Category Archives: Christianity

Dr Ian Paisley 1926-2014

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Dr Ian Paisley 1926-2014

Some people seem to be born with superhuman powers, and I would say that Ian Paisley was one of them. Such people have massive amounts of energy, focus and determination. They often become leaders of men, inspiring great loyalty from their followers. They can persuade, encourage and inspire.

With his passing, we are seeing an interesting view of Ian Paisley, one that would not have been seen had he died anytime before the early 2000s. Before this time he was still very much Ulster’s ‘Dr No’ – a man determined to oppose any sign of compromise towards what he regarded as a dangerous enemy: Irish Republicanism.

Ian Paisley was a minister of religion and a politician, and was undoubtedly a figurehead for Northern Ireland, despite his controversial image. He was elected to the European Parliament several times in a row, a feat that would have been unlikely without the broad support of both communities in the province and the quirks of the PR system of voting.

Often outrageously controversial, he was a force of nature and something of an enigma. Many who spent time with him would speak of his personal warmth and charm. However, put him in front of a loyal crowd and the media spotlight, and he appeared to change into a monster, determined to smash his opponents. Indeed, this was the Ian Paisley of my youth, televised across the 1980s and denounced – in my household at least – as a ‘nutter’! To many in England, the conflict in Northern Ireland was a throwback to another era, and the province itself was a backwater, barely related to the rest of the UK and bringing nothing good: just bombs and mayhem to the mainland. While we disliked the IRA intensely (because a lot of people were dying at their hands) we were also at a loss to explain the passions that drove the loyal Orangemen.

I am not here to defend everything Ian Paisley did in the political arena. I don’t know all that went on, but I think I’ve heard the worst of it. You might have heard more than me, I don’t know. Either way, it is a shame that this Protestant clergyman – an evangelical no less – should have been associated with a lot of powerful rhetoric which (it is claimed by his detractors) led some people to violent acts or attitudes towards Catholics/Nationalists. The Bible is clear about ‘letting our gentleness be evident to all’ and ‘avoiding the appearance of evil’. Clearly, Ian Paisley crossed the line sometimes.

In fact, it must be said, I cannot defend all he did in the Christian sphere either. Through his Free Presbyterian denomination, Ian Paisley distanced himself from many churches that would have agreed with him on the essential foundations of the Gospel, and much more besides. Those most in the firing line were those who embarked upon ecumenical ventures (especially with the Roman Catholic Church), although Christians who drank alcohol, danced or who wore certain clothing could be under close srutiny, and criticism, also.

And yet…and yet…there was more to him than this. I met Ian Paisley once or twice, and even received a brief email from him. I was struck by his personal warmth and charm, as many others have been – and not just his fans. Even critical accounts of his life (e.g. Ed Moloney’s 1986 biography ‘Paisley’) cannot portray a monster on every page. In fact Moloney paints a fascinating picture of Paisley, the politician-pastor, equipped only with a Bible and his trademark overcoat, striding around the staunchly Catholic Rathlin Island on the North Antrim coast. There he went, meeting his constituents – mostly fishermen – and listening to their woes, never taking paper notes, only mental ones, and taking their concerns back to Westminster.

I’ve never forgotten this image. It is inspiring. This is spirituality, Christian duty and political nous at its very best. It is unpretentious and sincere. Those political duties would have been more than enough to keep us busy, but Paisley also pastored a church, delivered sermons and had a full diary of speaking engagements too. Energy like that is God-given, but do we, as modern Christians, ever ask for the power to be able to serve God so mightily?

Whatever men say (and Ian Paisley, for all his faults, knew that he was never going to be loved by all for his uncompromising stance) there was something he was consistently right about: the only opinion that matters is that of Jesus Christ. What do we make of Him? Do we love Him? Do we love others enough to preach Christ to them?  Has He forgiven our sins and given us eternal life?

On these Christian essentials Ian Paisley never wavered. I will always care a lot more about my public image than Ian Paisley did about his, but nonetheless, there is something inspiring about Christians who speak up for Jesus, irrespective of the cost and their repuation.

How should today’s Christians regard Ian Paisley’s legacy? We should not to dismiss him as an embarrassing dinosaur, nor emulate everything he did (and he admitted to many past faults as he grew older), but to be a single-minded lover of Christ who will not buckle under the pressure to deny him or compromise His standards.

Even more important, as the rain-soaked Paisley trooping around Rathlin island demonstrated, showing a real care and concern for your fellow man (even your ‘enemies’) leaves a real impression of Christ on them. It is said many of them voted for him, in spite of the criticism it would have engendered in the community, if discovered. Words AND deeds.

Certainly, Ian Paisley had the words (and not always the kindest ones) but he had the deeds as well.

Learn from Ian Paisley; don’t emulate his mistakes, but emulate his sheer hard work for the Gospel, and his unwavering love for Christ. He was not ashamed of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

Why should I become a Christian?

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:12-14

So, why SHOULD I become a Christian?

The question is a good one, and it is always relevant.

Here is my brief attempt to explain the main aspects of the question:

Who’s in control?

Mankind throughout the ages has always wanted to feel in control of events, but sadly most days we realise that we aren’t. With things frequently going wrong, and a lot of trouble and anguish in the world around us, it should be clear that we are not in control of much – if anything – even in our own lives.

Being in control is something of an obsession for man, and it is certainly a common goal in this day of unparalleled affluence and freedom in the Western world. We attempt to organise our lives with new products and devices, get makeovers to improve our looks and slow the ageing process. We often think we have found ‘the thing’ that will bring peace, joy and happiness for the rest of our lives. But have you ever asked yourself the question: Why am I here?

Although this question has become a philosophical cliché, this timeless question gets to the heart of the matter like no other. So, why do we even exist?

The Bible says that we exist because God willed it. Think about that. The most fundamental aspect of our life – our existence – was not even our choice! After all, who has ever chosen to be born? This fact is something that we all need to think about more often. If we did not chose to be here and the choice was made for us by someone else, then shouldn’t we think seriously about who that person is and why they have created us?

We need to get serious!

So we are having a pleasant philosophical discussion about who made us – but so what? It’s a nice way to spend a few hours discussing such questions among friends, but what difference does it make?

For the Christian the answer is that understanding and knowing God as our Creator is vital. In fact the Bible states that philosophical musings are not enough. We are COMMANDED by God to take His message seriously. The Apostle Paul, speaking from God, said the following as he debated philosophers in Athens:

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent…”
Acts 17:29-31

So we see here that everyone is required to take God’s message seriously. There are no exceptions. The young, the old, the rich and the poor, those in England, those in Asia, and all across this world need to listen to God.

Why would we ignore such an important message from God?

Here is a crucial question. We are all born into God’s world, whether we like it or not, and He commands us to turn around (repent) from our wrongdoings and turn to Him for forgiveness. This forgiveness has been secured for us by the death of God’s Son Jesus Christ. On the cross, Jesus Christ paid the price for the sins of the world. There is nothing that cannot be forgiven, public or hidden. Such is the love of God!

So, why would anyone ignore such a great offer? The Bible states that everyone who has been born has inherited the wrongdoings – sins – of our first parents Adam and Eve, who rebelled against God’s goodness in the Garden of Eden. Christians call this inherited disposition towards disobedience original sin.

Part of original sin is a tendency towards selfishness and our own needs. We are born rebels! We do not like being told what to do, either by our parents, the police, the Government – and especially not by God.

Paul sums up this depressing human condition in the book of Romans, chapter 3 verse 23:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”.

By the Bible’s standards, each one of us has totally failed our creator God.

Without Christ, we face certain disaster because of our sins

This sinfulness hardens our hearts so that we do not wish to hear or take seriously God’s message to us. However, our spiritual blindness is nothing short of a disaster for every human being. Why? When our lives end we must appear before God with every one of the sins that we have committed against Him! Even one sin is enough to keep us out of heaven and send us to the everlasting punishment that the Bible calls Hell.

Being condemned to Hell is a tragic and awful end for any human being. The Bible uses several images to describe this place of pain and torment. Many of us in the West are familiar with the cultural references to hell-fire and a burning lake of sulphur. Yes, these images do appear once or twice in the Bible, but there are other descriptions that do not get mentioned so often. Hell is described as a rubbish dump, outer darkness, or being shut out from an amazing party. It is described as a ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth’. Whatever image is used, we are left in no doubt that this place is one that we must avoid at all costs.

So, finally, why should I become a Christian?

  • God has made you
  • You are a rebel against God and His goodness
  • Without turning from your sins, you face God’s everlasting judgement
  • God commands you to turn from your sins and be saved

There has been a lot of bad news in this article! The good news about Jesus Christ has been mentioned too, but we have been saving the best for last! Now it is time to speak about the LOVE of God.

We’ve seen how we are all born as rebels against God. From our earliest age we have been doing wrong. But there is a solution, and it is a solution that GOD Himself has provided!

By believing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour we are saved from God’s judgement. Jesus has many names in the Bible, but He is often referred to as God’s Son. He is God, along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus was born as a human being and lived amongst us. He lived a perfect life and touched many, many lives with His unparalleled teaching and miracles. Finally, he was betrayed and sentenced to death by crucifixion. On the cross, Jesus suffered the punishment that should have been ours.

Three days after His death, the tomb where He was placed was empty – He had risen from the dead! He appeared to His disciples for another 60 days before being taken into heaven, where He is the king of the whole universe.

To believe in Jesus Christ is to become a Christian. It is to be saved and be guaranteed eternal heaven with God, rather than eternal hell.

This famous passage from John’s Gospel explains what God has done in Jesus Christ:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” – John 3:16-17

So, despite the terrible mess that mankind is in, God had always purposed in His heart to send a Saviour to allow man to come back to his Creator. Jesus Christ did not need to suffer for our sins, and God is totally justified in sending a person to hell. But the Bible tells us that God’s love means He is more interesting in saving, not punishing, people. God wants us back to be with Him forever.

So, this article has been an explanation of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. At the top of this article is a scripture from the book of Jeremiah. Although written for the nation of Israel, we can apply it to ourselves also. It is a promise from God: if we truly seek Him with all our hearts, He will hear us! If we really desire to be with God forever in heaven with our sins forgiven, then He will always hear that request! Yes, it is natural to have doubts, and we will often have many unanswered questions about God and the Bible, but the crucial issue is being forgiven. That is where we need to start when seeking God.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

Why should you become a Christian? Because God wants you to choose life, not death.