Saturday 26 November 2011

Marriage Genesis 2

A major national newspaper featured a front page story stating that divorce amongst the over 60s had become prevalent.  Reasons given were early retirement leading to boredom at home, and the ability to travel and mix.
At one time divorce at such an age was very seldom.  I can imagine some heartbreaking stories could be told of one partner in the marriage being deserted in older age after many years of fidelity on their part.  Whilst both sexes can be at blame, I imagine it is more likely that it is a man feeling he is still young at heart and being attracted to a younger more glamorous model, although one often reads of some woman falling for a toy boy who will soon deprive her of her wealth.  In either case much sympathy must be felt for the aggrieved partner. 
Much of this sort of behaviour emanates from a lax view of marriage, a lack of religious belief, and the fact that so many people of all ages are completely influenced by what they see on television where sexual activity is portrayed as being an essential of life, and viewers are unable to separate fiction from reality. 
If we turn to the Bible marriage was given in the first book, Genesis, where God made man and then said it was not good for him to be alone and He would give man a helper.  God wanted to ease man’s loneliness and give him someone he could love and no other relationship is as special or more profound.  God said the man should leave his parents and ‘cleave’ to his wife, in other words be bound to her for life, spending their lives committed to each other.
It is important to note that whilst marriage is referred to in both Old and New Testaments, it always refers to a man and a woman, there is no authority for marriage between two people of the same sex; that is a device of society and it is sad that our Prime Minister, a (nominal) Conservative should be so intent on making ‘gay marriage’ an ‘urgent priority.’ 
Marriage was God’s gift to humanity and sometimes it goes wrong when two incompatible personalities are together or when one strays to someone else, even when one partner is subject to violent behaviour.  Such causes may inevitably lead to divorce. 
Today marriage is seen by a lot of people as outdated and unnecessary.  Why bother when you can live just as well co-habiting?  Recent court cases have shown how perilous this can be for a woman.  Other people marry without much thought, thinking if it goes wrong there is always divorce, which has been made so easy despite the disasters caused to children the product of such marriages. 
Of course adultery is now commonplace and some feel they should not be restricted to one woman or man.  Television stories are full of such behaviour and celebrities act likewise. So why not copy?
The Bible is quite clear that marriage is for life and makes that on the strongest way, in the words. , “What God has joined together, let man not separate” which is telling us God never meant there to be divorce.

Friday 25 November 2011

john 13

I want to greet all those who have kindly turned and looked at this blog.  I thank you for your interest and hope I will continue to have your company. 

It is my hope that I will be with you twice a week, at least, on Monday to look at matters relating to the Church and Christians in general, and on Friday to have a Bible passage to go into the week-end.

To-day I want you to look with me at these words from the 13th Chapter of St John’s Gospel. ‘Sir we want to see Jesus.’

In many small evangelical churches in the United States, they have these words inscribed on the pulpit to remind the preacher that people have come to hear about Jesus Christ. .  I had the joy of preaching recently at a small Methodist Church which had the same words inscribed on the pulpit. It is a call to the preacher that he must only preach Jesus Christ and not engage in philosophy, politics, or be submissive to political correctness. These words were the theme of the preacher when I was ordained at Chester Cathedral, one of the godliest men you could possibly meet

As we enter the season of Advent we have the lead up to the coming of Christmas when the world over will celebrate the holiday season.  The principal and in fact only reason for the celebration will never enter most people’s minds.  Indeed, many children as well as adults will know little if anything about the birth of our Lord,  If you were to ask people how they were to celebrate the event they would tell you boastfully of all the food drink and partying they were going to indulge in.  See how few will be in Churches on Christmas Eve or Day.
 I hope you who are reading this will want to see Jesus, for He wants to show us Himself   
Jesus had entered Jerusalem for the Passover festival having just raised Lazarus from the dead, and was receiving an enthusiastic welcome from crowds of people gathered for the festival.  But there were some who did not welcome Him and indeed were plotting His death.

At such a time as this many Gentiles would go to the city and although not Jews would join in the celebrations.  Some Greeks were amongst the crowds who had heard of Jesus and were determined to meet Him.  They were from a settlement in the North of Galilee and went to Philip who came from near their area and said to him, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus’.

Having heard the stories of what Jesus had done they realised something was missing from their lives and wanted to receive from Him that something  So when they said they wanted to see Jesus, they were in fact seeking a meeting with Him.
When Jesus was told of their request He was pleased and responded immediately.  He had not gone to Jerusalem to enter for the same purpose as the crowds had in mind, so when He heard a group of people were genuinely seeking Him, He said, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.
He went on to say "Truly, truly, I say to you."  Whenever Jesus used those words, it meant that He was going to say something important.  Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone." He was here meaning. He was the grain of wheat and unless He went to the cross,  His whole purpose in coming to earth will have been in vain.  If He had not made the sacrifice on the Cross, you and I and everybody else, could not have forgiveness. When He met those Greeks it was as the first sign that the gospel was to go to all the world, and part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the Gentiles,  the symbol of the great harvest for which He came.
If He had not died we probably would not know any more about Him for He would have just been another figure of history, of no greater significance than any other great religious leader. Because of the cross, He was able to do something He could never have done otherwise.
Everything that happened to Him was part of God’s great plan foretold in the Old Testament and His death on the Cross brought Him glory. When Jesus stated ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’, He  knew what He had  to face and that He is going to be glorified through the sacrifice the cross, because by that cruel death the way to forgiveness for all believers was made possible.
At the cross, Jesus underwent the judgement we deserve and paid our debt to God.  His death gives us hope of everlasting life with Him one day. He wants to give you that hope in your life today. He alone can give you that new life that can never fade, and you can find that new life by meeting Jesus.
You may have started coming to church recently, or have been a faithful member for years, and then one day you come and a preacher says a word that makes you realise there has been something missing in your life, that perhaps you have even noticed in someone else; you know that you are still on the outside looking in.  You do not understand it all, but you sense there is something you need to find out.  You need to meet Jesus.

If we want to see Jesus we should refer to our Bibles where you can meet Him there, not of course personally but through a spiritual encounter. If you turn aside and want nothing to do with him, then in the end He will close the door on you – for all eternity.
There are those, and within the Church even, who challenge His divine birth and physical resurrection, those liberals who have merely a casual relationship with the Bible.  If however we reject these doctrines, we reduce Him to what many want to see Him as, merely a religious man cum social worker. But, that is not how the Bible portrays Him.

Jesus went further, and said, much to the annoyance of to-day’s politically correct theologians, ‘no one can come to the Father except through me.’  This is now unacceptable to many Christian preachers who claim (erroneously) that all religions lead to God. 
There are so many reasons for wanting to, ‘see Jesus’. People in these high pressure days are so often weary and depressed and looking for that spiritual something.   Jesus said ‘I can fulfil all those needs.’
People are looking for something beyond themselves, looking for a way that gets the most out of life, yet carrying a load of guilt, fear and worry.  Jesus said, ‘come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest’ 

So many men and women these days are doing things and behaving in a way that once would never have been thought of, so carrying all sorts of moral problems.  Indulging in activities they know to be wrong, yet unable to resist the temptations. 
If they had turned to Christ they would have had someone to offer help.    

But when a person claims to be someone, you have to make sure they really are who they say they are.  Many people claim to be who they are not.  Margaret Thatcher, when Prime Minister, visited a psychiatric hospital and met an old lady.  She greeted her and said, ‘hello, I’m Margaret Thatcher, your Prime Minister.’  The old lady said, ‘don’t worry dear.  I was the same when I came in here, you’ll get over it.’ 

A day is coming when we will all see Jesus.  The Bible says everyone will assemble before Him as He sits on the judgement throne.  Some will go one way with the goats, some the other way with the sheep.  We will have either joy in the after life with Jesus, or eternity with the lost. The criterion is how we respond whilst we are here on earth.  The bible says ‘now is the time of God’s favour, now is the time of salvation’.  It will be too late after we have died, and no amount of intercession will then save us.     

May we ever be like the Greeks in our passage today and want to see Jesus and seek Him with all our hearts. 

Monday 21 November 2011

Much prominence has been given in the press and television to a letter written by 18 bishops to the Observer newspaper (where else), protesting at the government’s welfare cuts which they describe as creating child poverty.  This has generated much comment on the internet, mostly adverse, for the vast majority of the public, according to opinion polls, feel benefit payments are in fact too liberal.  When a cap is proposed at £500 per week and £35,000 a year for unemploeyed people,it can be understood why people feel that way.  There are a great number of men and women with families working very hard at personal cost in time energy and stress for a lot less than £35,000 a year. Many indeed who would feel it was their lucky day if offered those terms. It is hard to credit that so many as alleged by the bishops are living in poverty at such rates
Perhaps it might have been wiser if the bishops had thought with their minds rather than their hearts.  No fair minded person would object to the provision of assistance for the necessities of life, but necessities obviously mean different things to people.  There have been tragic cases where men have been made redundant who would normally never have been thought to be at risk, and as a result are facing difficulty in meeting commitments previously made.  But against that there are people who have not worked and have no intention of doing so, enjoying luxuries those men cannot now afford.  Friction and annoyance are therefore reasonable.

In addition there have been some outrageous abuses of welfare payments by some people who have conjured up the most sophisticated frauds to illegally obtain many thousands of pounds.  If their ingenuity was put to honest labour everyone could benefit. 

Much has been said regarding foreign workers taking employment away from British workers.  Employers have responded by alleging young British men and women lack skills in education, communication and a willingness to work hard, in other words less work for more money.  Certainly documentaries on television have portrayed British youth reluctant to stay the course where hard work is required, and be much inferior to European workers  As a consequence those young people willing and seeking work, are finding it much harder to get employment. 

I would like to have seen the bishops make condemnation instead of the liberal establishment who control the agenda which has denigrated endeavour, and sought to create a society of equals which is determined by a mediocre standard at best, and which has left us unable to compete in may ways with other nations. 

Gone is the encouragement to feel pride in obtaining success in work and achievement.  Gone too are the grammar schools which enabled many boys and girls from working class backgrounds (like myself) to get a good education which they could use to benefit themselves and the community, closed by politicians who attended the best private schools or indeed grammar schools themselves.  It seems rather importune to condemn grammar schools if you have been to Eton. 

I look forward, without a lot of hope, to the time 18 bishops write to any newspaper protesting at the government’s decision to prohibit adoption by married couples if they refuse to give same-sex education to children in their care.  Most people would agree that two men, however well-intentioned, are totally unsuitable to raise children, especially female children.
Such decision has forced Catholic Adoption agencies which did such wonderful work to close down and so leave many children uncared for.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Ephesians 4

The Collect for Sunday prays that God will keep the Church in the unity of the spirit and in the bond of peace.
      In the 4th Chapter of Ephesians Paul writes forcibly on this theme.  He saw the Church as the family of brothers and sisters in Christ, and like earthly families wanting to meet together in their Father’s house. 
     Anyone who has been in the Church for some time knows that no Church is perfect; there is usually one person who is a storm centre.  The Church can be a place of joy, but also one of heartache and pain.  Paul always wanted the Church to be one that brought credit on Christianity.  Paul wanted us to act as he understood what Christ expected from the Church. 
     He laid down some basics of the Christian faith.  Humility, which means setting one’s life beside the example of Christ Himself.  Gentleness, which means being angry for the right purposes, and not ever seeking to cause dissension.  Peace, in that we seek to have good relationships with each other.  Love, which is not the emotional kind but that of a caring person and withholding bitterness. We are to hold one another up, to sustain and support each other, and to live according to the way God has spelled out in His Holy Word, holding to those principles. 
     In all his Letters, Paul first laid down theological teaching and then went on explain the practical application, and he is here stressing the Church in its entirety must be as one.  We may conduct our services in different forms, but we should have the same doctrinal beliefs and not have the situation where one is teaching one thing and is at variance with another. 
     I have often been struck by the hypocrisy of weeks of Christian unity and I stopped attending years ago  I am happy and always ready to join in worship with any fellow Christians in any Church.  When I first became a Christian it was with a group of Christians in Kenya, where the members were from all different denominations and countries, yet all one in Christ Jesus.  But now at gatherings in so called Christian unity weeks, each denomination tends to stay together and there is a refusal by some to have full Communion with other Christians.  If we are really sincere about unity, we have to be prepared to let it happen without reservation or conditions, which is not always practiced.
     Even within my own denomination (in the Church of England) there are bitter divisions over the question of women bishops and homosexual clergy.  A quick reference to Scripture (and tradition) would resolve the questions in a matter of minutes, but that would not produce the answer that some seek.  Yet by prolonging the public debate to the delight of the press and non Christians, enormous damage is being done to the wider Church.  True faith would say if I am harming the Church I will not pursue my personal desires.  Real Christianity is being ready to make personal sacrifices for the wider good.     
     Paul laid out the ground rules for unity.  There is one body, Jesus being the head of the body.  Oneness is an essential in the Church.  Individual presentations may vary, but all should lead to the one purpose of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.     
     There is one hope, all seeking the same goal.  There is one Lord and one faith by which all Christians are bound to one another in complete surrender to Jesus Christ.
     Paul had wonderful visions of a world turning to Christ with one baptism as acceptance of repentance and the confession of Jesus as Lord in the one faith.  Since there is only one true God there can indeed be on body, the Church. If there is to be complete unity there must also be an acceptance of the gospel truths laid down in the Bible.  The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ on which the Church is built, consisting of those who confess Him. 
     Paul emphasised that all members should use their personal gifts for the benefit of the Church.  Every gift we possess is in itself a gift from God.  Each person is unique in oneself, and what we are given is meant to be for the benefit of all.
    Paul lists the various offices set out in the first Church, some to be Apostles, (restricted to those selected by our Lord,) but continuing,  pastors who cared for the people of God and taught God’s Word. We now have a situation in which some teachers are giving false teaching and we should all be prepared to test what is taught by searching the Scriptures, for false teaching will destroy the Church.
     There are now those ready to deny the very Word that God gave.  Some preachers are now extending teaching so that it is in line with society’s belief that the 21st century justifies an amended gospel to embrace current thinking.   God however was not just a God for the first century, and experience combined with general intelligence, teaches that a copy is never as good as the original.   The importance of authoritative teaching is that that all may properly play their part in the work God meant us to do.
     Paul finally warned that there will always be those who need to be entertained with novelty.  This is so often extended to practices which frankly make the faith look and sound ridiculous.  God wants you to come to a place where there is stability and you will not be tossed around by every trendy wind.  Too many Christians are unstable because they have had no solid basis of doctrine and just don’t know what to believe or why. 
     Paul thanked God for the Church, and that is something we should all do.  Our calling is to follow the example given by Paul so that we stand out in our communities. 
     Let us all seek to have a Church, even if it just be our own local one, where the true gospel is taught as God intended when He inspired those 40 men to write the Bible; filled with men and women who care for each other, ready to support each other in times of trouble, ready to welcome strangers who come into our midst, and who are never reluctant to confess they are Christians.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

2 Timothy 1

By general consensus Christians are under attack from political ideologues and some officious people anxious to claim a few moments of fame by being publicly offended on someone else’s behalf. So Christians become fair game.  They are aided in their antics by a biased judiciary as displayed prominently in two recent cases. (But there are other cases)
     A Christian registrar in a London borough objected on religious grounds to officiating at civil unions.  Whilst there were numerous other registrars willing and able to act in her place, this was refused and she was suspended.
     A devoted fostering couple in Derby were taken off the register because they admitted they would not teach young children in their care that homosexuality was acceptable.  Children of a tender age do not need to be taught any sexuality.
When they were later interviewed by the (biased)BBC a reporter asked them if they did not consider it was selfish to deny children a loving home because of their stance. Any person with impartiality and indeed intelligence would have asked the Council that question.  They were the offenders.  
     Alongside nurses, boarding house owners, doctors, and
general workers, these brave and noble people stand largely alone.  Many people claiming to be faithful Church members feel unable to, perhaps understandably fearing the consequences.  It does indeed need much courage, but is it not wrong that in a Christian country Christians need to fear?
     This raises the question, ‘is there a need for us to feel we have to be apologetic for our belief?’  We certainly must not be ashamed to state the fact we are Christians.
     Look with me at Paul’s 2nd Letter to Timothy. This is my favourite Letter of the Bible.  It contains so much teaching on practical Christian living which is still relevant to us today.      
     He is writing to Timothy, who he wanted to take over the mission of leading the Church as he is nearing his life’s end in a Roman prison.  Paul felt Timothy was the right person to lead the Church, having come from a godly family where his mother and grandmother had brought him up teaching the Scriptures. 
     I suspect that many people in the older generation were brought up being told the Bible stories, going to Sunday School,  singing hymns in school assemblies, so being given a solid foundation.  Children for some years now have been deprived of this and have not the slightest knowledge of the Bible.
     Grandmothers still have a big part to play.  Children are growing up in moral confusion, taking up a bizarre lifestyle which they pick up from programmes produced by depraved minds.
     After parents, it is our closest friends who influence us most.  We all owe a debt to those who led us to Christ.  My own mother always encouraged me to go to Church from an early age, and by example attended.  Like most fathers, mine was not interested in religion. But for deeper conviction, I owed much to a most devoted Christian who worked tirelessly for Christ, far away in East Africa.
     Whilst I had attended Church regularly and as Matins and Evensong were celebrated each Sunday, with being a chorister was present at both services. It was not however until I reached that distant country that I became aware of what evangelical Christianity stood for. Anglican worship has always been largely pragmatic. 
     We all may have been influenced by someone who has stirred us and helped to make our faith stronger.  Those are the relationships which God establishes, and you remember things from sermons and written notes which have become precious to you.    
      To some Timothy might have been a surprise choice to lead the Church, but we see God often chooses a man who the Church committee would reject.   Paul tells Timothy he was set apart through ordination, and calls on Timothy to exercise personal discipline. Many in ministry today could learn from Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus. 
     There is the call not to be fearful of speaking the truth, of keeping to the teaching of the gospel as it is written.  Cowardliness has no place in Christian ministry.  The Bible states, ‘for God did not give us a spirit of timidity’.      
     Paul begs Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel.  Every Christian is called upon not to be ashamed of the gospel.  Every Christian must be ready to stand up and be counted.  Never to be ashamed to be a member of God’s people.  When Paul was arrested many of his friends forsook him, and today many are forsaking the Church, often using the flimsiest of excuses.      
     There is always the temptation to feel the need to keep silent about one’s faith.  There is the fear of being isolated. 
      Fear of having to disassociate oneself from activities we know to be wrong.
    Fear of being laughed at and mocked. 
     We all are sensitive to public opinion and tend to give in before its pressure. 
     We need to let other people know that we are Christians, that we have deep religious belief, and believe that God intervenes in our lives.  We are called on to have high moral standards, not to take the Lord’s name in vain nor use the name of Christ improperly.
     We Christians need to let the world know that we are proud of the Bible, because it contains the teachings, life and death of Jesus.
     There is no need for us to be ashamed. If anyone needs to be ashamed and defensive, it is the adulterous and sinful generation in which we live.
      We know there are many people who are not prepared to accept the Bible story as they find it too incredible to believe.  They are more ready to listen to the strident outpourings of nauseating, insulting, self indulgent secularists. 
     For others accepting the gospel would mean a change of hedonistic lifestyle.  It means accepting a standard of morality they are not prepared to accept. 
     The passage refers to ‘sound teaching’ and you cannot have sound living without sound teaching.  Paul is saddened and depressed about the state of the Church, a situation we are familiar with in the West.  He makes it clear that the only sound teaching there can be, is that which is based on the Scriptures.  This is the only way you can discover what the truth is and the gospel is really saying and meaning.
     We can only be saved through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  This was the first Christian message and it has not changed with the passing of the years. No other religion, no other person, can offer what Christianity offers.  Jesus said ‘no one can come to the Father except through me’. 
     Salvation means God accepts us when we accept Jesus Christ death on the Cross as the means of forgiveness of our sins.    This is the salvation offered us in the gospel.   How many preachers would be ready to stand in one of our Cathedrals and state this?  How many would be allowed to? 
     So many preachers are afraid of what people, and especially what the papers would report.  But look at the praise heaped on Pope Benedict by the press for his bold and brave words in telling the politicians to stop interfering with the Christian faith, and calling for a vigorous Christian outpouring to combat the aggressive secularism pervading our society. 
     The last government enacted legislation which was anti-Christian in parts, and the present government seems keen to endorse it, and it needs to be challenged at every opportunity.
We have no political leader on our side at the present time; two leaders are avowed atheists and the other only a lukewarm Christian when it is likely to be politically expedient.
      Preachers can however be intimidated and be frightened of upsetting modern susceptibilities. To preach fundamental truth will inevitably meet hostility. Yet we have the example and encouragement from this little Jewish Apostle who faced all that could be put against him, and because of that Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire    
     Those who are appointed to preach this gospel have a duty to devote themselves to faithful teaching. From the very start of the faith, essential truths have been under attack.  What is now of so much concern is that attacks often come from within the Church as people push their own agenda, getting massive media attention.
     All Christians, and more especially leaders and preachers, have a duty to guard the gospel.  To challenge is to break trust with God who gave it to us.  There is the temptation to take basic truths and turn them to make them more acceptable to the day in which we live.  There is the ever present desire to please the modern man/woman rather than be true to God.  Truth does not change.  Presentation may be adjusted, but to change and replace is not acceptable.
     Let us face up to the challenge and never ever be ashamed ot the gospel or of being Christian.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Matthew 13

Matthew 13 v24/44
I was told of a mural in a Church not far from my home in which is depicted a scene in which people are being driven to  hell. 

Shortly after hearing of this I had occasion to attend a clergy meeting at that Church.  The mural was pointed out to me and I said that I found it hard to distinguish what it meant, when a fellow clergyman said it had not received attention so had faded as we don’t tell people about going to hell now.  I replied, ‘I do’, and he looked at me completely astonished.  However I feel it should be me being astonished.
     When we who are being ordained into the Church of England appear before our Bishop at the Ordination service the Bishops asks, ‘are you persuaded that the holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of the said Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge and to teach nothing but that which you shall be persuaded may be proved and concluded by the Scriptures?’ We are then asked to affirm our acceptance .There is also the requirement to banish doctrines contrary to God’s Word.   So why do some not conform to Scripture and their affirmation?’
Hell is referred to 48 times in the Bible to my knowledge, and was frequently taught by our Lord Himself. 

The passage in Matthew 13 is a parable about a farmer who sows good seed in the ground but someone sows bad seed when he is not looking.  The bad seed is so like the good it is only discernible when fully grown.  At harvest the reapers sought the good from the bad and burn the bad.

This is not a farming discourse our Lord is giving but a warning of separation and judgement.  The good seed represents those who have chosen to accept and follow Christ, the bad seed that of the evil one (devil, Satan, or call him whatever you will).  Sometime a person may appear to be a good Christian when in fact he/she is not, but on the day of judgement will be sought out and separated. Conversely, a person not thought much of may be a very sincere and good person. We learn therefore not to exercise judgement.

This parable gives many preachers problems as they are unable to face the reality taught in the Bible.  One Vicar said it brought out the worst in some preachers and irreverently referred to those of us who accept our Lord’s strict teaching as ‘tub thumpers’.  This only goes to show there is no one as illiberal as a liberal.

Some people think that Jesus was just trying to frighten us, which raises the question is there something to be frightened of? 

One often finds speed warning signs along a stretch of road telling of speed camera being in operation, which infers there is a penalty for exceeding the limit.  Sometimes this is accompanied by signs telling of the numbers of people killed. Yes they are trying to frighten us, but also reminding us how close to death we can be, and any sensible person will heed the warnings. 

Jesus is here warning us of the consequences of what we face if we reject Him, at the same time showing His love and concern for us. 

Jesus always made it plain that this life is a preparation for eternity, and we face a choice now.  He taught there were two roads in life, a broad one on which there will be many people, and probably causing congestion, and which leads to destruction, and a narrow one where there will be far less travelling on, leading to eternal life.  In other words, two destinies, heaven or hell.  To suggest this to many people, including clergy, is an anathema and fewer preachers are now willing to proclaim it so. 

There are various view held on what finally happens to us when we die. Some believe that is all there is to life everything is finished; others believe everyone goes to heaven for a loving God would never send anyone to hell; ands that is true, the point is many choose to go by their manner of living. 

There is only one authoritative source, the Bible, all else is pure speculation.  There we find Jesus telling, as He does in this parable, of a literal hell.  In fact whenever He spoke of heaven He spoke of the alternative (hell)   Read the story of Lazarus in Luke 16; or. the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.

 Heaven must exist so that those who have served the Lord may have their eternal reward for the sufferings they have endured and to fulfil the promise God has made.  Hell must exist for those who have rejected the warnings and lived unworthy and evil lives.  It has been said for the unbeliever this life is the only heaven they will, know and for the believer this is the only hell they will know.  It has also been said the road to hell I s paved with good intentions whilst the road to heaven is paved with the blood of Christ  We each

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Charles Wesley

Earlier this year I conducted a service in remembrance of Charles Wesley, in which we sang thirteen of his favourite hymns, including prayers and a bible reading.  It was a most satisfying and interesting experience.
     Most people consider John Wesley to be the founder of the Methodist Church whereas in fact it was Charles.  He was the founder of the Holy Club in Oxford from which the term Methodists was created.  John later joined and indeed proved a great influence, and together with his brother brought many people to faith, he by his preaching and Charles through the lovely words and the theology of his hymns.
     Charles himself was a talented preacher and two of the themes he preached strongly on were salvation through Christ alone, and the doctrine of heaven and hell. These will actually be my next writings.
     I fear if Charles is aware of the some of the beliefs and preaching in the Church generally today, he will be very disturbed.
     As I was first a Methodist preacher who changed to become an Anglican priest, Charles was an Anglican priest who changed to become a Methodist.  However he never wished to separate from the Church of England and on his deathbed sent for the local Vicar and asked to be buried in the local Anglican Church graveyard, saying, ‘Sir whatever the world may say of me, I lived and died a member of the Church of England. Please bury me in your Churchyard’.
     Some of his hymns portray a distinct High Church doctrine, and he differed from John in that he saw the importance of an ordained ministry.  In fact, he expressed strong views on the use of lay preachers, which makes one wonder how he would have dealt with the situation today where there are almost as many lay preachers as ordained.    
     Charles was one who wrote as he thought and he saw the importance of conversion and a personal relationship to Jesus Christ.   He became vividly convinced of the message of salvation, and saw clearer than ever before how faith in Jesus Christ could change a person’s life.  This was the message he would take to as many people as he could, particularly to the poorer classes.  He preached that the value of a person’s life was to be measured by their faith.

The home

Perhaps the greatest tragedy for the welfare and good of this nation is the fact that marriage has been downgraded and the need for a stable family virtually ridiculed.  The well established principle of a family being a man (father) and woman (mother) being joined in holy matrimony and bring up children together has been cavalierly dismissed as old-fashioned.  We see so clearly the consequences.
     We constantly read and hear reports of young people
between the ages of 7 and teenage years terrifying whole neighbourhoods.  They abuse, assault, vandalise and rob at will, and if anyone should remonstrate with them that person runs the risk of stabbing or serious injury. On several occasions men with families have been killed whilst defending their property.  Whole gangs roam the streets seeking confrontation with other gangs and their members, which have cost the lives of substantial number of young men, sometimes innocent victims. 
     On so many occasions, broken homes have been a cause of such behaviour, with a mother unable to control or showing an utterly irresponsible line.  One 12 years old boy terrified an estate and his mother said he was ‘her little Satan, but wasn’t really evil’. An unwitting contradiction in terms, but added he just needs understanding.  He certainly needs something, but more severe than understanding. Yet again an absent father.
      In the Old Testament, Joshua a great leader of the Jewish people, addressed the nation and said, ‘as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’
     ‘A nation is only as strong as its homes’, said Abraham Lincoln, and today our homes are reflecting the state of the our nation, which is in the deteriorating state of moral and social decay, which should make us fear for the future of our children and grandchildren.
       The first home was instituted by God before Church, schools, or government. God made man, and then woman to be his wife, to live together and have children. It was meant to be where father, mother and children lived as a family. It was a place where children first heard about God as parents told them about Jesus
     The home now doesn’t mean as much today as it used to do, and to so many people the idea of two people being married as the ideal is old fashioned and rather stupid.  .  Marriage was built on the foundations of the Bible.  It has been said that in 100 years from now, marriage will have ceased to exist, and if some poitcians had their way it would be in a lot less time.
     There are indeed powerful forces within the government and liberal establishment who are determined to destroy the traditional and biblical image of the home, marriage, and family.  One senior politician is waging a one woman war against it, and is quoted as having said categorically that there is no such thing as the ideal family.  The same silly woman who campaigns vigorously for equality, stating that there should be a woman wherever a man has a place.     Is it not ironic that the same woman who stated two men cannot be trusted to run anything and need a woman, yet she considers two men are capable of bringing up children through adoption.
     God has laid down clearly what He expects, and we ignore to our peril. Homes are the foundation and bedrock of society, and they are being destroyed.  If evil forces win the battle for the home there is nothing left worth fighting for.  We have to restore the home as the basic unit of society.
     An indication of how our judiciary thinks and views the Christian faith was displayed in the High Court when it was said, ‘marriage is not generally regarded as a sacrament and divorce is a statistical commonplace’.
      The Bible teaches that marriage is holy and sacred in the sight of God. I'm afraid that some enter into it like it's all a big joke. Others go into marriage for luck and they break up and there's trouble and there's disappointment.  That is wrong. Marriage should be preceded by the most careful thought.
      One of the nations’ favourite television programmes has been featuring two people, who are neighbours, conniving at having an affair as a major story line  People are so captivated by television stories they think they have to emulate them in real life.  I dread seeing weddings or funerals on television as I know some of the ridiculous actions will be asked for in the following weeks.
      You can’t have a relationship with God and be in an adulterous relationship. In the Old Testament it was considered so serious it was a capital offence punishable by death.  God wanted to show the world how serious was the marriage vow
     We have so much unhappiness and trouble in the home today because we've got away from God's laws, rules, and regulations governing marriage, When God performed the first marriage, He laid down the rules, and He said if you want to have a happy home, obey these rules. If you want to have trouble, disobey them.
     Having children means more than conceiving and bearing them. Raising children is a vitally responsible and important task.  It is more than being a novelty for some celebrity or as a passport to the top of the housing list for a young woman.  A whole future life is in the hands of parents, yet we hear of multiple children of a woman from multiple fathers who have no interest in the poor children.
     It is reckoned that in the majority of homes no biblical knowledge or teaching is being given to children, probably as much due to the fact the parents have none.
     Each generation claims things are worse than in their time, but I can never recall a time when children were allowed to terrorise whole neighbourhoods and cause such fear vandalising, abusing and stealing knowing they are virtually immune from any punishment.  They are fully aware of the law which protects them, and little help is offered in most cases by police.  It is hard to comprehend how the police allow such behaviour to develop, they certainly wouldn’t when it was known as ‘the Police Force’ rather than what is now little more than a social service.   Society must decide what sort of a future we want as far as children are concerned.
     The Bible says listen to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.   We can learn so much from Jewish parenthood.  Father’s teaching to his children of the Ten Commandments, one for each of the ten fingers, and the history of the Jewish people from the Old Testament, and the mother controlling behaviour.  I have never known nor heard of a Jewish child being involved in violent disorder or crime.  When I have sought an answer, I have been told it is because of the Jewish Mama in the home.
     Mothers can indeed have a great effect on children.  I was often required to be away from the home for long hours, and it is a great tribute to my wife that two of my sons became ordained, and have proved to be very wonderful and successful Ministers.
     Far too many children are left to their own devices.  How can teenagers roam the streets drunk and threatening people, stabbing other teenagers, and forming life threatening other gangs, without the parents knowing of it?  So why don’t they do something about it.  Yet again, in the days of an interested and efficient Police Force, action would have been taken under the Children’s Act for failing to control their children.
      Some feminist thinkers have said that motherhood will have to go in a new social order and find a new way of raising children.  You may have seen women being asked on television what their occupation was, and sometimes you hear the reply, ‘just a housewife’   No apology is needed.  A housewife and mother is as great a calling as any in the world.  Like God they are a very present help in times of trouble.  My sons have all held their mother in the highest esteem and my son who died called Mum as his last word.
     Christian standards have gone from many homes. Everywhere people search for happiness from the wrong things and wrong places.  Many criminals have come from homes where there has been no peace, no discipline nor Christian values or teaching. The biggest cause of young criminals is due to marital breakdown and separation
     Children take up home values. When a father dodges working, a son will invariably copy.  God ordered us to work and there would be less poverty if more people were working.
     It is a matter of great regret that government is forcing councils, some of which don’t need that much encouragement, to foster and send for adoption children to two people of the same sex.  A child needs a father and a mother, both of whom are essential to a child’s moral and social development and welfare.  It is therefore irresponsible to make such enactment and reveals contempt for God’s decree.
     The Bible says we have to have discipline in the home. It is a sign of the times that discipline has become non existent in many homes, schools, and society in general and has become a word considered vulgar. Children have a natural bias to do wrong; you never have to teach a child to say no.
     If Britain is to defend its values successfully, it must rediscover the Christian faith in which those values are ultimately rooted.  Marriage and the home are firmly part of those roots. When the founding principles are eroded, and the morality and biblical fundamentals are taken away, there is no foundation for society, which is a dangerous thing and we are seeing some of the consequences developing

Tuesday 8 November 2011


Many of us to-day grew up in a totally different culture.  We may not have had all the wonderful technological aids and comforts that now are available, but we benefited in other ways. We were taught about the Bible at home and went to Sunday school as youngsters, learning the stories about Jesus, which gave us standards and values, and a good foundation for life.  We had morning assemblies in all schools, now largely avoided in (state) schools. Children are now denied these foundations and are growing up without knowing the country’s religious faith and heritage. 

This may not have been widely followed up in life, but the basics had been laid and our lives were directed by Christian values. We didn’t have the highest abortion rate in Europe, or the highest number of teenage pregnancies, we were not known as the most violent and drunken nation either.

We had firm views on morality, honesty, integrity, and expected to live in a well-ordered society and peaceful.  These were the foundations on which lives were built and expected.

This brings me to turn to Psalm 11 which states, if the foundations  be destroyed, what can the righteous do?’ 
     What then are the ‘foundations? ’   

The foundations that are spoken of are the foundations of justice and order that support a society and prevent it from crumbling, the social, moral, ethical, political and religious foundations.  Without much effort we can see those foundations are slowly falling apart
From a social point of view, If we consider the state of things in this country, I suggest one would really have to be living in a fools paradise not to recognize there is a general breakdown in society
If you should be brave, or foolhardy enough, to walk the towns and cities you will notice a complete breakdown of law and order.  Soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime is the order of the day, with the police either unable, or indeed unwilling, to act. Every kind of vice is open to view and revelled in, there doesn’t seem to be any sense of shame.

We have  witnessed the most horrendous behaviour on the nation’s streets; massive disorder highly organised, not confined to young hooligans, but including men and women of all ages and class; illegal occupations of land; and political protests with the intention of the organisers to bring the government down, all of which reveals the sort of society we have become. 

Morally, the moral boundaries have been swept away to such an extent that there are now no absolutes, all is relative and you just do your own thing and make up your own standards.  This is being taught in our schools and universities, and in intellectual circles the Bible is seen as some form of hate literature.  People believe they can do without God. 

Marriage (which is defined as being between a man and a woman) and the family are the bedrock of society, yet according to government, is of no more worth than any other form of relationship, and a father is not considered necessary in the family. This edict is now enshrined in law. 

Now we have a Prime Minister who wants to make marriage to mean two people of the same sex and considers it a matter of urgent priority so as to make Britain the leader of the world in this matter.  Few people are calling for this as civil unions have met the needs of society.

Politically, our governments once exercised their role with Christian values in mind, but recent successive governments have shown little, if any, concern for Christian standards.  Two of our three main party leaders are confessed atheists, and the third claims to ‘have Christian principles’, yet shows no practical evidence.

Legislation has been introduced which offends and contradicts Christian teaching and belief.  In addition, we have restrictions placed on the expression of our beliefs, which can lead to penalties being imposed, something which does not happen in relation to other faiths    

We now see politicians rushing to condemn the moral condition of the nation, a condition which most of them legislated to create and encourage, and which they now realise is a moral monstrosity

In our politically correct society it seems the power of evil is so great that decent people are afraid, even in danger, if they voice criticism.  They are accused of bigotry and all kinds of phobia     Dark clouds are descending on our culture.  Our children and grandchildren are growing up in a world so very different from the previous generations.  We all know this to be true yet we feel powerless to stop the slide into the abyss.

 Christianity has been the faith of this country for over 1500 years which  has brought and kept this nation as one, Christianity is being wrecked and the ensuing collapse of Christian values has led to an unstable society in which family life is being destroyed, and a moral and spiritual vacuum has been created. Now Christianity is being phased out of public life by politically motivated people, ideologues in the government and civil service who betray the culture which nurtured them.  
What then shall the righteous do? How should the Church respond?

The righteous can do their duty.  Because the foundations are crumbling and the social order is deteriorating, it does not mean we can stand by and just express regret.  We must do all we can to rebuild the foundations.  We can do what that little band of men did who met in the Upper Room 2000 years ago and turned the world upside down

The Bishop Nazir-Ali, who has been the one Christian leader prepared to speak out on these issues, stated, ‘if Britain is to defend its values successfully, it must rediscover the Christian faith in which those values are ultimately rooted.’    

We should be concerned about the way our faith is being undermined. It is not just any faith, but one which lies at the heart of our heritage.  If you reject Christianity you reject all our values and history. 

A great difficulty arises within the Church.  At present we have those who are theologically conservative trying to be faithful to Scripture, whilst those of liberal persuasion, want to rewrite those parts of Scripture which do not conform to modern morality and social custom.  It is fatuous and irrational to suppose biblical injunctions, which do not conform to modern attitudes, can be reinterpreted to suit to-day’s requirements. 
This can only cause confusion in people’s mind.     If Christians lose the shared beliefs that have held us together, we will begin to fall apart and disintegrate. 

Today, whilst the Church in the West may be losing followers, in stark contrast Churches in Africa, Asia, and South America, the Churches have memberships of thousands.  The reason these Churches are so strong is because of the strong biblical foundation, and they have not been tearing the Bible away as we have in the West.  They still believe it and boldly proclaim it.   
The Church is beginning to look more influenced by the world rather than the other way round.  The more we try to be relevant, the more irrelevant to our purpose we become.  We should not be blown away by every whim of public opinion, but let our anchor hold in the storms of life.

Let us stand for the old standards the way Christians once did not matter how difficult that might become and not go with the trend of the times

We need to be more positive, even aggressive, in giving people a clear vision of what it means to be a Christian and to have a Christian based society.   We now have to proclaim it boldly and challenge those who try to put us down.   There is a spiritual and moral vacuum, and if we do not fill it some other philosophy will which will be much inferior.

So, what for the future of the Church?  There is hope and confidence if all who believe in the Christian faith are loyal and support the Church and be shown to be doing so.  We must all  realize there is no hope if people are content to sit back and say ethereally, ‘God will provide’.   Christ did say ‘I will build my Church’, but He expects a little help from His friends.

The most important thing is to make sure our services are ell put together with tuneful hymns and simple messages which people can readily understand rather than abstract theology, showing how life can be improved and enjoyed through living the Christian way.

In addition, we must be welcoming when new people come and indeed to encourage our friends to join us.  All Christians and not just clergy have a duty to seek to enlarge God’s Kingdom.

In consideration that there is little positive teaching from national level, each individual Church has to try and be true to the gospel, as written in Scripture, and when it finds statements being made, which it finds unacceptable, to say so and dissociate itself from them.  

If the Churches and people of this great nation do not return to the Biblical foundations and the God who has cared for us, and if our government and judicial system do not stop legislating on anti-Christian principles, we will continue to see the foundations eroding.