Friday 28 March 2014

Mothering Sunday

This Sunday is the 4th Sunday of Lent, the day we celebrate as ‘Mothering Sunday’, the time we remember all our dear mothers. We dedicate this service to them in Jesus name and as you hear or read these words you will have fond memories of your own mother, even though many years may have passed. No words that we can say could be eloquent enough to describe how we feel about our mothers.

As long ago as the 17th century it was decided that the 4th Sunday in Lent would be designated as ‘Mothering Sunday’ and on this day all were encouraged to join in worship in their mother church, the place where they were baptised. People would once walk with banners and flags, and girls in domestic service would bake a simnel cake to show their mothers what new skills they had acquired. Many girls in service were allowed time off to visit their mothers.

In the United States President Woodrow Wilson passed an Act of Congress on 9th May 1914 declaring the second Sunday in May should be known as ‘Mothers Day’ for public expression of love and reverence for mothers. This term has been adopted in Britain as more appealing and emotional.

In the Christian context we remember Mary and how our Lord honoured motherhood, showing concern for His mother even when in agony on the Cross.

Few things give as much pleasure as families, and indeed also give as much pain. We have all had experiences of both happy and sad times, but God cares about our home situation. Today families are under sustained attack no less from politicians. The foundation for every home is the mother. Having worked in the most roughest and deprived areas as well as the most exclusive ones, I never met a Jewish child get involved in criminal activities, and that is due entirely to the control and influence of the Jewish Mama. There has never been a time when there was a greater need for good mothers, for if the home fails the country is doomed. Abraham Lincoln once said that a nation is as strong as its homes.

God intended motherhood to be of the highest calling, yet irresponsible politicians are maintaining that two men can bring up children, but a child needs both a father and mother if it is to be fully psychologically developed.

Homes are falling apart and the breakdown of family life is reflected in the breakdown of the nation’s morality. Rather than say we stay together until death do us part, it is now until we get fed up with each other, and never mind the consequences as long as we are happy in someone else’s arms. People even enter into marriage anticipating divorce. It doesn’t help when silly feminist politicians advocate women going out to work, or when this un-family friendly government favours unmarried people in the tax system.

No other religion treats women with such respect as Christianity. The emancipation of womanhood began and it ends with Christianity, whilst other religions enslave women by insisting on certain clothing, restricting the education of girls, and laying down what they are allowed to do.

All those years ago a young Jewish girl named Mary was visited by an angel who told that of all the women on earth, she would be the mother of the Saviour of the world. She meekly obeyed despite the fact that she would be ostracised for being with child when not married. The child she bore was born in humble surroundings in Bethlehem, and when He became a man would teach a way of life endorsed by God, and in which women would have a dignity and honoured place in society.

The Bible is full of women who stand out and are referred to in the Anglican Marriage Service. Elizabeth, the one to announce the coming of Jesus; Hannah who offered her son to God; the mother of Moses who rather than have her son killed allowed him to be brought up by an Egyptian princess; and numerous others.

This country so much needs young women who will once again teach their children the morality of yesteryear, they have an enormous responsibility. Many mothers will go to endless lengths to secure a good school for the children, and that is to be applauded, but an academic education needs to be supplemented with ethical and moral standards, especially when so much pressure is put upon them to act as they see fit.

The modern child is so often brought up in decent comfortable home, but a thoroughly irreligious one. Parents have some vague idealism as to what they should know, but do not know how to give it. If children are being brought up without a Christian background we are to have a nation of pagans. Schools in the State system are in so many places staffed by teachers who have no faith and certainly no interest in teaching, even if they were able to do so.

In the New Testament the mother of James and John pleaded with Jesus for her sons, but how many today have ever mentioned praying to their family. At every baptism service all parents promise to teach the children about Christ and bring them to Church, in the majority of cases without the slightest intention of doing so, thereby denying them of a sure foundation for life.

On Mothering Sunday we remember the sacrifices mothers made to give birth, the pain and worry of pregnancy and the continued worry over the years for their welfare, and particularly for those mothers who have sons serving their country in perilous situations.

Finally we think of mother Church and pray that it will truly and faithfully serve its heavenly Father.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

A contemporary reflection

Twenty years ago the Church legislated for the Ordination for Women to become priests. We were told that it would increase Church attendance, and some sections of the press went overboard with the news to the embarrassment of the more responsible, but to the delight of the demonstrative. If one took the reports seriously this was going to the answer to all the problems, the pews would be filled, etc, etc. Figures relating to Church attendance just published for the intervening period show a drop of 50%.

Women’s ordination was not of course responsible and it would be unfair and irresponsible to suggest it was, but now the Church establishment has pressurised and manipulated all regular procedures in order to force legislation through which will make appointment of women bishops lawful. We are being fed another false premise that this will make the Church more acceptable to the wider public, but also because there are no men worthy of the post of bishop.

This is grossly offensive to many men who have performed devoted and loyal service in the Church, and this absurdity has been peddled publicly by some men outside the Church, who paradoxically have not shown particular interest in women otherwise.

If we are seriously, (as opposed to posturing on) the desire to make the Church more acceptable to society at large, and with an intention of halting the ever increasing decline, then I suggest some realistic look at what the Church has been doing in the declining years.

When an architect designs a building, he lays down the rules for how that should be carried out. He will also make conditions for the proper foundation, and if both are not performed as directed the building is not likely to stand.

The great Architect of the universe directed how His Church should be built and function. Jesus said ‘I will build my Church’, and He said it would be built on the rock of Peter’s confession of faith. We read in Acts of the tremendous response to Peter’s sermon, and how the early Church devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles.

We are not following the maker’s instructions in today’s Church. A study of just recent events illustrates this. The Church held a vote on a crucial issue, on which there is biblical guidance, and when it didn’t get the result it wanted, which was in pleasing society, the pattern was to have votes until you succeeded. Same sex marriage was proposed and instead of vigorously opposing, some were actively campaigning for it, and preachers were in some places suspended for speaking against it. Blessings for civil partnerships are discouraged, but guidelines surreptitiously appear to allow such blessings.

The Bible calls on us to worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. We have seen a Vicar ask the congregation to join her in dancing in the aisles to pop music at a service of HOLY matrimony; a proposed baptism service with tables arranged as a restaurant; couples invited to bring their children with them when they themselves are getting married; and Vicars performing marriages in cowboy dress. All manner of ideas, mostly arranged with good intention, but trendy have been introduced into services to appear ‘cool’; yet with little, if any, lasting effect.

We are frowned upon when we preach that Jesus is the ONLY way to God, and are invited to join in worship with those who do not recognise the divinity of Jesus.

I honestly believe people expect the Church to be different, to be able to offer what no other organisation can or does offer. Many men and women live lives under enormous pressure and long for something which will give them hope and encouragement to face life. If we just do what society does, then we are just another malfunctioning body with a slightly spiritual touch. We who have been ordained promised and vowed to teach only what is in Scripture and to try and order our lives so as to represent Christ. In the light of some activities that is not in any way a representation of our Lord.

I can remember the time when the Vicar was treated with respect and looked up to even by non Church people. The activities of some clergy are losing that respect.

The most popular programmes on television are those which look back on the world as it used to be. Perhaps the time might just have come when the Church should do the same and consider doing what the early Christians did, and devote themselves to the teaching of the

Saturday 22 March 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 15 March 2014

The gospel this morning is one of the outstanding passages in the whole Bible, sometimes called the golden verses.

In verse 1, we read of Nicodemus. He would have heard of the mighty acts of Jesus and was obviously impressed. Here was a man who recognized that he needed a change and wanted to go deeper, he wanted what Jesus offered. Sometimes we all recognize something is missing in our life and seek an answer; it may be difficult to admit this, but Nicodemus was ready to face up to it and decided to approach Jesus.

He was an important man in the community. He was a very rich and was most powerful in Jewish life. He was a Pharisee, one of an elite company never more than 6,000, who took a pledge to spend all their lives observing every details of the Jewish Law. To a Jew, that Law was the most sacred thing in the world. He was also on the ruling council called the Sanhedrin, a Court of 70 members, the Supreme Court of the Jews. All the people looked up to Nicodemus, for he was a teacher and answered questions. He tithed a tenth of all his income, fasted and prayed for two hours each day. He was a man many Churches would welcome. He had religion, but not Christ.

For Nicodemus to be seen going to Jesus could have had serious implications for him so one night he went to see Jesus, which meant he was taking a great risk, for if found doing so it would have meant losing his position, so he had to avoid being seen. There are many people who are in a like situation today who fear being seen going to Church lest they get mocked, and prefer to live a secret faith. No one need to be afraid of seeking Jesus, He will take you however you come.

The religion of Nicodemus was that of doing good works. The problem with a religion of good deeds is that we can never know when we have done enough, but that is the basic religion of the world. Jesus saw that Nicodemus had in his heart a great need for he could see the effect Jesus was having on the crowds and he wanted that experience. He sincerely believed he was doing what he thought God wanted from him, yet he realised something more was necessary; it was that feeling which led him to Jesus and risk incurring the wrath of his people.

So beneath an Eastern sky, on a hill overlooking Jerusalem, when it was dark, Nicodemus went to find and speak to Jesus. He told Jesus that he knew the works Jesus did were such that God must be with Him. and said, no one could help but be impressed by what Jesus had achieved.
Jesus answered that it was not the acts that were important, but it was the effects on a life that mattered. He told Nicodemus that unless a person was born anew, that is from above he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus answered him with that phrase, which has been immortalized by evangelical preachers, ‘you must be born again’. Jesus didn’t say ‘you must think about it’ or ‘you must consider it’. He said ‘you MUST be born again.’ This verse is so difficult for many within the Church to accept, for it means a change in their way of living; in other words, it condemns them.

This reply was puzzling to Nicodemus, but what Jesus was meaning that in order to see the kingdom of God, that is everlasting life, the Spirit of God must enter their heart.

Nicodemus could not understand the deep meaning of Jesus words, to him it was absurd that a man could again enter his mother’s womb and be re-born. Nicodemus took Jesus’ words literally and asked ‘how can a man be born when he is old. Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb’. Jesus was of course speaking figuratively.

If you think of a birth, the body exists before birth and can move and feel, but knows nothing of this world. It cannot see nor communicate yet the world is all around it. At the moment of birth, the embryo comes in to the world and can see, breathe and make contact. The baby is born of the flesh.

Jesus told Nicodemus he needed to be born again, that being to be changed in such a way that can only be described as a re-creation. To be born of the Spirit means to have the Spirit of Jesus Christ living inside of you, and you are ready to believe that Jesus Christ was Lord and is the Saviour of the World.

Jesus then said one has to be born of water and the Spirit. By this He was saying being baptized by water is important; the sign is important as a pictorial representation and seal, but that sign has to be accompanied by the thing signified, the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit. Water may cleanse and may make you smell nicer, but that is not enough in God’s eyes. What it stands for is important, but you have to grasp the full meaning, which is repentance for sin, and the start of a new way of living. What Jesus calls for is a complete transformation in our lives. To lead a life in which we submit all willingly to the will of God. This means in our thoughts, words and actions.
All this seemed very strange to Nicodemus. He was used to pleasing God by the rule of law and works and a person cannot do anything about his birth.

Jesus then referred to the wind which no one can direct or see but it can be felt, and its effects can be witnessed. The relation of the wind to your body resembles that of the Spirit to the soul. Just as the wind does as it pleases so does the Spirit.

Nicodemus was totally confused and asked can all this be. Jesus pointed out he was a teacher of Israel and should know these things, he had the Old Testament and John the Baptist, but had not benefited from them

Jesus said that Nicodemus was not accepting His testimony so if he could not accept what was told of earthly things there was no point in him being told of heavenly things. The point Jesus is making is if all the things which take place within our own experience and are self evident yet we do not understand that by our own ability we are not able to please God, how can we expect to understand heavenly things.

Jesus referred to the wind blowing and being heard without it being seen or knowing where it came from or where it was going. When we are born again we feel the Spirit of God inside us. You don’t see God or control Him, but you see the effects when Jesus takes hold of your life. Your worship becomes more meaningful and necessary to you.

When we are born of the Spirit we have a new power within us. It may be asked how do I get it? Sometimes a man and a woman meet and immediately know they have met the person of their dreams, instantly they fall in love. The relationship may last for ever or indeed may fall apart after a while when they reconsider with the regularity of normal living. Another man and woman meet and meet again and again, and suddenly realize how deeply they have come to love each other and they live on happily. If you asked them at what point they actually fell in love, they could not tell you it just developed.

So it is with religion. Many thousands of people went to the Billy Graham Crusades in the latter half of the last century. Touched by rousing hymns, massed choirs, sermon by the world’s greatest preacher, they immediately had a Damascus road conversion. Quite a lot of men became clergy and even bishops, other went back to their parishes and in the more mundane atmosphere of 1662 Matins, poorly put together services and indifferent preaching, fell away; whilst others with regular worship and a desire to know the Lord just grew in grace over time.

In order to understand heavenly things Jesus said, one must have been present with God, but no one has ever gone up into heaven, but He (Jesus)had come down from heaven.
Like many people today, Nicodemus felt he was too old to change, to set in his ways, but we can begin anew at any age.
So many people are desperately unhappy and unsatisfied because they are missing out in their lives. They seek refuge in alcohol or drugs or gambling or whatever. The thought of seeking spiritual help is beyond their ability to think of such a move.

People come to a point in life when they feel that they are going through the motion of religion, of having the ritual without there being any sense of the real thing. If you come to that point in your relationship with God, and it happens to people all the time, you need to come before Jesus and ask Him to come into your life and give you that new life. The problem with so many people is that they think they are quite satisfactory and don’t need to change or do anything. They like a certain amount of religion, but not too much; having to attend Church is an unnecessary thing for them to do. Now people are fooled into thinking if their morality is in line with State law, they have a way of easing their conscience, failing to appreciate God’s law overrides State law.

We have the whole message of the gospel in verse 16, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ Just as a mother suffers to give us physical birth, so Jesus suffered on the Cross that we should have spiritual birth. We see the immense love of God acting not for His own sake but for ours. We also see the breadth of God’s love it was not just for a nation, but for the whole world. Augustine once wrote,’ God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us’.

As a sequel to this story of Nicodemus, he was present at the burial of Jesus when he assisted in the laying of the body having brought to the tomb expensive aloes and myrrh

Friday 7 March 2014

Turn with me to Matthews gospel in Chapter 4 verses 1-11, the story of the temptations faced by Jesus in the wilderness. We read that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.

In the Old Testament the Israelites were led into the desert to be tested and humbled to prove to God that they were able to keep God’s commands. Here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry He is going to prove that He will obey every word that comes from God and be faithful. It was important for Jesus to be tested for if He had succumbed to temptation He could not be our Saviour.

When we talk of the devil people conjure up an image of some wild eyed creature with horns and a flaming mouth. By the term devil we mean that evil spirit which comes upon us and tries to influence our thoughts and actions for evil. There are times when we have to decide a course of action. In our minds we know one way is right but the other is more appealing, and whilst we know what we really should do, we succumb to temptation, and do the wrong thing.

Is that not how we are tempted? Sometimes people turn to drink or drugs rather than face up to emotional problems. It is so much easier to turn to vodka and numb yourself than to delve into and solve your troubles. People move from one relationship to another rather than make a loving commitment, and avoid devoting themselves to one person.

When you listen or read news reports you can readily appreciate the powerful influence of evil, for the stories are frightening. When we read, ‘the devil said to Jesus’. or the devil took Jesus, we are to understand that in a vision Jesus had these temptations put into His mind. It is through our innermost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes to us and puts such evil thoughts into our minds.

There are occasions when people feel the devil is very real. Martin Luther was once so convinced of a presence of the devil that he threw an inkwell at his wall.

We read that Jesus was led into the desert where He fasted for 40 days and nights, so would be extremely hungry. Forty is a significant number in the Bible. Moses and Elijah spent days when they were fulfilling God’s purpose for them in the wilderness.

The place where Jesus went was between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea and was so barren it was called ‘devastation’. The ground was a mixture of yellow sand and limestone which created an atmosphere resembling a massive furnace, and was utterly deserted, there being no lonelier place on earth. There he faced temptations from the devil.

The first temptation was when the devil called on Jesus to turn the stones into bread. The desert would be littered with little round pieces of lime stone, each of which was exactly like a loaf of bread, so for someone in a starving state and who had supernatural powers, the temptation was there.

There is always the temptation to use powers God has given us for the wrong reason. God has given us all gifts and we have to ask not what I can make for myself out of them, but what can I do for others. A person may have a talent for making or doing something but will only do so for personal reward. It is perfectly acceptable to make profit for an ability but wrong to do so exclusively.

Jesus could have turned the stones to bread, He would later turn a few loaves into food for thousands, but replied as in each temptation it is written, then He quoted Scripture. In this case He said that we live not only by bread, material food, but also by spiritual food, God’s Word.

One sure way to get a following is to offer people something for free, but Jesus did not come to bribe people, and nor should His Church ever think of doing so. Jesus called people to give and not just to get to feed the hunger in the heart. He relied on God for His power and when we are in some form of wilderness we need to remember to call on our God. Jesus did not ignore our physical needs, but directed our minds to the spiritual.

Then the tempter tried in a different manner. In a vision Jesus was taken to the top of Mount Sion where there was a level plateau and the Temple buildings were there. There was a drop of 450 feet and Jesus was asked to jump in order to capture the people into following Him with the devil recognising the power of Jesus saying, ‘you are under God’s control.’

The Church has often tried to use gimmicks, and seems to be doing so more so now in an attempt to persuade people to attend, and some of them are quite silly. When someone comes to Church they do so in the belief they will hear the Christian message expounded and find something in that message which will fulfil the purpose for which they came. Faith which needs entertainment is not real faith. A gospel built on gimmicks is doomed, which is why so many church efforts fail.

Finally the devil calls on Jesus to worship him. There seems to be a similar call now as we are being asked to compromise and follow society in being modern, 21st century etc. Jesus laid down the uncompromising nature of the Christian faith, and we should never be ready to answer the call of those who are prepared to change our faith to be popular.

Christianity should never stoop to meet the mood of the world but rather lead society’s thinking. Some of our bishops are playing at being politicians writing to left wing newspapers on political matters, which I suspect few really understand, but brings them to public attention. Perhaps one day we may read letters encouraging people using spiritual language.

A Christian commentator was once asked if the Church might become disestablished when Prince Charles became King, in view of his attraction to another faith, and she replied that she thought it would happen earlier as society no longer accepted the morality of the Bible. We now have Parliament threatening the Church if it didn’t follow society and ordain homosexual men and appoint women bishops.

The Bible teaches that the Christian life is a battle and as Christians we must be strong in order to fight the forces of evil.Seventy five years ago men fought the Battle of Britain and now we are fighting the battle for Britain, and the enemy is more powerful than the Luftwaffe ever was, he (or she) is right among us not many miles above us. The moment you become a Christian, you are facing opposition. The Bible says, ‘be vigilant, be sober. because your adversary the devil is like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour’.

The temptations in this passage could only have overcome b y someone with special powers. Only Jesus would have known of these temptations, so the story must have originated from Him. Jesus made it clear He would live by the Scriptures and Christians and the Christian Church should do the same.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and the start of our spiritual journey to the Cross

All religions have a symbol which represents them. The Muslims have the crescent; Judaism the Star of David, but for us Christians it is the Cross.

The Roman Empire used the Cross as a means of execution and it was a symbol of warning, terror and shame. Because it was considered a shameful way of death a Roman citizen was not put to death that way. The Jews considered anyone so put to death as being cursed by God. No one would have thought of wearing a Cross as an item of jewellery, it would have been like us wearing a model of the gallows or an electric chair.

This should make anyone wearing a Cross to think deeply as for what purpose they are wearing it. We see people on television wearing ornate crosses, jewelled crosses, whose lives are blatantly immoral and who have no religious belief at all and for who Christianity is an irrelevance.

We now have a situation in which it is permissible for anyone to wear a cross of any kind, but the moment it is displayed as a sign of faith, you offend fragile sensibilities and are likely to find yourself suspended from work or taken to Court, although such religious discrimination does not apply to other faiths, who are permitted to wear articles and clothing to demonstrate their faith.

The world is offended by the Cross. Some years ago a Council in Yorkshire forbade a woman from putting a Cross on her daughter’s grave, telling her ‘crosses are discouraged as excessive use of the Christian symbol is undesirable. A Council in Somerset made a Church remove a cross embedded in a window which faced the public. Such judgement are made on the frivolous excuse that other faiths may be offended, when no such offence is taken; it is just officious public officials seeking a few moments of publicity pushing their own secularism.

The Cross strikes at the heart of human pride which cannot accept that a man (Jesus) hanging on a Cross could save the world and that there is no other name under heaven by which people can be saved.

We all have to ask, what does the Cross mean to me? Perhaps you haven’t given it much thought, but it is an important question to consider for it may concern your eternal destiny.

When we talk about the Cross people often think of two pieces of wood. This not the Cross in which Paul gloried. He would have shrunk in horror from the idea of glorifying pieces of wood. He was not referring to the wooden structure; he was meaning what Jesus achieved on the Cross. The message of the Cross is what the Christian gospel is all about. Jesus Christ was executed there taking our punishment so that all our sins are forgiven. He went through all the beatings and scorn to die a painful death so that by that cruel suffering He made atonement, a once for all complete sacrifice so that all who through the ages would accept Him as their Saviour, would received pardon for their sins and so achieve eternal salvation. The Cross reveals the only Saviour, and we are saved by that message

Paul had to face those in the Church who claimed to be wise and proud of their human wisdom and so were dividing the Church and promoting themselves by changing the message of the Cross to make it more palatable to the world. This resonates with those in to-day’s Church who seek their own agendas, irrespective of the damage they are doing to the Church. There are those who are more interested in promoting their own careers than the gospel, and others who would like to adopt a more liberal attitude to morality.

The world has its message. Anything that you believe is right according to your conscience IS right. You don’t have to live to the morals and ethics of a book written many years ago in some distant country. But this is the message of those who have rejected God.

The message of the world is a subtle message, and many Christians buy into it, at least in part. We must be very careful. This message is one that sounds reasonable to many. But it is not the message that has the power to save us.
It is the wisdom of the world, not the wisdom of God. The message of the world sees us as self-sufficient beings. We have no need of God. After all, we all evolved. We are not the product of a creative God, rather the product of evolution. And we are continually evolving in every sense of the word. Our ability to think and reason will prove sufficient to eventually solve all of our problems. This is the message of the world. But just where has all the wisdom of the so-called wise brought us? Can we really feel proud of what man has done?

There is now more disease despite all modern discoveries of medicine because of the way people are conducting their lives morally.

There is much suffering because of man’s inhumanity to man.

There is hatred right across the world as people of different races will not abide each other. Consider the barbarism right across Africa as people of one religion burn down Churches of another faith and murder the believers.

Paradoxically hatred has been introduced into our society by legislation. The Equality and Diversity Bill, which in practice is quite inequitable, has caused considerable distress. Consider the hate mail and persecution experienced Christians who do not wish to surrender their beliefs to society’s morality.

We now have the most wonderful technological aids ever known with all kinds of gadgets, but we cannot solve the problems of the heart and the lust of peoples’ desires.

The message of the world is that we are special. We don’t need God. In effect, they have created a god who fits with their idea of self-sufficiency and relative morality. They are unwilling to believe in the God of the Bible.

There are still those that demand that God conform to our logic and reason, in other words God must adapt to the 21st century. We reject the true God because we are unwilling to give up our idea of self-sufficiency. We refuse to acknowledge our need.

There are two reactions to the Cross. First it is silly to claim that all who live honest lives and all their achievements are worth nothing is absurd and offensive and if that is what the Bible says it is ridiculous. We may make some mistakes, but we are not sinful. We are good at the core. To admit that we are sinful is too much. But that is the implication of the Cross. Jesus had to die because we were sinful. In dying on the Cross, he paid the penalty for our sin.

But for those who do receive this message, this foolishness becomes the very power of God. The Cross of Christ becomes their salvation as they humble themselves and receive what Christ did to pay for their sins. What seems foolish to the world is in fact the very wisdom of God. God said you come to me my way or you do not come at all, and that way is through Jesus Christ. There is no other name by which a person can be saved; no one can come to the Father except by Him.

The world simply doesn’t understand the message of the Cross. Those of us who have grown up in church, see the Cross with pride on our Churches, on Bibles, we wear or display the Cross. To others the cross is just a piece of jewellery with no significance, they fail to see the radical nature of what the Cross represents. Only the Church can proclaim the glory of the Cross, and it should not forsake doing so. Jesus told us that is our primary function.

You see, the Cross upon which Jesus died not only was a place where he bore the sins of humanity and paid the penalty for those sins, it is also a way of our lives by his power.

The Cross is the turning point for all mankind, the gateway by which we come to God as Father. Without the Cross Jesus would be just another good man. It says that God became weak in order to save us.

The world looks at this and says it is foolishness; but it is the very power of God, concealed from the so-called wise and sophisticated and revealed to those who come as a child, in simple faith and trust.

We all have a choice to make as to our future life when this one is over. Many people dismiss it from their minds, others think there is no need to worry as we will all go to heaven however we now live and it is foolish to believe all this religious talk. I have taken many funerals over the past years and never known anyone doubt that the deceased has gone to heaven irrespective of the fact there was no Christian belief.

Paul indicated there were two fundamental positions, two distinct black and white absolutes which can never be reconciled because they produce different responses to the teaching of our Lord.

If you were due to fly to the United States and as you boarded the plane it was announced there was just a 5% chance the plane may incur some problem over the Atlantic would you still continue the journey? Yet so many are prepared to take the chance on their future life and fail to yield to the Bible teaching.

When however we become Christians we should be free of any disagreements, factions and arguments, but we still find severe disruption being caused to the faith which are seized upon by the secular press.

Far too many people adopt the Frank Sinatra theme and think they can do it their way. We all need forgiveness and the Cross is the only means of obtaining that.

Billy Graham at the start of his ministry vowed always in every sermon to preach the message of the Cross and did so in 185 countries to 220 million people, and consider what tremendous difference he made to so many lives.

May the Cross always remind you of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made so that salvation can be yours.

Beware of a religion which does not centre on the Cross. You live in times when the warning is sadly needed.