Friday 28 September 2012

2 Chronicles Chapter 7 14,

‘if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

In 960BC Israel was in moral and spiritual decline with people failing to worship God. Solomon pleaded with God to forgive the nation of their sins, and God answered that if they humbled themselves, prayed, sought His face and turned from their wicked ways He would heal their land.

As we look and consider life in this country at the present time it must surely give to all intelligent people grave cause for concern for we see a nation in moral and spiritual decline where the barriers of decency have been swept away so that we are left without restraint. All around us storm clouds are falling on a world so different from what many of us knew. So what hope does the Bible give us?

God said,
‘if my people who are called by my name’.
This verse is directed to particular people. God’s people are those who worship Him, who accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, who profess Christ and own up to doing so. They are people who regularly attend Church to worship Him week by week, not only those who have a nodding acquaintance with Him at Christmas time.

‘if they will humble themselves’.
Both as a Church and individually there is need for repentance. As a Church we begin by humbling ourselves by casting ourselves on the mercy of God and asking for His forgiveness for failing to stand out fully for righteousness.
As individuals, not being proud. Satan said, ‘I will exalt my throne above God’, and some people want to do the same. They become obsessed by their own importance and if not given due acknowledgement and granted their way, become disruptive.

All Christians should be pleased to be known as God’s people whereas there is often a reluctance to identify oneself as a Christian. Sadly this is more the case with men who unnecessarily feel embarrassed at doing so.

Ministers in the Church must accept their first duty is to teach God’s Word, as it is written in Scripture, not as they might like it to be written.

It is a sad fact that there are those in ministry whose priority is to further their own careers and are more interested in their ‘c.v’ than spreading the gospel.

‘if my people pray’
Jesus told us to pray without ceasing and gave examples of desperate prayer. Jesus told us to keep on praying, stating ‘ ask and you will receive.’ Whilst there are many tasks the Church has to undertake and requires people to help, age or infirmity often prevents some willing folk, but all can serve God by praying for His Church.

The story is told of two ladies who prayed for many months for a revival to come to their town, and eventually a Billy Graham Crusade was held close by causing many to find their Saviour.

‘If my people will seek my face’.
God wants us to turn to Him to answer our needs and create a relationship with Him. We have to realise we have to be dependent on Him for all things not seeking intellectual answers or our own solutions.
Too often we find God’s help is the last we seek. We have to learn to seek His will in all situations. God’s people accept that life’s problems can only be solved by divine intervention.

‘if my people will turn from their wicked ways’
God expects us to put Him first in our lives, but we can relegate Him. First there is a slipping away from attending Church, followed by a lack of Bible reading.

God says there are certain things I don’t want you to do. God says certain behaviour is sinful, but some disagree and try to justify disobeying by saying times have changed and society accepts such behaviour. Things which were once unacceptable now become acceptable. We turn to worldly things and become uninterested in Christian teaching. The conscience which once gave warning doesn’t seem to work anymore. There is a need to root out ways which are unworthy of us as Christians

The Church has failed to speak out on moral issues. Too often the attitude seems to be ‘we can’t beat them so let us join them’ and we compromise. The Church must speak out in condemnation against what passes for acceptable behaviour and is contrary to that laid out in the Bible.

The Church should be such a prominent voice in society that it can influence and stop politicians from promoting behaviour expressly forbidden in Scripture. It should be the leader in moral issues, not just another (reluctant)follower.

Then, I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
God has given a promise so all of us need to have a passion for revival and we are poor Christians if we do not feel concern for the Church in this nation.

Politicians, academics, social workers have all failed society miserably causing a mindset that sees virtually anything is permissible as long as it leads to a peaceful political life, whereas ordinary people know there is so much wrong. I do not intend to go into those things; they have all been spelled out in other postings on this blog.

Revival only begins with God’s people, but with the power of God becomes so strong it soon affects society. We know God answers prayer and the promise of this verse is that if we do the things God has asked of us, He will surely respond.

Be in Church on Sunday and may God bless you.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Last week the (American) Christian Broadcasting News during their daily programme had a time for prayer for America. On one of the days they had as guest Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Pentecostal Church in Maryland, who was quite inspiring.

Based on a verse from 2 Chronicles Chapter 7 14,, (‘if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’ ) he said how the country (America) needs to turn to God and listen to His Word if they were going to be able to solve their problems and avoid further difficulties. The same warning needs to be heeded in this country which faces much the same problems and lacks moral and spiritual leadership.

In both our countries the leaders have the same offending God attitude with their unbridled enthusiasm for same sex marriage, which is in direct contradiction of God’s created order and plan.

I was speaking to a young lady, now at a leading University in this country, who grew up in a Christian home and regularly attended Church (although not an evangelical one) until she left for University. We were talking about Nick Clegg’s offensive description of opponents of same sex marriage as bigots, and I remarked that this was in fact the view of most of his party, as a woman cabinet minister had said the Church was homophobic for opposing the proposal. The young lady said that was what they were, and when I pointed out the Bible’s teaching on this, was told the Bible was out of date and largely irrelevant. This I was led to understand was the view of many young people.

To say I was shocked would be an under statement, especially coming from this, a very clever and intelligent lady, and it also made me sad. If she and her contemporaries were truly of this opinion, what hope is there for this country? People of her calibre are those who set the standard for society.

God created man and woman and intended they should marry and have children. Any variation is to violate that creation order and is an offence to God, which is likely to provoke His wrath and bring retribution.

As a nation we have let one traditional practice after another be eroded, taking the view each time it is only one thing which won’t make much difference. It is like taking one stone from a building at a time until eventually the whole structure collapses, and that is what is happening to our society. Our moral base is crumbling and the Christian Church has largely stood by, with even some clergy helping to demolish the moral foundation.

As we look and consider life in this country at the present time it must surely give to all intelligent people grave cause for concern for we see a nation in moral and spiritual decline where the barriers of decency have been swept away so that we are left without restraint.

In State schools more time is given to sex education than religion, which is probably excluded all together in some schools. A time may well come when young people will have no knowledge of the Christian faith at all, and from interviews seen on television, they have virtually none now. Bishop Nazir-Ali warned that if you take Christianity out of public life, something else will replace it which may be far worse, for there will be a spiritual vacuum.

When parents have no moral base, and schools choose not to have them, how can we expect children to grow and know better. We have given secularists freedom to pour their poisonous ideas on to society with the belief that anything is all right as long as you feel comfortable with it.

The devil has sure got a foothold into this country as people have given up on God and rebelled against Him. Minority groups have been allowed to acquire a power and influence way beyond their proportion in the country.

But do not make the mistake of thinking you can violate God. He has laid down rules but too often they merely are treated as a basis for negotiation. Seventy years ago men fought the battle of Britain against foreign aggression, now it is a fight for Britain against the forces of evil. We need a spiritual revival such as that which once swept through Wales in 1904.

Christmas Evans, another Welsh revivalist of long past once said, revival is God breathing down to the embers of a fire which is just about to go out and breathing into it until it bursts into flames. So we need to seriously consider as Christians what we can do to bring the nation back to God and combat the influence of evil.

If God’s people do not humble themselves, pray, seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, then He will not forgive them sin and not heal their land. People need to realise this is God’s world and He is still in charge. Whilst He is a God of love, He is also a ‘just’ God and justice equates with punishment as well as reward.

We will look further into the teaching of the verse from 2 Chronicles in the next sermon on Friday.

Friday 21 September 2012

Genesis Chapter 9 verse 6

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

The sermon this week will only be short, for the verse I have laid out, makes the subject of capital punishment which I wrote about a few days ago so clear and definite.

In this verse God is clearly making a complete prohibition for any person to take the life of another. We are made in the image of God which means we are of much value to God so that thereby the murder of a person is like an attack on God Himself.

Before the flood God reserved the right to take life to Himself alone but after the flood made provision for the State to take life in order to protect society. Human justice as we have seen from the ridiculously inadequate sentences given by the Courts, plus interference from politicians has proved to be woefully inadequate.

There is moral outrage to murder and Scripture declares that if any man kills another that man should be put to death (Exodus 21,v12) This is a command for all time, and whilst this authority is given in the Old Testament, it is not cancelled or overruled in any other part of Scripture. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul wrote of authorities holding the sword for the execution of judgement.

Various and spurious arguments are put forward to challenge capital punishment. It is said by opponents that the Bible says ‘you shall not kill’. But the intention of the word kill refers to an unauthorised malicious act of violence.

It is also suggested that the Bible in the Old Testament proscribed penalties for many acts we would not now acknowledge, but that it to fail to separate the Mosaic law, which was given later for a specific purpose. God was not likely to contradict Himself.

Sometime the reason of forgiveness is quoted, but apart from the fact that few families of victims would forgive the loss of a loved one, plus the fact that the victim is not alive to forgive, this hardly merits serious thought.
Society has to be protected and the massive increase in the number of murders requires the ultimate punishment to deter others. Some people argue that it does not act as a deterrent. This is to ignore facts and statistics (those that are not doctored by the Home Office).

When capital punishment was abandoned in 1966, the number of policemen murdered increased, and the day afterwards policemen were shot dead in London. The then Home Secretary, although probably the worst the country has had, just shrugged it off when questioned.

There was a time when a murder was considered to be of such seriousness that it was headline news for days. Now murder is such a common crime that it is often just another item on middle pages of the press. In Saudi Arabia, China and Singapore such crime is rare because of their laws. Murderers should lose their lives, this is the clear message of this verse of Scripture

If the politicians are serious in their desire to cut the number of murders they have the power, and the support of the people It is time the politicians faced up to their responsibilities.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

We have all seen the sad pictures of two young women police offices mercilessly gunned down in Manchester, one a very young only daughter. This has inevitably caused much comment as to whether police officers generally should all be armed and whether capital punishment be introduced for the murder of a police officer.

I think most people, including those in the Police service, would not particularly favour arming police as a matter of course, but the issue of capital punishment is a different matter. If a poll was conducted throughout the country it would show that the vast majority of the population would vote for such legislation, not only for police officers, but for murder.

When such a suggestion is made there is an immediate outcry from those who are never likely to venture out alone in any unruly area of the country, especially at night, and would do all they could to stay far away from any display of violence. The Members of Parliament, who are always calling for independent enquiries into every subject imaginable, reject any discussion on bringing back capital punishment.

There was a time when a murder was considered to be of such seriousness that it was headline news for days. Now murder is such a common crime that it is often just another item on middle pages of the press. I state quite rationally that I doubt if a week goes past without it being reported (briefly) that a body has been found of a young man/woman, followed later by news of an arrest. Despite this being so, we are told the number of murders has decreased. If anyone seriously believes this, they are not facing reality.

It is all very well for such liberal minded people sitting comfortably in safe surroundings to be telling us how awful it is to suggest capital punishment, but if they had witnessed the tragedy of parents finding a policemen suddenly knocking on their door to tell them their daughter had been found strangled lying on a grass cliff; or returning home to find their teenage daughter lying with her head cut open having been struck with a steel bar; or young son stabbed to death for no reason; and then to experience the frustration of seeing the perpetrator told they must serve at least ten years in prison, they would enter the real world.

I once took part in a debate with a Methodist Minister at a Church hall when he said, amongst other things, that it was un-Christian to support capital punishment. I stated, and still do, that it is because I am a Christian that I am in favour of such punishment. A little reading (and acceptance) of the Bible would support such a view.

If the thugs who go out committing crime armed with guns knew that they faced the death penalty, there would be a different outcome. I have heard all the arguments about wrongful convictions due to faulty evidence and police fixing. The science into DNA research has proved most reliable into the establishment of fact, and I do not accept that police would deliberately give false evidence in such a serious case, especially knowing what a guilty sentence would mean. Added to this is the Home Secretary has the authority to make a final decision.

If the politicians are serious in their desire to cut the number of murders they have the power, and the support of the people. When capital punishment was abandoned, the day afterwards policemen were shot dead in London. The then Home Secretary, although probably the worst the country has had, just shrugged it off when questioned. However, part of the agreement was that the alternative would be life imprisonment. Now there is very little chance of a person being sentenced to life. Regularly we read a person so convicted is told they ‘are sentenced to life imprisonment and must serve at least ?? years before release.’ The person who died had no reprieve and their relations were left with a real life sentence.

It is time the politicians faced up to their responsibilities.

My sermon this week will be on Genesis Chapter 9 v 6

Saturday 15 September 2012

I am turning to the Epistle to the Ephesians, in Chapter 2

Our epistle looks at the hostility that existed between Jew and Gentile in Paul’s time. The Jews hated the Gentiles, so much so, that if a Gentile woman fell into difficulty during labour, they would not help her, in order to stop another Gentile being born into the world; and the Gentiles were not too fond of the Jews either.

The Jews saw themselves as God’s chosen people, and anyone else did not belong to God’s people, which they saw as justification for despising them.

The Jews had a national home in Palestine but were scattered around the Mediterranean area. Wherever they went they took with them a high moral standard and pure faith in a holy and righteous God in contrast to the Gentile gods. They did not want to be dragged down morally by those who lived in a world of moral and spiritual corruption.

It was a multi-faith society, and like those today who have their own gods of money, property, etc, all of which do not give the spiritual satisfaction of belief in the one true God, they without hope, for there is no fulfilment in an empty product.

The Gentiles felt like many people today in that they did not seem to belong to anything and had no clearly defined belief. They knew there must be something better within their grasp and wanted to find it.

We can see a parallel situation within the main line Churches to day. People see clearly defined doctrine being ignored and re-interpreted to suit and embrace modern culture, and to make the Church appear worldly friendly, but which lacks a clear moral basis. So each year there is a decrease in the number of members, whilst people go to the small evangelical churches or just drop away, which is extremely sad and very worrying for the future.

The evangelical wing has formed an association called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which is campaigning for a return to orthodox doctrine and biblical integrity, yet whilst everyone is entitled to an opinion, some of the remarks from the liberal establishment, you would think they were trying to destroy the Church and deprive people of their liberty. It may be significant the Queen has sent two letters of support to the leaders.

Whilst Paul was an Apostle to the Gentiles, he still had great concern for the Jews and is striving to bring the two together. He saw the need for all to get right with God, and saw the answer for this reconciliation to be achieved as being through our Lord’s death on the Cross.

He told the Ephesians they need no longer be seen to be foreigners. A foreigner can often be someone who comes from a different country yet becomes part of a country in which he permanently resides. He can enjoy all the benefits of the land he lives in,

So anyone can come to Church without acting as if you need some special dispensation, not like the foreigner who needs a passport, but as one who has the full rights of a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

We should realise what a privilege and how wonderful it is to be a Christian and know the one true God, and to belong to a Church. The hymn puts it so well, ‘Christ is our corner stone on Him alone we build.’ Every Christian is like a stone built into the Church. It is so tragic that far too often Christians seem to be at war with one another just as much as the Jews and Gentiles were. When we are able to understand how God sees the Church, we will want to do all we can to make others want to become part of it and share together with no divisions.

We have to accept that our world has divisions. In every walk of life we find hostility, even regrettably within the Church. We don’t have to go back 2000 years however to find racial or cultural hostility. There is still a wall in place in Belfast, erected during the troubles to keep Protestant and Catholic apart. Such rivalry in the name of religion was appalling, but even more shameful was the fact that such rivalry could have been cut out if the Church leaders of both faiths had got together and told their peoples to stop, for clergy in Northern Ireland have more influence and are listened to more than here, but on either side there was support for their own factions, one especially so.

There are differences between people, which God no doubt intended. We are not, despite the efforts of the equality zealots in Parliament, all equal or the same. Those inequalities and differences can be an asset. You don’t have a body which is all hands or heads. If the body of Christ is to be complete and functional, it needs to have various qualities. And each sex performs some functions in life in a better way than the other and should be allowed to get on, without interference. Equality does not mean we have to be the same, each sex has qualities the other does not have, and failings.

In the concluding verses of our passage Paul wants to encourage us to come into a living relationship with God. We are children of God who cares for us and has a purpose for our life. As Christians we belong to the heavenly family with one Father. This means we meet not with strangers but as brothers and sisters of God’s family.

The sooner all Christians appreciate that and act like Christians the sooner the Church of Christ will grow and become an influence in society. How a Church can deny access to its full communion to another Christian I have yet to understand.

Make sure you are at a Church on Sunday, and make sure it is a Bible believing Church.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

We have had much trumpeting about how great Great Britain is by the politicians, and rightly so in many ways, although we knew that before they got into the act. But there is one way in which it is not very great and that is by it’s politicians.

Democracy is another word that is over used, again by the very people who make sure it is not a practical issue. There have been some glaring examples as to how little it means to those who shout the loudest.

Some time ago this erstwhile Prime Minister, (for he probably has only two years or so left) decided on the spur of the moment that he was ‘passionate’ about introducing same sex marriage legislation. (forcing it on the nation would have been more honest) To have a Conservative suggest this, is indeed stunning. However, nothing should surprise us from Mr Cameron.

When it was realised that the country did not rejoice and welcome this proposal it was decided to hold a ‘consultation’. To the normal straightforward and integrity minded people, this suggested that people’s opinions and beliefs would be considered before any action would be taken, after all, this is what a ‘consultation’ is intended for.

Whilst this so-called consultation was taking place it was announced that legislation would be introduced before 2015. This only reveals the contempt that the Prime Minister has for the views of the people, and the future of his Party which as a result of this announcement has meant that thousands of traditional Conservative supporters have decided to support the United Kingdom Independence Party, the only Party to support the traditional view of marriage. As David Cameron could not win an election when we had the biggest deficit in history and the lowest rated Prime Minister to beat, he certainly has no chance next time, so a Labour victory is assured.

Yesterday we had Nick Clegg, the beacon of liberalism, telling us that those of us who do not support same sex marriage were bigots. There was botched and hasty withdrawal, again only when it was seen what the strength of the backlash was. But that is his true opinion, which he obviously had not the courage to voice openly. The Coalition in support of marriage have not resorted to such abuse, but have tried to articulate their view with reason and validity. It is not so much that the liberals disagree with that view, they just don’t expect anyone else to have a view. Bear in mind also that the woman (Liberal Democrat) Minister at the Home Office suggested that the Church was being homophobic for opposing same sex marriage.

Now the Green Party have expelled an Evangelical Christian woman Councillor from Brighton Council because she doesn’t support same sex marriage. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to belong to the Green Party, but this is outrageous and shows how unfit they are to hold any political office.

I have had the hymn Jerusalem sung twice this past week at funeral services; a hymn used by the Church as a metaphor for heaven a place of eternal love and peace. I wonder what William Blake would have thought of Nick Clegg and his associates.

Friday 7 September 2012

The Epistle for Sunday is from the Letter of James, which has always seemed to me to be a very practical Letter, from which we can take a relevant lesson. The passage this week, the first thirteen verses from Chapter 2, relate to actions of favouritism and forming quick judgements, which can be contrary to Christian teaching.

There is a story of a man appearing before a Court for jury service who asked to be excused on the grounds that he had already formed an opinion that the accused was guilty from his appearance. The judge asked how he could have done so when the accused had not been brought before the Court. When the man pointed to someone sitting in the Court the judge scowled, ‘that man is not the accused he is a barrister’.
(From my previous life I have sympathy with the juror; I often thought some lawyers were as bad as those people they were defending)

But we all have our prejudices and for many years it was on the subject of colour.
In fact I read that a well known black politician was at one time flying to Kenya from South Africa and was uneasy when he saw the pilot was black. For a white girl to be seen with a black man was at one time considered to be shocking, but now of course we have become more civilised and realised that it is quite wrong to judge on
colour, although in some cases we have inverted prejudice against white people by other white people who want to show how perfectly politically correct they can be.

We are often guilty of trying to stereotype people on the basis of imagined as well as real differences and we assign certain characteristics to those people. We also judge people on appearance and it is this that James is concerned about as he opens this passage.

There is a scene in the movie ‘Pretty Woman’ in which Julia Roberts went into a very select shop in Beverley Hills dressed very poorly and the staff showed their disapproval of her. Later she returns with Richard Gere, a wealthy business man and the staff are falling over themselves to serve. This reflects real life.

The Bible calls on us to love one another and James points out that what can be a hindrance to doing so is prejudice and favouritism in an unfavourable way. Billy Graham on so many occasions said the problem with so many people is that their heart is not right and they suffer with a heart problem.

As Christians in a secular world, we are like ambassadors in a foreign land; we represent our Sovereign the king of all kings, Jesus Christ, so we must act like Him. The aim of all Christians should behave in a way we think Jesus would have acted.

James was concerned that snobbery may enter the Church and draws a comparison of a situation in which a rich man enters Church and is fussed over whilst a poor man is virtually cast aside. We see this in practice often. It always annoyed me, and still does, to look at civil services in which the first set of rows in a Church are set aside for ‘dignataries’. I accept that a Mayor or head of an authority representing that authority should be catered for at a special civil service, but for the rest, who are often pompously strutting up to be noticed when they would never otherwise go to Church, and thereby deprive others who of a place, is quite wrong.

Pandering to one class of people is wrong, and that applies to both rich and poor; we can have inverted snobbery. The Apostle Peter learned that God has no favourites when he was called to meet Cornelius. There is unfortunately at times an eagerness to fuss over someone who thinks he is an important person, and to be influenced by social status, and this was prevalent in James’ time when a landowner would be in Church with his servants present. People should be welcomed as people and never because of who they are. Jesus was never a respecter of people. The whole Bible unites in condemning favouritism which gives credence to a person’s social standing

The Church must always be a place where distinctions are not tolerated as we meet in the presence of God. It is both a tragedy and a disgrace that there are Churches were people attend and frown on others from a less advantaged background, or even because one is not part of a ‘set’.

Abraham Lincoln once stated, ‘God must have loved the poor because He made so many of them’, and Jesus said He came to preach to the poor. Indeed the Gospel offered so much to the poor.

A truly well-mannered person will respect others no matter who they are. There is the story relating to the late Queen Mother, sitting next to man at a banquet who picked up the bowl meant for finger dipping and drank from it. To avoid him being embarrassed the Queen did the same.

James tells that it is our duty to love one another which is the royal law for if one keeps it one becomes a king of oneself and a king among men. A fact is that if you break one part of the law you are considered to have broken the whole of the law. It is like a chain, if you break one link the chain becomes useless for it loses its power.

There is a practical truth which one can apply to life. A person may be a prominent person in Church life with a moral reputation and recognised as being a devout Christian, all of which appears to have been displayed by that person. But there can be one aspect of life which has been secretly guarded which could destroy that image, however small, and all that public persona would be for nothing worth.

James ends the passage by teaching that the Christian lives a life of tolerance and concern for others, and does so not for fear of punishment but because they are trying to emulate Christ and for love of Him. There are time when we are justified in getting angry and perhaps even being aggressive, but that should be the exception and not the rule. We should be eager to forgive as well as being eager to be forgiven.

Thursday 6 September 2012

What has gone wrong with America?

I am as regular readers will know pro-American with a great fondness for that country and follow their fortunes with interest, especially the religious broadcasts we can now access in this country thanks to satellite television.

So it was with amazement that I heard that the Democratic National Convention had decided this year to banish God from the proceedings. This I suppose could have been understood as the platform adopted same sex marriage and pro abortion rights, but the Convention consists of so many more people than reach the platform. However, when the party found that the Press had picked this up, they realised what a mistake they had made and what a gift had been given to the Republicans. Whilst an attempt to alleviate the damage was made, it seems to me they only exacerbated the astounding action taken in the first place, for a lot of the delegates did not appear to approve the correction.

America is a very big country and the Churches have a big influence on voters for America is still largely a Christian land. The Democrats, led by the present President are acting as if they want to turn their backs on God and Christianity. Obama endorses same sex marriage, wants to force contraception on the Churches, supports the Planned Parenthood organisation and accepts abortion.

Contrast that with Republican Presidents (and would be) who are ready and proud to bring God into matters, who stand for traditional view of marriage, are not pro-abortion, and respect Church beliefs on not being forced to provide contraception, and support the holy land of Israel.

The race for the White House will be interesting indeed, and with a candidate with more charisma than Mitt Romney would probably have romped home. Now it seems a close call. There is no doubt that the press in this country will largely root for Barack Obama, as the Republicans do not appear to have a lot of favour. Might I suggest that one big reason is that they have the support of evangelical Christians and those States in the so-called Bible belt?

Tuesday 4 September 2012

The long awaited hearing at the European Court of Human Rights in which appeals are being made by Christians who have been discriminated against because of their religious beliefs, has opened.

The principal appellants are two ladies who were forbidden to wear a Cross whilst at their place of employment. When other spurious reasons for banning were exposed, it was inevitable that health and safety reasons became the excuse in one case, whilst company policy in the other.

There might have been some sympathy with the decision if the same criteria was applied to other faiths, but this is not so, I would not criticise a woman for wearing the clothing required under Islamic faith, but could that not be a health and safety issue as much as wearing a Cross? Would that also not offend company policy? But which employer would rush to ban that? Much of this case opposition is being conducted under the orders of Lynne Featherstone, the (Liberal Democrat) Home Office Minister, unbelievably promoted to this Office, who has previously been forthright in her disdain for religion.

Whilst it is commonly accepted that David Cameron cannot be relied upon to mean what he says, it would be interesting to know why he has allowed this case to proceed, after stating in Parliament he supported the women’s right to wear the Cross.

In one of the most insulting and offensive remarks one can imagine, which is stating a great deal in the case of lawyers, James Eadie has suggested that if Christians are not prepared to leave their faith at home they can always get another job. I challenge him to say that to members of the Islamic faith.

It is incomprehensible to defend the actions of public bodies which suspend or dismiss employees for refusing to perform actions which are so clearly against the teaching of heir faith, when other employees are willing to perform those duties instead. Provision is often sympathetically given to those people who find touching certain foods against their beliefs. Is that any different to a person who finds giving advice on sexual behaviour against their beliefs?

Or does the Human Rights Act not apply to Christians? Indeed, one might well contend that the Human Rights act provides a vehicle for those opposed to Christianity to drive their attack on our faith. For example, one man, just one man, complained that a Devon Council had prayers said before Council meetings and this upset him. Whilst this made him look quite pathetic, why were the wishes of the other members not respected as it had been agreed to have prayers said? If he had been forced to be present whilst prayers were said that might have been a reason, but he could easily have sat out whilst they were made. Men were once made of sterner stuff.

We have the case of a woman who wanted time off work to attend Church on Sunday and was refused, whilst a member of another faith was allowed such a privilege. We have the Equality and Diversity Act in Britain which is the most unequal piece of legislation in practice.

All Christians should follow these cases with interest and pray for those seeking justice in the face of such bitter opposition from this woman at the Home Office and the secular lobby which is making an aggressive attack on Christianity and Christian morality. The Cross is the supreme symbol of the Christian faith and we should be able to wear it with pride, remembering the words of our Lord that we ‘should take up the Cross’.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Mark 7

The Gospel reading for Sunday depicts how we can become capable of ill treating worship. The religious leaders were more concerned over the way rituals were carried out and external observances. It was so in Jesus day and it still is in some places today. People are creatures of habit accustomed to doing things in the same way without giving any thought as to why they are doing so.

This gospel passage reveals what Jesus thought about man made observances. The Jewish leaders had the practice of teaching the Jewish law, which was accompanied by the ceremony of washing to display ceremonial cleanliness, which had to be performed in a strict order and if you did not follow that way you were deemed to be unclean. Jesus said, they were’’ laying aside the commands of God for the tradition of men’.

People can attend Church without the right intention and expect a certain routine and order when they get there, and woe betide any Minister who makes any alteration,. There is nothing amiss with order, but something can become so ingrained they take on greater significance than warranted; they become almost holy to people.

When I was ordained I was posted to a High Church and found that some members there were more concerned as to how the ceremonial procedure was performed than anything else. The sermon was viewed as a necessary extra. Such was the experience Jesus was having with the religious leaders.

We all have our own little preferences. As a little exercise, complete the following sentence, ‘it wouldn’t be church for me without….’

We have to contend for the whole faith and see beyond the visible. If we think of the two principal sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, for example. For most people, in the baptism service it is the physical acts of the priest and the sentimental display of the baby which commands the most attention, but baptism points to the reality of a commitment to Jesus Christ, a symbol of what God has done in the life of a believer. In the Communion service, we need to think of the love of God in sending Jesus to shed His blood on the Cross to redeem us rather than the way the physical actions are performed (See ‘we preach crucified’ earlier in the blog)

The Bible shows that Jesus had a liberty of spirit and did not stick to an established routine and He condemned practices which were man made and became more important than what was really meant to be. When we start introducing unnecessary practices into services we invariably introduce false doctrine. Scripture is rarely preached in some Churches, and sound doctrine is not given in many others as it contravenes the moral belief of many Ministers and members.

The focal point of one’s faith is the heart. We have to contend for the whole faith and not just pay lip service. The heart is what God is concerned about and what He notices. All the posturing and exaggerated motions and actions avail nothing; we take our hearts to Church as well as our bodies. So many people can talk the faith without ever practising it. Heart and lips must go together.

When the Pharisees asked Jesus why His disciples did not observe the strict cleaning practice Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy. Correct words can produce wrong attitudes, to appear to be doing something, but have no attitude inwardly. Worship must be genuine, something you do which is deep and real, it must be given with heart and mind.

Jesus taught the divine origin of the Bible with its supreme authority above all practices, observances and institutions. This is why unity between the Churches can be difficult to achieve as some Churches are not prepared to put Scripture above practice and preference. We see today how religious leaders here are eager and wanting to override the Bible and endorse sexual practices to accommodate modern morality

This passage has an important message, that Jesus is the supreme interpreter of the Bible and we must never let human interpreters overrule Him Our salvation depends on our belief in Jesus Christ not by observing man made rules and practices. Never let us hear being said to us the words that Jesus used to the Pharisees, that we held on to the traditions of men rather than the commands of God. We must accept that nothing needs to be added or taken away from the words of Scripture.