Friday 27 January 2012

Matthew 11

I wonder if there is anyone reading this who can say, ‘I have no worries in my life?’  If there is, we would like to admire you?   There must be very few Christians, or non- Christians, who have not experienced some worry, some anxiety.
     We need hardly ask whether worry harms, it causes us to lose sleep,  takes the joy out of living, causes our hair to fall out or turn grey, even leads to an early grave.
     There are so many fears in modern life. Young people facing life away from home for the first time, people fearing redundancy, young managers worried at having to achieve ever ridiculously higher targets, the business man working such hours he hardly has little time to see his family; the fear of marriage, of serious illness; fear of losing someone dear. These are all perils faced by people every single day.
     As Christians we need to ask, ‘what is life all about’?  So many people, especially the young, have no meaningful purpose.  They have a hard outlook of, ‘live life to excess, get what you can out of it by any means whatever’.
     What is the answer for the growing number of older people frightened to venture out of their homes?  The one parent abandoned by their husband /wife.  Wherever you look you find sadness, heartache, and despair.
     The Bible says the answer is that life has no meaning apart from God, but for many God is unreal.  You can’t however come to God except through Jesus Christ.  Not by Mohammed, Buddha, or anyone else. 
     Christ came to seek and to save the lost, the fearful and the lonely, the worried and the broken hearted.  God lays down no conditions other than you trust in Him and in Jesus. You no longer need to have fear and worry if you turn to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
     The Bible says that God is separated from us by sin.  Sin is not just immorality, it is turning against God and saying, ‘I will do my own thing and go my own way’.  Jesus came, sent from God with the sole purpose of bringing us into a living relationship with Himself.
     To all who are worried, afraid or anxious, Jesus says, ‘Come to me and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light’
      Who can come?   All you who are weary and heavy laden with care. All who are weighed down by sin or guilt. To all Jesus speaks. This however is a conditional offer.  You have to recognise you need help and are prepared to admit it. 
     The Bible says, ‘no one in all the world is innocent, we have all fallen short of the glory of God’.  It doesn’t matter what the past has been, if you repent and turn to Christ, God is ready to forgive all what has been.  We have all broken God’s laws and done what is wrong, but if we are prepared to admit this, then Christ’s invitation is for us.
     What happens if you come?  Jesus said, ‘I will give you rest’.  These are words spoken by someone who fulfils His promises.  So many people make promises they either cannot, or have no intention, of fulfilling.  Jesus is ready to be faithful to His Word. He says, ‘I am here waiting for you.  I’ve got help if you will only come’.   
     You can change your whole way of life and possessions, but if there is no inner peace, all the changes in the world will make no difference.  Jesus once said ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’, for if heart and mind are at rest that is peace.  It is constant peace that Jesus is offering.  He says, ‘I can set you free for I am the Way, the truth, and the life.
     How do I come?  Just as you are.  There is a beautiful hymn which is titled, ‘Just as I am’ written by a lady named Charlotte Elliot. One night she was kept awake with disturbing thoughts which caused her to question the reality of her whole spiritual life. The next day, she was so troubled by her thoughts that she felt they must be met and conquered in the grace of God. So taking pen and paper from the table she deliberately set in verse the Gospel of pardon, peace, and heaven, which we have in that treasured hymn which brings a quiet simple message of sin, forgiveness, and salvation to all that turn from sin and trust in Jesus. This has been sung at every one of Billy Graham’s Crusades when at the end of his meetings he asks people to make a commitment to Christ, saying come just as you are.You just rely on what He has done for us, and at His invitation in a spirit of simple trust. 
     The Bible tells of men who went to Him with all manner of illness.  Jesus gave them riches beyond measure, releasing them from restlessness enabling them to face the future.
      Jesus said, ‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me’.  A yoke was a wooden frame placed on a persons shoulder in order to make a load easier to carry.  So Jesus is saying ‘let me help you carry your burden. Instead of going your own way turn around and come with me’.
     The moment you come to Him is the time you begin to live in a new way with a lasting and new relationship.  Jesus died on that Cross for your personal sins, and because of that alone, you can be forgiven totally by God and earn your place in heaven.
     It means putting Him as a priority.  If we give preference to some other activity we are putting God in second place, and in the Commandments He tells us He is a jealous God and will not be relegated.
     Jesus will welcome you because of the promise He made in John’s gospel, that whoever comes to Him will never be turned away. 
     The Bible tells us that the love of Christ goes far beyond human understanding, to break every barrier down.  Only pride, fear or doubt can hold us back
     You see it is not just being religious or even coming to Church that makes you a full Christian.  A person can be baptised, confirmed and be regular at Church and not be a true Christian.  Many Church people are really unpleasant, arrogant and very un-Christian.  Coming to Church should be a delight like sons and daughters coming to meet their (heavenly) Father in complete harmony, as children go their earthly parents home 
     In far too many Churches there are dominant personalities who, instead of looking for the good, want to put their own interpretation on matters, such interpretation not always being favourable.  In such cases it is because their own personal life is unhappy, disturbed or there is something lacking.
     If your life is troubled and God seems far away, if you are humble enough to admit your need, then listen to the words of Jesus when He said, ‘behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with Him’.  As He stands outside the door of your life, He longs to come in to make His presence and friendship real.  But the door handle is on the inside.  All you need do is turn it in faith. 
     Believe His promise, take Jesus at His word, ‘come, just as you are’.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Contending for the faith

Fuurther to my last message, we have had two examples of how important it is to contend for the faith.

A recent report shows attendances in the Church of England have fallen by 20,000 last year, and to that add the losses in other Churches.

At University College London a cartoon was displayed showing "Jesus and Mo" having a drink at a bar.  This was posted by an atheist group at the College
The atheist group was asked by the UCL union to remove it, but refused and started a petition defending its freedom of expression.
The image that started the controversy was taken from an online satirical comic called Jesus and Mo. The twice-weekly comic strip, running since 2005, depicts Jesus and what creators say is a "body double" of Muhammad talking to a barmaid.

The cartoon was removed after a Muslim group objected.  Notice how quickly response is made when a Muslim group protested. (as should happen)  But notice too no Christian group is reported to have voiced protest.

If only we were as proud of our faith

Thursday 19 January 2012

The Letter of Jude

Last week I wrote that we should not be ashamed of the gospel and now I invite you to look with me at the smallest book of the Bible, the Letter of Jude which is right at the end of the New Testament.  It is only 25 verses long but its message is timelessly relevant and is a natural follow up to last week’s message.  

This Letter does not appear in the Lectionary at any time and is seldom if ever preached upon. The only time I have heard it preached was by an old Scottish Minister on Stornoway.  It is probably the most unpopular Letter in the New Testament, and it seems so wrong that it should be so neglected, but it is an anathema to the politically correct elite who dominate our society and have infiltrated our Churches, as it deals with absolutes and does not support the loose morality which exists. 

Jude intended to write a letter about salvation, but noticed he faced Christianity being attacked from outside the Church and also from within.  He found preachers were preaching false doctrine and advocating a gospel which fitted within their desires and approach and he saw a dishonouring of Christ which led to a deceiving of souls.  They were teaching that God’s grace is so wide He will forgive any sin, but God set moral boundaries to define right from wrong. This is why it is so relevant for us today, for we have to face attack from outside the Church, and like Jude from false teaching within. 
I want to just look at verse 3 and 4, but would suggest when you have time at home, that you read the rest of the 25 verses. ‘I exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered unto the saints.’
It is in fact a call to arms for Christians and the Church, especially in Western countries. These are dark days for the Church.  We live in a society that largely rejects religion and regards God as having no place in their lives. We live in times when truth is no longer taken as read, but rather accepted as being just what you want it to be. All the boundaries have been swept away, the spiritual moorings have been eroded, and morality is no longer based on Biblical teaching.
For many hundreds of years this country has been Christian. During this time Christians have played a major role in the abolition of slavery, the development of hospitals and education, and Methodist Christians were prominent in the formation of trades unions and workers rights, and generally the Church has been a force for good.   
After I had taken a Veterans service I received a letter from a lady who wrote, ‘I grew up in the 20s and 30s in a free country with principles.  We joined the forces because we thought we were fighting to preserve a way of life which other countries envied.  We grew up in God fearing families.  For a long time I have felt like a lonely voice crying in the wilderness.  The only answer I have had is we have moved on. I fear I am losing my Christian beliefs’.

I don’t believe she is a lone voice crying in the wilderness. I think there are many people in sympathy with her, who will echo her fears and agree with her, and such sentiments I am sure would be widely echoed in the society in which we live. 

As for the term, ‘we have moved on’. That is a simplistic and euphemistic way of saying, ‘we don’t have your values any more, and they are out of date and old fashioned.’  As I look at society today, it does not appear as if the new and current fashion is anything to boast about. 
These are dark days indeed in which we are living.  We find our faith is under sustained attack by public service officials who would like to phase out Christianity from public life. (Other faiths seem to have privilege status)
This is why I believe verse 3 in Jude’s letter is so important for all Christians of every denomination and of every age range to ‘contend for the faith’, that is, the body of truths that make up the Christian gospel.  All Christians should be most concerned at the way things are going.  The position is serious, and if Christianity is pushed out, the spiritual vacuum will be filled by something which might be quite unpleasant. 
What Jude is saying is ‘wake up Church it is time to get back to the gospel that was once given’. The Bible states that Jesus died once and for all.  It was finished complete by Him, and there is nothing that must be added or taken away. The Bible also states He is the only way to salvation.    

There are preachers one hears and you wonder why they bother.  What point is there in preaching if you don’t mention the Cross, the teaching of Jesus, the requirement to acknowledge the authority of revealed Scripture?
What is at stake here is the essential Christian message. The Christian message is that all people have rebelled against God and tried to reject Him.  It is felt we can do a better job ourselves and say to God, ' I want to run my life my own way.'  We deserve God's judgement for that, but God in His mercy doesn't want it to come to that. He wants us to be forgiven and change our ways and let him have His rightful place in our lives. That is why Jesus was sent to redeem us by dying on the cross in our place - taking the judgement we deserve so we could be forgiven.

That is the Bible’s message, the message which the Church must preach. It is the duty and responsibility of the Church to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is written.  God chose forty men and used their distinctive personalities to write what He inspired them to write, and that is what Christians should live by and seek to promote.. It is God’s Word and we have to defend and guard it.
There are those who teach that the gospel can be revised and re-interpreted to meet today’s culture, as if God was only for first century Christians.  False teachers want to completely change the Church’s teaching, so that all religions are equal, all sexual relationships are acceptable and equal and not just marriage; that gender has no relevance in life.    
This is what makes evangelism so hard. People seeking spiritually look at such wrangling and understandably say, ‘if the Church itself cannot agree on such matters, how can it teach us?’     The Bible is unequivocal that God loves all people, but is also clear that God saw marriage as the bedrock of society; that men and women are equal in His sight but have different roles in life, and Jesus is the only Saviour.
 So we have a Church struggling with false teaching within, against a world which refused to accept Jesus Christ and His teaching.    

What we should be concerned about is that this moral and truth decay is within the Church. We are told we live in a tolerant age but the people who call for tolerance are often the most intolerant. Well has it been said there is nothing more illiberal than a liberal.  Pope Benedict made an understatement when he said we are becoming a secularised society.

It is hard to quote the Bible without someone saying ‘Oh you shouldn’t say that.’  The Bible states, ‘salvation is found in no other name under heaven except Jesus Christ’. 
The Bible states’ Jesus said no one can come to the Father except through me’, yet many preachers are dodging quoting this.  If we avoid telling these verses how are people ever to come to know the gospel.
Have you ever heard a Muslim cleric deny or challenge any words in the Koran?
One of the biggest problems the Church faces is apathy, which is why Christianity has fallen to such low level and why morality is so poor.       It is so easy in the times we live in to opt out, saying, ‘there is no point in fighting them.’  Can you imagine what would have happened if Winston Churchill had have said in 1940, ‘there is no use in us fighting, the enemy is too powerful.’ 
Let us remember there are Christians being persecuted in non Christian lands with violence, arson, and yes even murder.  Hundreds have been killed in the last few months in Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria.  Whole villages ransacked, yet they valiantly fight on for their Lord and Saviour.  How pathetic if we let some vociferous secularists silence us.  
There are those within the Church who find the Bible’s commands too restrictive and wish to put forward an alternative outlook, often to fit in with their own lives. 
We need to be contending for the faith, especially to any non believers in our families, and challenging those who mock.  Can you imagine the outcome if Islam was abused in the same way as Christianity.

I fully recognise it is principally the clergy’s responsibility to fight to preserve and spread the (true) gospel, but Church members do have a duty to assist.  I have already written that you can do that by letting your beliefs be made known and defended, and by advertising your Church membership.  I think the Churches should graduate away from the regular set services to engage in a more evangelistic way by for example praise services which I have found to be very popular.      

The country is in spiritual death throes and in need of intensive care.  This is why we must contend for the faith.  How God must weep when He sees the Church singing His praise, pretending to be holy, whilst countenancing and failing to speak out on moral issues and totally ignoring His written Word.
 Idealistic people say we just have to do our own thing; God will provide and look after His Church.  God will indeed provide and care for His Church, but He requires His people to do their part.
My friends, it is the duty of the Church to teach the gospel and not to budge from it.  We are not to be blown by every new spiritual wind so that we drift from our moorings.  We are not to be superficial believers. Hold fast to the gospel once given by the Apostles who were taught by the Master Himself.  Today people are being drawn away from the doctrines of the Bible as judgement is becoming a censored word.
The Anglican Church (in the West) is too ready to fall in line with society’s attitudes and accept that State laws override God’s laws.  If the Church is to be part of the truly Catholic and Apostolic Church we must keep apostolic teaching delivered to the first Christian Church.  We cannot stand fast unless we hold fast the traditions.  When any Church forsakes apostolic teaching it will fall into error and weakness will ensue.

When I read the declaration of the Anglican Church in North America I at first thought how wonderful to see such firm statement of belief, and then on reflection thought this is in reality what the Church of England was built upon until it was tainted by false preachers.  I wish the ACNA every blessing and pray it will stay firm and true in its stated beliefs.

Friday 13 January 2012

I am not ashamed

One of the outstanding passages, and perhaps one of the most encouraging, is that in the first chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: the righteous shall live by faith’. 

Paul is writing to Christians in Rome, the mightiest city of the day, a city full of learning yet also full of immorality, where Christianity would not be appreciated, and he was ready and eager to go and preach the gospel no matter what the cost even though Christians were in danger of persecution; a sort of London of the day.  We need to look at particular words in the passage. 

Paul says he was not ashamed, in fact he glorified in the gospel and that is what all Christians should do.  But sadly I fear we all do not. How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe?  Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church?  How would we answer is asked to give our opinion on moral questions?   If you are not ashamed you are ready to speak out about your faith.  Some people are fearful of their friends finding out they attend Church in case they get mocked, or because it might restrict the way they want to behave.  Remember the words of Jesus, ‘for whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father’.

Preachers should be prepared to tell the Bible as it is written, telling people what need to hear rather than what they might like to hear.  Preachers can however be intimidated and be frightened of upsetting modern susceptibilities. To preach fundamental truth will inevitably cause some upset. But let us take heart from Paul who faced all that could be put against him, and so caused Christianity to spread throughout the ancient world.

I have been to three service in recent times when there has been a child being baptised, with people who have not been to Church for a long time if ever.  What an opportunity of preaching the gospel, yet there has been a nebulous sermon meaning absolutely nothing.

Then look at what is meant by the gospel.  How many Christians I wonder would be able to answer if asked what the gospel is?  The gospel is a simple story of a baby born to a young Jewish girl by virginal conception, who lived a sinless life until God called Him to die on a Cross, so that all who truly believe in Him and accept Him as their Lord and Saviour, will have all their wrongdoings forgiven, so that one day they will live for ever with Him in heaven.

There is false teaching being given from within the Church that all will go to heaven.  It is said that God would not send anyone to hell, and that is right, but people choose to go there by there own neglect.  To believe as some do and preach that everyone will go to heaven is nowhere stated, nor can be found in the Bible. 

We Ministers are constantly meeting bereaved people who sincerely believe their loved ones are bound for heaven despite never having a religious thought or action in their lives.  We are too compassionate to make any comment in such a situation but it is a terribly sad feeling and situation to be in when you know the Bible’s teaching.   

The gospel is the story of Jesus Christ who gave Himself to be crucified for our sins in order to reconcile us to God.  Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story?  We all no doubt are ashamed of things we have done in our lives, and the things we have said but wished we hadn’t, and that is understandable.  But we allow ourselves to become ashamed of something for which there is no need to be ashamed of. 

Righteousness.  We cannot make ourselves righteous before God, but we can be through Jesus’ atoning death.  Jesus acts as a bridge between God and us, putting us in good standing in God’s eyes, making it thus possible for us to be acceptable to God. This is God’s powerful way of bringing all who believe to heaven.  We are saved by grace (Great Riches At Christ’s Expense) through faith.  The gospel is the power that gives us salvation. But the gospel is bad news for non believers, for it offers no future hope.

Faith. You must have faith and believe. We are prepared to place our faith in many people, but reluctant to trust in God.  We travel by plane and put our faith that the pilot knows what he is doing although we know nothing about him. If you go to the doctor for some illness and he gives you a prescription, you then get dispensed and take, trusting the doctor and the chemist, but you don’t just leave it in a cupboard if you want to get better.  So with the gospel. There is no point in just seeking a spiritual prescription; you have to take that by faith which means reaching out to God and accepting the gospel.

For all who believe. This power is for everyone who believes.  This means more than just believing there is a God, the devil accepts that; believing means making a commitment.  Too many say they believe but do nothing, which is why regular preaching of the gospel is important so that people may come to live by the Scripture.  . 

They are religious and even show some outward inclinations toward Christianity. They come from a Christian background. They think that Jesus was a great religious figure. But they have not believed in Christ. Though the gospel is God's power for salvation, because they have not believed, they have not experienced this power nor have they known the gospel for what it truly is.

The reason so many people are not willing to accept the Bible is because the message is too simple. 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. 

You will find theologians complicating matters by having all kind of discussions on who wrote this and that, and it is all very well for academics sitting in their common rooms to do this for their amusement, but it sends out a wrong message to the masses. 

Martin Luther was so inspired by this passage it caused him to start the Protestant Reformation and if all preachers were inspired similarly there would be less empty seats in Churches. 

Let us proceed by faith and never ever be ashamed

Tuesday 10 January 2012

A recent report stated that a quarter of the world’s Christians are in Africa with 516 million people, and Nigeria leading the way with 80 million.  The country with the most Christians, as you would expect, is America with 247 million Christians. This is interesting at a time when voting is taking place for the Republican nomination and the eventual Presidential race, for Christians can influence the result in the United States.

There are people in this country who ask why we are  bothering to take any note of what goes on in America, which is a rather negative and not intelligent attitude.  It is very important for us to be interested in American politics, for what happens in that country has an impact here.  Whilst we are part geographically of Europe, we are more like our American cousins.  We speak the same language, watch American entertainment, and are more associated with the same culture.

From a personal view, I think we have a better political relationship when the President is a Republican, although there is still a mutual respect with a Democrat, but there does not seem to have been the same closeness with President Obama.

I doubt however that there is going to be any change in the forthcoming election.  Listening to American commentators, they mostly have come to the conclusion Mitt Romney will represent the Republicans, and I cannot see him beating Obama. Romney reminds me of our Prime Minister, tending to adapt to the audience of the day.  But as was mentioned on one News programme, money is the key and Romney has plenty of it, whereas others like Santorum, who has a sound Christian base, lacks it.  I have heard Santorum has made some extreme statements, but don’t we all, and most politicians mellow when getting into office.

I thought it was quite offensive to hear on Sky News Press Preview the Republican nominees being described as weird and asking who would vote for any of them.  This is quite bizarre when one of the reviewers was asked to leave his public office for being inadequate and when Sky is a product of one of the most right wing television owners, whose USA channels actually support the Republican party. 
Racism is a major topic here just now with footballers and fans being accused and facing severe penalties.  But like all topics, some are viewed less serious depending on the person. 

Diane Abbott, the prominent the prominent Socialist,  made offensive racist remarks about white people and was ordered by her leader to apologise, and as a result apologised for causing offence, but not for stating what she did. 

What an outcry from Labour when a Conservative made an inappropriate remark with loud calls for his resignation, which was obtained.  When will Diane Abbot be ordered to resign or be sacked?  Don’t expect a quick answer. 

Further, how extremely muted was any news about the Warwick University professor with strong anti-Israeli views who marked down an Israeli student by 11%, causing the female student to be given a lower grading.  In this equal and diverse community in which we live, some are more equal and diverse than others.

Friday 6 January 2012

Galatians 5

A Christian should always be aware that he or she is a public figure, in that when people know you are a Christian they will watch you and any fall from grace will be noticed and commented upon.  As Paul viewed things, Jesus Christ was the most important part of one’s life and the Christian should devote oneself to act in such a way as to be worthy of Him.
This is largely the theme of Chapter 5 of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.

This passage is full of the Holy Spirit, seven times by name, and presented as the One who can tell you what to do so that you won’t be doing the wrong things and following our natural desires which are just the opposite. We can read the Bible and other religious writings and know all the theory, but find it hard to put into practice. 

By nature and inheritance we all have a conflict within us which at times causes us to do things we know within we should not be doing, and it is only with the power of the Holy Spirit we can fight and resist, for we cannot fight on our own.  Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to help and give us the ability and the Bible states, ‘if anyone does not have the Spirit of Jesus Christ he does not belong to Christ’.  The Holy Spirit provides all the resources, and Paul is saying, be like Christ.

He points out that there are two Ways of living, one showing how a Christian should not live and the other the way we should aim for, and these two forces are constantly striving to win control over us.  If we are guided by the Holy Spirit we will follow the righteous way. 

There are two sides to all our natures and life is a struggle between the two.  Some people have a charming and friendly manner which gains admiration, but too often there is a darker side which only those very close are aware of.  In the Christian life the two forces competing against each other are those of the flesh and that of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit renews us to give us a new nature in total opposition to the flesh, which tries to push the urge of a sinful nature.  We come into the world by natural birth and when we find Jesus Christ and commit ourselves to Him, we are born anew in a spiritual birth. 

I wrote recently regarding baptism, and this is where infant baptism is amiss.  It is complete nonsense to say a new born baby is ‘born again’, even more so when the parents have no Christian commitment.  For baptism have any meaning, there must be a conscious decision by a person that they wish to follow Christ and turn away (repent) of anything wrong in their life.

The non Christian may face a moral conflict and never feel guilty, for they are doing what seems normal behaviour, but the Christian will feel an internal conflict quite strongly, for the Holy Spirit will not allow a Christian to feel at ease with improper behaviour. 

The works of the flesh are spelled out in verses 19/21 starting with sexual immorality.  When Paul wrote this he was referring to behaviour which preachers of today find the most sensitive of subjects.  If they preached it as it was meant when written, they would lose many of their congregations, for all sexual relationships outside of marriage were being condemned. 

The greater part of the population is living in ‘partnership,’ and, or, indulging in sexual conduct.  The psychotic devotees of political correctness now object to the terms husband/wife.  When I am asked about my partner, I reply firmly that I do not have a partner, but I do have a wife and am quite proud to be a husband. 

The press and television have fanned up the flames, giving the impression that free sex is not to be ashamed of and is quite acceptable and an essential part of life.  Almost every relationship portrayed on television programmes involves an immediate sexual encounter.  This had led young, and very young people to feel odd if not taking part, and led the United Kingdom to have the largest teenage pregnancy rate (and abortions) in Europe, in spite of the legal fact that under age sex is contrary to law.  Judges have made rulings which encourage free sexual expression. 

The list goes on to mention impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, hatred, malice, jealousy anger, rage drunkenness, wrong doctrine. 

Paul adds that any one who belongs to Christ will have nailed such evil desires to his cross and crucified them there, but we must accept there are plenty of people within the Church who have not done so.   There are far too many calling for sexual behaviour, which is totally contrary to Scripture, to be seen as acceptable. Last year we had the incredible statement of senior clergy, inviting couples to come and get married in Church and bring their children to be baptised at the same time, a sort of two for one offer.

We frequently find people who will not be friendly with other members, who get jealous when someone else gets asked to do something, and upset if they cannot have their own way.  This is a complete affront to Christian teaching and should be condemned when revealed.

Paul then turns to speak of the fruits of the Spirit which come when the Holy Spirit controls our lives. When we are Christian we must produce love, which is the opposite of selfishness and having a caring nature;-- joy being and making people feel cheerful;-- peace, not looking to make trouble; --patience, being long suffering and having endurance;-- kindness, always willing to be helpful and giving of oneself; --gentleness, a sensitive feeling to people;-- faithfulness, having dependability and reliability;-- and self control, not being ready to respond aggressively.

These are the fruits of the Spirit and fruit depends on the health of the tree.  Spiritual fruit means character and producing a quality of life.  If we follow Christ we shall produce abundant fruit.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Falling attendances

In my last posting I referred to people falling away from Church.  This being so, we must ask why they do; there must have been an interest at one time to make them attend.  But I wonder how much we care.   When I contact a business regarding a product I invariably get a request to give feedback on the service I got from them.  Do we ask for reasons why people fail to attend?  If not, why not, we are on the Lord’s business.

I have to admit I have been to services which I would not wish to attend again.  Too often they are put together without much thought, tuneless hymns, vacuous preaching, come and go as you please without anyone appearing to care.

This in turn causes to be asked, what kind of message should be expected?  In the words of Scripture be bold, be strong and pray the Lord your God will be with you.  We are here to worship and glorify one person the Lord Jesus Christ. Remembering that all Scripture is given by God, and we are to tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear, telling it as the Bible has it without fear or favour, in the simplest of terms regardless of the consequences,and being prepared to face the passages considered sensitive head on, not trying to meet the needs of  political correctness.

I have been told to be careful what I say as it might upset some people, but I have never found this to be so.  If said sincerely and people realise one believes in what is said, it is accepted if not agreed with.  The only people likely to be upset are those with a guilty conscience who are then convicted. 

When I hear such fearful warnings my thoughts go to the famous Crusades of Billy Graham, where regularly to thousands of people he told them what a lot of sinners they were and of the awful consequences they faced if they did not repent and turn from their sins; he spoke of heaven and hell, and they flocked back to hear him wherever he went.  Surely a moral there.

I am amazed that people are falling away in America, for the pictures I see of Churches right across the States, is of Churches with at least acceptable congregations, and of course there are the large evangelical Churches. 

Here in Britain, I think our parish system has contributed in some way.  Every village has a Church which would at one time have been attended by the residents, and indeed have its own Vicar.  Now the villages have lost many of the old families and people have moved in from elsewhere, often from towns and cities without the same sense of community or faith. This has caused congregations to fall, added to which a shortage of clergy has meant Churches are grouped together with one Minister to care for them. 

It has become necessary for lay preachers to visit and assist. It has been debated whether that is a good thing to have different preachers, so giving a varied approach to Scripture (if in fact they keep to Scripture).   I personally think it is not, for a confused message is the result. People also relate to one man (or woman) and you know what to expect, and if you find their message not to your liking you can go elsewhere.  I am inclined to share the view of Charles Wesley on this point.(blog of 9/11/11)