I have been appointed editor pro-tem of The Record after the tragic death of Iain D Campbell. Because of the circumstances it has been very difficult to start from scratch but the first edition is now out, the second at the printers, and the third in preparation. Below is the first editorial.
Welcome to the April Record. It is with a great deal of sorrow that I find myself writing these words. As most readers of The Record will be aware, our former editor, Rev. Dr Iain D. Campbell, tragically died earlier in the year. Even weeks after the event, it is still hard for many of us to process what happened. For Iain’s family it will be a much longer process – can I encourage the whole wider church not to forget them and to continue to uphold his wife Anne; children Iain, Stephen and Emily; as well as his mother and sisters, Margaret and Alma. And of course it is a great loss and blow for the church as well.
Because of the circumstances we were unable to produce a magazine for March, but we will ensure that the eleven editions for the year are produced. As temporary editor, please feel free to let me know of any ideas, suggestions or improvements you may have. I would love to listen to what you have to say.
And speaking of listening: it was C.S. Lewis who argued that whilst God whispers to us in our pleasures, he often shouts to us in our pains. Sometimes we fear that the Lord is not speaking, but perhaps the problem is that we are not listening. It was not for nothing that Christ often told his listeners ‘he who has ears, let them hear’. Sometimes we don’t hear what the Lord is saying to us because of the plethora of voices demanding our attention.
The world is constantly demanding attention. The irony of our wonderful means of modern communication is that sometimes they prevent us from communicating. There are families who know how to text and message each other, but struggle to actually speak to one another! How many times have you been on a train or bus and everyone has their earphones in, or is watching their own personal screen? The danger is that we are atomizing society, filtering out all the alternative points of view, and only hearing what we want to hear. What we do with other people we can so easily do with God. We haven’t time for a quiet time, because there is no quiet.
And then we can find ourselves listening to the devil. He is called the Father of Lies and the Accuser of the brothers and sisters. I doubt that many of us would claim to hear a direct demonic voice, but make no mistake; the devil knows how to cause us to doubt the Word of God, and to shrink under his accusations. If we are not listening to God, ultimately it is doctrine of demons that will enslave us. From the beginning the Accuser of the brothers and sisters is also the Accuser of God. Did God really say? Is God really good? Why did he let this happen?
The devil can and does use many means. One is simply that oh-so-respectable of sins, gossip. Which is why the Bible warns us so many times about it. There are many who would be appalled at the idea that they could be violent against someone, or break into their home and steal, and yet who have few qualms about passing on a juicy piece of gossip, something which destroys a reputation and steals a good name. The fact that this is often done under the guise of ‘prayerful concern’ does not make it any more palatable. In an age of instant mass communication and social media we need to heed James’ warning that the tongue is ‘a restless evil, full of deadly poison’ (James 3). ‘Ah, but it’s true’, the gossip says. It may well be. But it isn’t the whole truth and it may not be an edifying truth for us. Those who listen to gossip bear as much responsibility for its consequences as those who spread it.
‘Listen to your heart,’ say our modern gurus. ‘Let your heart guide you. Be true to yourself.’ What hellish advice! Our hearts are deceitful, desperately wicked. It’s out of the heart, says Jesus, that evil comes. And yet we are told to listen to it! No thanks. There are many of us who, if we listen to our hearts, hear little but condemnation. The devil doesn’t need to possess us; he just needs to use our own hearts to accuse us. But we are not unaware of his devices and we are listening not to our hearts but to the Word of God that tells us: ‘If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything’ (1 John 3:20).
Who are we listening to? Surely we need to listen to Christ? And how does he speak to us? Through his Word. Again, how many Christians are ignoring the word of Christ? The head and king of the church does speak. His Word is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword; it goes right into the centre of our being, and is more than sufficient for all our needs.
‘God’s truth (given out to us in Scripture) expresses the power of Christ and the grace of Christ that transforms and renews our way of thinking and then our manner of living. This, incidentally, is why it is so important for Christians to place their lives under the preaching of God’s Word. For in receiving it we are actively passive. It is expounded to us, not by us; and yet it appeals to our minds, it shapes our thinking, penetrates our consciences, and at this level engages us in an intense activity. Although set at a discount today by comparison with participation in either personal Bible study or more particularly group Bible study, neither of these, valuable as they may be, can substitute for the transforming power of the preached word.” Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God
Those of us who are preachers have an awesome and solemn responsibility to bring the Word of God to the people of God and to those who are not yet the people of God. We have to avoid laziness, cheap soundbites, pietistic truisms, living in the past and personal obsessions. Instead we must wrestle with what we and our people are experiencing and, without shying away from the hard things, we must bring the comfort and truth of the beauty of Christ to all. It is in days of darkness that the light shines all the brighter.
In this edition of The Record you will hear different voices speaking, but I hope that they will be reflection of the Word and that it comes from the Church which is the pillar and foundation of the Truth.
You can find news of new elders in Carloway, Grace Church Leith having a weekend away, an obituary for Donald Archie Macleod from Dundee, Partick Free Church opening their newly refurbished hall, Zoe Baxter moving to Colegio San Andreas in Peru, and Heart for Home in Govan.
Prof Donald Macleod continues his series on the Reformation, Thomas Davies concludes his series on the land, and a friend shares with us their experience of mental illness and depression.
In addition to this there is an interview with Martin Smith, one of the Baptist students at ETS; Malcolm Maclean begins a new biblical series on the Seven Churches; SASRA Scripture Reader Roddy Macleod reflects on Easter; and the Gaelic page talks about how in a world of change we have the enduring Word of God.
On the book side, Karen Murdurasi tells us about her children’s books on St Augustine and St Patrick, and books by Stephen Lawson, Melvin Tinker and the Free Church’s own John Caldwell are reviewed.
And finally, don’t forget to use the prayer diary. It is there to aid us in our prayers. The Lord has given us his Word and he enables us to speak our words to him. Let’s listen to him, talk to him, and also talk to one another about the Lord. So many of our problems are either caused by isolation, or by the wrong kind of conversation. My hope and prayer for The Record is that we can facilitate a better conversation.
Yours in Christ
Mal. 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.