Satellite navigation

img_0090In order to help me navigate my way to various destinations that I need to visit in the next year, my fellow elders in Portadown gave me a gift of a satellite navigation device.

I have been experimenting with it in recent days and discovering both its advantages and disadvantages. One obvious disadvantage is that it is not totally up-t0-date and recent changes to roads and buildings are not picked up by the sat nav. No doubt someone will explain to me how it can be up-dated, but I haven’t got to that page in the manual yet.

This weekend I had to drop my daughter off at the new Stena terminal in Belfast. I hadn’t been there before and I thought my device would help me. But as you can see from the photo, the new terminal, according to the device, is somewhere in the middle of Belfast Lough! Recent land reclamation obviously hasn’t made it to the satellite yet.

This week I am in special need of another kind of guidance and direction that has a heavenly origin and is totally reliable. Can we find our way through the maze of debates, decisions and discussions that lie before us in the General Assembly? I trust God that we can. We thank Him for his ancient promise, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8.


Bobby blowing the bagpipes
Bobby and his bagpipes

It was my birthday yesterday, and as a total surprise, my wife not only invited a few friends for supper, but got our friend Bobby to come with his pipes and to play, among other things, “Happy Birthday”.

Some time ago I had said, rather lighheartedly, that I would like a piper at my funeral. Patricia’s response was, “Why wait till you’re dead?” So you can imagine my surprise when, as we sat with our friends in the back garden last night (about the only night this year that one could sit outside comfortably) Bobby appeared in full regalia playing his pipes. It was wonderful! “Highland Cathedral”, “Scotland the Brave”, and a few favourite hymn tunes echoed around the neighbourhood. I have no idea how our neighbours reacted, but I hope it made them smile. It really was a lovely relaxing evening with our friends, a suitable time of refreshment ahead of what may be a very challenging week chairing the meetings of the General Assembly. Thank you, Bobby, and thank you, Patricia. It was a great birthday.

Carnmoney Presbyterian Church

img_0088Members of Carnmoney Presbyterian Church presented me with a copy of Robert Bonar’s history of the congregation, Nigh on Three and Half Centuries. It is a lovely gift and is much appreciated.

The book is a very competent piece of work, and given the long history of the congregation, an account of its life is really a social history of south-east Antrim over 350 years. Putting such a massive amount material together was a big challenge. Yet, Robert (“Bobby”) Bonar has done a great job of organising and condensing many years of activity into 350 pages.

The first minister was called to Carnmoney in May 1657 and I was honoured to be the sixteenth minister of the congregation. Continue reading “Carnmoney Presbyterian Church”

ESV Study Bible

esvsb-featureA friend gave me a present this week. It’s the new ESV Study Bible, and I have been very impressed. As well as the ESV text of the Bible, it contains over 50 articles on a number of topics in theology, ethics and Christian teaching. It was good to see some very familiar names in the list of contributors: Desi Alexander, Dan Doriani, Bob Letham, Gordon McConville, Lee Ryken, Dave Powlison and Vern Poythress.

What impressed me was the clear and unambiguous way the editors have set out their theological position.

The doctrinal perspective of the ESV Study Bible is that of classic evangelical orthodoxy, in the historic stream of the Reformation. The notes are written from the perspective of confidence in the complete truthfulness of the Bible. In passages where errors or contradictions have been alleged, possible solutions to these challenges have been proposed. At times the notes also summarize interpretations that are inconsistent with classic evangelical orthodoxy, indicating how and why such views are in conflict with Scripture.

Everyone comes to both the translation and interpretation the Bible (isn’t all translation interpretation?) with their own set of presuppositions. It’s good when those presuppositions are stated clearly. I checked out some contentious Bible passages and was encouraged to note that in a number of places the writer of the notes agreed with me! In particular, I note that the ESV Study Bible , unlike Kingsway’s Life Application Study Bible, sets out the orthodox evangelical view of I Timothy 2. Good job!

I note that Jim McKee in the Faith Mission Bookshop in Portadown has a good supply. I suppose my only complaint is that with over 2,700 pages it’s a bit chunky and not the sort of Bible you would take with you to read in pastoral visitation.


4I couldn’t help sharing this one! This is a real photo taken outside the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. The workmen are just clearing up after erecting some bollards to prevent people parking their cars too close to the building. One wonders how they are going to feel when they jump into their van to go home.

Any advice for them?