Conference Introduction: Paul as an example to believers, Rev Trevor Kirkland

The Rev Trevor Kirkland spoke on “Paul as an example to believers”. The addresses were given at our Youth Weekend in Arbroath earlier this year. This is a transcript of his introductory talk (the emphasis is mine). Also available: video, audio. I’d recommend the audio version for the emotion and emphasis in the voice, and the video versions of the talks (where available) to be even more involved, but I hope this is of use to some.

The other talks by Rev Trevor Kirkland at the Youth weekend:
Paul’s Spirituality. Audio. Video.
Paul’s Virtues. Audio.
Paul’s Relationships. Audio. Video.
Paul’s Boldness. Audio. Video.

‘Paul as an example to all believers’.

By way of introduction if we could turn to 1st Corinthians 4:13-16, the Scripture reads as follows:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
15 For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.

And it is that statement in verse 16, ‘Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me‘.

Approximately 30 times believers are exhorted or commanded to imitate someone or something, and that demonstrates to us the role, the power, and the place of example. We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘role models’, we have it in football, we have it in all walks of life. Another buzzword is ‘mentoring’, so we have trainee nurses who have a mentor, doctors, teachers, and mechanics, and so books are written by alleged experts at how to be successful at a particular walk of life. Someone starting up a business will buy the latest business books – maybe some of the people who have appeared on Dragon’s Den have written books and so they want to buy all their books and read what their advice is on how to be successful. But that the Bible speaks of examples, examples then to be imitated, comes as no surprise to us. Of those exhortations to imitate others, many of them relate to the Apostle Paul. So we have the statement in verse 16 ‘be ye followers of me’.

In 1 Corinthians 11:1 ‘Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Paul then, is primarily the example for us as believers. Yes, the ultimate example is Christ, but Paul is also a significant example for believers. And if we turn to one other passage in Philippines 3:17 ‘Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.‘ Here we are told, first of all, all of us are to do this. This is not an optional extra. All of us are to do this. We are all commanded to take this example, Paul, and others like him. And then it goes on to tell us that Paul is the primary example, but not the exclusive example. ‘be followers together of me’ so he is a primary example for all of us who say we are Christians, but he is not the exclusive example. He makes that clear in that particular statement, ‘and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample’.

So it’s Paul plus, and of course, the others. If we think of the Old Testament saints, if we think primarily of Abraham, who is so often quoted or referred to in the New Testament. So Abraham perhaps is the primary example in the Old Testament; Paul is the primary, but not exclusive, example in the New Testament.

Now one of the ways Paul will help us, to be an example to us, to help and to encourage us is to consider the dangers that Paul faced in life. What are some of the dangers that Paul had to face up to? Well cynicism on the one hand and rationalism on the other. Another danger was mysticism and emotionalism. Legalism and antinomianism. These were dangers that he faced, issues and problems that arose in his culture and in our culture. What we can say is Paul lived such a life that we can all identify with that life. Yes we know he was an apostle, and we’re not apostles, and there are no apostles, but setting that apart Paul lived such a life, he is an example that all of us can imitate in our so-called pluralistic, post-Christian, tolerant age in which we live.

Paul shows us not only how to live and survive, but how to live and survive and triumph without succumbing to some of the ideas of our culture. Without compromise, without descending into liberalism, or without succumbing to what is often referred to as worldliness. Jettisoning some of the key characteristics of what it means to be a Christian in every age. And so what I intend to do and plan to do is look at Paul’s life from four areas or angles under two general headings.

First Paul’s private life, and there I’ll look at his spirituality and his virtues.

And then Paul’s public life, his relationships and his witnessing.

And I want in bringing all this to a close to leave you with some points to ponder. Some things you might want to think about the rest of this evening or at some other time.

The first is this. Do you have any examples? Who are they, and why them?

And secondly. Are your examples those whom you would imitate and look up to, are they an eclectic mix that includes those from our contemporary culture, and if so why have you picked them? Why do you copy them? What is there about them that you think is important or relevant?

And thirdly. What reasons do you give to justify the ones you have picked, you maybe haven’t picked them particularly – you’ve grown up with them or you’ve just come across them, but what reasons would you give to justify looking up to those people? Why?

And fourthly, amongst all those who you look up to, who are the ones who you’ve selected deliberately, or maybe casually, form our contemporary age.

And finally, is such an idea, of having an example, someone to imitate, someone to look up to, is it still relevant in your life or has it now become irrelevant? If it has become irrelevant, why has it become irrelevant? Is there something wrong with the modern church that the church hasn’t produced fine examples who others would look up to? Or are there examples that we ignore because we might consider them to be out-of-date/irrelevant? How has it come about that we perhaps are not producing examples that others should imitate?

And then finally, are we good examples? what kind of examples and patterns do we show? If someone needed an example of a Christian would you be happy to be selected, maybe someone said ‘look at so-and-so, spend a week with them, and you’ll see what a real Christian is, what a good Christian is, one who is a good ambassador, a good example of one who is a true child of God’? It’s not an easy thing, and it’s easier sometimes to say, ‘well there are others’, but look at what Paul reminds us of: ‘yes’, he says, we are to follow him, ‘mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample‘. Could we mark the person beside/behind/in front of us and say “I know that person, and they are really good Christians, they’ve got really good values, they really understand what it means to be a Christian, and I want to be like them’? And would we be comfortable if someone said to us, ‘we want you to be an example’? Would we instantly say ‘No, someone else please, not me’?

I trust that as we look at the life of Paul and look at some of these characteristics about Paul, that they will be a challenge to us; a help; an encouragement to us; a means of strengthening us as Christians, so that we will not ever be ashamed of what it means to be a Christian in the culture in which we live.

The other talks by Rev Trevor Kirkland at the Youth weekend:
Paul’s Spirituality. Audio. Video.
Paul’s Virtues. Audio.
Paul’s Relationships. Audio. Video.
Paul’s Boldness. Audio. Video.

Trying to excuse shoplifting

I have found it interesting the way an article or two have tried to rationalise shoplifting after a recent cautioning of a prominent TV chef. I’ve seen comments that have suggested that it’s possibly due to:

  • depression or traumatic loss
  • the desire to feel like they can exert control
  • the desire for the addictive adrenaline rush
  • imbalanced life experiences (referring to dealing constantly with loss) so they either can’t cope or it’s a coping mechanism
  • necessity – not the issue in this case, due to poverty
  • being plain ill, because such behaviour must be down to an illness, e.g. “When wealthy and famous people steal, it’s an illness and a reason to feel sorry for them.”

I’m interested as I’ve seen this last one particularly before. Having a discussion friend we were talking about the role of law and the judiciary system. When I mentioned some of those perceived as the worst criminals, such as serial killers or the like, the friend rationalised it by suggesting that there must be something wrong – perhaps psychologically – with those individuals. So comes from the idea that man must be inherently good.

But, if you take the Christian view that man is fundamentally a sinner, then such actions make sense. Why else would someone act in the moment in a way that they outside that moment cannot understand?
Outside the moment, they are not tempted to the sin. They look at their own actions and it doesn’t make sense.
In the moment, they are tempted to sin. They think they can get away with it (even if this requires suppressing what they know is true) but only in the moment. The truth is suppressed, thanks to their own sinful desires, and so afterwards they can’t understand it.

Man is tempted to sin, and in bondage to the flesh. We do what we sinfully WANT, if we think we can get away with it and if God’s restraining grace is removed only slightly. Simple as that. We need liberation from sin by the atoning blood of Christ, and the Holy Spirit entering in to grant power to prevail over sin and the flesh.

Don’t miss the point of prayer

I came across the following quote recently:

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.
– Matsuo Basho

This challengingly reminded me that we aren’t to pray for praying’s sake, but rather we do so to seek the face of God and a personal relationship with Him!

When we know the theological lingo and understand the concepts, attributes, elements, et cetera of prayer, we can be distracted by the assembling of these together. We might actually get to the stage of searching our heart in light of the Word of God and trying to bring our petitions, but how much are we relating to God as our Father, and nurturing that relationship?

Thankfully, I hope I do, a bit. By the Spirit of His Son in me, I can relate to God as my Father – it feels right – but when I consider it, definitely not with the depth that I so dearly long to have.

I know it’s pretty easy to be distracted, and we’ve a lot of opposition, but let’s try and refocus on what prayer should be. I’m hoping a deeper relationship with God will create in me a stronger desire to lovingly obey, rather than selfishly disobey. Forwards, Christian soldier!

Anyone got any thoughts on how to apply this same principle to how we relate to preaching/evangelism/service/other aspects? I’d love to hear what you’re thinking. This journey’s one we’re to do together. Even if you don’t comment here, talk to me when you see me and we can talk :-). I’d love to hear what you’re thinking!

Harvard Justice: Lecture 1 – Murder and Cannibalism

I watched the following hour (2 episodes), that addressed murder and cannibalism. The 1+ million views on youtube point to the exceptional quality of the lecture.


Is the death of 1 to save 5 right? When?
Is the death and consumption of 1 to save 3 (or 300) others, right? Under all, or any circumstances?

The lecturer was excellent at giving scenarios (real or fictional) and then encouraging further discussion – and he didn’t try to control it. He went where the students went. A great way of getting through a number of issues, and provoking further discussion. For those who are interested, I would recommend this just from the point of view of understanding how to host a group discussion!

This was incredible at provoking thought. The lecturer was spot on when he asked “Why is murder wrong?”. If you believe it is wrong only from an idea that in general it is best for the overall good of people, then what happens when you put it against another scenario also involving overall good?

The video is not really academic – it forms a suitable introduction to the issues at stake, so the students have a firm grounding in arguments on each side that when they then go and study they will learn a good deal for themselves.

My initial thoughts were that some of the students were afraid of bringing in their religious beliefs, but those were what was principally motivating their stance. Honestly, how else do you argue that murder is always wrong? I can’t see any other way of doing so, unless you hold to a belief in absolute truth.
I would like to see students standing up and saying “I believe this because I believe in an absolute moral standard set down by a sovereign God”. I think this to be a far stronger, actually, the strongest argument. I don’t think this to be simplistic, or held to because it’s easier than considering the issue (really, believing God is sovereign isn’t less effort).

To take another argument based on overall good.

If the state provides healthcare – and some people are a particularly heavy burden (for example requiring life-long healthcare), if you hold to the belief that you do what’s best for the most people, then it’s easier on everyone else if you get rid of them.

This is an illustration, but I see it as morally wrong because I see the murder of any life made in the image of God as wrong. If you don’t see life as made in the image of God, if you don’t believe in God as lawgiver, then why is it wrong?

Conference Introduction: Loving God, Rev Andrew Quigley

The Rev Andrew Quigley spoke on “Loving God”. The addresses were given at our Youth Weekend in Arbroath earlier this year. This is the introduction transcript; video, audio.

I want to try and challenge you this weekend, I want to engage you, because loving God lies at the very heart of who we are and what we are. Tomorrow morning I am going to begin by asking the question, ‘What is love, where does it come from’? and then I want to address you very personally and ask the simple question, ‘Have you, as an individual, actually received the love of God for yourself in your own life?’
Because if you have not received the love of God then you may be sitting here physically for the rest of the talks, but in terms of being spiritually involved and engaged in it, you won’t be. It won’t be an absolute waste of your time, but you won’t get a lot out of it. So I’m going to begin tomorrow morning by asking that question, ‘Have you received, have you experienced the reality of the love of God in your own life’?

Tomorrow evening we’re going to be considering, ‘How do we actually respond to God’s love?’ and again I’m going to make it personal, I want to challenge you to think about how you, as an individual, actually thinks about the facts that God has loved you with such an amazing love, and how you should respond to that love. It’s very easy for us, especially many of us who’ve had the immense blessing of being brought up in homes where God’s love has been demonstrated and has been shared. It’s very easy for us just to receive that love and never really stop and think for ourselves, How do I, as an individual, respond to that love? We can get into good habits and good patterns of behaviour, habits and patterns of behaviour that are commendable in many ways, and yet at root we never really stop and think, ‘How am I called by God to respond to the manifestation of His love in His Son Jesus Christ?’

On Sabbath morning then, the issue of growing as a Christian through remaining in the love of Christ, is going to be a subject. You, like I, only have one life to live – it’s an incredibly short life, I probably have lived about two-thirds of my life. I don’t know how long I’m going to live, I don’t have a secret card tipped in my back pocket telling me the day and hour of my death, I’m thankful that that’s not the case. But in terms of the threescore and ten, I’m in the last third. I know you looked at me and thought, ‘You couldn’t be that age’. My wife when she was cutting my hair this afternoon thought, ‘ah, you’re older than that age’, I’m not normally this grey, when my hair grows longer it looks more red, but that’s the want of not getting it cut when you should, so it’s more grey. But you’ve got to imagine me with beautiful red hair, okay? Be sympathetic towards me. Our lives are incredibly brief, our eternities are forever. How do we who have received the love of Christ, as we respond to that love, how do we then remain in that love and thereby grow in our love for Christ?

In the last week, how many times have you thought about what you’re doing to grow in your love for God? How many times have you stopped and thought in the last week, I’m doing this that I might grow in my love for God. Is that a thought that dominates your life? Do you seek to remain in the love of God day by day, or is your Christian life lived on a different plane?

And the fourth thing that I want to look at on the Lord’s day evening is how we reveal or manifest the love of God to the world around us. Church in Scotland is in huge decline. The Church of Scotland, and we take no joy in this at all, is declining at a rate of 17-18,000 per annum. By 2050 that church will be in a real serious situation. The smaller reformed and Presbyterian churches in Scotland have not showered themselves in glory during the past 30 years. Foremost in that is the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland. No Reformed and Presbyterian church in Scotland has and can say we have excelled, in seeing God work through us to bring many many people who are going to a lost eternity into a new living relationship with Him. It’s not the reality, sadly, in many situations, and that’s a serious point, because we are living in days of amazing opportunity, we’re living in days when people are going to start asking the question about God. Who is God? What is the way of God? And we’re going to be living in days when those who truly love God and those who truly have received the love of God and those who truly respond to the the love of God and those who truly remain in the love of God are going to have great opportunities when it comes to revealing the love of God. It’s really really exciting being a Christian at this time in the history of Scotland. It’s not a sad situation, it’s a time of immense opportunity, but how do we reveal the love of God to the people in society around us in such a way as that it will make them stop and think, ‘Who is this God?’. And so that’s going to be the topic of our consideration on the Lord’s day evening.

  • Tomorrow morning, Have you received the Love of God? Audio. Video.
  • Tomorrow evening, How are you going to respond to that love? Audio. Video.
  • Lord’s day morning, How are we going to remain and grow in that love? Audio.
  • Lord’s day evening, How do we reveal that love, in real, telling ways to the world around us? Audio. Video.

That Christ might build His bride, to His glory, that’s our theme for this weekend.

Feel free to repost this.

Have you ever SEEN what the Bible says? Some visuals.

Given the Bible contains almost 800,000 words, what’s it really talking about? The following two links show the most commonly occurring words for each book of the Bible, with the size of the word being an indication of how often it appears for that book.

Old Testament visualisations
New Testament visualisations

Look for the words that jump out consistently as you scan through those images. In having the images for each book of the Bible, rather than for the Bible as a whole, you can get a measure of how they agree. One of the things I love the most about the field of information visualisation is that things don’t need to be explained, just shown.

At first I was annoyed those images were split across two pages, but it was very valuable as it made me compare and contrast the Old and New Testaments. It’s interesting to compare books written to the Gentile believers with those written to the Jewish believers (for example Hebrews refers more to priests and covenants). If you have any other ideas for comparisons we can consider, please comment below with them.

Old vs New

From these images I see that the Old Testament is about the Lord, and the New Testament is about Christ. We don’t have a proof from this of the Deity of Christ (this means Christ is God and not only a man) but we do have a pointer towards that. This gives me (and hopefully you too) encouragement to reflect on John 14:6-9:

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”

Knuth @ Glasgow

It was more a Q&A than a lecture, but I was seriously impressed with a lot of what Knuth had to say.

Rob Irving got polynomial time alg for stable marriages after reading a paper by Knuth in French posing the problem, so he got a mention & asked a Q. David Manlove asked if P=NP.

Other questions I remember were on functional programming (meh, not for my work, said he [I paraphrase]), literate programming (greatest thing since sliced bread but not picked up like Tex has been), what has been his greatest contribution (alg analysis), should we learn assembly (yes), is computing art or science (art is man made, as in artificial, science is what we know), book recommendation (Princeton Algs book by Bob Segewick), how he communicates/teaches so well (say everything twice [or in two different ways], have jokes that won’t be understood unless the technical point is understood).

He said one of his chapters was called “utility functions” and that then evolved into one on arithmetic. I often have a class in my programs full of static methods called “UtilityFunctions” that have no home; a phd student commented to me that he “liked it, but it’s not very Java-like”, but so what, Knuth agrees with me :).

He’s just published a collection of papers called “Papers on fun and games”. He’s worked hard, and turned out so much. What I noticed was that his brain seems to be always on, and thinking, and he really explores what he is thinking.

Painless: Derek Ciccone

The first book to be finished by me of 2011 was a page turner that I accidentally started. It is a free download for the Kindle from Amazon, which was how I came across it (the publicity will help their print sales).

Cover shot of the book Painless by Derek Ciccone
by Derek Ciccone.

What the blurb says:

A fast-paced thriller mixed with a heartwarming story of redemption. A series of ominous incidents make Billy Harper realize there is something very different about Carolyn Whitcomb. But when a rogue organization called Operation Anesthesia learns of Carolyn’s “gifts,” Billy must risk everything to save the life of the little girl who taught him to live again.

What I posted as a review to Amazon:

Cons first: I found some of what the girl says to be far beyond the 4 years old that is claimed, even when she’s supposed to be intelligent, but that was the only thing that jarred and it didn’t stop me really enjoying the book. The rest of her character & what she understands is well developed and convincing.

I read this in just a few days, starting on my daily commute and then shunning films and TV programs in order to complete it – a real page turner!

I found this to be a thought provoking story about the value of pain. I don’t remember having lingering thoughts on life from any of the best of John Grisham.

As a particular plus, there was no gratuitous glorification of sex or violence, although both were there. There were places in the story where other writers would have gone to town in this, but what Derek Ciccone has done is far more fitting for a story about a child and a guy. The military aspects would draw in the male readers who wouldn’t normally go for this kind of story.

I don’t yet know if I will ever reread this book, but I will remember it.

The book portrays pain as a mechanism to stop us harming ourselves. Pain receptors didn’t come in with the curse of sin, but perhaps our distress at what we feel did.

100WS: 2. but that’s too short

Word count: 105. Already?

The wee man wailed inside his head, ” I’ve got another idea to cram in first”.

Were this important, desperation would have sent up cries from his numskulls of “Adrenaline!”, “Up with the heart rate!”, and all attention would be focused; the paragraphs decimated and reworked; and the wee man satisfied.

But it wasn’t important, so casually five words were removed from one, then ten added to improve the flow of two, then another idea occured for three. The wee man wailed some more,
“NOO, that’s more to fit in”, “what can I leave out?”