that our own walk with God is close and consistent. We need to be committed to the faith in heart, word and deed. We are made saints by the blood of Christ, but we also have a duty – and it should be our desire – to live as saints ought to live. We can learn from the example of Samson in the days of the judges.
Samson fought a good fight, but he failed to pay due attention to his own spiritual health.
We must also be careful how we contend. Our weapons are not carnal or worldly, and our mindset must be spiritual. We do well to reflect upon the fruit of the Spirit -“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law”.(Galatians 5:22-23).As we contend, do we display these attributes, or are we abrasive, harsh and cold? Paul urges us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
In our opposition to false doctrine and heresy, we must promote Christ as the way, the truth and the life. Our message is one of love and hope to sinful men and women. Yes, we must condemn false religion, but we must love those trapped by it.
In conclusion, the following words byPastor William Shishko (Orthodox Presbyterian Church USA) are very helpful,“True Protestantism is Biblical religion. It challenges the modern inability to know what is true by an authoritative "thus says the Lord." It lifts the crushing weight of guilt from the shoulders of sinful men, women, and children by a joyous proclamation of righteousness through faith in the person of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection for sinners. It offers meaning and purpose to all Christians by addressing them as priests of God in Jesus Christ. Such is true Protestantism. Such is the religion of the Bible. It is for these convictions that we stand, and we heartily encourage you to stand with us in this expression of the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”.
MEET LYDIA—BUSINESSWOMAN AND CHRISTIAN
The Christian congregation at Philippi, the leading city of the district of Macedonia(Acts 16:12) was certainly diverse. Included among those gathered around the Lord’s table in the church there, was a converted gaoler and two women by the names of Euodia and … Syntyche (Philippians 4:2) who, it has to be admitted, did not always get on that well together. Then there was Epaphroditus - evidently a man who was out and out for Christ, as Paul describes him as a fellow worker and fellow soldier(Philippians 2:25) as well as a slave girl who had been dramatically converted to Christ out of a life of spiritism.
The congregation at Philippi also boasted one from the upper strata of society, for it also containedLydiaand her household.Lydiawas a successful businesswoman. As such, she would not have lacked a penny or two.Lydiathough also possessed riches not of this world for, by the grace ofGod,Lydiahad also come to inherit the unsearchable riches of Christ(Ephesians 3:8). Her testimony - as related by Luke in Acts - is brief but highly instructive.
1.Lydia: A Case of the Divine Superintendence
Luke introducesLydiaas “a seller of purple, of the city ofThyatira” (Acts 16:14). Thyatira inTurkeywas a manufacturing centre, known for its dyeing, clothes-making, pottery and brass work. When we encounter Lydia however, she is not in Thyatira, but in Philippi, a long way from home. What was Lydia, from Thyatira inTurkey, doing in Philippi, in what we now know as Greece? The human answer to our question is thatLydiawas in Philippi for business reasons. It has been suggested that a branch office of her business guild inPhilippiexplains her residence there. Her purple cloth business was so successful that orders and exports went far beyond the immediate locality of the head office in Thyatira.
A deeper reason for Lydia’s residence in Philippi however is that she was there because God had led her there. Hers was a case of divine superintendence.“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD”(Psalm 37:23). He“hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation”(Acts 17:26).Lydia was seeking God. Luke describes her as a worshipper of God(Acts 16:14), which is a technical term for a Gentile who was sympathetic to Judaism, believed in the one, true God, sought to obey His moral precepts, but would not convert to Judaism fully.Lydiawas seeking God, but unbeknown to her, God was also seeking her. The God of the Bible is a God who always goes before us:-
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me
It was not I that found, O Saviour true
No, I was found of Thee.
Lydia had come to know that earthly success and business acumen is no substitute for knowing God. The deepest longings of the human soul cannot be satisfied materially. Augustine said ‘Lord, thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.’ Jesus said “a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth”.(Luke 12:15) and“what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”(Mark 8:36).
The hand of God then was in both Lydia’s dissatisfaction with this world and her residence in Philippi. The God Who had foreordained Lydia’s salvation had also foreordained the steps to that salvation. He ensured thatLydiaand Paul’s residence would coincide, so that Lydiawould hear the message of salvation from Paul’s lips. The God Who ordains the end also ordains the means. Hence Lydia’s residence in Philippi was not accidental but providential. God put her there so that she might hear the Gospel and be eternally saved.
2.Lydia: A Case of the Divine Spirit
A key verse in relation to Lydia’s conversion to Christ is Acts 16:14, where we read that the Lord opened her heart,“that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul”.
When Paul preached the Gospel toLydiaand others atPhilippi, God Himself was at work by His Holy Spirit. Lydia responded because God Himself enabled her to respond. He enlightenedLydia’s inner understanding and enabled her to see that the crucified Christ was the answer to her deepest need and the end of all her longing and searching. By the grace of God and the working of His Spirit in both the preacher and hearer alike,Lydiawas enabled to entrust the eternal welfare of her soul to the Lord Jesus Christ, and so was eternally saved.Lydiaheard and heeded the Gospel. She saw that Christ was the answer to her every need.“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.(Romans 10:17).Lydia‘opened her heart’ to Christ, but she did so only because the Lord God ‘opened her heart’ to Christ.
Lydia’s testimony is a reminder that the Lord God is as active in applying the work of redemption by His Spirit as He was in accomplishing the work of redemption by His Son at Calvary. Thank God that this is so. If we were left to our own devices when it comes to believing in Jesus, we would never do so, for by nature we are dead in our sins and our minds are darkened. We see no need for Jesus, we have no love for Him and no desire to trust in Him. All this however changes dramatically when the Holy Spirit of God is at work in our lives in all His convicting and converting power. The Shorter Catechism reminds us,“We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ by the effectual application of it to us by His Holy Spirit”(Q.29);“The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ by working faith in us and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling”(Q.30);“Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the Gospel”(Q31).
Lydia was both persuaded and enabled to embrace Jesus Christ for full salvation. That she was truly saved is evident from Luke’s description of her next action. She was “baptised, and her household”(Acts 16:15). And her divine salvation led to her divine service.
3. Lydia: A Case of the Divine Service
Having come to know Christ as her own personal Saviour, Luke says “she besought us (ie, Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke) saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us”.(Acts 16:15). The Lord had openedLydia’s heart, and now Lydia opened up her home for the Lord. She opened up her home for the hospitality of Christians - her brothers and sisters in Christ.
The desire for Christian fellowship - to associate, give to and gain from our fellow Christians - is one evidence of salvation. The early Christian converts “continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”(Acts 2:42). You can be sure that Paul and his co-workers appreciated the hospitality whichLydiagave. And you can be sure that Lydia benefited from the ‘table talk’ of Paul. New convert that she was, she no doubt craved to grow in knowledge and understanding of her Saviour and His great salvation, and absorbed Paul’s teaching like a sponge.
Lydia’s divine salvation then led to Lydia’s divine service. She served the Lord and she served those who loved and served the Lord. Her ministry was different from Paul’s, but just as valid in its own way. Happiness always results from finding the particular and peculiar niche God has for us. Every Christian has some unique quality or gift which can be used by God for His glory and the blessing of His people. Peter exhorts,“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God”.(1 Peter 4:10).
There’s a work for Jesus, Ready at your hand
‘Tis a task the Master, Just for you has planned
Haste to do His bidding, Yield Him service true
There’s a work for Jesus, None but you can do.
Here then is Lydia, a businesswoman and Christian convert. Her salvation was due to the divine superintendence (God’s bringing her toPhilippi) and the working of God’s Spirit in her heart. Her salvation led to divine service. Out of gratitude for grace received, she put her means at the disposal of the Lord and His people. Interestingly, Lydia was the first Christian convert on the continent of what is now known as Europe.
A FAITHFUL PARENT
There is a picture in a children’s Bible story book. It is of a wide, fast flowing river, crocodiles prowl its waters expectantly, here and there rocks loom ominously and in the middle a tiny craft bobs precariously. As you look closer you can see a little infant inside, sleeping peacefully, heedless to the dangers around it. I suppose like many other children I grew up with this somewhat fanciful notion of the story of baby Moses where his mother happened to take him to the river on a certain day in a certain place where Pharaoh’s daughter just happened to be bathing. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I began to consider the enormity of what this baby’s mother, Jocabed, had done and in truth it begged the question, how could a woman who had risked everything in the first three months of this child’s life to protect him from the armies of Pharaoh suddenly seem to lose her reason and entrust him to the grip of one of the world’s greatest waterways?
The desire to protect our young is a one of the strongest instincts of nature. Stories abound in the animal and human kingdom of parents who will go to great lengths and even make the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect their offspring. Jocabed was no exception. The more I study this story the more I am convinced this was a clever, courageous and creative lady whose every action was driven by her absolute faith in Jehovah and there is much for Christian parents to learn from her example.
There are immediate parallels between the times Jocabed was living in and our day and age. It was, for the children of God, one of the darkest and seemingly most hopeless periods of their history. A government which had once protected them and the principles they lived by had been replaced with ‘another Pharaoh’. New laws had gradually encroached on every area of their lives, controlling their work practices and now even their family lives. Now the unthinkable had happened, murder legalised in the form of infanticide and upheld by the authorities. It was into this world Jocabed and her husband brought their children.
Despite the difficulties, this family sought to live by the unchanging principles of an unchanging God. Heb 11v23 tells us Moses’ parents were not afraid of the authorities; the principle that guided their lives was faith. Jocabed was a woman of great faith and so she determined the best course she could, in truly awful circumstances, and left the rest to God. Knowing her child was in danger Jocabed made a plan. She knew there was only one place her boy would be safe, not in the Hebrew ghettos but in an Egyptian home, the loftiest home in the kingdom, the palace itself. To get him there she will touch a woman’s heart. And so she watches the princess and studies her habits. There is some debate as to who this princess was and some take the view that she was the eldest of Ramses II fifty-nine daughters. In Hebrews 11:24 we are told that “Moses...refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter”. This was an official title which could only be taken by the heir to the throne, the eldest child of the eldest child. If it was this particular princess, history records for us that she was childless. Surely the heart of a childless woman beating in this royal breast could not fail to be touched by such a “goodly child.”
Having chosen the target she must get the child to her. It must be done outside the palace, when no soldiers are nearby, almost in a private moment....when she is bathing. So the person and time are chosen but where would she put her precious child? Perhaps the choice of the river is a perplexing one. Yes, he was in a watertight ark and yes, he was secured as much as possible “in the flags by the river’s brink” but Jocabed must have known she was taking a risk; a sudden strong current, a hungry crocodile or he might be so well hidden that the princess may not even see him. Why not place him directly in the path she knew the princess must take to the river? Surely it would be safer?
But this lady had done her homework. She knew the enemy. She would have known the importance of the river Nile to her son’s would-be killers for it was worshipped as one of their gods. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of a religious ritual associated with worship of theNile. Priests would recite these words supposedly uttered by theNilegod, “I have afflicted no man. I have not made any man weep. I have not withheld milk from the mouths of sucklings”. Would the daughter of Pharaoh dare withhold milk from a suckling given to her by the god she worshipped? And so having done all she humanly could she places him in the hands of the one true God. You can rest assured she wasn’t too far away and imagine Jocabed’s delight when she is called, and given the job of nursing her son. What joy and delight there must have been in that household over faith rewarded. She would only have her boy for about four years but what precious years they were and what deep roots she laid, for her boy became the Deliverer of the Israelites.
We never read of Jocabed again in the pages of Scripture. The last we read of her is as she hands her son over to be “educated in all the learning of the Egyptians.” (Acts7:22). But she had done her work well for one day God would use her son to lead His people out ofEgyptand to the edge of the Promised Land.
Jocabed’s story should be a great encouragement to Christian parents in a day when there is much to discourage them. Governments may change, laws may change but the rules and guiding principles based on the Word of God which we seek to pass on to our children do not change. Jocabed never questioned her responsibility to protect her child and to teach him those principles. She did not leave it to chance. She had a plan. She knew the enemy. She used all of her God-given gifts and talents and she trusted completely in the faithfulness of her God.
Be encouraged by Jocabed, have faith, lay deep roots in your children’s lives, guard and protect them to the best of your ability and when you have done all and it is time for them to launch out into the deep, have faith.
CARDINAL BRADY PLAYS OPPRESSED MINORITY CARD
Whatever views we might hold on the future of education in Northern Ireland, last autumn’s speech by First Minister, Peter Robinson, in which he called for an end to state funding of faith-based schools, has prompted a lively debate. And it certainly got the Church of Rome in something of a twist. Indeed, its spokespersons were virtually apoplectic with rage.
In his comments, Cardinal Brady used language reminiscent of the mindset in which Irish Catholics perceive themselves to be a downtrodden and persecuted minority. He spoke of "justice" and "second class citizens" and said that Catholics were "not going to lie down on this issue". It's clear then from the Cardinal's remarks that the Irish Catholic martyrdom complex is never too far from the surface. Indeed, one was almost expecting some mention of the mass rocks!
Schools run by the Church of Rome have been generously funded since the formation of the state, and those of us who are not only not Roman Catholics but who oppose the teachings of that church, are entitled to ask why our money - especially now in these days of austerity - should contribute towards the propagation of such teachings. If the Roman Church wishes to maintain its separate system, then it really ought to fund it itself. It is surely rich enough to do so.
Further, Brady and his whingeing cohorts are really in no position to lecture the rest of us about how Catholic schools are paragons of moral and ethical values in an age of secularism. Does this not sound rather hollow in view of the child abuse scandals? Not only does it sound hollow, but it is breathtaking in its arrogance and hypocrisy, and it is yet a further reminder of the inherent character and nature of the Church of Rome.
THE CULT OF PERSONALITY
At a time of financial cuts, very legitimate questions have been asked as to why officials in the health service have spent so much money on training courses which have involved high travel and subsistence costs. No-one doubts the benefits of relevant training in any walk of life, but we face severe pressures on vital front-line health services at this time, and there can be no justification for extravagance.
Apparently, some of the training courses involved personality testing. This type of course content has been very much in fashion across the public sector in recent years, but serious questions have to be asked about the methodology and ideology underpinning such personality tests. Some argue that it is just a bit of light-hearted analysis, but if that is the case, the expense cannot be justified. More worryingly, personality testing has become something of a cult, and, in its assessment of the human personality, it is far removed from the teaching of the Word of God. Rather, it is based on the dubious psychology of Carl Jung and Isabel Briggs Myers. We would argue that public money should never be spent on this sort of “training” and we would urge Christians to warn against it if appears in their place of work.
PLANS TO EXTEND SUNDAY OPENING OF SHOPS MUST BE OPPOSED
Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood, announced in December (just before we went to press) that he wanted to review current restrictions on the opening of shops on Sunday. Deploying an economic argument, Mr Attwood said, “Consumers now have greater expectations. Allowing earlier opening on Sundays could boost the local economy, benefit the tourist industry and support regeneration of town and city centres. This would be very useful in the current economic environment and going forward”.
Economic regeneration is certainly an important consideration as we seek to emerge as quickly as possible from recession and financial cuts, but it can never be used as a reason to further erode the sanctity of the Lord’s Day. The laws on Sunday opening are tighter inNorthern Irelandthan other parts of theUK, but it doesn’t seem that long ago since Christians protested outsideBelfastcity centre shops which had opened on Sundays in the run-up to Christmas. We have moved radically downhill since then, and Sunday opening all year round is commonplace.
Arguments about the economy and freedom of choice are popular ones, and are even used by some who profess to be Christians, but we flaunt God’s law at our peril. And where is the freedom of choice for Christian shop-workers who do not wish to work on a Sunday? Mr Attwood says he wishes to retain the tradition of Sunday as a family day. The best way to do that is to reduce commercial activity to minimum (thus reducing much of the hussle and bussle of traffic etc) and allow society to take a break for a day. We would also encourage families to attend church.
We urge you to make your views known on this matter without delay. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 028 90829521 or write to the Social Policy Unit, Dept for Social Development, 4th Floor, Lighthouse Building, 1 Cromac Place, Belfast BT7 2JB.
RESIGNATION OF REV ERIC CULBERTSON
We regret to announce that Rev Eric Culbertson, who joined the Council of EPS in 2001 when he was rector of Newmills Church of Ireland in Co Tyrone, has decided, for personal reasons, to step down from EPS, and his resignation was reluctantly accepted at the Council meeting on 15 November last. Eric has been a good supporter of our work and has played an important part in our Council during the past decade. In stepping down from EPS he has wished us God’s blessing for the future and we, in turn, thank him for his encouragement, support and friendship and we wish him well in his new role at Armagh Cathedral and in his future ministry.
WINSTON CHURCHILL ON THE AV
The scholars who produced this masterpiece are mostly unknown and unremembered. But they forged an enduring link, literary and religious, between the English-speaking people of the world.
TRINITARIAN BIBLE SOCIETY PRESS RELEASE
Over nearly 180 years, the Society has been remarkably blessed by the Lord with all the resources necessary to carry on, and indeed at times, expand its work. More recently, a particular feature of this provision has been the wonderful supply of significant funds through legacies. In the late 2000s, a deliberate policy was followed to utilise these substantial surpluses towards future expansion of the work, particularly in relation to translator projects. However, by the end of 2009, in the light of the economic downturn, and the not unnatural result of lower levels of sales receipts and donations, the Society had to accept that the excess income from earlier legacies was all but exhausted and the Society's cash reserves were depleted.
As a result the Society is no longer in a position to maintain spending at present levels. For 2010 a reduced expenditure budget meant that some activities have been curtailed or suspended, but a significant deficit of £575,000 is still being projected for 2010 here in theUK. Major contributing factors are a reduction of nearly 20% in the sales of Bibles and smaller Scripture items compared with the equivalent period in 2009 and a reduction of nearly 50% in donations. Further budgetary reductions, which it is still hoped will be only temporary, are therefore needed in 2011.
In the realm of projected expenditure, the Society has made significant financial investment in major translation projects, namely the Spanish, Hebrew, French, Mongolian and Romanian Bibles, which it is hoped will generate substantial interest in the years to come. Some of these projects have taken longer to bring to fruition than had been anticipated, which has in turn inevitably placed long-term pressure on the Society's resources.
The General Committee and Management of the Society are actively considering a variety of proposals which will, with the Lord's blessing, bring the Society safely through the current financial challenges it faces. The process of self-examination and humble prayerful dependence upon the Lord in order to determine His mind on the matter, and His leading through these difficulties, has been under way for some considerable time at Board and senior management level. Recently, the Society's members and supporters, both individuals and hundreds of congregations throughout the world, have received a letter seeking their prayers.
All the Society's activities are being scrutinised and actions are being taken to ensure that a balanced budget can be adopted for 2011. However, some of these measures, if implemented, will prove painful, including the slowing down of some translation work, the further reducing of the granting of Bibles and other Scriptures, and staff reductions.
On behalf of the General Committee and the staff, the Society seeks your prayers at this difficult time that not only would the Lord provide for its financial needs, but also that He would reveal unto the Society His will in the matter, and that He will grant it much wisdom to know where cutbacks might be made should they be deemed necessary. All concerned at the Society fervently believe that its vital work must and will continue, but they acknowledge their total dependence upon the gracious Hand of God to supply according to His own promise"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:"(2 Cor 9. 8).
SPURGEON ON THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION
This one sentence, “The just shall live by his faith,” produced the Reformation. Out of this one line, as from the opening of one of the Apocalyptic seals, came forth all that sounding of gospel trumpets, and all that singing of gospel songs, which made in the world a sound like the noise of many waters. This one seed, forgotten and hidden away in the dark medieval times, was brought forth, dropped into the human heart, made by the Spirit of God to grow, and in the end to produce great results.
"I BELIEVE….THE APOSTLES’ CREED SIMPLY EXPLAINED”
(Day One Publications 2010, Paperback, 91pp. £6.00)
Regular readers of theUlster Bulwark will be familiar with the name of the author of this new book, for Dr Timothy Cross is also is the author of the very popular and highly regarded “Meet…” series which appears regularly in our magazine. Dr Cross’s book on the Apostles Creed will also prove popular and valuable.
As one who grew up in the Church of Ireland, I was familiar with the Apostles’ Creed from an early age, as it was recited each week during church worship. And, as a child, I remember being fascinated by how the grown-ups bowed their heads at the mention of Jesus Christ.
The Apostles’ Creed is an excellent summary of the key tenets of the historic Biblical faith. It one of the early expressions of Christian doctrine and, although its precise origins are unclear, it is thought to have originated in the 2nd century—just half a century after the death of the apostle John.
Although it is firmly rooted in sound doctrine, this is not a dry theological book. The author devotes a chapter to each of the twelve sections of the Creed, and his fresh analysis helps to cast new light on each of the key truths. Here are truths that we should all know and love. As the book itself asserts, whether you are a recent convert or have been a Christian for many years, this book will help you to gain a firmer grounding in the fundamental of Biblical Christianity. It is highly recommended. Editor
“THE FIVE POINTS OF CALVINISM”
(Free Church ofScotland[Continuing]; 2010, booklet, 20pp, £2.00, or £1.50 for 10 or more copies. Assemblies Clerks’ office, Free Church Manse, Portmahomack, Tain,Ross-shire IV20 1YL).
The historic “five points” of Calvinism, or “TULIP” as they are sometimes known, are an extremely sound and useful summary of pivotal Bible truths. Of course, Calvinism is much more than these “five points”, and indeed they were not formulated in these terms until the 17th century controversy with the followers of Jacob Arminius. In these days of doctrinal vagueness and compromise, all believers should be familiar with the five points and this little booklet by Rev John Keddie (the first in a new series entitled “Finding out about…”) is a useful and handy addition to existing material on the subject. In a short few pages, he sets the ‘five points’ in their historical and doctrinal context and, after dealing with each point in turn, he draws some helpful conclusions, urging us to “exult those doctrines”, and also provides us with some additional reading matter. Editor