Monday 29 April 2013

John 13.

There are many people who will not live in a house which is numbered 13 and some roads omit the number, going from 11 to 11a or 15a. The superstition originated from the story in this Chapter, not because of the number of the Chapter, but from the story contained in it.

Jesus entered the room with His 12 Apostles for the Last Supper, so making a total of 13, and within hours of doing so both He and Judas would be dead. Judas would commit the greatest betrayal in history as he left the room to ‘go out into the night’ (darkness) to sell out Jesus.

Jesus knew what he was about to do and told him to do it quickly, and when Judas had left Jesus told the remaining Apostles that the time for Him to be glorified had come. What Jesus meant by this was, this was the last time He would speak to them before He was to die. His glory is that He is on His way to the Cross, His work on this earth is over and the crucifixion will also bring glory to the Father.

We have to remember the paintings we see of the Cross only show a man having a painful death, but what the Cross really means is that our sins were being paid for. Jesus regarded His death as the most glorious part of His work on earth. He does not see death as a disgrace , punishment or humiliation, but a glorious event, glorifying both Him and the Father. We Christians then should also glory on the Cross.

Paul who had much to boast about, but wrote to the Galatians that only in the Cross did he boast.

Jesus then for the only time called His Apostles, ‘little children’; this was obviously an endearing term of affection, like a father who is about to go away from his family. Jesus noticeably waited until Judas had left before saying it. It is the end of a close relationship of three years and time to say goodbye. Jesus tells them He is leaving them and they cannot go with Him, and that leaves them devastated. They had only managed to stay together through His unifying spirit, otherwise they would have parted.

He then gave them the command that they were to love one another, and by that He was calling on them to stay together and be faithful to each other, something all Christians should to show an example to the world. So often Christians are seen to be fighting with each other, due to some following a false line of teaching and not obeying Scripture, when they should be seen as a happy family. This is a complete turn off to non believers.

Enormous damage has been caused to Christianity by the behaviour in Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants have murdered and maimed in the name of religion, too often with the support of clergy on both sides. Nor does Christianity benefit from men and women who sing hymns in Church on Sunday and act unworthily from Monday to Saturday.

Peter professes undying devotion, but Jesus graciously tells him He is going where Peter cannot then go, but indeed would one day follow. When Peter said he would lay down his life for Jesus, our Lord knew perfectly well the weakness Peter would show and told him kindly what would happen. Whilst Peter betrayed Jesus, unlike Judas it was in a moment of weakness rather than the cold blooded action of Judas.

Sometime people let us down and hurt us and we get upset, perhaps even bitter. If we could only remember that we all act contrary to our better nature at times of stress, and many tragic breaches of relationships could be avoided if we could forgive.

I can relate to the feeling of the Apostles when they heard Jesus was leaving them. They had been in a three year intimate closeness to Jesus, and it is like the occasion when a Vicar gives notice he is leaving a parish and both he and the members are sad.

Prior to coming to Bedford, I spent the happiest and most rewarding three years of my life in a Church on the Wirral, where I had such a marvellous time with the loveliest congregation possible. When I gave notice I had to leave for family reasons there were tears and much sadness, but I still have such wonderful memories of three golden years. I am sure the Apostles had even more to grieve over.

Thursday 25 April 2013


Whilst I have been watching religious programmes from America I have been impressed by the support given by evangelicals to the support of Israel. Pat Robertson, the presenter of CBN, has for long been a strident supporter, and indeed recognised for such support by the Israeli government, but others like John Hagee are emerging equally supportive in American Evangelicals for Israel.

This kind of support does not arise in Britain, where there seems to be at best an equal balance between Arab nations and Israel, to outright hostility, especially it appears from BBC reporters, some of whom make no secret of their Israel dislike.

Occasionally we have Bishops and other clerics visiting Israel, as one Bishop did, and who expressed publicly his outright opposition to the diving wall placed around the country. Such statement was particularly inappropriate from someone in his position, when he does not have to experience the hostile attacks by people living there. There are a group of clergy who are vociferous in their open outrage against Israel.

I find this hard to understand. We worship a Jewish God and Saviour; we read and live by a book written by 39 Jewish men, inspired by the God Israel. So why are we attacking Israel? It is not Israel who are firing unprovoked rockets.

If we should study history, just over the last 50 years for example, we see this little nation, who took over a swamp filled untilled land, and made it into a fertile delight with 14 million trees. Against vastly superior military might, they conquered and scaled the Golan Heights, a feat which could only have been achieved by the support of the Almighty God.

In addition to its religious significance, the land of our Lord’s birth and life, it has contributed much to the world’s benefit. In the fields of science, medicine, finance and the world of entertainment they have dominated and have more Nobel prize winners than any other nation.

Israel has few nations as friends. Europe has shown where its favour lies; Britain is lukewarm, and America which has been Israel’s staunchest ally, seems to have cooled somewhat since the present President took office.

Surely it is our Christian duty to pray for this small nation, a beacon of democracy surrounded on all sides by peoples intent on destroying it. We should also pray for a peaceful solution, which would enable all the nations in that area to be able to live and let live.

God has said in Holy Scripture that He would never abandon His ancient people as long as the earth existed. There are those leaders in the Middle East who do not seem to recognise this, we in the West should.

Saturday 20 April 2013

John 10, v 22/31

The gospel reading for Sunday is about the visit of Jesus to the Temple where he became surrounded by Jews wanting to know if He was the Messiah. They wanted Him to say so positively and the reply of Jesus was that what He had accomplished was evidence enough to confirm who He was and if they had followed Him. This meeting took place after Jesus had told them He was the good shepherd who cared for those who followed Him.

The reason so many people doubted Him, as they do now, is not because they cannot find out about Him, it is because they either reject what they are told or are just not interested. Jesus pointed out the healings He had made, but like many opponents, they selected just what they wanted to believe.

This was made manifest to me when I was listening to a television debate. It was amazing to hear the anti-Christian ranting, and then to hear people who claimed to be Christian, selecting biblical passages and deliberately distorting them to justify immoral practices condemned by Scripture. Politicians distort facts and figures as a matter of course, yet this is what people do when they read the Bible.

People fail to find God because they have never come to know Jesus, who said quite plainly, ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’. Earlier in this Chapter Jesus said, ‘I am the gate, all enter through me’. He said, ‘I know my sheep and I take care of them’. Brash people say they do not need a crutch to hold me up, I can stand on my own two feet, yet the same people will make sure they have adequate insurance to cover them for all eventualities.

A friend was telling me he had just moved house and had not taken out insurance immediately but was intending to do so when he had settled in, but before he had done so his home was broken into and property taken. The Bible is offering cover for eternal life. How many were just going to go to Church but never quite made it, now face eternal loss. The modern day philosophy is live life to the full, have a good time, but research has show being a Christian and living the Christian life is good for you spiritually and medically.

There are two kinds of people who call themselves Christian. There are the true believers and the professing ones. The true believer listens to Jesus and they endeavour to follow His teaching. That inevitably means falling out with friends who expect you to still indulge in actions inconsistent with Christian standards. There is also the need for your presence at Church on Sundays unless there is something (really) pressing that necessitates your absence, rather than be with your friends at the supermarket.

In the area where I live people rise early each week-day in order to travel distances for work, yet many will be at Church at 9.30a.m. on Sunday; that is dedication. The professing Christian will be there when it suits to do so, and will not be so ready to forego those pleasures which do not fit in with Christian teaching.

This is why those who lead services need to be equally dedicated in their preparation to ensure they are offering worthy spiritual nourishment. We can hear talks on climate change and political issues elsewhere.

In Jesus’ time shepherds would know their sheep by name. A group of shepherds would put their sheep in a communal pen at night and they would be looked after by one shepherd who would not let anyone enter who didn’t belong there. The next day each shepherd would call their sheep who would recognise the shepherd. Jesus used this analogy to show Himself as having similar care for those who follow Him.

Jesus said His sheep obey Him and do what He commands. This may mean some considerable effort and concentration on the part of the sheep. Everyone who tries to follow Jesus will find on occasion it becomes hard and needs determination, and we will fail. It also means giving up something we might otherwise like doing greatly, perhaps costing us friendships, but this is part of the cost and Jesus always warned there might be a price to pay. In return, He offers peace joy comfort, the feeling of forgiveness and belonging to Him.

No one can be forced or coerced into becoming a true Christian, they have to make that decision, and the millions who have done so have never regretted and lived more fulfilled lives.

Make sure you are at Church to follow the Good Shepherd and God bless you.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

The funeral of Margaret Thatcher has passed without the feared disruption, led by people who knew little or nothing about her but wished to demonstrate their political leanings. Much of what has been said and written about Margaret were either lies or distortions, and nothing much has been stated about her deep compassion and her personal communication with people who had been bereaved. She would write to the least significant of people without using or seeing it as an election opportunity, seeking no publicity herself, as when she wrote to a little boy of 9 years and told him about Jesus.

I was listening to a discussions programme on television in which a Labour politician criticised her for her attitude to South Africa, when in fact she was the most sympathetic leader to that country. She was instrumental in getting Nelson Mandela freed from prison, a fact he was demonstrably grateful for, and made a point of visiting Margaret to thank her. This has been pointedly ignored by her detractors.

I agree with one commentator who wrote about her funeral service, ‘it made me proud to be an Anglican’. The service was in fact a typical well ordered service for which the Church of England is know for. The ceremony, and a very good address by the Bishop of London, will have impressed many both within and beyond the Church. There was no political tone of any kind, and tribute was paid to her humanity and deep religious faith. Here was a unique leader, one who was not ashamed to state she was a Christian, and unlike the present Prime Minister who makes the same claim, meant it; and what is more demonstrated it rather than use it as a sort of status symbol. Margaret Thatcher would never have even countenanced a discussion about having same sex marriage legalised. She was a true Christian in every sense of the term.

I see we had an inevitable left wing bishop enter the political fray, which got him his few minutes of fame in the press. The Bishop of Grantham of all places (Margaret’s home town) criticising the ceremonial type of funeral. (He has been described as wearing an earring. If this be true, could you once ever have imagined a bishop in the Church of England wearing an earring?)

I long for the day when anyone in senior position is reported in the press for saying, ‘there is no other name under heaven by which a person can be saved than in Christ Jesus.’ Or, Jesus said, ‘no one can come to the Father except through me.’

Saturday 13 April 2013

John 21

The scene in our Gospel story is the Sea of Galilee just after the crucifixion. Seven of the disciples were there feeling probably a little guilty; only John had remained at the Cross leaving the others to feel a sense of betrayal. The main character in this story however is Peter, the man who denied the Lord and is now devastated with himself, a feeling which many Christians may have passed through. Now things are going to change as he meets the risen Christ.

When the chapter begin they are all wondering what is going to happen to them, all their plans and hopes for the future have been blown apart. There is nothing to induce a feeling of hopelessness so much as a time of tragic failure. Peter had wept bitterly after denying Jesus; he had been so close to the Lord for three years and failed Him at the last days. We may all have experienced a similar feeling when we have succumbed to temptation in a time of weakness and regretted doing so, realising we have let the Lord down.

What would our live be like if our actions were in line with what we said? How many people regularly sing and say words in Church and then go out into the world and behave in a contradictory way? I know clergy who recite the Creed but do not accept the Virgin Birth, or/and, the physical resurrection of our Lord. How shameful is that? Let no one therefore think ill of Peter, there is no one righteous, no not one.

I like the story of a Church where the congregation had just sang ‘stand up for Jesus’ and the Vicar had gone into the pulpit when two men wearing black hoods walked in brandishing guns. Who is going to stand up for Jesus here they asked. The choir ran out, the Wardens and best part of the congregation. The men took off their masks, put down their guns and said, ‘carry on now Vicar, we have got rid of the hypocrites.’

The disciples decided to get on with their lives and went out fishing, and it was the practice to go out at night using torches to scan the water, so attracting fish to the boat where they would then be netted. We are told that nothing seemed to be going right for them as they had caught nothing. But help was at hand.

Jesus was on the water side, saw their need, and went to meet them. The Lord will come to our help when He is needed too. The Bible is full of stories offering comfort and bringing light and hope into souls which are grieving. No matter if our condition is one of loss or failure, Jesus will not cast us off if we are repentant.

Jesus mad Peter realise his failure and still speaks to us in various ways. Often through a preacher who will have no knowledge of your problem, but the words he uses may have been given to him by the Lord to speak to your heart. Whilst God as a God justice cannot overlook sin, He will try to make our hearts feel we have offended Him, until we confess our betrayal of Him.

Jesus told the fishermen where to cast their nets and we are told specifically they caught 153 fish. This was thought to represent the number of different kinds of fish that existed, and is an indication to us that God wants us to go out and bring the gospel to all men and women.

The story tells us these men were in effect just drifting along when Jesus brought them back to be successful, and rather than send a storm to teach them a lesson for letting Him down, He tends to restore them by love. He cooked breakfast for them around a charcoal fire, like the one Peter stood around when he denied the Lord.

Jesus then had a personal meeting with Peter, something we should all seek, for it is good to talk privately with the Lord. Three times Jesus asked Peter if the loved Jesus, and three times He said feed my sheep. By that Jesus meant teach people the Word of God and what Jesus could mean to them. How we need to heed Jesus command, for the Word of God is not being taught in too many Churches, and is being vastly moderated, diluted and indeed twisted in others. Even within Churches immoral behaviour is being tolerated and accepted.

I once knew a Vicar who was so devoted to teaching about Jesus. He saw one of his congregation in a supermarket and went up to her, then introduced her to another unknown woman and said ‘this is Mary, she wants to tell you what Jesus means to her’, then left poor Mary together with the unknown woman.

Another time he was walking along a London street with a Vicar friend, and said the next person he met he would tell them about Jesus. They walked a few yards and there was a window cleaner up a ladder. The Vicar shouted, ‘come down I want to tell you about Jesus.’ The window cleaner told him to go away, or words to that effect, so when the window cleaner stepped from his ladder on to a window ledge, the Vicar took away the ladder and said, ‘now will you come down’?

Jesus would not want us to be so committed perhaps as that dear Vicar, just want us to tell a friend we go to worship Him at Church would be a start. Better still, invite your friend to Church.

But be there on Sunday and God bless you.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

A tribute to a GREAT Lady

What a sad reflection on the young people of Britain has been the deplorable drunken actions by some. The irony of it all is that none of them were alive when she was Prime Minister, and as little is taught about our history in schools with so many left wing teachers, they know virtually nothing about the lady. Naturally they hear politicians like the repulsive George Galloway, known for his lack of patriotism, bellowing vile comment, and other left leaning Members of Parliament with equally hostile feeling, even if put more mildly.

Those of us who were alive during her Premiership will have no hesitation in recognising her greatness, her courage, her resolve, to make Britain great after the debacle of Labour’s mediocre politicians, which left the country like a giant landfill, with people unable to bury their dead relatives. We again became a country which was a major player on the world stage, respected and admired, due entirely to her political brilliance.

Amongst all the comment, favourable and non favourable, a notable omission has been any reference to Margaret’s deep Christian faith. She believed in the ‘Protestant work ethic’, reinforced by evangelical Methodism, the form of Methodism developed by Charles and John Wesley, not the anaemic form preached in too many Methodist Churches. Not for Margaret either the timorous faith espoused by the Church of England. Can you imagine her response to some of the proposals being put forward by the (Western) Anglican Church? (As compared to the evangelicalism of the African and Eastern Churches)

Not for her either would there be tolerated any proposal for same sex marriage, the passion of the present Conservative Party leader. There is no one in the Party who could stand in comparison to her, most of whom are little more than political pygmies alongside her.

Like many I look forward to her funeral, but rather with pride at having been able to experience life during her reign, and the chance to pay in however trivial a way, my respect to a very great lady, national leader, and the greatest of our Prime Ministers.

I trust ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ will permit me to end this post with some words from his excellent blog.

Perhaps no prime minister since Gladstone could have risked telling a journalist that she was ‘in politics because of the conflict between good and evil’, with the conviction ‘that in the end good will triumph’. But it is not her policies which ultimately saved her. It is not her programme of government, her political achievements or her world renown. Margaret Thatcher is saved because Jesus Christ was and is her Lord and Saviour: He paid the price: she is forgiven.

The angels are today rejoicing in Heaven at a pilgrim who has come home. But the name of Margaret Thatcher - The Great Lady - is sure to endure on earth and reverberate throughout human history.

Friday 5 April 2013

Beware of false teachers.

There is a Sunday when we are given the choice from two collects today. One prays that the Church will be steadfast in faith; the other prays that God will defend His Church from false teaching. This morning I want to collate those prayers into words of St Paul when he wrote Timothy.

During the 1939 war there was a comedian named Rob Wilton who had a catch-phrase, ‘don’t you know there is a war on.’ Those words are what all Christians need to hear, and should remember and recognise. There is now a spiritual war going on.

We are living in a time when our faith is under sustained attack, so in the words of the collect, ‘we must be fervent in the fellowship of the gospel, and steadfast in faith and active service.’ And in the words of the other collect,’ Lord God defend your Church from false teaching.’

First, the need for being steadfast in the faith.

I watch American news broadcasts and see the American people are both stunned and amazed at how we in this country have let our Christian faith be attacked and diminished. Something many of us wonder at.

One of the favourite pastimes of our entertainment industry is ridiculing Christians. On TV Christians are portrayed as gullible, and somehow lacking in common sense. There has always been hostility toward Christians, but today it is open season. TV ministers appear to be shallow and superficial, Vicars are portrayed as effeminate and buffoons. And this very perception, real or not, has given ample ammunition to the detractors of Christianity. It is most noticeable that these people never have the courage to mock Islam.

Any expression of Christianity, by word, deed or symbol can lead to suspension or dismissal from employment, again something which does not apply to other faiths.

Far more serious, is the legislation that the government has introduced which is distinctly anti-Christian. Churches and Church organisations no longer have freedom to act in accordance with their beliefs, but are forced to employ people who are clearly unsuitable because their lifestyle is blatantly contradictory to Biblical teaching.

In addition, we are not expected to suggest our belief and standard of morality are more worthy. Indeed, some verses from the Bible could put us under threat of prosecution if forcibly preached upon.

So you can realise how the fundamental beliefs of Christianity are being eroded, and there are undisguised attempts to force our faith into a closed minority sect. Every Christian is required to fight this spiritual attack on our faith.

Paul was writing to Timothy, a young man who Paul hoped would take over from him and maintain the faith in those early days. Timothy was a timid man, and like many in today’s world was put under enormous pressure from non-believers. We all have to keep on pursuing our faith, not content to think we are all safe and have all we need. If you just coast along and let down your guard you may fall into their trap.

Secondly, let us look at false teaching.

In addition to these direct attacks from outside, we are facing problems from within the Church, from those who preach a different and false gospel from that laid down in Scripture. There are those who have their own agenda, motivated by a desire to promote a moral lifestyle which is acceptable to modern society but which does not accord with Scripture.

At times it seems the Church establishment gets things amiss. You will recall how at one time the Bishops proposed that people coming for weddings might bring their children along at the same time for baptism, the so called two for one service. People were as much shocked out side the Church as those inside, that a Church could possibly be seen to endorse what is positively against Scripture

It is a similar situation as when Pope Benedict condemned people living together outside marriage. Whilst we recognise it is now a fact of life, as a Church we should not really be approving of it.

Paul, writing to Timothy, said, ‘ a time would come when people would not want to listen to sound teaching, but having itching ears, would find teachers ready to suit their own likings. Surely that is descriptive of our own day. It indicates a time when Christian teaching will be abandoned and will substitute others. This is the time in which we live. Paul is referring to a godless world, a life centred on self and what’s in it for me approach. As we see crime and lawlessness increase, rebellion against authority, many people wonder what is going wrong with our country.

Some of us would say when the liberal minded were allowed unlimited freedom to take Christianity out of education in schools and colleges, especially universities where the Bible is seen as hate literature, and supplant it with freedom of expression. School assemblies, which laid a foundation however fragile, and which were supposed to be held by law, have been left to fall out of the syetem.

Sound teaching is that which leads to health and wholeness of spirit, soul and body; but, Paul says, men and women will turn away from that and refuse to hear it. It is not so much a case of them listening and turning away, they will not even listen. They will do this because truth requires people to abandon passions, which they do not like to do; and submit to the authority of God; no, they do not even want to hear it.

Then, since they will not listen to teachers of truth, as the apostle says, they will look for others who will teach them what they want to hear. Sadly they will probably not have to look very far. There is a disease, widespread in our day, called "itching ear disease," which Paul mentions here.

Those people will want to hear nice soothing words, like a Christian dispensary handing out comforting potions. They will prefer service where there is a form of entertainment rather than serious preaching.

The false teachers cannot teach the truth because the truth is unacceptable, so they teach attractive lies, fantasies for the most part, speculative philosophies that emerge from the minds of men which have no basis in fact or history.

A matter of greatest concern is that our children are being denied Christian teaching. All other faiths educate their children in their own faith, only Christian children are missing out. Children are a trust from God and belong to Him not the state. Yet the state interferes so much. All of us, parents, grandparents, godparents have a responsibility for them.

But schoolteachers have a tremendous influence on them. And in consideration of the views of some teachers, parents need to be so watchful. They need to examine the children’s work and find out what is being taught.
I understand many teachers do not even believe in God or have no Christian belief, and in some schools children are being taught that all religions are the same. No longer are assemblies held, sometimes said to be because of shortage of time, yet there seems plenty of time for explicit sexual instruction.

Gone are the days when parents as a matter of course would send their children to Sunday school and/or read and tell them about Jesus and bible stories. Consequently the children are growing up without any Christian knowledge, and are then unable to pass it on to their children.

We have been saturated by a world that is committed to falsehood. That is why, as Paul sets forth here, we must increasingly proclaim the truth as it is in Jesus. I understand the feelings of frustration that come when we see all that is dear and precious in humanity being destroyed by these lies, but you and I are called to stand for truth. Do not let anybody tell you that your life as a Christian does not count. It counts tremendously

Wednesday 3 April 2013

The past days have seen some turbulence in relationships between Church and State. Lord Carey made a scathing attack on David Cameron, portraying him as doing so much to encourage anti- Christian feeling, an attack well justified although Cameron was a soft target. Any serious judge of character will have well recognised Cameron does not appear to have a sincere stance in anything. Repeatedly in Parliament the Leader of the Opposition reveals how Cameron says one thing and does the opposite.

If David Cameron was really on Christians’ side he would not have allowed a junior Minister to authorise Government lawyers to argue so forcibly against a woman wearing a Cross at work in the European Court of Human Rights. He would never have started this ridiculous campaign to enforce same sex marriage. To state that was in the name of equality is unbelievable and unacceptable, it was done to further his image, which has back-fired spectacularly.

The press of course concentrated on that part of Lord Carey’s article which referred to same sex marriage. What is quite serious, and was ignored from the writing, was the criticism Lord Carey made regarding the proposal put forward by Chris Bryant to turn the crypt chapel of St, Mary’s at Westminster into a multi-faith room. This would mean Christian symbols would have to be removed; it would cease to be under Anglican authority, so creating a situation whereby same sex marriages could be conducted as it would be exempt from the ban of such marriages being conducted in Anglican Churches.

I suspect Chris Bryant, an aggressive campaigner for homosexual rights, is more concerned in following such an agenda rather than any concern for other faiths being allowed in.


I wish some bishops would refrain from being amateur politicians.
The Bishop of Dudley attacked the government for taking a firm line on immigration. When you consider this is a topic which aggravates the public most and is considered a vote winner, it is hardly a public relations exercise to take the opposite view.

Recently we have had discourses from our Bishops on green issues, poverty, immigration, gay rights, economics, fiscal policy; one subject that might have been expected is missing. And still the numbers of worshippers is decreasing. (Perhaps they were looking for Christian teaching.)