‘Why I want the right to die’ in Scotland

I was greatly shocked when my wife shared this article with me this afternoon.  Al Jazeera published this article on their website.  I encourage you to read it here.  Independent Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Margo MacDonald has launched a fresh attempt to give terminally ill people in Scotland the right to choose when to die – which in my mind is outrageous and grossly immoral, cruel and careless.  It totally degrades the intrinsic value of human life as given by God the Almighty, who is our Creator (Genesis 1:27) and the Creator of heavens and earth!  This “End of Life Assistance” Bill sets out that anyone over the age of 16 could request assistance to die if that person was diagnosed as terminally ill and that he/she finds life unbearable.  Ms. MacDonald tried to get this bill passed in December 2010 but it was defeated.  According to the Huffington Post (UK), “A series of scrutiny sessions were held at the Scottish Parliament, taking in evidence from doctors in countries where forms of assisted suicide are permitted.”

I find Ms. MacDonald’s arguments flawed and unconvincing – but that’s not all that disturbs me.  The bill that she is pushing is in direct violation of the Sixth Commandment:  “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).  This bill seeks to give man the legal freedom to take one’s life or that of another with impunity.

Here are some quotes from the article:

Assisted Suicide (“Mercy Killing”) – currently banned by law in Scotland & the UK:

In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, it is currently a crime to help someone end his or her own life. A doctor who injects a patient with lethal drugs in order to kill them could be prosecuted for culpable homicide or even murder.

Margo MacDonald wants that legal ban repealed:

“If it came to the worst and I was faced with a very bitter and protracted end, I should have the right to ask for help to end my life earlier than nature intended,” Macdonald told Al Jazeera.

She added: “I would like the insurance policy of knowing that if it gets near, and I would like to shorten it, I would not be putting my family at risk. It is not about pain, it is about making sure you are still yourself.”

Margo wants autonomy not dignity – She has a warped view of “dignity” according to what she says here:

She told Al Jazeera that the same debate is going on all over the world and if her bill is passed: “Scotland would be seen as a place where humanity, above all, and individual autonomy is respected. This legislation is really about the right of a person to see their life through and keep their dignity to the very end.”

Some church leaders are fighting against this:

When this issue was last debated, the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, told a special Mass for Healthcare workers: “Laws need to be objective in their statement of principle. It is wrong in principle for someone to take their own life; it is wrong in principle for someone to help them to do so.”

Peter Kearney, Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, told Al Jazeera: “Nothing has changed. Deliberate killing, even when assisting someone who is in a state of despair, is always wrong.”

Many doctors are concerned:

Many doctors are also concerned that legalizing assisted suicide could lead to frail or elderly people being coerced into taking their lives.

My Thoughts:

I hope that this bill is defeated once again in the Scottish Parliament.  I also hope and pray that Christians in Scotland and around the world will continue to speak out against this and similar violations of God’s law and order for His people.  From a human stand-point, Ms. MacDonald seems “unstoppable.”  She probably thinks so.  She is quoted as saying:

Since the defeat of my original proposal in December 2010, the volume of correspondence I’ve received on the matter, coupled with the continuing public interest, stimulated in part by some high-profile statements in favour of the general principle of assisted suicide, indicates to me a consistent level of support for individuals suffering a terminal illness or condition, for whom life becomes intolerable, to have the legal right to request help to end their life before nature decrees.

But those of us who believe in the Sovereign LORD who rules over the universe, know that the LORD is ultimately in control and that He has the power to stop this and all ills that have plagued Scotland and the world (see Proverbs 21:1).

Why Am I So Concerned for Scotland?

Just for the same reasons that I would be concerned if this was happening in any other country primarily because it goes against the will – it goes against the Law of God clearly stated in Scripture.  That’s the main reason why this disturbs me.  But there is more:

As one who has not in the least sense benefited from what the Lord has done through Scotland over the years, I cringe when I read this kind of stuff about Scotland or coming out of Scotland.  I feel a special affinity to Scotland for various reasons.  Let me mention three:

1.  The first missionary to bring the gospel to my home country (Malawi) was Scottish.  His name was Dr. David Livingstone.  Malawi is replete with monuments in honor of Dr. Livingstone and his work there – not the least of which is Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital which was named after Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland where Dr. Livingstone was born.  I had the privilege of visiting Blantyre (Scotland) a few years ago and saw the house in which Dr. Livingstone was born and raised.  This house is now the home of the David Livingstone Center.

2.  As a Presbyterian and Reformed Christian and church minister, I owe a lot of that to what the Lord has done through Scottish men like John KnoxSamuel RutherfordRobert Murray McCheyne, Professor John Murray, from centuries gone by (just to name a few) – but also from contemporary theologians and preachers like Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Alistair Begg, etc.

3.  I am now a gospel minister with a denomination that is rooted in Scotland, the Associated Presbyterians Church (APC) – and I feel for so many of my dear brothers and sisters in Scotland as I consider all the challenges and the spiritual battles that they face in their pursuit of Christ, His will and purposes.  I am concerned and this moves me to pray more fervently for the work of the gospel across Scotland and the UK.

Let’s Pray for Scotland, the UK and the World

Prayer is ultimately the answer – and our sure hope.  “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Please join me in praying that God’s will may triumph over evil and that Scotland may be turned back to the Lord.  He has done it before, He can do it again.  Even though it seems like a dark cloud is hanging over Scotland and much of the western world, the LORD God can change that.  May the Light of Christ once again shine in Scotland even from the “farthest” corners of the world (like Malawi and such places where the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is now flourishing).  Perhaps it’s time to send missionaries back to Scotland!  Our God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we can ever ask or imagine according to His power which is at work in us (see Ephesians 3:20-21).

NEEDED! DEAD OR ALIVE: FAITHFUL PREACHERS!!

As a minister of the gospel, there is no subject that interests me more than the preaching.  I am not just interested in a “fanciful” manner, but I am captivated by this subject because it sums up God’s call upon my life this side of heaven.  But it’s not just preaching in general that interests me.  Rather it is Christ who is to be the Grand Theme and Subject of all faithful preaching!  I am not only called to preach.  I am called to “preach Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).  “…We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…” 2 Cor. 4:5).  All true preaching is Christ-centered, and all Christ-centered preaching is true preaching.  There are no two ways about it!  Those who are committed to the faithful exposition of Scripture will necessarily preach Christ because all of the Scriptures testify about Him (Luke 24:25-27,44-48; John 5:39).

Sadly, there is a dearth of preaching in our day.  Many are the pulpits which have been severely afflicted and inflicted by this terminal disease.  We do not lack “preachers” capable of giving interesting talks, moral advice or motivational speeches.  There are plenty of those around – everywhere you turn!  But faithful, Christ-centered preachers!  Oh, no!  Those are scarce!  Only a few of them are still standing!  I think the sign below needs to be hang on just about every church door today.

William Still in his book entitled, The Work of The Pastor writes:  “…If the hope of the world is Christ, it is Christ in all the Scriptures, and that hope can only be fulfilled by men pouring out the riches of Christ’s saving grace upon the Lord’s people through the Scriptures” (p. 93)

Why then is there such a dearth of faithful, Christ-centered preaching in our day?  Well, that’s a very good question.  Many reasons can be given as to why this is the case.  But one thing is for certain, there has been a great lost of confidence in Scriptures among both preachers and hearers as Alistair Begg points out in his book, Preaching for God’s Glory (pages 18-19):

The absence of expository preaching is directly related to an erosion of confidence in the authority of and sufficiency of Scripture.  At the beginning of the nineteenth the battle lines were drawn against the forces of liberalism.  Liberals were challenging the miraculous, questioning the divine, and opposing the historicity of the New Testament documents.  Evangelicals weathered that storm, and empty liberal churches testify to the futility of the liberal quest for a demythologized Christ.  But today the battle is more subtle.  The Scriptures are neglected and debased and are used only as a springboard for all kinds of “talks” that are far removed from genuine biblical exposition…There is little, if any, sense of either the preacher or the congregation bowing under the majestic authority of God’s written Word.

I couldn’t agree more!  Let me end this post by asking you to do three things in light of what I have shared here:

First, pray with me that the Lord will raise up a new generation of preachers who will not be afraid or ashamed to preach the “whole counsel of God” and point people to the Lord Jesus Christ in every sermon.

Secondly, pray for your pastors that by God’s grace and the working of God’s Holy Spirit they may be kept faithful and true to their calling. In my view, that is the best way to keep your ministers accountable before God and their congregations.

Secondly, pray for me also that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…that I may proclaim it clearly and boldly, as I should (see Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:3-4).  Thank you!

For more on this, please click on this link:  Contending for the Faith in America.

I also recommend the following additional resources:

Essays:  Is Christ-Centered Preaching a Biblical Mandate? by Fred A. Malone;  A Listener’s Guide to the Pulpit by Todd Wilken; Preaching Christ, by Charles McIlvaine (1799-1873)

Books:  Preaching Christ in All Scripture, by Edmund Clowney; Him We Proclaim, by Dennis Johnson, Christ-Centered Preaching, by Bryan Chapell

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus!! You’ve Gotta Watch This!!

It’s very important that we get the gospel right and not confuse it with anything else.  Wonderful things happen in our lives when we get the gospel right as shown in this 4 minute video.  I encourage you to take some time and watch this in light of Romans 4:5 which reads, “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5 ESV).

CLICK on this link to watch the video:  Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus – Spoken Word.

Be blessed!!

Semper Reformanda – “Always Reformed”

The Most Misused Motto in the Church Today

In the recent years, the church in Malawi has seen a number of changes particularly with respect to doctrine(s) in the various churches represented across the country.  An examination of these changes indicates that there is a subtle but radical shift towards liberalism in many of our churches especially the well established mainline denominations.  Instead of being the buttress of truth described in 1 Timothy 3:15, the church has become a proponent of worldly philosophies and doctrines of men (most of which are being imported from liberal denominations in the West).

It is sad to note that the proponents of these changes often claim semper reformanda (“always reformed”) as their motto.  This is a phrase that is commonly heard among Protestant Christians around the world whether conservative or liberal.  The conservative wing of the Protestant Church on one hand uses semper reformanda to encourage the Church towards a more biblical definition and application of what it means to be Reformed.  The liberal wing on the other hand, uses semper reformanda to encourage the Church towards a more “progressive” definition of what it means to be Reformed mainly as a means of justifying their capitulation to the “spirit of the age.”

My plea to all Christians in all the churches across Malawi is to emulate the example of the Berean Christians recorded for us in Acts 17:11.  The Bible tells us that the Jewish Christians in Berea were “…more noble than those in Thessalonica…” because “…they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The Church (Christians) in Berea examined the Scriptures daily checking to make sure that what Paul was teaching them was in agreement with the Word of God.  Every Christian who cares about the glory of God, the honor of His Word and the good of the true Church of Jesus Christ must do the same.

Yes, the church needs to be reformed.  But that reformation must be according to the Word of God.  Semper reformanda speaks of the exhortation given us in Jude 3 “to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”  The essence of it simply stated is that the church always needs to be reformed (passive tense, not “reforming”) by the work of the Holy Spirit according to the Word of God which is unchanging and unchangeable.  Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) was at the very heart of the Reformation that took place in the 16th Century.  The Reformation did not advocate change for its own sake.  Rather, it condemned the Roman Catholic Church for accumulating and bringing into the church so many new doctrines and practices which were unprecedented in the history of the ancient or the New Testament church.  Thus the Reformation advocated for a return to the Root, a return to the Scriptures.  That’s what semper reformanda is all about.  The full sentence goes like this in Latin, Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei translated in English as “The Reformed church, always being reformed according to the Word of God.”  We need to remember that true reformation is a monergistic work of God mediated through His Word by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, in talking about the need to “always be reformed,” we must keep in mind the following:

1.    The Word of God is the primarily instrument of reformation: True reformation begins with a return to the Word of God. It is not the ingenuity of man, but the power of the Word of God.  We are to be transformed by the “renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) by submitting ourselves in every way to the Word of God in which His “good and acceptable and perfect will” has been revealed to us.  This can only happen as we saturate our minds and our hearts with the Word of God and submit to what He says to us as His people (the Church).

I appeal to you therefore, brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).

2.    God is the singular agent and initiator of true reformation: The church cannot reform itself.  The Lord God must do the work of reforming the church.  He does not need any help.  He can and does whatever He does according to the counsel of His will.  He does not need to consult with us.  Neither does He seek or need our help even to change us.  He is the Sovereign Lord and He does whatever He pleases, whenever He pleases and with whomever He pleases and however He pleases.  Our response must be one of worship and adoration to Him and all His works.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!  “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?”  “Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?”  For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be glory forever.  Amen (Romans 8:33-36).

3.    Christianity is a historic Faith: The Christian faith is not a novel religion whose future and relevance is dependent on the innovative gimmicks of the 21st Century men and women.  No!  Christianity is rooted in history.  It is a “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). It cannot be improved upon because it does not need any improvement.  Times and places may change, but the Christian faith and its core doctrines, solidly rooted and anchored in the Word of God, will remain the same.

Beloved, although I was eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).

We need to pay close attention to the last phrase of this sentence:  “The Reformed church, [being] reformed according to the Word of God.” We must agree with  the Reformers that it is the church that needs to be reformed according to the Word of God and not vice versaAs sinful creatures, we constantly need to be reformed according to God’s Word. The image of God in us which was marred by sin in the Fall must increasingly be restored by the work of the Holy Spirit according to the Word of God “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).  The church is created, sustained and reformed according to the Word of God through and through.  It cannot be the other way round.

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NOTE: This article has been adapted from a longer article published in the denominational newsletter of the Associated Presbyterian Church:  http://apchurches.org/apcnews/150-Nov-Dec_11_low.pdf (pages 8-11).