Saturday 17 November 2012

Mark 13
The Gospel lesson this Sunday comes from the 13th Chapter of Mark, in the first eight verses.
This Chapter has been described as the most Jewish in the whole Bible as it relates to Jewish history. The words and terms Jesus uses would be familiar to the Jews of His day. The Chapter refers to the Second Coming of the Lord, which many people decline to believe or just simply ignore.

The Jews always believed they were God’s chosen people and as such merited a special and predominant place in the world which they could only achieve by God’s help, and they were confident this would be given. This would be known as the ‘Day of the Lord’, which would be followed by a time of trouble after which God would create a new world and judgement would follow.

The Temple in Jerusalem was considered to be among the most spectacular wonders of the ancient Roman Empire. The original temple constructed by Solomon had been destroyed and when the Jews returned to the homeland 70 years later, they constructed the second temple. King Herod wanted to gain favour with the Jews so offered to rebuild their temple. The work began in 20BC and would eventually take 66 years to complete.

The building stood on top of Mount Moriah and literally dominated the skyline of the ancient city. Between the Temple and the city lay a valley and a bridge spanned that valley which led straight into the Royal porch. It could be seen from many miles away and from anywhere in the city, being 172 feet long and 20 stories high. The stones that made up Herod’s Temple were pure white limestone, and the doors, walls and floors of the Temple were overlaid with pure gold.

Jesus had left the Temple with His Apostles who commented on the beauty of the buildings. Jesus knew that the Temple would by 70AD be destroyed by the Roman Army, and told the Apostles it would one day come down. When He was asked when it would happen, went on to say men would come and lead the Church astray with heresies.

This is done on various ways; by teaching doctrine to meet their own ends, and the same thing is happening in the Church today as men and women are moulding Christian truth to suit themselves. If such truth conflicts with desires, amend the truth is the practice.

Then there is teaching that God is a God of love and forgiveness who is ready to forgive all when asked, without telling that God is a God of justice and can be angered by sin. It is a false teaching that Christianity can be so ordered to look popular and attractive, irrespective as to whether it contradicts Scripture, as we see by the advocates of same sex marriage and loose morality

There is always the attempt to stop people from attending Church. Incredible as it may appear,a Vicar recently told people not to bother worrying about going to Church on Sundays but stay in bed and enjoy yourselves. This adds credibility to people who firmly claim that you don’t have to go to Church to be a Christian. If a person separates from Church there is something wrong with their thinking.

This is the message of the Epistle for the day, which states, ‘let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage on another.’

A Church family is unique in that it consists of different ages, backgrounds, experiences and sexes. It is where God provides for us to be come equipped to carry out His message to the world. We sing praise together, pray for each other and for the world's needs, share bread and wine in Holy Communion, and remember what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

We live in two worlds. We live in the earthly world, but we also live in the world of the Spirit, and there is always the danger we can forget about God and become so involved in earthly activities.

We need to meet with others to have fellowship, to gain and give encouragement. Each of us has to make an effort. Most people believe in God and many have a respect for the Church, but that is as far as it goes. They don’t want God or the Church to intrude into their lives, unless of course they want a baptism or wedding and then both can become useful.

There are many, far too many people in recent times, who have forsaken Church and it can be so very easy to give up, go with the flow and fall away. Once this is done it is often hard to get back into the practice of coming to Church. This is why the Bible urges the need for Christians to be with each other.

There are numerous reasons for people giving up worship. There are the cynical voices pouring scorn, making people feel doubtful. There are forces of secularisation, now given so much attention and credence. There are pressures from within families, where some members are anti-church, notably husbands regarding their wives. The worry about taking a public stand, and indeed, from within the Church itself. So we should not be tempted to separate ourselves from those who are joined to us by a common faith. Meeting and following Christ can be costly but mostly well rewarded.

We must always be aware of the fact that in many parts of the world Churches cannot exist, nor can Christians meet with other Christians for fear of imprisonment or even death. Increasing hostility is being displayed in countries like Egypt, Pakistan, and Nigeria, where Churches are burned down and bombed. Here we still have freedom to worship, but if not cherished and valued and fought for will be lost.

But there is one thing I feel needs to be stressed. We should ensure the Church we attend is one faithful to God’s Word and seeks to build each other up through the Scriptures, and where the true gospel is preached.

We have to acknowledge however sadly this is not always the case, so it serves no purpose going to a Church which fails to do these things. Too many preachers have their own agenda, which is created around a morality not supported by Scripture, and where the teaching is given to subscribe to the culture of the day.

You must find a Bible based Church. Research in America has shown that going to Church and meeting with fellow believers is good for your health. A survey in North America of 4,000 people, found that older people especially who attended Church, were less depressed and far healthier that their non religious counterparts.

Let us therefore draw near to God, holding firmly to your belief. Don’t let unpleasant people, secularists, or anyone else hold you back. Remember too, Jesus said if anyone rejected Him, He will one day reject them. Such a fate is too horrible to consider.

The combined message from these two readings is that Jesus will one day return when He will be the judge of all our lives and to Him we will answer. We are warned there will be signs such as wars, famines, earthquakes; things which have taken place through the ages, although the threat seems more potent now especially when Israel is surrounded by hostile nations who are threatening to unite against Israel with the intention of destroying that nation. Israel will not lie down, but fight fiercely and who can tell the consequences. This should make any intelligent person who does not attend Church and/or worship Christ think seriously.

If you do not believe in Christ, these two readings ought to make you reflect very deeply. The Bible states, ‘God is ready to welcome you, now is your time to receive salvation’. Don’t miss out.

And be at Church on Sunday. God bless you

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