Thursday, April 20, 2006

Book Review - God, Satan and the Jews

God, Satan and the Jews
Frederick S. Leahy
Cameron Press

With a title like this one you might wonder what sort of a book this is. Perhaps it’s one of those wildly speculative books that links together the Jews with some bizarre end times prophecies. Not from the late Professor Leahy it isn’t. He was a man renowned for basing his thinking securely on what God had revealed, rather than on what we might speculate.

Instead this book is a safe introduction to, as the subtitle puts it, “The place of the Jews in Prophecy and History.” Perhaps you aren’t really sure what the Bible teaches about the Jews now that Jesus has come. Perhaps you’re wondering “What place is there for them in God’s plan?”.

If you’re not sure how to answer – then this is the place to start. In typical concise fashion Prof Leahy lays out the basic teaching of scripture on the place of the Jews. It is a brief book, but it will answer many questions. Not only does he model careful biblical thought, but also he displays a tenderness and love for the Jewish people that we should learn from.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Milford Reformed Presbyterian Church

Here's a map and directions for anyone looking to come to our church in Milford.

Coming from Lettereknny via Ramelton you will be coming in at the bottom right corner of the map.

The Church is the first one you come to as you head out the Kilmacrenan Road.

Service on Sunday morning is at 12 noon.

Map drawn by John Callanan

Monday, April 17, 2006

New Life Fellowship, Letterkenny

Here's directions to where we met in Letterkenny should anyone want to come along some Sunday morning. It would be great to see you.

If you're passing through on holidays or whatever you'd also be welcome to drop by.

  • Coming into Letterkenny from the Dry Arch roundabout go straight on at the next two roundabouts.
  • This will take you up to a set of traffic lights at Main street. Going straight over and down Main street, you pass the square on the right (small area with a bandstand).
  • Take the first road on the left after the square (just before the library).
  • Take the second road off it to the left and the Day Centre is the single storey building at the end.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Trueman on Psalms

I'm reading Wages of Spin by Carl Trueman at the moment. It has a chapter entitled, "What can Miserable Christians sing?" which points to the fact that the book of Psalms with its supremely honest wrestling with emotions provides a praise book for all Christians, no matter whether you are lonely, angry or downright miserable.

As well as that, he touches on the same issue in the next article, The Marcions have landed. Here's a great quote which made me laugh. I like this guy - he doesn't just make his point, he makes it in style:

Then, in our church practice, we need to take the Old Testament more seriously. It astounds me, given the overwhelming use of psalms as central to gathered worship in the first four centuries, the absolute importance given to psalmody for the first two centuries of the post-Reformation Reformed churches, and the fact that the Book of Psalms is the only hymn book which can claim to be universal in its acceptance by the whole of Christendom and utterly inspired in all of its statements - it astounds me, I say, that so few psalms are sung in our worship services today.

Moreover, often nothing seems to earn the scorn and derision of others more than the suggestion that more psalms should be sung in worship. Indeed, the last few years have seen a number of writers strike out against exclusive psalmody. Given that life is too short to engage in pointless polemics, I am left wondering which parallel universe these guys come from, where the most pressing and dangerous worship issue is clearly that people sing too much of the Bible in their services. How terrifying a prospect that would be! Imagine: people actually singing songs that express the full range of human emotion in their worship using words of which God has explicitly said, 'These are mine!' Back here on Planet Earth, however, there is generally precious little chance of overloading on sound theology in song in most evangelical churches as the Marcion invasion is pretty much total and unopposed in the sphere of worship. Yet I for one prefer Athanasius to Marcion as a patristic thinker and, in his letter to Marcellinus, he gives one of the most beautiful and moving arguments for psalms in worship ever penned. It is a pity more have not taken his words to heart.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Another Voice - Easter Rising

(Column for Letterkenny Post)

“Today, Ireland begins a week of remembrance, reconciliation and renewal.” So spoke the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the opening of the exhibition at the National Museum commemorating the 1916 Rising.

This key event in Irish history has set the tone for many of the events of the past 90 years. The Proclamation of Independence sets out the goals of the Easter Rising, as freedom, fairness and equality in a new community.

Yet Irish historian, Diarmaid Ferriter, writing in last Monday’s Irish Times comments that, although we have freedom, the aspirations of fairness, equality and a new tolerant community have yet to be realised.

It strikes me that, at the deepest level, these aims can’t really be met by remembering the Easter Rising of 1916. You have to look much further back to the original Easter Rising of 30 AD. What Jesus set out to do at the Cross was to create a new community of people no longer at odds with God and with each other, but reconciled and made new – to use the Taoiseach’s words.

Jesus didn’t just come to live as an example, nor did he come simply to pay the price for the sins of those who would trust him. He came to make new the hearts, minds and attitudes of people, to change us from the inside out. That’s what we need before there can be any real and lasting change in society. We need to be made new inside – the old selfish ways, the anger, the indifference etc. removed, and new qualities of love for God along with love for our neighbour created.

That’s what Jesus came to do – to create a new community of people where there is equality, love, compassion, and acceptance. His resurrection guarantees the truth of what he came to do. He was more than a martyr, he actually has the power to change lives.

While the goals of the 1916 Rising are noble, even if we were to achieve them, what use are they if we enjoy them for only the few short years we live on this earth, and then lose out for eternity. On the other hand, if we remember the rising of the 1st century, and find peace from God and are made new by him, we will be ready to face eternity, and we will also achieve here what the seven signatories of the Proclamation set out to achieve, a new community of fairness, equality and tolerance.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Food for thought - A Famine of Hope

(Column for Milford newspaper)

We live in a world where there is a famine of hope. People despair, and struggle with depression. People drop out, walk out, or fall out often because they have lost any sense of hope. They can see no way out. Sometimes in my line of work I meet with people who are struggling with this loss of hope and are wondering, “What’s the point of life? What’s the point of working hard and saving up, and having a pension, if you’re going to die anyway?”

And well-meaning family and friends will say things like, “Cheer up, things aren’t that bad” or “Work hard and settle down, that’ll lift your mind off things”, or “Don’t worry you’ll meet someone else”.

There is a degree of clear-sightedness about those who see the hopelessness of life. Life is uncertain. We will die. Things are bad. How do we know that “you’ll meet someone else”? Is it such a good idea to have our minds lifted off things – if the things are serious and need to be thought through?

On Sunday mornings we’ve been looking at St. Paul’s letter to a group of new Christians at Ephesus. In it he describes what they were like before they came to know Jesus. He says “Remember that at that time you were without hope” (Ephesians 2:11).

In an uncertain world hope can only be found in that which does not change, and which can change us. In other words hope can only ultimately be found in Jesus. He doesn’t change, but he changes us. How can I tell someone whose relationship has just fallen apart that they will find someone else? I can’t, but I can tell them about someone who will love them, and who will be there for them, and who will never leave them. That’s Jesus. How can I tell someone that things will get better? I don’t know their future. But I can tell them about Jesus, who guarantees a home, and a welcome, and a future to all who come to him. Jesus is the one who will give strength to cope.

The hope that Jesus gives isn’t vague or insubstantial, it is utterly certain. It has been purchased by him with his life. Paul goes on to describe elements of this hope – we are heirs, we are family members, we are citizens of God’s kingdom. All of these are about belonging, and having a secure future. That’s what Jesus offers – acceptance, belonging and a hope that no one can take away. Peter picks up this theme too:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in Heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)

If you would like to find out more about this hope, please contact me or come along to one of our services.

Mark Loughridge is the minister of Milford Reformed Presbyterian Church and Letterkenny New Life Fellowship. You can read more by him at

Monday, April 10, 2006

Book Review - The Da Vinci Code – From Dan Brown’s Fiction to Mary Magdalene’s Faith

The Da Vinci Code – From Dan Brown’s Fiction to Mary Magdalene’s Faith
Garry Williams
Christian Focus

If you’re looking for a crisp concise book to give away setting out the facts about the Da Vinci Code and the Bible, then this is it. Garry Williams and Christian Focus have done us all a service in producing this. Williams deals with seven major claims that the book (and after May 19th, the film) makes about Jesus, the New Testament and Mary Magdalene, all in the first chapter. Having reduced the Da Vinci Code to mush, he then looks to see if the New Testament can stand the same sort of rigorous treatment. He finishes up by asking what lessons does Mary Magdalene really teach us.

One of the things that comes across in virtually every book about the Da Vinci Code is the basic schoolboy errors that Dan Brown has committed. Williams quotes with relish one review from the Sunday Telegraph, “Brown’s book is not garbage. It’s garbage on stilts, it’s hyper-garbage…”.

Williams is smart, he knows his stuff, and communicates it clearly. If you only have half an hour to get your head around the basics - then this is it. If you are looking for something in depth, this isn’t it – try Stephen Clark’s book The Da Vinci Code on Trial, or Darrell Bock’s Breaking the Da Vinci Code. But if you are looking for something brief to give away this is the job.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Voice - April's Verse

(Letterkenny Post newspaper column. Once a month the article covers a verse on a calender we gave out inLetterkenny with the Baptist church)

It was the day after Christmas day 1944, in the small Italian village of Sommocolonia. Lieutenant John Fox of the US army was stationed in a tower in the village and was acting as an artillery spotter for the big guns in the Valley. Shortly after 4am he was awoken by the sound of gunfire.

As dawn broke over the mountains, the 29-year-old lieutenant saw that the streets below him were swarming with German troops. They were determined to take the village en route to taking a strategic port to the south to cut off supplies to Allied forces.

By mid morning the fighting was brutal with the villagers joining with the small group of 70 G.I.s stationed in the village. The men in Sommocolonia fought on until more than two-thirds of them were dead or wounded, seeking to slow down the German advance.

From his observation post Fox had been calling in artillery fire on the German troops. But now the tower was surrounded by the enemy troops.

He made one last call to his friend Otis Zachary, the gunnery sergeant. “Put everything you’ve got on me.”

Zachary protested, “I can’t do that.” “Fire it” came Fox’s response.

High explosive shells rained down on the observation post, and when the dust cleared Fox lay dead, surrounded by bodies of more than 100 enemy troops.

Three days later, the German offensive sputtered to a halt. Fox had given his life so that others could live.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” – 1 John 3:16

“Put everything you’ve got on me.” They could have been the last words of Jesus. From his observation point in Heaven, he sees the punishment that is stacking up against us for our sins. He knows that those sins have to be paid for, that punishment has to be poured out, and so he looks his Father straight in the eye and says “Put everything you’ve got on me.”

On the cross he took the punishment that would have been poured on his people for all eternity, the anger of a holy God, poured out on thousands upon thousands of sins.

The message of Christianity is that if you want to know what love is, put your trust in the one who offers to take your punishment.