Friday, 30 December 2011

Top 10 theology stories this year


Collin Hansen offers his top 10 theology stories of 2011 here. Agree or disagree with his selection, and assessment, you're bound to find it an interesting read.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Helpless

'Lying helpless as a baby
Just think of it; the Son of God, Jesus, the one through whom all things were made, the Word that is in the bosom of the Father, the Word that was God from the beginning, the eternal absolute Son enjoying all the full prerogatives of deity from everlasting to everlasting – lying helpless as a baby in a manger. And all that you and I might be saved and reconciled to God.'
Martyn Lloyd-Jones
(Fellowship with God)


For similar reflections from Edwards, Spurgeon and Sam Storms, see this post from last year:

For a basic explanation of what the incarnation is about see this pdf poster from The Resurgence

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Personal Update 15 December 2011

This weeks MRI scan results showed no change. Obviously we would have liked the remnants of the tumour to have disappeared entirely, but the medical staff expected no change and essentially it means there is no cause for concern.

My bloods were a little lower than we would like again, but I have been able to proceed with the same dosage of chemotherapy and the same timescale. This means I'll be off chemo for Christmas and the New Year which, needless to say, we're delighted about.

Thanks for your continued love, support and prayers

Ross

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The ‘God Particle’?


A Higgs Boson walks into a chapel and is stopped by a priest.
The priest says 'Hey, you're not welcome here. You call yourself the 'God' particle and that’s blasphemous.'
The Higgs Boson protests 'But without me, how could you have mass?'

The nickname of this (potentially) newly discovered particle is unfortunate. I believe it’s been called the ‘God- particle’ because -like God- it is present everywhere, and whilst it cannot be seen, its effects can. The problem is people seem to be assuming from the name that it in some way threatens theism. Not so. To put it in the most simple terms possible, if the universe was created by a big bang- where did the stuff to go bang come from? Even leaving aside questions of meaning, purpose, beauty, good and evil which science cannot answer, the Higgs Boson offers no threat to Christianity that I can see.

I don’t believe Christians have anything to fear from science, every new discovery (whilst provisional) ought to make us marvel all the more at the Creator of this unimaginably complex and beautiful universe.

The Good Book Blog echoes some of these thoughts here:
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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Same-sex marriage consultation: some thoughts & resources



I don’t expect a world hostile to God to live under Christ’s Lordship. This being the case, I’ve always chosen to make my primary battleground the fight to see the church acknowledge the Lordship of Christ in belief and in practice, and to call the world to repentance and faith in Him. Even if the world’s understanding of morality and sexuality was in relative accord with the Bible’s, it would not change the fact that those who reject Jesus, will ultimately face God’s rejection and judgement. 'The work of God is to believe in the one he sent' (John 6:29). Therefore if I’m honest I get much more hot under the collar about those within the church who seek to deny clear biblical teaching they regard as unpalatable.

Nevertheless I do believe we are called to be salt and light, to love our communities and seek the best for them. I don’t believe redefining marriage will help our society. And it is a redefinition of marriage that is being proposed. Our laws recognise marriage, but they did not invent it, nor should they have the authority to redefine it.

Undoubtedly we’ll be misunderstood and maligned, but if we love our nation we will, graciously but clearly, state our convictions on marriage at this time.

The Scottish Government Consultation on the Registration of Civil Partnerships, Same Sex Marriage and Related Issues ends on Thursday 9 December. You can still complete the consultation online here (click on 'online response form').

It is a complex document, if you want help from a Christian perspective the following briefings are available:

Consultation Guides: 

Care for Scotland (contains advice on every consultation question)

Evangelical Alliance (general reflection on the consultation)

See also:


Scotland for Marriage Campaign and Petition

Baptist Union of Scotland Resolution on Marriage



Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Happy St Andrews Day!


 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). 
And he brought him to Jesus.

(John 1:40-42)


Monday, 14 November 2011

Rev David Robertson update


Was very moved by a recent update from David Robertson's son on his dad's health:

'An update on Dad: There hasn't been much said in the past few days because things haven't been going well. His sedation was increased on Sunday and they've had him asleep since then. The damage to his lungs is still severe and today mum was told by the doctors that it's 50/50 weather he'll live or die. I write this with great anguish and a heavy heart but not without hope. There is still a hope that he'll make it through this, but there is a better hope he has and we have. A hope that does not waver and is 100% certain. That is the hope of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus has already removed Dad's biggest problem, it's not the deterioration of his lungs but something more deadly... his sin. Christ has saved him from that. Tomorrow I go down with Becky to Dundee, knowing that this may be the last time I see my Dad... till Christ returns and "everything sad is made untrue."' 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14.

David is the minister of St Peter's Free Church Dundee and Chairman of Solas Centre for Public Christianity. Please pray for him and his family at this time.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Reform Begins- Part 2



Following on from Sola Scriptura, the assertion that Scripture holds the place of ultimate authority, came four more solas; sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus and soli Deo gloria.

Sola Gratia: (grace alone)

Here is the teaching that separates Christianity from all other religions and philosophies. Every other religion gives advice on how to live if you want to reach heaven\nirvana\fulfilment\happiness\enlightenment… ‘Do A B and C and you might just be able to earn it.’

I suspect most people think Christianity is another voice in that great assembly, preaching moral living that it’s particular God might be satisfied.  

But Christianity does not declare: ‘God is good, you be good and he’ll accept you.’

God is too good! And you have already failed. You’ll never earn it. You need grace. Not a combination of God’s grace and your goodness, grace alone welcomes us into God’s favour and presence.

When we have been accepted by God, as his much loved children we do good things. But it’s a grateful response from acceptance, not a pitiful plea for acceptance.

It’s all grace, all gift.

(It’s worth noting that there is another error common within the church today, to speak of grace as being nice and not judging other people. Well it may be nice to be nice, but grace is about forgiveness for sin.)

Sola fide (faith alone)

What is the means by which we lay hold of this great gift of grace? Is it automatic? Do I need to belong to a certain race, be born in a certain country, partake in certain religious rituals?

No, the gift of God’s grace is received by faith.

Not just believing that God exists, or just that he loves you. I would even go so far as to say not just believing in the sense of mental assent to the truth that Christ died for you.

But trusting, trusting in Jesus life and death and resurrection.

Solus Christus (Christ alone)

Which leads us to Solus Christus. Faith in Christ alone.

Faith in his life- without sin in our place.
Faith in his death- for sin in our place.
Faith in his resurrection- conquering sin in our place.

Someone has said that Jesus lived the life we could not live, died the death we deserved to die, to secure for us the gift we could never afford!

Soli Deo Gloria

Justification (being made right with God) is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Who then gets the credit, the glory? God alone!

Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-10:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-  not by works, so that no one can boast.

Salvation is gift- from start to finish. All gift, all grace. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone, not by good works or rites and rituals performed by the church on our behalf. That’s what Luther and the Reformers were willing to take their stand for, and I -for one- am glad they did.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Reform Begins- the monk & the mallot



Happy Reformation Day! On October 31 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenberg. Its focus was on the teaching that led to the sale of indulgences, but behind the 95 points Luther made, lay a handful of convictions which would later become great slogans of the Reformation; Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria.


Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

Few in the Roman Catholic Church of Luther’s day would have suggested that the Bible was unimportant or irrelevant, however neither did it hold the place of ultimate authority. To suggest that the Bible alone served as that supreme authority was in turn to challenge the authority of the pope and the church. If Luther was right, their teachings and traditions would have to be tested against Scripture. Nailing his thesis to the church door would eventually lead Luther to stand before the diet of Worms (diet as in council and Worms as in the place- nothing to do with eating wee beasties) 4 years later and famously state:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

For his own safety he was seized and locked away in a castle where he devoted himself to translating the Bible into German, that ordinary people might encounter this authoritative God-breathed Word.

The Church has changed much in 500 years, yet there is nothing new under the sun. This question of authority is as pertinent as ever. No one in evangelicalism would deny that the Bible is important, few would explicitly state it to be a subordinate authority (including, I would hope, Baptists- more on that soon) but when it comes to the crunch I’m not sure that we would all take our stand like Luther. We fear sounding outdated if we question the wisdom of our secular culture, or looking unloving if we challenge false teaching in the church, or missing out on some perceived happiness that we think could be ours if we sidestep the Bible’s authority over our own thoughts feelings and desires.

Have a listen to some contemporary Christian preaching, a read of some contemporary Christian books, consider carefully the role they give to Scripture and come to your own conclusion as to whether my assessment is overly pessimistic or not! Is Scripture the final authority or is that privileged position reserved for the speaker’s experience or the hearer’s demands?

Then examine your own reading of Scripture and the role it plays in your life. Is it your final authority, or are you?

Take-in!  ‘If our Bibles remain sitting on our shelves and studied only by academics, they might as well have remained in Latin and chained to pulpits
(Burk Parsons) 

Live-out!  'Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.'
(James 1:22)

 Grow-up!  'Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked... his delight is in the law of the LORD,
    and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season  and whose leaf does not wither.'
(Psalm 1:1-3)
   

 This first ‘sola’ essentially laid the foundation for the remaining 4 (not to mention the Reformation itself) tomorrow I’ll reflect a little further on them.


Monday, 17 October 2011

Frogs and Lizards


I found this analogy from the Good Book Blog quite helpful, (not sure I'd have the courage to call the congregation 'lizards' from the pulpit of though!)

Evangelism is an intrinsic part of any healthy church. It’s part of gospel community. It shapes our gospel teaching. And perhaps it’s helpful to outline two potential approaches to evangelism a gospel-centered church can have: frog-centered, and lizard-centered.

FROGS AND LIZARDS

Frogs are very good at catching flies with their long tongues. They stay on their lily pad, waiting for that fly to come close.
Lizards are not so good at catching flies. But they move around. They see more flies, and some they catch.
There may be a lot of biology-related holes in this analogy (if there are, blame the Lausanne Conference for World Evangelisation 1989—that seems to be where it was first used). But it’s a helpful way of thinking about evangelism... 

A JOB FOR PROS?

Could it be that often we (consciously or subconsciously) think of evangelism as a job for the pros, the people who work for the church? They’re great at explaining and defending the gospel—they have long tongues!
Problem is, the pros don’t get around that much. They’re not in the workplaces; not at the school gates; not in the sports clubs. That’s where the lizards, the ordinary church members, are. They come into contact with a lot more flies (non-Christians) than the professionals.
Every day, the church membership can be seeking to evangelise far, far more people than the church leadership ever can—particularly in a time when cultural reasons for contact with church leaders... are fading.

Read the full article here.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Siri fae Scotland?

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I must admit I was tempted by this:



Before remembering this:



Thursday, 6 October 2011

Steve Jobs

The blogosphere is understandably full of reflection on the life, and death, of Steve Jobs. I want to direct your attention to two Christian responses to the statement he released in 2005 about his cancer diagnosis. Firstly, Adrian Warnock reflects positively on Job's call to live each day like it were your last. Secondly, Mike Anderson questions his assertion that death is to be viewed as 'a great invention', rather than our greatest enemy.

Friday, 30 September 2011

MRI Results September 2011


On Tuesday 20 September I received results of a recent MRI scan, it's the first set of results we've had since the chemotherapy started. We were hoping for no spread, no growth, and maybe even some shrinkage of the tumour. The results were excellent, the tumour has shrunk greatly and my brain itself is looking much better.

These were very important results, and we're deeply thankful for them and for those throughout the world who have been labouring in prayer for us.

With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; His love endures forever. (Psalm 136.12)


If you'd like to hear me on a late-night ramble about the scan results, you can in the videos below!

The second video ends with a song by Chris Tomlin called 'Our God' from the album 'And if our God is for us.' It's a song that has meant a lot to us throughout the period from the original diagnosis to receiving these results.







Previous Updates:

28 July Health Update
20 May An Update
24 April View from the Valley

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Christianity, courage and convictions

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Euan Murray on refusing to play for Scotland on Sunday:

"It's basically all or nothing, following Jesus. I don't believe in pick 'n' mix Christianity,I believe the Bible is the word of God, so who am I to ignore something from it?I might as well tear out that page then keep tearing out pages as and when it suits me. If I started out like that there would soon be nothing left."
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More in this yahoo article. You can imagine the response here in secular Scotland, by reading the comments!
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Thursday, 15 September 2011

A Glorious Gospel!



(i)            Outline why God's Gospel of grace is so glorious

The Gospel is glorious because it is Good News that speaks of a glorious God.

Firstly the Gospel speaks of a God who is so perfect and pure that we cannot reach up to Him. He’s too high, too holy. And as a just God he will not sweep our sin under the carpet. This is no compromised God that the Gospel speaks of.

Secondly the Gospel speaks of a God who is so loving that though we were unable to reach up to Him, He reached down to us in Christ, took our guilt and shame and gifts forgiveness and fellowship to all who will trust in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

That’s glorious Good News that speaks of a glorious God.


(ii)          What are the dangers of getting the Gospel wrong?

As the Gospel speaks of the very nature of God, getting the gospel wrong means getting our understanding of God wrong. We end up worshipping a god who is less than the true and living God revealed to us in Christ.

Secondly the Gospel not only speaks about the nature of God, but shows us the way to Him. Therefore our very salvation is at stake. See Galatians 1:6-12 for how seriously Paul took getting the Gospel right. To abandon the true Gospel is to abandon the true God.


(iii)     What safeguards should the Christian have in place to ensure ongoing faithfulness to the Gospel?

We should be people who love and value:

The Bible which reveals the true Gospel.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper which remind us of the Gospel.
A local Church which is nothing less than a Gospel community.

And we should be discerning; we would be wrong to assume that there are no false gospels being preached in our churches, or Christian books, or popular hymns today. We would also be wrong to assume that they are any less subtle or any less damaging than they were in the days Paul wrote to the church in Galatia.

The Good News is so good, so glorious, that we must guard it, treasure it, tell it, teach it and live in accordance with it!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Glorious Gospel?


Here are a few questions I was emailed recently:

(i) Why is God's Gospel of grace so glorious?

(ii) What are the dangers of getting the Gospel wrong?

(iii) What safeguards should the Christian have in place to ensure ongoing faithfulness to the Gospel?

How would you answer those questions?

I’ll post my attempt tomorrow, for now you can read responses from Peter Grainger, Wayne Sutton, Derek Prime, Colin Adams, and Craig Dyer here.
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Friday, 2 September 2011

The Great Physician


This is a very interesting little peep into the house of the apostolic fisherman. We quickly observe that household joys and cares are no hindrance to the full exercise of ministry; rather they furnish an opportunity for personally discovering the Lord's gracious work in one's own family. They may provide better instruction for the teacher than any other earthly discipline. There are those who decry marriage, but true Christianity and family life live well together. Peter's house was possibly a poor fisherman's hut, but the Lord of Glory entered it, lodged in it, and worked a miracle in it. If these words are being read this morning in some very humble cottage, let this fact encourage the inhabitants to seek the company of King Jesus. God is more often in little huts than in rich palaces.
Jesus is looking around your room now and is waiting to be gracious to you. Into Simon's house illness had entered; fever in a deadly form had prostrated his mother-in-law; and as soon as Jesus came, they told Him of the sad affliction, and He hurried to the patient's bed. Do you have any illness in the house this morning? You will find Jesus the best physician by far; go to Him at once and tell Him all about the matter. Immediately lay the case before Him. It concerns one of His people, and therefore He will not regard it as trivial. Notice that immediately the Saviour restored the ill woman; none can heal as He does. We dare not assume that the Lord will remove all illness from those we love, but we dare not forget that believing prayer for the sick is far more likely to be followed by restoration than anything else in the world; and where this does not happen, we must meekly bow to His will by whom life and death are determined. The tender heart of Jesus waits to hear our griefs; let us pour them into His patient ear.

From Truth for Life's Daily Devotionals

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Why youth stay in Church when they grow up

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Have a look at this great article by Jon Nielson.

A must read for all Christian young people, youthworkers, pastors and parents.
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Thursday, 28 July 2011

Health update


Just a wee update on my progress. 
You can read about the background in two earlier posts here and here.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Gospel and the oncology waiting room

by Mike Pohlman

I recently sat with my wife in the waiting room at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. We were there to meet with Dr. Lupe Salazar to receive the results of Julia’s latest PET/CT scans. The goal: to determine if the cancer was progressing. This drill is an example of our “new normal” since the diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer on Mother’s Day weekend in 2009.
Julia and I talk a lot. In fact, there is no one I would rather visit with on a daily basis. But in oncology waiting rooms, we often find ourselves quiet. Cancer clinics have a way of making you measure your words. And as you consider and feel the weight of why you’re there, common conversations often yield to silence.
Of course, the iPhone is never far away, and in the silence of one’s thoughts the urge to tweet can become irresistible. Here’s what I wrote that day: “Seminary course suggestion: spend three afternoons a week for a semester in a cancer clinic with your mouth shut watching and listening.”
I was moved to write those words because of what I was witnessing in the waiting room all around me. Emotions such as concern, despair, anger, and bitterness were obvious as I studied the faces, watched the body language, and listened to some of the spoken words. But there were also clear examples of hope and joy as individuals and families came and went. Amid all this, I was gripped by the fact that one of the front-desk assistants spoke to us freely about the “bad day” she was having and how unfortunate it was given that it was not yet noon. Clearly the fact that the couple dozen people in the waiting room were fighting cancer was lost on her — at least for the moment. The cancer patients in that waiting room could just as well have been waiting for haircuts. Alas, for this employee, it was just another day at work filled with mundane tasks of checking in and scheduling people.
The pastorate is all about God and people. As pastors, we have the wonderful (and terrible) privilege of shepherding people to God in Christ every day. Cancer clinics are an indispensable resource for pastors as we strive for faithfulness in our calling, because they keep us grounded in the greatest realities in the universe... 

Read the whole article here

Saturday, 9 July 2011

A beginner’s guide to living, and dying, in joy

  
I thoroughly enjoyed heading east to the Faith Mission Convention last week. The highlight was hearing Alistair Begg preach on Romans 12:1-3.

During his message he mentioned the first two questions found in the Heidelburg Catechism:


What is your only comfort in life and death?                                                                  

And

What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

Big questions, it’d be worth stopping here and thinking about how you’d answer, but here’s how the catechism tackles them:


1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?                                                                   
 A. That I am not my own,[1] but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death,[2] to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.[3] He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.[5] He also preserves me in such a way[6] that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;[7] indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.[8] Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life[9] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.[10]
[1] I Cor. 6:19, 20 [2] Rom. 14:7-9. [3] I Cor. 3:23; Tit. 2:14. [4] I Pet. 1:18, 19; I John 1:7; 2:2. [5] John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14, 15; I John 3:8. [6] John 6:39, 40; 10:27-30; II Thess. 3:3; I Pet. 1:5. [7] Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18. [8] Rom. 8:28. [9] Rom. 8:15, 16; II Cor. 1:21, 22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13, 14. [10] Rom. 8:14.
Description: http://www.wts.edu/images/horizDots.gif
2. Q. What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. First, how great my sins and misery are;[1]
second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery;[2]
third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.[3]
[1] Rom. 3:9, 10; I John 1:10. [2] John 17:3; Acts 4:12; 10:43. [3] Matt. 5:16; Rom. 6:13; Eph. 5:8-10; I Pet. 2:9, 10.


You can read the rest of the Heidelbueg Catechism here

Kevin DeYoung has written a really good book on the Heidelberg Catechism called ‘The good news we almost forgot’ preview available here.

Here’s something of what he has to say about the first question:

Heidelberg is asking, "What is your solace in life? What is your only real security?”…

…it poses the most important question we will ever face. What enables you to endure life and face death unafraid? Is it that you read your Bible every day? That you attend church every Sunday? That you give to the poor? That you have a cushy retirement account saved up? That you haven’t committed any of the big sins in life?

 We live in a world where we expect to find comfort in possessions, pride, power and position. But the Catechism teaches us that our only true comfort comes from the fact we don’t even belong to ourselves.

 How countercultural and counterintuitive!

 We endure suffering and disappointment in life and face death and the life to come without the fear of judgement, not because of what we’ve done or what we own or who we are, but because of what we do not possess, namely, our own selves.

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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Happy Anniversary

Happy 5th anniversary Debs!




None But You


Whose tears have soaked my collar dark?
None but yours, no, none but yours.
Whose sorrows leave the deepest mark?
None but yours, no, none but yours.


Who gave herself to me alone?
None but you, no, none but you.
Who is the only one I’ve known?
None but you, no, none but you.


There is no other I desire
None but you, no, none but you.
Till death my deepest friend, my fire:
None but you, no, none but you.


John Piper from Velvet Steel
Available for free download here

Friday, 20 May 2011

An Update


Nearly a month since my last post! I know many people will have been reading the church updates here. But allow me to tell you where we’re at now here on the blog.

The Operation

The operation was a success, but because the tumour was inside the brain it wasn’t possible to remove it all. The surgeon was able to take most of it out, and it was then sent for tests.

The good news was that I came out of the operation without any weakness down my left hand side, or any other mental or physical concerns.

The Results

Brain tumours are graded from 1-4. 1 and 2 are regarded as less aggressive, benign tumours. Grades 3 and 4 are more aggressive, malignant tumours. The early indications we were given suggested that we might be looking at a less aggressive tumour, however the tests revealed it was a grade 3. The tumour had almost certainly been growing for many years, and had transitioned from a grade 2 into a grade 3 recently. This is what would have led to the recent severe headaches and seizure.

Obviously this was not the news we wanted to hear, but a further meeting with the oncologist revealed some good signs. The tumour is one that is expected to respond well to chemotherapy- and if and when I need it -radiotherapy too. It’s also good that the tumour was a grade 2 as some of it may still be grade 2 and not grade 3. Finally, this type of tumour doesn't transition to a grade 4.  

For those still reading and keen to do more Googling it’s a Grade 3 Oligodendroglioma!

The Beatson

Scan

Myself and Debs saw the pre and post op MRI scans for the first time on Tuesday. The tumour in the pre-op scan was clear and sizable. The post-op scan is always a little less clear because you have brain, some tumour and swelling. What is clear is that there is now a big hole in my head (cue the airhead jokes) but the good news is that the oncologists are happy with what they see in the scan. I think the surgeon basically managed to get all of the tumour he could without causing me damage. We were both really thankful that there were no unwanted surprises on the post-op scan.

Chemotherapy

We had gone to the Beaston on Tuesday expecting me to receive my first dose of chemotherapy, but the oncologist was keen for us to take the time to digest the information and plan before starting the chemo. So we got the relevant information and I’ll go back to the Beatson this Tuesday to collect my drugs and start the chemo on Wednesday through to Sunday.

There are a number of positives with regard to the treatment. Firstly, I’ll be able to get my bloods done on the Monday before treatment in Airdrie to save me time when I go to the Beatson on Tuesdays. Secondly, all being well with my bloods, I’ll be able to take the drugs home and take them myself for the five days. Thirdly, the medical staff are fairly confident that my age and condition will stand me in good stead with regard to some of the possible side-effects. I’ve been assured that they are usually less severe than people anticipate. Fourthly, the staff are happy to tailor the chemotherapy around my individual circumstances where necessary ie holidays\important church events etc.

The chemo will be given over five days every four weeks. That works out at 13 sessions over the year.

There are no guarantees as to the impact the chemotherapy will have on the tumour. It’s not impossible that it will shrink, I think it’s more likely that the aim is to prevent further growth for as long as is possible (the chemo should have an impact on the tumour well beyond the year of treatment itself.) Whilst there are no guarantees – and this is clearly a point for prayer- the medical staff are upbeat. This type of tumour is expected to respond well to treatment.

I’ll be subject to MRI scans every three months to monitor the tumour. At some point in the future I’ll almost certainly have to have radiotherapy, but this can cause some damage to the brain hence the decision to start with chemotherapy.


Tiredness

Over the past ten days or so I’ve been very drained. After the operation I had good days and bad days, but even in the bad days I’d have one or two spells where I felt ok. Recently I’ve had whole days feeling exhausted. That’s been quite demoralising for me and concerning for Deborah. We were really pleased that the oncologist at the Beatson told us this was normal and to be expected. I was on a high dose of steroids to reduce swelling in the brain, having come off those steroids- the artificial energy they provide has left me and the full after effect of the operation has hit home. I’m hoping and praying for a wee bit more energy daily.

Longer Term

I know my life expectancy has been altered fairly significantly in the past month, but we’re still praying for healing. I have a lot of privileges and responsibilities that mean an awful lot to me, so I’m praying that I am given time here to invest in them. Family and church don’t feel like short term projects! I would love to go for a scan and be told there was no tumour, and I believe that to be possible, but to be honest if I have to live with that constant question mark over my life that’s ok. Really we all live with the question mark or we live in denial anyway. One of the most important things a pastor can do is to die well, and I’m praying that if that happens sooner than I had anticipated, I’ll be given the grace to model that well to the church. However I do believe all things are possible for God and I don’t feel –as subjective as my feelings are- that this is imminent. The words of Psalm 91, for example, have been such a living source of strength and encouragement to us in these days.

Medically we are being told that this is something that we will have to live with and manage. But there are some really good signs, and I’m being prepared by the NHS staff for years of life. Whilst there are no guarantees there seems an expectation that I will be able to move towards a new-normality.

It’s hard to speak about every day being a gift without it sounding terribly clich├ęd and twee but that’s the reality that we’re experiencing in a new way at the moment. Every day is a gift, every day we receive the grace we need for any challenges we face, we continue to receive all the support we could ever have hoped for from friends, family and the church family.

Another Psalm that’s been very special to us in these days is Psalm 40:

  He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
  he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.

  He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
  Many will see and fear
    and put their trust in the LORD.

That’s often the pattern in the Psalms, a new experience of God’s grace and mercy, a new deliverance from danger or death, leads to a new song. I’ve never been a singer, but I have a new song to speak, a new sermon to preach!

My real desire is to get back behind that lectern in Airdrie Baptist to sing that song. But I also hope to be able to use this blog in coming days to reflect upon some of the truths I’ve been reflecting on, enjoying and experiencing in a new way through this time.

God-willing I’ll start that tomorrow!..

Monday, 25 April 2011

Psalm 121



My Help Comes from the LORD

A Song of Ascents.

121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The View from the Valley

No one wants to be diagnosed with a brain tumour. A craniotomy still sounds to me like a medieval form of torture, or at best an early Victorian form of surgery when lusty butchers hacked away with lots of gusto and little precision. This is not something I would have chosen to have faced, but I feel as well prepared as possible, and I want to share why.

I’m quite familiar with hospitals.

Normally I pop in, have a chat, read a passage from the bible, pray- then it’s back out to the car and home. It’s been an altogether different experience of late. Here I am in the valley. And I’m pleased to report, there is much to be thankful for, even here.

I watched Question Time recently and one panellist lamented ‘where is Florence Nightingale?’ speaking of the nurses she had encountered in the NHS and complaining that it was to them a profession rather than a vocation. Well our Florence Nightingale’s are all in the Monklands and Southern and General Hospitals. They are professionals- and I’m pleased to know that before I pop the pills they provide, but they lack nothing in care and compassion. I am therefore very reluctant to offer any criticism of them. One thing however I have had to correct is when they say to me –knowing I’m a minister- ‘its good you have your faith.’ Maybe it’s a phrase you’ve used before, I’ve heard it repeatedly in the last few days. But the reality is my faith is no help to me. It’s the Object of my faith who matters.

When I hear the phrase ‘its good you have your faith’ I respond ‘I have a great God’. My faith is powerless to help, to heal to comfort or console, but the One I have faith in is my Rock my Redeemer my Refuge and my Rest.

Commending me for my faith as if it’s something I’ve worked hard to earn is to totally miss the point. I have great hope, because I have a great God.

There is a peculiar peace and even joy in suffering as a Christian. Spurgeon said   'I have learned to kiss the wave that strikes me against the rock that is Christ.' These past few days have driven us deeper to God. We have known the presence of the living Lord and the power of prayer. Every day God has gifted us the grace we’ve needed and we trust in that grace for the day tomorrow!

I’m pleased to report that the passages I’ve read to others in difficult days are proving true sources of strength and peace in the valley. I’ve been dwelling in some very familiar places; Psalm 23, John 14, Romans 8, Psalm 103. What power there is in these words.


God has prepared us for this so well in many ways, recently I’ve been reading Bonar’s biography of McCheyne (buy this if you can!) a minister of the gospel who suffered much, but whose sufferings bore much fruit.

McCheyne also knew he was a sinner. When suffering came there was no anger, no ‘why me’, no questioning of God’s sovereignty or goodness. I have to say a lot of man-centred rubbish which passes for Christian literature today would have left me totally unprepared for the valley.

I am a sinner. A few non-Christian friends have been surprised that a minister- (surely a good guy) and a nice minister, and a young minister would face something like this. The reality is Jesus does not promise his followers a life of comfort and ease, infact he promises the opposite. But he does promise his presence and peace to those who turn to and trust in him. He is faithful to that promise and to his people.

Neither have I any cause for complaint. I have not just broken his commandments, I’ve broken the one Jesus called the most important.

Actually I’ve broken it every day.
Truth be told, I’m not convinced I’ve perfectly fulfilled it for five minutes of my 31 years of life.

And yet for 31 years he’s let me breathe his air.

I don’t know how many times my heart has beaten, or my lungs have filled over these years but I’ve not earned a single breath or beat. I never earned my way into existence in 1980, and haven’t made up for that since. It’s all gift, all grace. We all like to think we’re good people. That the scales of our lives tip the right way, for that reason people put ministers like me on a pedestal. The truth is we’re all sinners, we’ve all treated the God who gifts us life as if he didn’t matter, we all need forgiveness. And its only found in Jesus.

Only in Jesus has a truly good man got what he didn’t deserve- he got it on the cross, to take the punishment of every believer.

I believe God is going to heal me, but I don’t fear death, not because I’m good, because I’m forgiven. I know God’s smile in the valley, he is for me, he is with me, he goes before me.

If you were to be brought into the valley, would you know this hope and peace? If not, stop praying for me and start praying for yourself. This wee website explains the gospel, but best thing to do is to find a strong Christian and a bible to talk\pray you through this.

As I was saying I have a lot to live for. And a lot to be thankful for.

As well as all the stuff we take for granted- life, food, colour, music, laughter, security etc

I have a loving, faithful, beautiful, loyal, godly wife
A beautiful wee girl who can make me weep just by calling me daddy
A great mum and wee brother who have loved me so well throughout my life
A church family who have been overwhelmingly kind, thoughtful, patient, prayerful, and loving.

Death for me as a Christian is gain.

But I’m not ashamed to say I’m praying for many more years here with these blessings and responsibilities. I want to be about to vet Katie’s boyfriends, and when if I reluctantly concede to one, to walk her down the aisle!

Matt Chandler sums it up better than I could. He’s a young minister like me, with a hot young wife and cute young daughter like me, suffered a sudden seizure like me, was diagnosed with a tumour in the right frontal lobe like me, requiring a craniotomy like me, and was overwhelmed by God’s love in the valley, like me.

Here he is speaking (he’s well worth a Google by the way!)






One more thing people have said to me- ‘it’s a shame you’ve taken so unwell right at your busy time!’

Actually Easter is a good time to face this, because the Easter message is the one that offers joy, not by building on the sand, or by burying your head in it, the Easter message offers joy and perfect peace even in the darkest of valleys.

Thank you for your love and prayers. We have shed many tears over these past few days, but none birthed of despair, most birthed simply in real, deep gratitude. 

Ross

Saturday, 16 April 2011

An acceptable preacher?

.“As a preacher he is earnest and persuasive rather than argumentative. His command of Scripture, imagery, and illustration is intensive; but some of his figures he pursued rather too far. His voice has considerable power; but it is deficient in flexibility. Upon the whole he promises to be an acceptable preacher…”

 This was how the Dundee Advertisor assessed Robert Murray McCheyne’s second sermon in St Peter’s Dundee in 1836, he was 23 years old. Mercifully I have not been subject to the Airdrie Advertisor publically appraising my sermons. That said, I have recently taken to listening to my own preaching, trying to discern strengths and weaknesses, noticing idiosyncrasies that I’ve been blind to for years, and hoping for progress week by week.

Recently as part of my probationary studies I handed out evaluation forms to the congregation. Dangerous as this is (it may give the impression the sermon is a performance to be judged like a reality TV show) it proved worthwhile exercise for preacher and congregation alike. We both need to know what constitutes good preaching.

I was surprised at how few resources there seem to be online for such sermon assessments.

Acts 29 have an online resource here
Biblical Preaching have some feedback questions here
The form I put together is available here

What would you include\exclude on a sermon evaluation form?
Do you know of any other good examples?

Friday, 25 March 2011

Mark Driscoll on hell, sermon preview

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Driscoll on hell as the wrath of God in effect; spoken with clarity, conviction and compassion.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Elephant Room - James Macdonald video

'What this video, and some of the other recent Gospel Coalition videos do offer though, is a real, robust, discussion. A willingness to land a few punches, and take a few, that we might see who’s position can take the strain and stay standing. Another good example of this is Driscoll, Harris and Francis Chan discussing Chan’s decision to leave Cornerstone which relates to my blog post here.

I’ve found this willingness to disagree and debate, in the context of Christian love and genuine mutual respect very refreshing. Modelling this kind of robust yet gracious discussion could prove to be a real blessing to the church. I’m not convinced that ministers are well enough equipped to deal with such discussions with their own deacons\elders. We may not end holding hands and singing Kumbaya but our relationships can be strengthened by such dialogues, if they are handled well.'

I blogged this some time ago, and still think that these guys- agreed on the gospel- but holding different convictions on other matters can model how to disagree and debate well. That's why I was encouraged to hear about this:

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Elephant Room from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Bashir on Bell- even more powerful than the interview

I don't want to turn this blog into an endless discussion about Rob Bell. I want to speak more about what I'm for than what I'm against. But I must share this link. Martin Bashir on the importance of courageous truth-telling, this is really powerful, Bashir pulls no punches:

http://networkedblogs.com/fxXwm

Monday, 14 March 2011

Love Wins: DeYoung review

Kevin DeYoung has now read and reviewed Rob Bell's Love Wins. He summarises by saying:

"Here’s the gist: Hell is what we create for ourselves when we reject God’s love. Hell is both a present reality for those who resist God and a future reality for those who die unready for God’s love. Hell is what we make of heaven when we cannot accept the good news of God’s forgiveness and mercy. But hell is not forever. God will have his way. How can his good purposes fail? Every sinner will turn to God and realize he has already been reconciled to God, in this life or in the next. There will be no eternal conscious torment. God says no to injustice in the age to come, but he does not pour out wrath (we bring the temporary suffering upon ourselves), and he certainly does not punish for eternity. In the end, love wins.
Bell correctly notes (many times) that God is love. He also observes that Jesus is Jewish, the resurrection is important, and the phrase “personal relationship with God” is not in the Bible. He usually makes his argument by referencing Scripture. He is easy to read and obviously feels very deeply for those who have been wronged or seem to be on the outside looking in.
Unfortunately, beyond this, there are dozens of problems with Love Wins. The theology is heterodox. The history is inaccurate. The impact on souls is devastating. And the use of Scripture is indefensible. Worst of all, Love Wins demeans the cross and misrepresents God’s character."


Read the full review on Kevin DeYoung's blog here
Download the pdf here


Tim Challies review here