Thursday 31 January 2013

Next week Parliament will again vote on the question as to whether same sex marriage should be legalised. The Liberal Democrats (so inaptly named) have all been ordered to vote for the motion by Nick Clegg who is about as ill-liberal as one could find. Labour members appear to have been given the chance to make up their minds although the party policy is in favour.

The Conservative Party is very much opposed and whilst over 140 have stated they will vote against, the majority of the rest appear against in conscience, (that is a loose term as most have no consciences) but are afraid of the consequences. David Cameron does not appear to be a man who likes to be opposed. If Cameron were to pursue solving the economic problem with as much passion as he is pursuing same sex marriage, we would be the envy of the world. Instead, he is ensuring the Conservatives will lose the next election.

(Remember this is the man who failed to lead the Conservatives to victory in the last election despite the Labour Party leaving the country with the highest deficit in our history and one of the largest in the world, and being opposed by the most unpopular Prime Minister in living memory.)

It has been stated that failure to win for the Conservatives was due to the fact that no one felt able to trust Cameron. That appears to have been justified by actions since in several cases. But let us just consider this issue of same sex marriage.

Prior to the last election Theresa May, not the brightest of women, suggested ‘the Tories would consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage”. Mr Cameron when asked by Sky News political editor Adam Boulton if he would confirm what Theresa May had said, replied, “I am not planning that.’Same sex marriage was not included in the manifestoes of any party.

What is so distasteful and blatant deceit. is the statement that the Church of England will be given legal exemption from any legislation. It is accepted by all honest and honourable lawyers that any such exemption would be challenged, and on appeal to the European Court such exemption would be overruled. We have evidence of that, by the recent ruling of the European Court, that a sex therapist who refused on religious grounds to give advice to homosexual couples as it seriously offended his faith, that such refusal was unlawful. The Court also ruled that a registrar who declined to officiate at a civil partnership was rightly sacked. So a clergyman who refused to marry two people of the same sex could be ordered to do so when it contravened the vows he made on ordination.

Despite all his unreliable utterances and promises, David Cameron is not a stupid man, indeed he is very clever and cunning, and must know the outcome. However, all he need subsequently state is that it is not his fault, he had been let down by the European Court, and some people will be naïve and foolish enough to believe him.

Statistics have been manipulated to suggest the country is in favour of same sex marriage, but polls have been firm to show 70% are against and over 600,000 people were prepared to put their names to a petition stating so.
Churches and Mosques and religious organisations have protested, Conservative Party members have protested, but such is the obstinacy and misplaced passion by Cameron, the division in the Party and country have gone on, and the Bill to legalise such union as marriage is being rushed through Parliament with indecent haste. The Culture Secretary has even threatened to invoke extra powers if the House of Lords should reject the Bill.

Whatever you may consider the consequences, do not vote Conservative whilst David Cameron is leader. (and I speak as a Conservative) Support the true Conservative Party, now known as UKIP.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Reading the daily newspaper can be at times a distressing experience. Today there are reports of four murders; a boy of 16 stabbed despite crying for mercy; a woman of 44; a grandmother after a robbery; a pensioner stabbed as he opened the door of his home.

Last week we read of the church organist murdered on his way to Christmas Mass; a husband killing his estranged wife in a hair salon; two street sellers murdered without cause; and young child strangled for too much crying. Yet still we hear cries of horror at the mention of capital punishment. Why is it that social workers and politicians are so out of tune with the majority of the country on this issue?

We have Church people raising their eyes heavenwards at the very thought of sentencing murderers to death. All very well if you never venture out into the big wild world or lead a sheltered life. Those of us who have seen the effects of murder, and especially the relatives of victims, know the true horror.

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard it trotted out that a Christian cannot possibly support capital punishment. This indicates a lack of knowledge of the Bible. Scripture declares, ‘the Lord God said to Moses, anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death.

It is of course immediately said that is Old Testament stuff. That does not discount the command of God. 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 the New Testament, Jesus several times acknowledged the authority of the Old Testament, and said He had come to fulfil the Law not reject it. In his Letter to the Romans, Paul wrote of authorities holding the sword for the execution of judgement.

Society has to be protected and the massive increase in the number of murders requires the ultimate punishment to deter others. The number of murders is becoming alarming, reducing the severity of the crime to the level of an assault. We read and hear of murder (at least) on a weekly basis despite the massaging of figures by the Home Office. Only the ultimate sanction is likely to deter.

Some people argue that it does not act as a deterrent and quote statistics. To accept figures quoted by politicians shows an incredible naivety. Those of us who have had experience in the legal world know only too well figures will show what the authors want them to show.

We are out in wilderness at present with a cry for reality, but the time will surely come when the majority will force their voice to be heard.

Friday 25 January 2013

Nehemiah 8 ,
This morning I want to turn with you to the reading from the Book of Nehemiah, which is the Old Testament reading for this Sunday. We do not study the Old Testament very often, so it may make an interesting change.

Nehemiah was a Jew, taken into exile by the Babylonians after they had been defeated by the Persians, and he became a cup bearer to the King, later becoming civil governor of Jerusalem.

The people of Israel had been taken into captivity to Babylon and after 70 years were returning to Jerusalem, their spiritual homeland then in ruins, to rebuild their lives and homes. The walls of the city had been destroyed and needed to be rebuilt. This was completed with great and concentrated effort, always under fear the people would be attacked again as their enemies were ready to do so. Nehemiah realised the danger so selected reliable men as watchers

On completion Nehemiah knew that there then was a need for a firm spiritual and moral foundation as well as wealth and material things. Nehemiah realised that a nation needs more than material works and wealth, it needs a spiritual dimension. Today so many people are greatly affected by the philosophy of the world, and are too ready to follow ideas and fashion from the media, ideas and attitudes that we are hardly aware of as being wrong, but feel compelled to adopt.

So on the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the priest was sent for to bring the Scriptures which had been given by the Lord. The place where they met was by the Water Gate, the seventh gate, a prominent number to the Jews, a number signalling perfection. There were a series of gates, sheep, fish, east, etc. this gate was the symbol of the Word of God -- the water of the Word, the reviving power of the Word of God. There could have been no more appropriate place for them to assemble.

Ezra read it aloud from daybreak till noon to all the people in the square. This indicates the tremendous desire of these people for truth. They listened and the fact that they stood for so long shows how much they wanted to hear from God. They were simply crying out for His guidance. They were not looking at the clock to see if the service went over the bare hour.

How sad that now so many young people have no opportunity of hearing the Word of God. No longer is it taught in many state schools, and parents have neither the knowledge or the will to teach or even encourage them to do so. A generation is growing up without any knowledge of their Christian heritage.
Religion is being phased out of the majority of peoples lives, aided by a secular press, an anti-Christian judiciary and political establishment.

Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform. At one time central pulpits were common in the Free Churches, and I did have the pleasure and joy of preaching in a Methodist Church where they still have the pulpit in the centre and high. Other Free Churches still have a central pulpit, but not so grand.

Then we learn with what care it was made clear what the meaning of Scripture was. They read from the Book of the Law of God, giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. The purpose of every act of worship is to hear from the Word of God, not some lecture on climate change. For many Christians, the only Bible connection they have is from the readings in the Sunday service.

It is vital that the Church teaches in simple terms. One of the greatest communicators was William Barclay, who put things so clearly that all who read his writing came away with an understanding of the passage. He also gave an impartial exposition which it is the duty of every preacher with integrity. We are there to teach Scripture, not engage in some academic or intellectual alternative.

This teaching of Ezra had such a profound effect upon the people that we are told they wept as they listened. They did so because they realised how their lives had gone astray and they had wrong thoughts and ways. These people saw the holiness of God contrasted against the evil of man.

They felt convicted about the way they had been living their lives. We all need to examine our lives from time to time to see what needs to be corrected. Sometimes however, people feel they are too great a sinner to approach God, but He is ready to forgive and forget because of the sacrifice made by Jesus on the Cross. The Bible states, ‘there is no condemnation for those who have accepted Jesus Christ’

There is general agreement that a severe moral decline has occurred in the world, allied to the decline in religion and especially with the disregarding of the Bible. The Bible provided a foundational basis by which people were guided.
The two great Presidents in America’s past, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, were devout Bible readers who let it guide their great responsibilities and made no secret of the fact. Many other leaders of that nation were similarly influenced, but sadly the present one does not appear to be. Anyone in doubt should read his inauguration address

Christians should be eager to read the Bible, and thereby be made more aware of God’s intention for this life. It would be interesting to know how many Church members actually read their Bible at home. During his Crusades Billy Graham would ask the people if they had brought a Bible to hold it up, and thousands of Bibles were raised. Such days and practices are now long gone.

It may be asked, ‘why do I need to read the Bible?’ 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.

The whole Bible is about God’s offer of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. We need the Bible to have a relationship with God and it brings us into the presence of God. All true Christian ministry should be based on the Bible, it is our only authority for the Church to exist.

When the word is opened up, people begin to understand themselves. This is the great thing about Scripture. When you know God you begin to understand yourself, because you are made in the image of God. These people in Jerusalem were soon growing in self-knowledge as they began to hunger for the Word of God.

The great tragedy of our day is how few churches seem to understand this power of Scripture. Across the country there are churches in which there is little life. The services are dull and dreary because the Word of God is not central. Whenever there has been a revival in the Church at the forefront were men like Charles and John Wesley or Evan Roberts in the 1904 Welsh revival, men who were boldly preaching the Bible. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the greatest preachers of modern times once stated, ‘the primary task of the Church and Christian Ministers is the preaching of the Word of God. The decadent times in the history of the Church have always been when such preaching has declined.’

Of all that is happening today, the most frightening thing is the lack of a sense of sin in society, a total lack of moral values. People are doing terrible things -- murdering one another, raping one another, hurting each other right and left -- but they do not feel they are doing anything wrong.. That is what the Word of God is given to correct. It awakens afresh an awareness of what is causing the wrong.

In the absence of any outstanding preacher on the national stage, each local Church has the added responsibility of making sure the Bible is faithfully and boldly preached. Preachers must give a strong but simple message, and congregations must be prepared to listen and not expect to be just entertained.

The primary business of Christians is to understand the Word of God so as to think God's thoughts after him -- to learn to think like God. It is not only important to know what the Scripture says, it is even more important to know what it means!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Do nothing from selfish ambition.

These are words from Paul to the Phillippian Church and could well be directed to some in the Church of England. Two instances have recently occurred which do not reflect any credit on those involved.

Following upon the defeat of the motion to allow women to be appointed as Bishops due to the voting of the laity, a smear campaign was mounted against the Chairman of the House of Laity, a man with a high reputation for integrity and one who respects the tradition of the Church and the authority of Scripture. An inference was made that those who opposed the motion were acting similarly to those who supported slavery, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. This is nothing new however; it was once equated as opponents were giving encouragement to those who committed rape and assault on women.

In addition, a meeting was demanded by a Canon of the Church to propose a motion calling for a vote of no confidence in the Chairman; this at some cost. Fortunately this was defeated.

The moral appears to be if someone gets in the way, destroy them and keep on voting until you get the result you want.


Quite recently the Bishops stated that in future a man in a homosexual relationship with another man, even in a civil partnership, could be appointed a bishop provided the relationship was celibate. It is generally accepted that this is a statement worthy of comic opera.

Into the debate entered Rev. Giles Fraser who came into national prominence when he prevented the Police from moving squatters from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in October 2011 where they were to hold a political protest. The consequence of that was the squatters remained for a lengthy period, defacing the approach to the Cathedral, and in the ensuing debate Mr Fraser felt obliged to resign his post at the Cathedral, and the Dean at the time an honourable man, also lost his post.

Now he has expressed his disgust regarding the Bishop’s celibacy call, and said a bishop had ‘a moral responsibility to lie’. So what kind a message is that to send out from the Church? Mr Fraser is a prolific writer and speaker so his words will reach out and attract a following of sorts. People may well reason that if a senior Church figure can advocate lying one’s way out of a situation, anything goes.

The Bible is quite clear that one should not tell lies, but then Mr Fraser does not like dogmatic biblical literalists.

Friday 18 January 2013

1 Corinthians 12
This is a very significant passage. Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church and has come to a point where he is dealing with spiritual gifts. He likens the Church to a human body and describes it as the body of Christ. The Church is the means by which Jesus reaches out to the world and it is very important that we keep this in mind.

We have to be conscious of the fact that as Jesus is no longer physically in the world, so members of the Church are required to do His work here on earth; we are to be His voice and hands. This is such an important task and we should not try to avoid it. Literally, we have to be His body, and the supreme glory for the Christian is that he/she is part of that body.

The Church is not just a group of religious people gathered together to enjoy mutually desired functions. We should be sharing the same kind of life, belonging to the one Lord, filled with His Spirit and be working together to change the world. Such is what makes a true and healthy Church. Just coming to Church in itself does not necessarily make you a Christian anymore than going to Macdonald’s makes you a hamburger. You have to believe in and trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

Paul emphasises the analogy of the human body to that of the body of Christ by explaining how the body functions. He stresses the importance of each part of the body working together, and indicates that every member of the Church is of importance. An ear performs one vital function, but so does an eye; the body needs both; similarly with hands and feet. Never consider yourself as an unimportant part of the Church. You may not be called to preach or lead a Bible study group, but there are so many other equally important tasks in their own way by which you can take an active part. If everyone did the same thing the Church would be ineffective.

But a body only functions properly if it is healthy and every part is working properly. We must accept we need one another and there is no need for competition or jealousy. Occasions arise when someone feels they are not being given the recognition they feel their secular work demands, and others are doing what they should be doing. If any organ in our body fails, the whole body is affected and any disruption in the Church affects the whole situation.

So, in what way can you play your part? There are so many ways by which your gift can be exercised, possibly in a manner you have never considered. In a Church I was once at we gave everyone £5 and invited them to use their talent to increase it with the proceeds going to the Church. People found they had hidden gifts. So often gifts are seen as only relating to ministry which is so wrong and narrow an outlook. The Church is not like a bus with the Vicar being the driver and all others passengers.

Often we find professional men and women who have their professional talent to use in the service of the Church and they serve well and so usefully, especially gifts of accountancy and law. But also valuable is the man or woman who can do technical work effecting repairs; or the lady gifted with flower and decorative arrangements; ladies who spend hours baking for Church fairs. I had two sisters in their 80s who worked tirelessly and I cannot imagine how we could have done without them.

Sometime of course it may seem as your work is not appreciated when you do not get the thanks and recognition your work has merited. Do not be depressed or disheartened, if you have done it for God, He will be pleased and recognise you. When all our gifts are put together we can become a strong body able to serve the Lord as He would want.

God bless you. Be at Church on Sunday.

Thursday 17 January 2013

European Court rulings

So at last we have it enshrined in law that a Christian can wear a Cross at work. David Cameron could not get on to the air waves fast enough to express his ‘delight’ at the ruling; another instance of this man’s duplicity. If he was so supportive of a woman wearing a cross at work, why did he as Prime Minister allow a Coalition Minister, known for her anti-Christian opinions, to order lawyers to contest this case.

Like many I suspect I too am delighted at the victory of Nadia Eweida and think she deserves much credit for her devotion to the Cross and her courage in fighting against the odds. I feel equally sorry for Shirley Chaplin, the Nurse who lost her case. This is an outrage that she should be forbidden to wear the crucifix, whilst other religious faiths can be excused the clothing demands others are made to respect.

The vicious vindictiveness of Islington Council was not defeated in the case of Lillian Ladele, the Registrar who declined to officiate at a civil partnership ceremony and was suspended, even though other colleagues offered to stand in for her. That was real intolerance by the Council. I guarantee if a Muslim person had done the same as Lillian no action would have been taken.

The major loss and with the widest implications was the case of Gary McFarlane, the sex therapist who refused to give sexual therapy to two homosexuals. This was a case of gross injustice. I cannot imagine a more worthy exemption. Here was a devout Christian man who was being asked to perform a task which was completely an affront to his beliefs in the teaching of Scripture; another instance of everyone having a human right except a Christian.

As Christians we live in a very hostile society. There seems to be a campaign against our faith, and we have become a virtual minority group. Consideration is extended to every minority faction, each of which is ready to pursue their case with an aggression which Christians have chosen not to follow.

The government is pursuing with a passion the case of same sex marriage, and makes all sorts of assurances which privately it realises will have not value. This has been clearly demonstrated by the European Court ruling in the case of Gary McFarlane, and any cleric who attempts to resist performing such a marriage will find him or herself facing proceedings. You can be assured that a challenge will be directly made against some Minister. All this for a minority of 1%, and even the majority of that people have no desire for ‘marriage’.

We have the difficulty that whereas governments, especially of Conservative composition, were Church sympathetically inclined, now we have two party leaders in Clegg and Milliband, who are declared atheists, whilst Cameron is Christian only when it is to his political advantage to be. The judiciary to a greater extent have shown no desire to find in our favour.
However, is it not strikingly hypocritical of them all that whenever a royal or national ceremony takes place in a Cathedral, they all cannot get there fast enough, and seek to gain prominent places?

We are being coerced into moulding our faith into line with secular law, and sadly too many clergy are quite willing to be ready to do so. The latest edicts and comments from the liberal part of the Church of England bear no relation to Scripture, and give a message that the Church has nothing special or alternative to offer society. Consequently we see congregations shrinking, and we will continue to see so unless we become faithful to the Bible.

Friday 11 January 2013

The Epistle for Sunday contains just four verses from the 8th Chapter of Acts (14-17).

Philip had been telling the people of Samaria of the gospel and had caused a spiritual awakening as men and women were becoming believers and seeking baptism. The news had reached Jerusalem where the church leaders met and they decided to send Peter and John to find out what was happening.

When the two Apostles arrived in Samaria they discovered that whilst the people had been baptised, they had not then received the Holy Spirit, so they laid hands on them for the Holy Spirit to be received.

Some people maintain this as the justification for the service of Confirmation, children (or others) who have been baptised as infants come to confirm the vows made on their behalf and have hands laid on them by the Bishop.

If we study what took place at that place we can realise how far the Church has drifted away from the biblical pattern of baptism. The people heard the gospel preached, they accepted the message and came to become believers, then sought to be baptised.

Looking at the events recorded in Acts, the normal pattern to becoming a Christian is that someone ‘repents, believes, is baptized, and then receives the Holy Spirit’. This, however, is not a chronological order. These are the essential components to becoming a Christian, but God can change the order in which they happen, as was the case with Cornelius.

Within Scriptural terms a person is baptised when he/she realises their life can be different and better if Jesus Christ is part of it; they therefore repent of past failures; believe that by His death on the Cross, Jesus Christ became their Saviour, and they promise to follow His teaching for their future life.

At the beginning of the Church baptism, as recorded in Scripture, was for adults.
In the 2nd century the Church adopted the practice of baptising the children of worshipping parents. This can be deduced by the fact that the Canon relating to the subject states, ‘parents and godparents must fulfil their responsibility to bring up the child within the Church, and by their own example’.

Even however in the case of parents who are Church members, I feel it is stretching Scripture’s teaching. I cannot trace any instance in the Bible where the baptising of infants can be proved, but at least it shows some respect for the service.

Whilst it may have been the intention that infants being brought for baptism should be of Christian parents, it is now common practice to accept the infant of any parents, irrespective of belief (or none), who requests, without any requirement other than being told to attend on the relevant date.

I know it is often said to be a means of outreach, but apart from it being wishful thinking, it hardly justifies departing from the true purpose. If all who have made the promises of the Baptism service and adopted the words used, we would need to build more Churches as they all joined us on Sundays.

Baptism is a most sacred act. There is a joint action between God and man. Man repents, God washes sins away and there is then forgiveness and a person can really say they are ‘born again’. Can a baby have sins to be washed away?

The Church of England liturgy in Baptismal services asks the parents and godparents if they turn to Christ as Saviour and submit to Christ as Lord, and are allowed to affirm without question. Similarly they vow to bring up the child in the life and worship of the Church, but the falsity of this is shown by the fact that Church congregations do not reflect these promises. Further, to state ‘this child who has been born again’ is theological nonsense.

I cannot find any reference in Scripture to babies being baptised. They were welcomed and treasured, but not baptised. I accept it has become tradition to do so in our Churches, but there is the question do we put tradition before Scripture.?

Baptism has always been a problem for me. I have read, listened and pondered hard, but cannot bring myself to accept the case for baptising infants indiscriminately. I find myself compelled to sympathise with those who believe baptism should be for those who can make a decision for themselves.

As an Anglican priest I was morally required to do so, but felt distinctly uncomfortable in doing so. It still distresses me when I see people coming to a Baptism service showing no respect for the place they are entering, and only being concerned to have their cameras and camcorders ready, without taking an interest in the whole service. Fortunately for me all that is now over, I can choose which services I take.

The Collect for Sunday prays that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children. Children obey their father’s teaching.

Be at Church on Sunday and God bless you

Tuesday 8 January 2013

We must seriously consider whether the bishops in the Church of England wish to destroy the Church. There have been three issues in recent times which have shown total incompetency and lack of leadership.

I was brought up to believe that Christian men and women were to have honour, integrity and see the Bible as a guide as to how we should think and behave. The clergy were to be respected and seen to be displaying the above mentioned virtues. I continued to believe this through my life. How silly and naïve it all seems now.

We have seen lack of honour and integrity; disregard of Scripture and I believe hypocrisy. Let us consider why.

The Church reasonably decided to hold a vote on whether women should be consecrated bishops in view of the claim that this was right and proper. A vote was held under a system agreed and accepted by all parties, but when the result of that voting was declared, and it did not meet what was hoped for, there were cries of unfairness.

The Bishops immediately decided ways must be found to get around the vote, so instead of the laid down procedure being followed, adjustments are to be sought. This is indicative of the practice of totalitarian regimes, or the practice of the European Union where votes are repeated until the one sought is arrived at.

This makes a mockery of honourable expectations, when either party was honour bound to accept the result. Whichever way the vote went there was bound to be disappointment, but that is what democracy used to mean.

The government to its eternal shame, decided to introduce legislation to allow same sex marriage, but decreed that the Church of England would be excluded from such legislation, and it would in fact be illegal for it to take part.

Without waiting to take breath, the usual suspects in the clerical ranks, including bishops, were talking about ignoring the exclusion, with some boasting they were ready to face prison for doing so. A little search of Scripture would point out that Christians are expected to respect the laws of the land. Quite apart that is from the fact that marriage according to Scripture is exclusively between man and woman only.

The most crass statement has just been issued by the House of Bishops in which it decrees that homosexual clergy living in civil partnerships, but remaining celibate can be appointed bishops.

Two men can live together in complete friendship without there being any suggestion of a sexual relationship, just as can two women, or a man and woman, without sexual content. When two men who are declared homosexuals, and have entered into a civil partnership live together, it is surely stretching the bounds of credulity to suggest they are for ever celibate. As Richard Littlejohn asked in the Daily Mail, who apart from God can ever know?

I was amazed to hear and see a bishop from the Church of England on television stating that the Church has done the right thing by following the lead of society in this matter. For one thing, the Church should be leading society, not the other way round, and secondly by that reasoning, is the Church to adopt society’s culture irrespective of its morality? Of course, if you read the same bishop’s blog, anyone who expressed a contrary explanation is ‘false’.

If only these clerics were as passionate in preaching the gospel as they are in espousing society’s ideas, we might have increased congregations. There was no point or necessity of making this announcement which has made the Church look ridiculous and a source for mockery, unless there was some undisclosed purpose.

The friends of Jeffrey John have been lobbying for him to be made a bishop after he had failed in two appointments, and I personally suspect this is just a way of paving the way for this to happen. If I were a betting man I would bet that Jeffrey will be a bishop before the end of the year. Remember you read it here.

Friday 4 January 2013

Ephesians 3 v.1/13

This is the Epistle ordered for Sunday next.

When Paul wrote this Letter he was awaiting trial as a Roman prisoner. The Jews had become aggressive to him because he was telling them that the Gentiles could be accepted into God’s kingdom and they thought Gentiles were only fit to be their slaves. The Jews then called on the Roman authorities to take action against him. Paul appealed to be heard before the Emperor as he had once been granted Roman citizenship, so was sent to Rome and was awaiting the arrival of the Jewish prosecutors bringing their false allegations.

Some sympathy had been extended by the Romans to Paul and he was allowed to stay in a house and have friends visit him, but he was still required to be chained to a Roman soldier to avoid escaping. Paul saw himself not as a prisoner of Rome, but a prisoner for Jesus Christ.

Paul was proud of the fact that God had given him the special task of preaching to the Gentiles, having also been called in a unique way when on his way to persecute Christians. He speaks of the mystery God revealed to him. In secular language mystery means something dark and concealed, but in biblical terms means something kept secret until God chooses to make it known, so it now becomes an open secret.

This revelation was that the Gentiles would have full share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by all God’s children, and all the blessings given by Christ when they accept that Jesus gave His life for them. These blessings were the forgiveness of sin; reconciliation with God; eternity with Jesus in heaven. It had never been contemplated that God’s grace would be available to all people, only hitherto to the Jews.

This is why Paul’s letters are so important, it was to Paul that this fact was made known, and without Paul Christianity would never have become the worldwide religion it has become.

Paul was a humble man who never claimed credit for making this discovery, he gave all credit to God for revealing it to him. He just saw himself as the one honoured to proclaim, the mere channel used by God.

It is an essential part of Christianity that we are bound to share and spread the faith we have received with others, and if we fail to do so, they will be lost.

The Church is a vital part in God’s plan and the proclamation of biblical truths. Some Christians consider it is sufficient for them to have a personal relationship with Christ without Church involvement. Other Christians think being a Church member is sufficient, without any deep personal commitment. The Church will often receive criticism, some of it much deserved, but for a Christian personal relationship and Church attendance are both necessary. To be effective however, the Church must function efficiently, be faithful to Scripture, and showing total commitment to proclaiming the (true) gospel. This, alas, is not always the case.

In far too many places the worship is sloppy, the attitude being something has to be done, and people are allowed to preach who never should be. This was a strong feeling of Charles Wesley many years ago. I have been to services and come away wondering what that was all about. Robert Louis Stevenson once remarked,’ I have been to Church this morning and I am not depressed’. I have returned home and said to my wife, ‘I have been to Church this morning and am thoroughly depressed’.

We come to Church to meet the Almighty God and should see it as a privilege only worthy of our best. Our services should be meaningful, and our message only strictly biblical, without any social or political agenda. The tragedy is that some men and women are concerned more with their own ambition and prestige, their c.v. for future appointment than furthering the message of Jesus Christ.

The Central part of all worship is the Cross. Billy Graham at the start of his ministry vowed always to mention the Cross in every sermon, and every sermon I have heard him preach, he has done so.

Every Church passes through a time when renewal is needed, but God never has abandoned His Church, and neither should we. All Christians should see working for God in the same way. We can do this by working for the Church, doing one of the many tasks needed to be done for Him. This will not always be easy, especially in today’s climate where anti-Christian forces are so powerful in government, and especially the judiciary. Who would ever have expected a Conservative Prime Minister (even one in name only) to propose destroying the sanctity of marriage? Of a judge who stated that a Christian woman cannot claim the right to have time made available for her to attend worship on a Sunday, but a member of another faith can?

One can tend to lose heart at the force of anti-Christian pressure, but the Lord does not want us to give up and surrender. Bear the words of the hymn, ‘have faith in God, my heart.’

The purpose of God is that all should be brought into His eternal design, and in Jesus Christ we have the only direct access to God. Jesus opened the way for us into His Father’s presence.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Here we are at the start of another year and we wonder what it holds for each of us. As Christians we must be concerned as to
what the future for the Church of England will be. Probably ever since it was established people have been forecasting its end, but God has not abandoned it even if many former members have. A cynic once remarked, ‘God must be an Anglican or else it could not have survived’.

At the present time there are the two niggling issues regarding the proposed legislation to create women as bishops, and the response of the Church to the same sex marriage question.

In relation to the question of women bishops, the outgoing Archbishop aggravated the situation by constantly stating publicly the decision of Synod caused the Church to lose credibility. Any lack of credibility was caused by such statements. I suspect that two days after the vote the majority of people, who never come near the Church, will have lost interest and memory of the vote, and cared little. Politicians anxious to promote themselves and their agenda appear to be the vociferous ones together with a militant feminist lobby.

There will be many people within the Church who will not have given a lot of consideration to the question, but will have formed a loose opinion influenced by comments made by secular journalists, without seeking to justify that opinion whether for or against.

I believe there are two ways of coming to a decision.

The Equality and Diversity Act enacted by Parliament demands that men and women must be treated equally in that, what is open to men must be equally available to women. The Church has so far been exempted from such legislation, although two Members of Parliament are forcefully trying to cut such exemption alleging their concern for women. As both are openly gay men, one may suspect that women are not their sole concern.

If that Act is your guiding influence then you have no problem, women should be considered for bishop appointments.

If however you are deciding on biblical grounds, there is no possible way you can justify appointing women as bishops. Every passage of Scripture concerning spiritual posts declares there must be male leadership.

It may be asked why then does the Church not refer to Scripture, and the reason is simply that people in the Church do not find the biblical answer acceptable. Some have tried to amend the Bible to make their case, only to be contradicted by other parts

The Church of England has the continued problem of deciding to follow Scripture or subscribing to the current secular agenda and in too many cases gives in to the latter in order to appear relevant. The irony in that is that those to whom it is striving to be relevant are not particularly concerned or responsive.

So,all you have to do is to make your own choice; accept secular law or biblical law.

As regards same sex marriage, this is completely against Scripture, tradition and reason. This is just another Cameron ploy to make himself appear trendy and popular, at the same time consigning his party to opposition in any future election.

Naturally there will be attention seeking clergy who will want to disregard the suggested exemption for the Church of England. This is an inevitable outcome