Wednesday 31 October 2012

The Letter of Jude
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.

This Letter is seldom if ever preached upon. This Sunday is when the Church recognises him and is the only occasion when he features in the Lectionary. 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, , as it deals with absolutes and does not support the loose morality which exists 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

The Letter begins by Jude identifying himself as the writer and a servant of Jesus Christ. He is humble in failing to disclose he is the (half) brother of Jesus, but obviously does not want to trade on that relationship.

He described those he is writing to. He means those who have responded to the call from God, and so are kept for Jesus as His followers.

In verse 3 Jude points out that he 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 people can do what they wish and God will forgive any sin, but God set moral boundaries to define right from wrong. They were using the gospel to justify their immoral living and there are those in the Church today who are doing the same thing.

Consider the situation now existing within the Church. One half states it is acceptable to sleep around, have children freely outside of marriage,(even have them baptised at your wedding) have same sex marriage, practice homosexuality, believe there are many ways to God not accepting Jesus as the only way. Don’t have to take the Bible literally. The other half takes a completely opposite stance. In fact, you can find Churches in the same area in the same denomination teaching totally different messages, and we expect people to come to Church.

What does it say for a Church which has difficulty in selecting a leader, primarily because there are two factions who cannot agree a common Creed, and each wants a man who shares their belief.

So in verse 4 Jude stresses the need for the faithful to earnestly contend for the faith ‘once given’ to the followers of Jesus. The word faith means belief in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the doctrine of salvation, the Trinity, the Deity of Jesus Christ, His Virgin Birth, His death and resurrection, His ascension in heaven, and His return one day to judge the world. This refutes the teaching of so many in the present that as the Bible was written so long ago we are not bound by its Word. When God gave his message to those He chose to reveal it, it was not just for the first century, but once given it was for all time, and never was it needed to be proclaimed so much than at the present time.
God has said it is our responsibility to take care of this faith and pass it to the next generation. Christianity is always just one generation from extinction. If we don’t contend for the faith, if we don’t fight for what is right, we will have nothing left to pass on to our children and our grandchildren. We are faced with a generation of people many of whom have never attended Church and consequently have no desire to encourage their children to do so.
There was a period in my lifetime when there were good congregations at both Morning and Evening services, and Sunday Schools were held; but now few Churches have an evening service and fifty people at Morning service is thought to be a good attendance, and of course children are nowhere to be seen. This situation is of course partially due to the way society lives, with broken homes, and children visiting the absent parent, and so many secular attractions held at the same time.

But, we have to also accept the Church itself has a case to answer. There has been a combination of factors which have contributed to such a falling off from Church. First, the failure to stand firm on moral issues and not show active opposition of the way society has embraced such a loose attitude. In other words, to show the Church has an alternative and offers something different, otherwise it has no purpose. The second point is that there are far too many Ministers prepared to go along with modern cultural trends and treat the Bible as nothing more than a loose guide. Until we get our act together things can only get worse. God will not bless a Church which indulges in false teaching.
False teachers are as prevalent in the Church of today as they were facing Jude, and are teaching the same falsities.

This Letter 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.

This is why I believe Jude’s letter is so important as an encouragement 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.

Friday 26 October 2012

2 Timothy 3 verses 16/17

Sunday next is the day many Churches will recognise as Bible Sunday. For more than thirty years I always recognised Bible Sunday as an important day, and this year I will miss being able to do so.

At one time Bible Sunday was always the 2nd Sunday of Advent when the whole Church joined in celebration of the giving of God’s Word. In recent years Bible Sunday has been moved to the 4th Sunday in October when it is now only optional against the normal Lectionary readings. I see Racial Justice, One World, Peacekeeping and Education, have been marked out for special attention, but apparently Bible Sunday does not warrant special mention, which says a lot about priorities.

However, there is always the option of celebrating Bible Sunday and the giving of the Word on any Sunday.

If we are to face the challenges of our time, the Church and all Christians have to be people of the Bible. So let us look at verses 16/17.

All Scripture is inspired by God. The important word is all. The Bible has become less relevant even to people within the Church, including those whose duty is to teach the Scriptures. Thereby, where as once people might have thought twice about their actions in consideration of what the Bible taught, there is less restraint.

There is a total lack of restraint, rather like a car which has been parked on a hill and someone releases the handbrake causing it to go out of control. A recent poll suggested we were the most godless nation in the world after Japan.

There are so many people within the Church, clerical and lay, who are prepared to settle for less. Moral values clearly laid out in the Bible are set aside to cater for indulging in, or condoning in, behaviour and ways which are contradictory to Scriptural teaching. There is no pick and mix option. Biblical integrity demands you accept what is written, and not choose just those parts that fit in with your own desires.

When you buy something which is under guarantee or warranty, you are given a manual which instructs how you are to look after and care for that article. If you do not conform to the terms, the person who made the article is not obliged to do anything to help, and you have no rights about which to protest.

The maker of the world has laid down the terms in His manual, and if people do not conform to those terms they can have no reason to complain when turmoil occurs.

We are told God inspired and guided forty men, using their different characters and occupations, to write the Scriptures which would be His message to the world. We can reasonably presume that if God gave us these words He would not have done so just to fill pages, but meant us to take note of all that was given.

There are 66 books in the Bible, 39 of which are in the Old Testament and 27 in the New, written by 40 men all but one being Jewish. God used their individual personalities to communicate His words, and none of them would claim it was any thoughts of their own. God wants us to understand and know Him and the only way we can do that is by Him telling us, which He does in this book.

We should be ready to turn to it and study it more. For most Christians I fear Bible reading is confined to someone else reading it in the service. It is not a coincidence, it is fact that as the Bible has become so irrelevant to so many people, life has become so much more coarse and immoral and we have a breakdown in society. There seems to be no sense of shame on the part of many people, even those in the public eye.

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

Timothy is called upon to reprove, rebuke and exhort, which in fact is the task of all preachers. In other words, we have to be concerned with mind, will and emotions by correcting wrong thinking, pointing out what is wrong in behaviour and attitudes, and encouraging those depressed. This has to be done with caring, but positive words.

Many people say they cannot understand much of the Bible. We must first realise it does not solve every problem we have in life, nor answer all the questions we would like to ask. Some things remain a mystery which God has chosen not to reveal this side of heaven.

When Billy Graham, the most successful preacher of all time, was starting out in ministry, he was troubled as to whether the Bible really was God’s Word or man’s idea. There were passages he could not understand. He was so concerned he went up into the mountains near his North Carolina home and read and re-read his King James Version of the Bible, then turned to God and said, ‘I have seen enough of your transforming ability in this Word to know you are behind it. I know there are many questions I do not understand, but I take it by faith that it is your Word and will preach it as your Word and trust you.’ The rest is history. He always encouraged people to take their Bibles with them to his crusades and meetings.

In my visits to preach in Churches I have been amazed how few provide the Bibles. I went to one Church where there was not one Bible, not even for the reading of the Lessons.

The Bible is in fact a collection of books with different styles, all written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is history, poetry, prophecy, as Paul here states, ‘to instruct unto salvation’.

The Bible is essentially a book of salvation and there has never been any doubt that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ. He is the focus and climax of the Bible from start to finish. The whole Bible focuses on the coming of Christ, after prophet after prophet in the Old Testament foretold His coming. In the Old Testament Jesus is predicted. In the Gospel Jesus is revealed. In Acts Jesus is preached. In the Epistles Jesus is explained. In Revelation Jesus is anticipated.

The Bible is given to teach us and guide us in the way God wants us to live. This is a very stressful world in which we live. This is a post Christian age when most people under the age of 40 have little if any knowledge of the Christian faith or Church.

The aim of many public officials is to erase Christianity from public life in which no mention or expression of the faith is allowed, and some Christians are swept away by the tide of opposition. In some intellectual and academic circles, the Bible is seen as some form of hate literature, and this is being taught in schools, colleges and universities, simply because it doesn’t fit in with some modern thought.

Paul feared that Timothy, young and timid man, was in danger of yielding to the anti-Christian pressure facing him. His message to Timothy, and which also applies to us, is to stand firm even if it means standing alone. Don’t weaken under pressure.

Timothy was brought up in a Jewish background and so was taught the Scriptures from an early age by his mother and grandmother. It was customary for Jewish boys to be taught the Scriptures from age five. Whilst these would be the Old Testament, he had also been taught by Paul and Peter, who between them had written most of the New Testament, so he would in fact have virtually the whole Bible as we know it in his knowledge.

There is a great tragedy in the fact that children are growing up here without ever hearing the stories of Jesus or the main biblical characters, as parents do not have the time, inclination or knowledge to help them. But it has not always been like that.

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

Compare the situation in other faiths’ homes. Muslim children are faithfully taught the Koran and will never allow their holy book to be abused in the way our Bible is; similarly in Jewish homes, where children again are taught about Judaism and the Ten Commandments from an early age.

The argument that because the Bible was written so many years ago we can look at it with a different approach to the present day, doesn’t hold. God was not just the God of the first century, but for all time. So is His Word.

The Bible gives us access to the mind of God. The more we read the more we will know God’s intention for us. Just as you spend more time in a person’s company you get to know them better, so as you spend time with God through His Word, the better you will know Him. For in the Bible God speaks His mind.

The Bible also tells of the consequences for not following God’s will for us. What then can the Church do? Is there an answer?

The Church has a wonderful opportunity to recover lost ground at the present time. The nation has woken up to the moral collapse and the Church should take the opportunity to remind the nation how far it has strayed from Christian influence. Above all, we must defend the authority of Scripture.

Today the Church in the West is in decline, in stark contrast to Africa, Asia, South America, where the Churches have memberships of thousands. The reason these Churches are so strong is because of the strong biblical foundation, and they have not been tearing the Bible away as we have in the West. They still believe it and boldly proclaim it
Many Churches in the West have given up on Scriptural teaching and have engaged in dismantling the Bible and re-interpreting to fit in with the morality (or lack of it) they wish to portray and avoid any suggestion of future judgement. Can you imagine a Muslim cleric challenging the Koran?

All Christians need to stand firm and challenge the moral collapse. But we have to be strong for the forces against us are. Secularists and minority groups have already blocked any attempt to protect Christians from the oppressive Equality and Diversity Act. There are people wanting to stop any public expression of our faith

Be in Church on (Bible) Sunday. May God bless you.

Monday 22 October 2012

Holy Matrimony (Church of England style.)

I assure you the following is not a joke, but actual fact, however hard to believe. This shows how silly the Church has become as those having positions of influence show how irresponsible they are

The Church of England has set out what it calls radical plans to change the way in which it conducts weddings. It is claimed it will ‘modernise’ the service by replacing traditional aspects with what in reality are fancy gimmicks.

Some of the proposals suggested include having biker weddings, where motorcycle enthusiasts, often clad in leather, are transported to church on vintage bikes.

Vicars should even be encouraged to officiate over underwater weddings, where the bride and groom exchange vows in a pool,
couples wearing traditional formal dress over diving suits, they and Vicars having oxygen masks and using special microphones so the couple’s vows can be clearly heard.

Another idea is to have a trained owl to swoop down the aisle with the rings in its talons, which it delivers to the best man. (I kid you not)

A bride could ride to the church on her favourite horse, with the horse remaining inside for the ceremony.

hould not be ruled out. The Bishop of Jarrow stated, they'll be like Posh and Becks for just one day. And I think God can cope with that. And if God can cope with that, it's probably up to me to try to cope with it as well."

VicEmulating the wedding of David and Victoria Beckham’s 1999 marriage in Ireland, golden thrones, sars should also consider allowing a couple’s children to walk down the aisle with them, or include existing children by incorporating a baptism or thanksgiving for a birth.

Vicars should give couples greater freedom in their choice of music, allowing pop songs, such as Here Come the Girls, by the Sugababes, Cosmic Love, by Florence and the Machine, or the theme from BBC Radio 4’s Test Match Special.

The use of cameras with professional photographers being allowed to run freely around the Church, and videos during the ceremony it is urged should be relaxed, but the authors seem to have overlooked the fact that copyright can be involved here

Vicars should stop telling people not to do things. In other words, just allow a free for all where things can get out of control.

On the big day, vicars should refresh their selection of wedding jokes. Now we are to be stand up comedians. (that would be a turn-off)

Findings of the review have been set out in a new book written by Gillian Oliver, the Church’s former head of communications and development, and claims married couples are more likely to become churchgoers if they have been allowed to personalise their ceremony.
"If a couple feel that it's their wedding, they are more likely to feel it's their church," states The Church Weddings Handbook. "And if they feel it's their church, they are more likely to keep coming back." Anyone who seriously believes this has never conducted a wedding or baptism. Churches are chosen for their ‘nice settings’ by many couples.

The conclusions are said to be endorsed by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who, in a foreword, describes the changes as "dynamite". He says that vicars have become "over familiar" with weddings and have "lost touch" with how daunting a traditional ceremony can seem to couples. Perhaps this explains why there is reluctance to appoint him as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. I admit he was my hope.

I am amazed these ridiculous proposals, suggested by someone who has never been a Vicar, and supported by those who should show more common sense, have not been taken up by other papers with less respect than the Telegraph.

What seems to have been overlooked is that weddings are described in Church official language as the Solemnization of HOLY Matrimony.
Can you imagine ‘here come the girls’ by the Sugababes being classified as holy?

Whilst it is generally accepted by society that couples have children out of marriage, the Church should not be seen to be actively encouraging the practice. Hardly a moral stance.

The only thing missing from this parody is a bar selling drinks to keep the audience happy and provide refreshment when the registers are being signed, plus a set of clowns to complete the circus, but then again only clowns of a sort could make these proposals.

When you read such proposals put forward as a serious proposition, it is easy to understand why the Church of England is held with so little regard by the general population.

Friday 19 October 2012

2 Timothy 2 v 3-13.

Paul is aware that he is facing the end of his life and wants to ensure he future of the gospel without it becoming modified and is writing urging Timothy to stand firm, never mind what other people are saying or doing, just be your own man, a man of conviction.

Timothy is about to take over Paul’s place and needs to inspire confidence. If you look at the great political leaders who got things done, they were people who knew what had to be achieved, how to do so, and they had conviction. Whatever may be thought of Margaret Thatcher, she was such a person of conviction who was the one to restore the country back from a period of misrule and chaos, and such was her reign that leaders succeeding her have sought her advice.

Such strength of character is often dismissed within the Church. Some years ago, when the post of Archbishop of Canterbury became vacant, the outstanding candidate of the time was the then Bishop of London, Graham Leonard, who had a reputation as traditional and a man of conviction. The man chosen was one who had a reputation for sitting on fences. History looks like being repeated.

Paul is telling Timothy to follow the teaching of the Apostles and not be led astray, still a good message for to-day when the pressure is constantly to avoid being positive in keeping to Scripture.

A woman Bishop in America once publicly stated that she supported the appointment of homosexual priests, same sex marriage, and said it was not necessary to believe in Jesus Christ to be accepted by God, for you cannot keep God in a box. I have no doubt there are others who would agree with her remarks in both America and Britain.

This is why we must guard the gospel so that it does not become completely changed or re-interpreted, and at a time when there are plenty of people who are prepared to corrupt Scripture. The lesson from the first chapter is that the gospel offers the good news of salvation, and our duty is to communicate it with as much energy and passion as those of other faiths promote their faith.

Paul must have felt saddened to see a falling away from Church after it had made much progress. It is sad when people fall away and once they do so find it hard to return, bit is so easy to succumb, often to outside pressure.

Paul’s call to Timothy is to find his resources for ministry in the grace of Jesus Christ, and to ensure the truth is passed on to the next generation, just as he had received it from Paul. He uses a set of images or metaphors to remind Timothy that hard work and suffering are inevitable.

First, he speaks of a soldier who is required to fight for his king and country, which often means much suffering and discipline and hard work in the face of an enemy whose attacks can be fearsome. The Christian must be a soldier fighting for the Kingdom of God and the King of all Kings. We are engaged in a fierce battle against the forces of secularism and evil, which use every kind of weapon against us.

Many years ago in the last war, there was a comedian who used the catchphrase, ‘don’t you know there is a war going on?’ There is a constant war going on against Christianity and just as today terrorists infiltrate society and use undercover methods, so do the enemies of the gospel. We Christians are to be Christ’s soldiers and be aware of insurgents within the Church.

The second image is that of an athlete. We have recently seen how hard and dedicated an athlete needs to be to compete in sports, and give hours in training and keeping fit. The Christian needs to keep in training by dedicated attendance at Church and study of Scripture to be able to compete with those who try to denounce both Church and Scripture.

Thirdly, says the apostle, the Christian also needs to be like a farmer: "It is the hardworking farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops." The emphasis there is upon the word, hard-working.

Being a Christian is not just taking life easy; it is you working for God, enjoying the privilege of being his faithful servant through whom he does his work. There is no greater achievement than that. That is not accomplished easily. It requires getting to know the Bible until you understand life the way the Bible sets out. It means faithful attendance at Church, and this should be a Church where the Bible is faithfully taught, so that you will learn how to deal with the challenges you will surely come to face. If the Bible is not being taught you are in the wrong Church

People need material food to sustain them, to be strong and enabled to face life. They also need constant spiritual feeding to face the constant challenge from so many who would like to starve them to spiritual death. Even from within Church there can be a diet of junk food rather than strength filling. Jesus Christ has to be at the heart of all worship yet I have sat through services, including a sermon, when His Name was not mentioned once. This is not acceptable.

Be at Church on Sunday. Make sure it is where you will hear the pure Word of God. And may God bless you.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Same sex ‘marriage’.

The proposal to allow what is called same sex marriage is a serious matter which has the most profound ramifications for both American and British people. I ask that if you have turned to this article, you will continue to read through fully.

The Attorney General has warned, that if adopted it would have profound difficulties for individual consciences for people, who would be forced to obey the law’. In other words, the law of man superceding the law of God.

Whilst David Cameron has stated that Churches would not be forced to officiate at such events, it would be naïve at the extreme to accept such assurance, in addition to the fact that Mr Cameron cannot be trusted to keep assurances given generally. This assurance is negated by the European Court statement that whilst such ‘marriage’ is not generally enforceable, if a State has a Diversity Law, which Britain at least has, then Churches would be forced to comply. We also have Nick Clegg, who seems to have power beyond his mandate, and Ed Milliband, (leaders of the other two main parties) stating they are in favour of such events taking place in Churches. . The Church of England might have to stop celebrating marriage to avoid contravening the law

You can be quite certain if any Church Minister refused a same sex couple a ceremony in Church, there would be civil action, and there are plenty of such couples waiting to strike. We have seen the uncompromising attitude when owners of private hotels and b&b homes have been reduced to bankruptcy for refusing, on grounds of Christian belief, to allow same sex couples to occupy the same room; in addition after fines have been imposed by a criminal court.

We have witnessed the lies and obfuscation already, and the underhanded tactics of those trying to impose this on society. Meeting halls owned by public bodies have refused the opponents the chance of hiring their halls, and whilst every conceivable topic was discussed at fringe meetings at the Conservative conference, same sex marriage was a voided. Only a privately convened meeting was possible

Only the United Kingdom Independence Party opposes same sex marriage, which incidentally none of the three major parties had the courage to include in their manifestoes. In fact, despite this subject costing the party a massive number of defections, this passionate concern of David Cameron who thought it up in a moment of hysteria without party debate, and who deliberately misled by saying he supported it because he was a Conservative was an anathema to most Conservatives.

So let us look at the facts and distortions of this subject,

It is claimed same sex couples will promote marriage, yet in Europe since it has been introduced in some countries, marriage has fallen dramatically.

It is stated that the understanding of marriage has evolved, but since human creation marriage has been understood to be between a man and a woman. Same sex marriage would abandon thousands of years of legal tradition and practice.

It is claimed it would promote equality. We already have civil partnerships which have all the benefits of marriage, and much of the homosexual community have no interest in pursuing anything further. Equality does not mean we have to be the same, and if government really was intent on their meaning of equality, why do they not permit heterosexual couples to engage in civil partnerships.

It will have enormous impact on society. Sex education in schools will have to include teaching of homosexuality, and any teacher who declined to take part would lose their employment. Parents would not be allowed to exclude their children from classes

In Brazil, Netherlands and Canada it has led to three way relationships.

70% of people in this country are opposed to the proposal, a fact that the supporters tried to stop being advertised, supported by the Advertising Standards Authority, whose chairman is a supporter himself.

Any change would involve 3000 laws being affected which refer to marriage, and the terms husband and wife (already banned in places,) plus father and mother would no longer be lawful.

No person would be free to express a word against the law, and even prior to its enactment, people are being penalised for expressing a view. A man in Manchester was demoted for doing so, and a female diversity officer for a Maryland University who had been in office for 24 years (Dr Angela McCaskill) was suspended for supporting a vote on the subject in her locality.

The Archbishop of Ottawa set out the alarming consequences of same-sex “marriage” from the Canadian experience, recounting true experiences where people who opposed it were summoned to a tribunal without calling witnesses or even a lawyer, to face unqualified legal people judging and with the prospect of huge fines.

Canada has gone before us. The Archbishop tells that same sex marriage has resulted in the Bible being called 'hate literature'. Like the Roman Catholic adoption agencies here, there is 'growing pressure for the Church to comply or to be shut down'.

The Archbishop enumerates the consequences of same-sex marriages as including 'restrictions on freedoms; forced sex education; sexually confused children; sexual experimentation among children; and muzzling and debilitating the Church'.

In Britain a consultation was offered and whilst many thousands petitioned against such marriages, Nick Clegg and his unpleasant Minister Lynne Featherstone were attacking those who opposed as bigots and homophobes, and saying it was a question of when not if, before the consultation period had ended. Such is their understanding of democracy and integrity.

To oppose same sex marriage is not homophobic or bigotry, such opposition is not based against sexual orientation, but on respect for tradition and biblical teaching. God made man and then made woman to be joined together with the view to producing children. Such is the purpose of marriage. Civil partnerships provide all that marriage can offer in law, there cannot therefore be any reasonable or justifiable cause to create massive disruption, conflict and controversy.

I suspect David Cameron, who started this off, has no great belief in what he is proposing and this is all a great publicity stunt to make him appear ‘cool’ in liberal circles. Remember this was the man who helped at one time to put together a strong right wing manifesto.

I also suspect he secretly wishes he had kept his mouth shut about it having seen the strength of opposition and the number of people who have forsaken his party, taking their subscriptions with them. Why bring in assistance for support from America? Only pride and pressure from his Coalition partners can prevent him from putting the matter aside.

Remember, only the United Kingdom Independence Party provides political opposition, and I say that as a lifelong Conservative.
(until David Cameron became leader)

Thursday 11 October 2012

2 Timothy Chapter 1.verses 1-14
Some of us have come close to death due to a frightening experience or we have seen a loved one or friend come to the end of their life, which causes us to reflect on things which are important to us. If we had to write a letter to set out our deepest wishes to those we leave behind, we would most probably mention that which is closest to our heart. This is what this Letter from Paul to Timothy is doing, and has an urgent message for our time.

This Letter to Timothy is my favourite one in the Bible because it is so very relevant to the Church of to-day. Unlike other Letters of Paul, it is written to a person, not to the Church in general.

Paul is nearing the end of his life and wants his mission to pass to Timothy who he feels he can trust. He realises the importance of godly leadership for the future, and the importance of it being in the hands of someone who will be faithful to the gospel, as it is written, and who will pass it on to succeeding generations. What a lesson for those seeking leadership of the Anglican Church.

Like many in positions of leadership now, Timothy was timid and fearful of upsetting people in a world which was hostile to Christianity, and lacked confidence in preaching. Paul didn’t want timidity; he said ‘God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love and discipline.’ Paul was writing when the Church was under threat, some of which came from within the Church as well as from those outside, and they weren’t making any gains or impact on society.

How history repeats itself. You will see from that introduction some clear parallels to the situation in which the Church is now. There have been some terrible abuses of morality; the gospel and Bible have been abused; we have been ready to accept all that and the pluralism of society with the statement that all religions are equal. Indeed, at one time sharia law was seen as acceptable by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

As the panel meets to select a new Archbishop, you can be sure anyone who has conviction will be avoided, the idea of having someone who will speak and give teaching with an unequivocal voice with emphasis on Scripture. has no place in many circles.

Two men who were Jehovah’s witnesses called at my door to witness and I always play fair and tell from the start who I am. I was asked a number of questions including if I believed the Bible was the whole Word of God, and when I answered, I was asked how I could be a priest in the Church of England and believe as I said. This reveals the image the Church has, and whilst I am sure that there are many with traditional orthodox beliefs, even if not as conservative as myself, it is clear the liberal section have set the image,. We are thus living in a society where many are totally confused as to what the Church really does believe.

This Letter of Paul could have been full of self pity, but instead he chooses to encourage someone he loves to communicate the faith. He reminds Timothy of the blessing of having had a Christian heritage. Many of us were brought up in a Christian home where we told Bible stories, sent to Sunday School, and/or taken to Church by our parents, attended school assemblies with lovely old hymns. Many children do not have that blessing and know little or nothing of the Bible.

Grandmothers had and still do have a big part to play as children are growing up now in a time of spiritual and moral confusion, and unless attending a private or free school are not likely to have much religious teaching.

Paul refers to sound teaching and makes it clear the only sound teaching is that based on Scripture; this is the only teaching for spiritual health.

Paul states ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation’. The response from many people, even within the Church is ‘you can’t say that it’s too narrow it’s discriminating and exclusive’, and would find this objectionable. Why should they be shocked that there is only one way to be saved, Shouldn’t we be utterly and thankfully amazed that there is a way to be saved at all?

The Bible is a book all about salvation, and there has never been any doubt that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ. He is the focus and climax of the Bible from start to finish. This has been the message from all the great evangelists.
Today, no less than in any other age, it is this intense biblical integrity that is needed. Fearless courage and conviction to stand for the truth that Jesus Christ is the only name that saves.
We will find that we will meet opposition when we declare our faith, we shouldn’t be surprised, and we should expect it. Public officials are ever anxious to erase Christianity from the public arena.
An article in the Daily Mail once told of business women converting to Islam because it has higher moral standards, respects traditional values and is very spiritual. There is no higher moral standard than Christianity; it is untrue, unfair and naïve to suggest that Islam or any other religion has finer values and qualities than Christianity. It is true to say that Islam is a moral religion and its clerics promote it vigorously. I am surprised that women would find Islam attractive when some sections seem to believe they have no rights at all. Consider the plight of the eleven years old schoolgirl who was shot for speaking out for the right to attend school in Pakistan.

It is also true to say Christian preachers tend to modify teaching of traditional values to appeal to contemporary thinking, and for fear of offending one of the many discrimination laws promoted equally vigorously by vociferous minorities, so falling foul of the law, which is not enforced against other faiths with the same enthusiasm as against Christian preachers.

At the present time in this country we don’t go to prison for spreading the gospel, (not yet that is) although we are getting there, as punitive legislation has led to some preachers being arrested by police for preaching biblically, with a zeal not displayed against criminals.

The last government enacted legislation which was anti-Christian, and against the beliefs and conscience of Christians, and the present government seems keen to endorse it, and go further with the ridiculous proposal for same sex marriage, and it needs to be challenged at every opportunity.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. These are the words of the great Apostle Paul.

The gospel story we are called to proclaim is the good news about what God has done to rescue us from the consequences of our sin. Each of us falls short of the standard that we ought to meet, and so justice demands that we pay a price. The problem, fundamentally, is a moral one. People like to pretend that morality is just some arbitrary set of rules made up by other people who want to control how we behave. It’s not. But God has given us the chance to be absolved from the mess we have got into, and the punishment we deserve. He has done this through the Cross.

Whilst a price has to be paid for our sins, God decided to help us by taking that punishment upon Himself. On the Cross Jesus suffered a most cruel punishment on our behalf so there is no longer any price for us to pay. But that requires us turning from our sin and putting our faith in Him and living according to the standard laid down by God in His Holy Word. Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story?

We may not be able or indeed desire to preach in the same way as of old, but whilst we may change our style we still have an important message to proclaim and it must not be watered down to suit modern susceptibilities. To be ashamed infers that one is reluctant to admit to something, a desire to disassociate oneself from it.

There is an ever present strong temptation to do so when there is so much theological and moral confusion; when you are dismissed as a fundamentalist for believing the Bible; when there is so much opposition; when there is encouragement to water down the gospel to make it more acceptable; when we don’t want to declare our faith in case we are sneered or laughed at.

We cannot be ashamed of the gospel. How would people hear? How
can they call on the One they have not believed in; and how can they believe in the One they have never heard; and how can they hear if no on preaches it to them?

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 if asked to give our opinion on moral questions? If you are not ashamed you are ready to speak out about your faith.

The reason Paul was not ashamed and was eager to preach the gospel, was because it was the power of God for salvation, a teaching scorned by so many in the world. . There is no other power known to men which can do that. All other religions have a philosophy, we have a man. No other spiritual leader can forgive, only Christ can forgive.

How many preachers would be ready to stand in one of our Cathedrals and state this? How many would be allowed to? So many preachers are afraid of what people, and especially what the papers would report. But look at the praise heaped on Pope Benedict by the press for his bold and brave words in telling the politicians to stop interfering with the Christian faith, and calling for a vigorous Christian outpouring to combat the aggressive secularism pervading our society.

The Bible states ‘no one can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ.’ Paul said you may be ashamed of saying these things but I am not.

Saturday 6 October 2012

James 3 v.13 - 4 v 7

I heard a sermon preached by the Vicar of Christ Church, Kowloon, Hong Kong, which I thought was so relevant to present day events, and so worthy of wider circulation. With his kind permission I am using much of what he preached as my offering sermon for this week. It is not word for word as he stated, for I have added some comment of my own and I take responsibility for all quoted here.

The question is often asked if it is right for a Christian to be ambitious. In some Christian circles ambition is frowned upon as it is considered contrary to being humble and meek, rather as being aggressive. There is however the danger of being passively aggressive by appearing to be humble whilst pursuing clearly defined goals. The Charles Dickens character Uriah Heep for instance.

We also see such false humility by clergy within the Church of England, At present the Church is seeking to appoint a new Archbishop of Canterbury and there are some men who dearly want the post but don’t want to be seen to be doing so. The Archbishop of York very much appears to want it and is open about it. It is almost a guarantee that the appointed one will say what a surprise and honour it is but before accepting it was necessary for him to pray and consider if he should accept. He would gain far more respect if he would state he was going to celebrate with champagne and rejoice.

Deep seated ambitions can be maintained deep below the surface no matter how humble a person may act and this is true inside and outside the Church, pretending and scheming. Some people are openly ambitions and make no pretence about it. There was a movie titled ‘Wall Street’ where the main character saw greed as good.

There is no more open career ambition than is seen in politics. In America the two candidates for the Presidency are fighting for all they are worth for the job. Some see democracy as a panacea and compare other countries less favourably. Anyone who lives in Britain should know better. We see politicians desperate for power and often they are those lacking totally in talent, experience, or ability and are famous just for being well known.

A study of the two party conferences will have seen all sorts of promises being made for the future, especially at the last one, when the speakers must know they are neither feasible, nor would be allowed by their backers. The Conservative leadership desperately sought votes on the basis of traditional Conservative values and ideals, yet because the leader feels he can look more socially friendly, abandons those ideals on a whim, without consent from supporters.

The young want to be celebrities, footballers or footballer’s girl friends, or winning the X factor competition. Bars around the country are filled with girls seeking a footballer so as to become famous. Reality television has made stars of people out of relative obscurity.

Children have careers picked for them not for suitable aptitude but rather because it may lead to status and wealth and power. Envy and ambition can lead eventually to all kinds of wickedness. We see this in today’s society where people are pursuing their own goals irrespective of the effect they may make on others. Envy and jealousy lead to darkness and darkness.

Good ambition is not built on envy and selfishness and avoids pretence and hypocrisy with a lust for money and power. The biblical ambition encourages the use of talents as Jesus told in the parable of the talents where the Master praised those who had increased the money entrusted to them and rebuked the one who had not.

Those who are sincere in ambition can be recognised by their trying to doing their best, making the most of their talent without seeking power or money. The Olympic ideal was once the honour and privilege of taking part and the only goal was their own goal. Now the eye is often on a sponsorship deal, which is the accepted thing. It was noticeable when Usain Bolt, and mainly American athletes, were seen and heard offering praise and thanks to God before and/or after, the media in this country gave at least little or scant report. The aim should be of making most of our talents, using our gifts and fulfilling our potential and offering our gifts to God.

When Jesus was making His final journey to Jerusalem His disciples knew something was about to happen and had heard Jesus speaking about the Kingdom of God. They were arguing as to who would be the greatest and have the best position in the Kingdom. Jesus knew what they were talking about and told them whoever wanted to be the greatest had to be the servant. Jesus said He had come to serve not be served and to offer Himself as a ransom for many.

Christian ambition is to renounce the world’s standards and to refuse to be envious, making

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Some of you may not have seen the recent poster commissioned by the Church of England for advertising Christmas. Who ever designed it should, with those who authorised its publication, have their heads examined and told their services are not longer required. It is ridiculous, offensive vulgar and an insult to Christians,

Headed the God baby, it shows a plastic type doll with the words, ‘he cries, he wees, he saves the world’. At the bottom of the picture it states cannot be bought in stores.

What is more worrying is that it is stated that the Bishop of Bradford, who is a candidate for the vacant Archbishopric, is enthusiastic about the poster. I say in the most reverential terms should that Bishop be elected, God help us. I cannot imagine any Christian with respect for the Lord being other than disgusted by the way the festival is trivialised. People not associated with the Church will understandably think we are both mad and stupid.


I read that the Council sitting to select the next Archbishop of Canterbury cannot agree on a nomination. The natural successor one might think would be the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, who is greatly admired by the general public for his natural human nature. Whilst he acts rather wildly at times in gimmicks, he is at least someone who believes in the authority of Scripture, not always a fact in Church leaders’ lives.

However, if you look at the composition of the Council, he didn’t stand much of a chance. The people chosen are very much on the liberal side and the man representing the Worldwide Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Wales Barry Morgan, could not be more diametrically the opposite of John Sentamu. Certainly, liberals are not likely to have much time for Sentamu. Now more than ever as he opposes same sex marriage.

Incidentally how world wide is Wales? Why in fact are only English men considered, even if we were adventurous Scottish or Welsh? There are real evangelical Archbishops and Bishops around the world who actually believe in the Bible and are truly committed to preaching the gospel and growing the Church. If we are world wide Church why not be like the Roman Church and consider far and wide. There was in fact talk of making the Archbishop of Canterbury’s post detached from the Diocese of Canterbury.

The way the Council has been composed is, as the blog of Cranmer states, rather like asking a Labour man to be Chairman in picking the next Conservative leader.