Wednesday 29 August 2012

A tale of two Churches

On Sunday the Roman Catholic Bishops in Scotland circulated a letter to all Catholic priests directing them to read it out to their congregations, in which the Church’s opposition to same sex marriage legislation currently planned by the Scottish government is outlined. This was based on their belief in the traditional understanding of marriage and that set out in Scripture as being between a man and a woman.

This commendable stance taken by the Catholic Church is not apparently welcomed by Alex Salmond the First Minister, who seems to see himself as an alternative to the Almighty, and realises the stance of the Church is both a nuisance and an embarrassment when the Cardinal Archbishop is so vocally opposed.

Now compare that approach to Bishops in the Church of England. The official Church response to the Prime Minister’s passionate urgency to introduce same sex marriage in England is that marriage can only be defined as being between a man and a woman, and this has been endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Would it not have been a great encouragement to those who are striving to retain the traditional view of marriage in this country (England) if the Church of England took a similar course to the Bishops in Scotland, and had a supportive statement read out in all our Churches. Unfortunately not all the Bishops would have agreed.

Whilst I have never been a fan of Rowan Williams, I do pay credit to his integrity. He was known for his support for homosexual clergy, but in respect for his position as holding high office in the Church, and the need to avoid creating division and a fractured Church, honourably considered the unity of the wider Church and made no further comments.

A report in the Daily Telegraph last week told of a statement issued by the Bishop of Buckinghamshire, one Alan Wilson, in which he is alleged to have said that the Church must get its head around this problem of gays and God; not see gays as sick or criminal, nor see God as an angry old man. This Bishop joined other signatories recently in a letter to the Times newspaper to protest at the Church’s opposition to same sex marriage, and like the Bishop of Salisbury is an active campaigner. I consider this total disloyalty both to the Church and the Archbishop, and I suggest if anyone holding clerical office in the Church, especially high office, makes public statements contrary to official policy, they should as a matter of honour offer their resignation.

This statement by Bishop Wilson is emotional hysteria. There is no suggestion by the Church that homosexuals are criminals or sick, and it is ridiculous to state that same sex marriages will enrich ‘marriage’. Marriage is clearly defined in Scripture as being between a man and a woman and was for the procreation of children. Let us also be clear, the majority of people in civil unions have no desire to push for the term ‘marriage’. It is only activists in the homosexual lobby and liberals opposed to anything traditional.

In the service at which a man is consecrated a Bishop, he makes certain vows. One is to be determined to instruct people, and teach out of Holy Scripture wholesome doctrine and banish all doctrine contrary to God’s Word and encourage others to do the same. A similar commitment is made by all priests at their ordination.

Holy Scripture, which is God’s Word, lays out His will and commands for us to follow, and is unequivocal in its definition of marriage and also God’s intention for the moral conduct of men and women in sexual behaviour. No amount of verbal gymnastics can refute what is so clearly written.

If it is not liked or desired to be accepted, then one should be honest and say I don’t agree to abide by such and wish to re-write Scripture to make it acceptable to modern morality.(and at the same time obtain some plaudits for being ‘cool’ and ‘with it’ which might advance my career)

Some thought might be given to those who are earnestly seeking to bring people back into Church whose efforts are thwarted when the Church is seen to be in such disagreement with itself. Well has it been said that often the enemy within is more trouble than the enemy without.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Ten Commandments

I am going to be old fashioned his week and write about the Ten Commandments.

It is largely forgotten in our predominantly secular society that the law of this nation, and that of our American cousins, were built on the Commandments. They guide us on our duty to God and society. Field Marshal Montgomery once said, ‘God spoke these words and I agree with Him.’ (and I agree with him).

Shortly after God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt God called Moses to the top of Mount Sinai and gave him these Commandments, which God intended should be the spiritual and moral absolutes for His people. They give us rules for basic behaviour, and guidance to holiness. We live in a society which desperately needs to be reminded of right and wrong, but at present right and wrong is what is according to one’s own standards rather than God’s standard.

A number of years ago workmen were demolishing a church building and had instructions to preserve anything of value. One of the men found a tablet bearing the Commandments and asked if that should be kept. The foreman said they shouldn’t as they don’t count anymore. He was in fact reflecting society’s attitude that we don’t have to be told how to behave, which is why we are in such an awful state in this country, where all tradition al values have been cast aside.

I find it both sad and tragic that in America a largely out of control Civil Liberties Union is persuading liberal judges to ban the display of the Commandments in public places. When that great nation was founded the Christian faith was in the hearts of the religiously minded men who framed the Constitution and created that noble phrase, ‘in God we trust’, which politicians in this country do not have the courage to use. The Commandments are in the Supreme Court building and in Capitol Hill, why not in State buildings.

Ours is a permissive society which does not like authority and is besotted with a human rights mindset. Police have given up enforcing many of our laws and are encouraged to do so, unless of course it is some suspected obscure act of discrimination that can be detected.

When a young person leaves home for college a responsible parent will give guidance as to all the temptations they might face and warn them to avoid. This is what our heavenly Father is doing for us when He laid out the Commandments. Very few can name the ten, so without cheating try yourself to name them. Many people like to treat them like questions on an examination paper, try any four out of ten. But you cannot do that, they are like a chain which when you break a link the whole chain is broken. Break one and you have broken the lot.

People nowadays want relative morality with no absolutes so they enjoy things they were not meant to. No stealing, but the odd product from work doesn’t count; or believing it is acceptable to take the odd thing from one of the big shops which make so much money; and be quite ready to cheat the benefit system out of thousands of pounds. No killing, but kill a person’s reputation without foundation based on hearsay. No adultery, but the odd affair won’t hurt if not found out.

I am bemused when people start using the term ‘old fashioned’ in a scornful manner. I see not a lot to be proud of in our ‘new fashioned’ society. Highest numbers of abortions, (an alternative way of murder) highest number of teenage pregnancies, highest rate of alcoholism; highest rate of unsociable behaviour—of all European countries. The only thing we are lowest at is Church attendance.

Since the abolition of capital punishment (which is justified in the Bible) murder has become just another crime. Some fashion. A person can commit murder and serve a nominal prison sentence. When capital punishment was abandoned it was said that a life sentence would be mandatory and mean life, but like many political promises was made without intention of it being so. (I cannot understand why so little thought is given to feeling of the relatives of those whose loved ones have been needlessly killed.)

In Jewish homes children are taught the Commandments at an early age and learn on their ten fingers. I wonder how many children are taught in the homes of our nation (you could probably count the number on five fingers), yet as Abraham Lincoln once said ‘ the strength of a nation lies in the home’.

Moral deterioration is as great a threat as political crisis, for a stable democracy needs a Christian moral code, but this is not given in most homes, and schools no longer teach Christianity (unless it is a private school). They are given much education on sex with particular emphasis on alternative lifestyles, which is why we have such high moral lassitude. Consequently our children are growing up without realising spiritual or moral truths.

When God told Adam and Eve what they should not do He was testing their obedience, but Adam and Eve wanted to do their own thing, and the human race ever after has copied them. God said, ‘you shall not,’ He didn’t say have a think about it, He was positive in His command. His laws bring security and peace as we follow our duty to Him, to parents, society property and marriage. God is a God of reason and mercy. The Commandments are given to make us worthy and happier.

For too long the liberal establishment have influenced society and guided it into a moral abyss. It is time for the Church to stop prevaricating and trying to meet society half way. The Church is the only institution which can offer hope. Politicians have shown how they look after themselves first, and without much moral example, and even royalty has shown a lack of moral action.

We must earnestly pray, that the leaders of the Churches will gain moral strength, and not be frightened to say what needs to be said and be ready to lay down the kind of society God has laid down.

God spoke these words, and we should all be ready to agree with Him.

See previous posting, ‘An Inconvenient truth’.

Friday 17 August 2012

An Inconvenient truth

When I was asked to give a title for a talk I chose ‘an inconvenient truth’, which incidentally had nothing to do with weather or climate change, I appropriated the title used by an American politician, and I hope my use of the term will be more factual than his use.

When I was first asked many years ago to speak publicly I realized I was being asked because I was the Vicar of a local Church. I felt that that being the case I should restrict myself to speaking about ‘the Church’ in general. I have kept to that formula and it is about the Church I speak now.

Two years ago a theological storm occurred after the then Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, wrote an article in the new political magazine ‘Standpoint’. The article was picked up by the national press and was reviewed by most papers and presented according to the newspaper’s own stance,varying from hostility in the Guardian and Independent, to fulsome praise in the Daily Mail. The full article was well written and contained 3653 words, far more than those commented upon.

There were essentially two focal points in the article. Firstly, that having owed much to Christian influence, which 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. Secondly, Church leaders have capitulated to a liberal agenda, leaving radical Islam to fill the vacuum. Was he right?

Whilst there were some abusive and slightly hysterical comments on the websites of the Guardian and Independent, the main body of opinion thought the Bishop was stating the right thing. I am sure the majority of people generally will think the same. They think he is speaking the truth, however inconvenient to others.

I say that based on the fact that I had spoken at a Veterans Day service in Chester on the verse ‘when the foundations are destroyed what then shall the righteous do’ in which I said virtually the same things as Bishop Michael wrote, and judge from the response I then got.

After the 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 feel as though I am losing my faith.’ I don’t believe she is a lone voice crying in the wilderness. I think there are many people in sympathy with her. I am sure there are many who would agree with her and such sentiments.

There are those who dismiss the article out of hand of course, without even looking at it, simply because they don’t like Nazir-Ali. Whatever your personal opinion maybe, I think it is worth considering by those of us who profess to call ourselves committed Christians, and especially those of us engaged in Christian ministry. (I declare a statement of interest in that I am a fan of the Bishop and think he would have been the best thing that could have happened for the Church if he had been appointed Archbishop of Canterbury)

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. 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. Lying is endemic even to the highest public offices in the land.

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 reveled in. Now even both sexes are involved.

There has been a systematic attack on the Christian faith by ideologues in political circles, and by civil servants, to eradicate Christianity from public life; people who betray and dislike the culture which nurtured them, seeking to make it disappear, with national and local governmental bodies bullying it out of existence. This sustained attack is not made on other faiths however.

One woman wrote to her MP to complain about something which offended her Christian beliefs and was told in reply her opinion did not count as Christianity was now a minor factor.

Marriage and family life, the bedrock of society, is according to senior members of government, of no more worth than any other form of relationship and a father is not considered necessary in the family. The word ‘marriage’ has been barred from official use lest it offends non married people, and now we have same sex marriage proposed.

What concerns us particularly as Christians from the Bishop’s article is the reference to the Church’s role in the breakdown of society. I think it fair to say that whilst this might be appropriate to all denominations, I imagine he had in mind particularly the Church of England.

The ongoing debate regarding the appointment of women as bishops is a public relations nightmare, together with the tiresome issue of homosexuality, which is not going to go away as each side is entrenched to its own standpoint. What an image for the Church.

On the one side there is the traditional side of Africa, South America and the Eastern Churches, claiming Scriptural integrity, against Western Churches who want to follow society’s changing attitude.

It is as far as the Church of England is concerned, surely better to bring an end to all this continuing debate, which is doing inestimable damage to the Church’s image in general, (for people don’t stop to differentiate, they just class all the Churches as one). Surely it would be better to divide into their conservative and liberal parts to follow their own way.

Once, and not so long ago, it was generally assumed that marriage was for life, divorce was just not done. As the saying went, ‘divorce never. Murder possibly’. Then, people began to feel that it was better to divorce than live unhappily and marriages fell apart.

When Churches lose the beliefs that have held them together, they begin to fall apart and disintegrate. It is fatuous and irrational to suppose biblical injunctions which do not conform to modern attitudes can be reinterpreted to suit requirements. Division is destructive and can only lead to falling attendances. The continual myth that provided we go on talking all will work out is only going to exacerbate the problem.

In 1966, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the celebrated evangelist preacher called on all evangelicals to leave their separate denominations and unite under one statement of faith. John Stott, the celebrated Anglican teacher, opposed it fearing it would break the Church of England. Failure to do so has nearly achieved that prediction, and not assisted other denominations.

Referring to the social and sexual revolution of the 1960s the Church, it was suggested, rather than resisting this phenomenon, liberal theologians and Church leaders all but capitulated to the intellectual and cultural forces of the time. This caused a moral and spiritual vacuum in which we now find ourselves, leaving nothing but self indulgence. If people are not given a clear understanding of what it means to be a Christian, and to have a Christian based society, then something else will take its place, and that could be something far worse.

Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadan Fellowship agreed with the Bishop that there was a moral vacuum, which was not caused by Islam so much, as the failure of the Church to transmit Christian values to people, and referred to fringes of Islam not being representative of the faith as a whole

Islamic leaders indeed are shocked in fact at the way we fail to promote our religion and criticize us for not recognizing our faith in this country. No Muslin would ever think of criticizing their holy book, the Koran, and look in amazement that even within the Church there are those who dispute much of our Holy Book. Such is the superior discipline..

Can anyone however imagine the outcry if a Christian minister appeared on television and referred to women as second class citizens and suggesting homosexuals should be thrown off mountains, as some Muslim preachers were shown so stating.

Mr Shafiq is right. The Church has failed to transmit Christian values. We have ailed miserably in allowing the government to have such an easy ride on their legislation. We should have been far more vocal regarding adoption, in which same sex couples are to be allowed to adopt, yet prejudice is shown to white middle class married couples, and where any expression of religious (Christian) faith is a bar for consideration.

There are issues on which the Church has a voice which should be heard, such as abortion, adoption, and the right of Christians to act according to their faith and beliefs. We will not always win our case, but we can be an awful nuisance. And to be fair, there are a lot of people who will take note of the Church for which the have respect even though they want no part of it.

What we have in the Church is a cultural war between the conservative wing and the liberal faction so that people don’t know what the Church believes. For many years the Labour party was deemed to be unelectable because of the party warfare, until Tony Blair arrived to sort them out. Similarly, the Conservatives were seen as unworthy to be elected because no one was quite sure what they believed.

Until the Church gets its act together we will continue to see congregations falling for people cannot be expected to attend Church and be convinced to believe when they find the Church itself cannot make its own mind up on what to believe. Children who have grown up post 1960 have been encouraged to develop an air of scepticism regarding all establishment institutions, know little of Scripture and treat the Church with no respect, even an arrogant dislike.

When a man, or woman, is ordained into the Church of England, they are required to take a vow which reads, ‘I so affirm and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear witness’. I imagine the other Churches have a similar requirement. How then some people can reconcile their doubts and consciences when they say the Creed yet do not believe its declarations, I cannot understand.

The Church is beginning to look more influenced by the world rather than the other way around. Nothing is more irrelevant than a Church which tries to be relevant. It surrenders to which ever way the wind of public opinion is blowing and eagerly follows prevailing popularity so as to be blown in the same direction as everybody else. When a Church does this and adopts the world’s agenda it so often ends up going further, so rendering it useless to God and itself and everybody else.

Much of our food today has a preservative in to avoid it going rotten and perishing. Britain needs the Christian Church to act as a preservative to prevent the moral and spiritual situation perishing, as the nation drifts further away from Biblical Christianity.

Some of our Churches have become little more than social service centres, and whilst it is right and commendable to meet the needs of society, it should not be at the expense of what the Church is really there for as happens in some places. Our Lord always concerned Himself with people’s material needs, but never allowed that to supersede the spiritual need, and resisted calls to conform to society’s opinions.

It may be thought there is at times the temptation to be spectacular and have services which are said to be ‘with it’. I am all for modern worship, but sometimes it seems as if Ministers are little more than presenters at a religious show.

So, what for the future of the Church in general? There is hope and confidence if all members, and particularly the clergy, realize there is no hope if they 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 Church has an image at times of unworldliness. Let me give you a piece Malcolm Muggeridge wrote years ago.
‘In an average English village today, worship has become little more than a dying bourgeois cult. A small cluster of motor cars may be seen outside the parish church when the service is in progress; the bells still ring joyously across the fields and meadows on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings, but fewer and fewer heed them, and those who do are predominantly middle-class, female and elderly. It must be desperately disheartening, and the Vicar often gives the impression of being dispirited and forlorn. Whatever zeal he may have had as an ordinand soon gets dissipated in an atmosphere of domestic care and indifference on the part of his flock. Small wonder, then, that in the pulpit he has little to say except to repeat the same old clerical banalities. He doubtless feels himself to be redundant. The villagers stoically die without his ministrations; they would resent any interruption to their evening telly if he ventured to make a call...In large cities the situation is not dissimilar.’

The situation has, of course got even worse, with the major denominations losing members on a weekly basis, and with the average congregation size often of as low as 20 with 50/60 being considered good. I took a service a few weeks ago where there were six in the main morning service. The poor image which the church has in the minds of many is often a sad reflection of the reality.

We have to have faith and optimism. In every walk of life hard times come and require new energy, new initiative.. One danger is that prominence is often given to the utterances of Bishops, who in turn make the most unfortunate of statements. The more they get involved in talking of climate change the more ridiculous they become. I don’t think it necessary to have Archbishops dropping out of aeroplanes on the back of someone, or tearing their collar in some dramatic gesture which has no effect at all.

Each individual, (that is local) 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.

We urgently need to promote ourselves vigorously, advertise our presence. Why would major companies spend millions on advertisements if they didn’t produce results?

When I retired from full time ministry,--when I retired from fulltime PAID ministry, my son persuaded me to get satellite television. I have been able to watch Churches in America, which really know how to promote themselves and how to present their services. We could learn so much from them. How I wish I had had that facility before retiring.

So then, above all, let us get back to proclaiming the truth, however inconvenient. Truth is eternal, institutions temporal.

Saturday 4 August 2012

We preach Christ crucified

All religions have a symbol which represents them. The Muslims have the crescent; Judaism the star of David; but for us Christians we have the Cross.
Our Churches have a Cross outside and most also display the Cross inside. It is embossed on our Bibles and prayer books, and devout ladies wear a gold cross around their necks to declare their faith.

Paul said he gloried in the Cross of Christ. He was one who shook the world to its foundations by the doctrines he preached. He was one who established Christianity. In a call to the Corinthian Church he said, ‘we preach Christ crucified a stumbling block to the |Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles; for the message of the Cross is foolishness to the perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God’.

To the Galatians Church he said, ‘may I never boast about anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’. He could have boasted about his own intellect, his mastery of languages; he could have boasted about the unique birth of Jesus, the wondrous miracles, even the resurrection, but he didn’t; only the Cross. The Cross of Christ is the central truth in the whole Bible.

The Roman Empire used the Cross a means of execution and it was a symbol of warning, terror and shame. Because it was considered a shameful way of death, a Roman citizen was not put to death that way. The Jews considered anyone so put to death to have been cursed by God. No one would have thought of wearing a cross as an ornament of jewellery, it would have been for us similar to wearing a model of the gallows or an electric chair.

Crucifixion was the most cruel punishment ever devised by man. The victim was nailed through the hands feet and roped around the cross and left to die a slow painful death, which could take up to four days.

In addition, Jesus had been convicted on trumped up charges backed by false witnesses, and then beaten 39 times by a leather belt studded with pieces of metal and a crown of thorns placed on His head, and then made to carry His own Cross until He collapsed with exhaustion.

This should make anyone wearing a cross to think deeply as to what purpose they wear it. We see people on television wearing ornate crosses jewelled crosses whose lives are blatantly immoral and who have no religious belief and for whom Christianity is an irrelevance.

We have now a situation in which it is permissible for anyone to wear a cross of any kind, but the moment you display it as a sign of your faith, you offend fragile sensibilities and are likely to find yourself suspended from work or taken to Court.

Two ladies are due to challenge a ruling that they cannot wear a Cross at their place of employment at the European Court of Human Rights, and are being opposed by a woman Minister at the Home Office, one Lynne Featherstone known for her anti-Church/anti religious views. This woman is also the Minister for Equality, yet no action is taken against people of other faiths who wear symbols of their faith. Thus, some are it appears, more equal than others.

The world is offended by the Cross. Some years ago a Council in Yorkshire forbade a woman from putting a Cross on her daughter’s grave, telling her, ‘crosses are discouraged as excessive use of the Christian symbol is undesirable’. She was allowed to place a model of Mickey Mouse as alternative.
I know some people didn’t like my poster for this service because it showed Jesus hanging on the Cross, but that is what Jesus did, and that is the central message of the Cross,

I was hosting an ecumenical meeting one year in a Church where there was a crucifix on the wall and some people declined to stay in the Church. But this is the message of our faith, Jesus died on the Cross for our forgiveness.
Cross strikes at the heart of human pride. Just as the Jews and Gentiles could not accept that a man hanging on a Cross could save the world, so people today mock the idea. The teaching that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, but that it all depends on believing that a man named Jesus died on a Cross two thousand years ago in a little country on the other side of the world, is unacceptable to modern men and women.

What men think of as foolishness is the means of salvation. But there is a condition, you have to believe in Him and accept Christ as your Saviour. Even the death of Christ cannot save you unless you believe in him. It is more than just believing facts about Jesus. You have to make it personal.
You come to me my way, says God, or you do not come at all. God came to us weak and powerless in the person of Jesus Christ on a Cross, and we go to Him in a similar way humbly and powerless.

What does the Cross mean to you? May be you haven’t give a lot of thought to that question, perhaps taken things for granted, but it is an important question for it may concern your eternal destiny. May be you haven‘t given a lot of deep thought to that question, taking it for granted, but it deeply concerns your eternal destiny.

When we talk about the Cross, people invariably think of two pieces of wood. This is not the Cross in which St. Paul gloried. He would have shrunk with horror from the idea of glorying in a mere piece of wood.
Sometimes we refer to the Cross as a sign of personal afflictions and trials. We say about some burden in our life as ‘a cross I have to carry’, or to which believers in Christ have to go through if they follow Christ faithfully, for their religion's sake.

Paul was not referring to the wooden structure; he was meaning what Jesus achieved on that Cross. He went through all the agony of beatings and scorn, to die a painful death and by that cruel suffering made atonement, a once and for all complete and perfect sacrifice, so that all who through the ages would accept Him as their Saviour would receive pardon for their sins, and thereby achieve eternal salvation. The Cross reveals the only Saviour, the crucified Christ.

Paul in this passage is speaking to those in the Church at Corinth who claimed to be wise and were very proud of their human wisdom, which they were using to divide the church and to promote themselves by changing the message of the Cross to make it more palatable to the world. Paul is showing them it is worthless in the sight of God and only will destroy the Church

Does that not resonance with those in today’s Church who seek to promote their own agendas irrespective of the damage they are causing to the wider Church. They refer to their academic degrees, but well was it said the Church is falling apart by degrees.

There are those in ministry all the denominations who are more concerned with promoting their own careers and enhancing their c.v.’s than promoting the gospel and diligently performing the duties that (allegedly) mean so much to them. This in turn means they will not say or do anything that may prejudice hoped for advantage.

The gospel message is the opposite of worldly wisdom. Paul is here saying I know very well how foolish it sounds to those who don’t believe when they hear that Jesus died to save them. But we who do believe recognise this as the very power of God
Paul is indicating that there are two distinct positions, two black and white fundamental absolutes that cannot ever be reconciled because they produce different responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who do not believe and see the Cross as foolishness are perishing and are lost. Those who do believe are being saved for eternal life. These are not my words or thoughts; they are in fact the very words of Scripture.

Paul said, ‘but we preach Christ crucified’, he didn’t dilute the message or make it out to be something different so that they could accept it, as is now happening.
How we need to hear this message today. How often do you hear a sermon on the Cross? I suspect not often for it inevitably means referring to judgement, which is an unacceptable message. Who knows, it may offend against some legislation under discrimination which this government is obsessed by.

I am told at times that people like to hear a happy and soothing message, yet the Churches are not overflowing with people. Billy Graham early in his ministry vowed to preach the message of the Cross at every sermon he preached. He in fact preached to 220 millions of people in 185 countries telling them what a lot of sinners they were and what would happen to them if they did not repent, and thousands flocked to hear him. There must be a moral in that somewhere.

When Paul uses the expression, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross’, he simply meant he accepted Christ provided salvation for his soul. He pointed right away from himself and all that he went through for his Lord, to all that the Lord had done for him.

Paul travelled right across the ancient world with this as the message he loved to preach about. He gave his testimony of having been a Pharisee who once hated Christians and did all he could to persecute them, until the Lord so dramatically entered his life. He was never weary of telling the story of the Cross.

Paul wrote the greater part of the New Testament and in all his Letters this was the theme of his doctrinal teaching, and practical exhortations.

Beware of a religion which does not centre on the Cross You live in times when the warning is sadly needful.

Remember the Cross where Jesus tells you your sins are forgiven. May it always remind you of Jesus Christ, His sacrifice for you, and the salvation that is yours because of Him. Amen.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Today is the first day of a new month and the first day that religious liberty takes a knock in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Readers of this blog will have gathered by now how fond I am of America so they will know how sad I am to see their erstwhile President forcing upon so many good Christian people a law that will offend them deeply. I refer of course to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which decrees that health insurance plans in the USA will be obliged by law to cover sterilisation procedures and contraceptives, including the ‘morning after pill’.

For my friends here who do not follow the American News channels this means Christian employers (including Churches) are having to decide whether to be faithful to their Christian beliefs and refuse to provide such facilities, or offend against their beliefs and follow the law of Obama rather than the law of God. If employers do not betray their consciences so refusing to subsidise sex, it will mean the men and women they employ will have to find their own cover.

I am sure many Americans will have been as surprised as I was that the legal challenge to Obama’s health bill at the American Supreme Court was defeated by 5 against 4, with the casting vote said to have been given by Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican nominated justice, and a Roman Catholic Christian.

We have a Prime Minister who is enthralled by Barack Obama and is following his example by expressing his ‘passion’ to legislate for same sex unions, or as it is widely called ‘gay marriage’. I read only this morning that he does not think he can win the next election so will lose the leadership of his party. This is largely due to the fact millions of votes will be lost because his ‘passion’ has upset and disgusted so many traditional and sympathetic supporters, and wealthy donors are turning away. This may be a lesson for others that you play about with the law of God at your peril.

All we need now is for all the Christian people in America to think deeply before they vote in the forthcoming election and there could be the first ever Mormon President.