Tuesday 31 March 2015

What has happened in the (so called) Land of the free?

Any person listening casually to the radio or reading certain American newspapers would come to the conclusion that the State of Indiana had been taken over by a totalitarian dictatorship. The Governor Mike Spence has been castigated because a law has been introduced which gives consideration to those people of Christian persuasion who do not wish to be dictated to by the homosexual lobby. Consequently all hell has broken loose. Protests with banners lead what is blatant bullying oppression.

There is unrestricted freedom for homosexual people to live their lifestyle as they wish, but too many are not satisfied with that, they now wish to force others to bow to their wishes and in so doing violate their own faith and beliefs. Provided no one acts in an offensive or discourteous manner, provision must be made for people to decline to subscribe to what is contrary to their way of life.

In such disputes, there can be a merciless attitude displayed. A 70 years old florist in Washington has just been fined $1000 for not providing a floral display for a same sex wedding. Not content with a successful Court action, the men are seeking penalties, fees and costs which would not only close the florist’s business, but leave her penniless for retirement.

The inappropriate named American Civil Liberties Union are acting for the two men, with the general message to those who oppose, ‘surrender YOUR religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin.’

A similar case occurred in England when two men were refused a room in a privately owned bed and breakfast house. The owners were devout Christians who took the same action against people of opposite sex if they were not married, so there was no sexual discrimination. In this country (Britain) we have an anti-Christian judiciary at the moment,(with a Prime Minister who leaves much to be desired), and the owners were taken to Court and fined. Again, not satisfied, the two men sued civilly and were awarded damages of £3,000, to which they first declined in demand of double, and
only withdrew when criticised by their friends. The couple lost their home and business in consequence.

Britain faces much the same problem as America. Some few years ago a Muslim preacher, banned from his Mosque, preached to his followers in a London Street with Police facilitating him doing so. Anti homosexual views were often voiced by him, and other Muslim preachers on radio and in public meetings, using expressions such as all homosexuals should be thrown off a cliff into the sea. No action was taken against them.

Now to a Court in Somerset where a CHRISTIAN street preacher appears after a Police Sergeant had asked local people to watch for this man, photo him and record anything he says so we can prosecute him.

The preacher had quoted a verse from the Bible and was approached aggressively by a man claiming to be homosexual who reported him to the Police. The Police acted with unusual speed to arrest the preacher for such a serious crime as quoting a Bible verse which upset someone. Residents in Taunton must wish the Police would act with alacrity in solving real crime.

The preacher appeared before a Muslim Judge who re-interpreted a verse in Leviticus which the preacher had quoted, to rule against the preacher. Why the preacher chose to use such a verse I cannot understand when there could be no misinterpretation of Romans 1 or Jude.

We are currently awaiting a Judge’s decision in a case in Belfast where a bakery declined to bake a cake including the words, ‘support gay marriage’. A homosexual activist had sought this bakery probably knowing their strong Christian beliefs. They were not challenging his sexuality, they just would not include those words.

Whilst same sex marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland, the Equality Commission have determinedly jumped in to take Court action against the bakery. The Chief Commissioner is quoted as saying, ‘Christians should either look at the law or maybe that (baking) is not the business they should be in. His suggested solution was that Christians should effectively stop being printers, florists or bakers.’ There you have tolerant equality Northern Ireland style, with the law decided by some puffed up bureaucrat.

What we are in effect creating, is a protected human species.

Friday 27 March 2015

We celebrate Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last time when this was a journey to the Cross. It was a journey He could have avoided, but He went voluntarily to fulfil God’s plan, that by His brutal and cruel death, the sins of all people could be forgiven. He could have left mankind to perish, but He did not cling to that right.

But that action of our Lord demands a response, if we are to claim forgiveness. We all need to ask ourselves if I stood before God today and He asked me why I should be allowed into heaven, what would I say.

You see the Bible is all about commitment. We are reminded of the superficiality of commitment in our own time. Less than 10% of people think God worthy of one hour per week to visit a Church. Yet if you were to ask people their religion, the vast majority would reply C of E and seriously consider themselves to be Christians. They would be mortally offended if you suggested otherwise. Yet very few people seem bothered by Jesus

It is easy to say I am a Christian.
Easy to profess being a Christian.
Easy to say I read the Bible.
95% of the population today believe as long as you are honest, kind and helpful to others and do no harm, you are a fully fledged Christian.

Muslims in Islamic countries are Muslims in the full sense of the word, and they find difficulty in understanding how people who live in Christian lands reject their faith so completely. Why, on the Lord’s birthday so many get drunk and engage in orgies. They will fight and defend their faith, and the men will not feel embarrassed or ashamed to be seen going to worship. Put many Englishmen in a Church and they feel lost and disorientated.

Nearly 70 years ago brave young men took to the skies to fight the Battle of Britain against a ruthless foe. Today, as Christians, we need to fight the battle for Britain, against equally ruthless foes who want to drive Christianity out of public life and turn it into a private cult. We are like fighters in enemy occupied territory.

It can be hard to be a Christian in this country at the present time. Any open expression of our faith is likely to lead to suspension or dismissal from work. The Bible is seen as old fashioned and its stories foolish. Children are denied the glory of being told of the stories of Jesus as no one is prepared to tell them.

The government has sold out to the liberal lobby and has taken legal powers to prevent Christians from opting out of that which contravenes their beliefs. How Jesus would weep over Britain today as He did over Jerusalem, as He sees the obstacles put in our way.

The Bible states, "For Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God". And He wants you to respond.
What is our response as we ponder the Road to Jerusalem?
We may reject God’s Son as many did in Jerusalem.
We may have allowed our love to have gone lukewarm, even cold.

As we study this story of our Lord’s journey to the Cross we see our forgiveness cost Jesus public mockery, agony, sweating of blood, the most cruel of deaths, and spiritual torment.

It is important for us to understand the lesson we can learn from this event. It is not enough to think positively about Christ. When we get to the last days Jesus is not going to say ‘Did you have nice thoughts about me?’ The question is, have we accepted He is the Son of God and Saviour of sinners, and trusted in Him alone for our salvation. That means we walk the narrow road.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Sunday will be the fourth Sunday in Lent, which is traditionally known as ‘Mothering Sunday’, the day we remember with love our mothers. We dedicate this service to them, for we will all have fond memories of our mothers even though many years have passed on.

This tradition originated in the 17th century when most of the population would attend Church, usually to the Church at which they had been baptised. Often whole villages would have processions to the Church with banners, even the servants of large houses would be allowed time to attend.

In the United States President Woodrow Wilson passed an Act of Congress in May 1914 decreeing that the second Sunday in May should be known as ‘Mothers Day,’ in order that love and reverence for mothers could be shown. Retailers and non Church members in this country have adopted that title rather than the English understanding of the religious significance.
This day also gives us the opportunity to remember Mary the mother of Jesus, and think of how our Lord honoured motherhood, even by showing concern for His mother when dying on the Cross. In our time the home and family are under sustained attack. Now the term husband and wife can be applied to two men, and officialdom tries to enforce the word ‘partner’ on people. Soon another name for mother will no doubt we found, just to please the diversity maniacs.

The foundation for every home is a father and mother (of different sexes) and the breakdown of family life and influenced is reflected in the breakdown of the nation’s morality. It is now unrealistic to expect marriage to be for life, but rather until we get fed up with each other.

A long serving Magistrate with a distinguished record and career, voiced the opinion that a child to be considered for adoption should be brought up in a man/woman home. For that natural and sensible statement, he was suspended from the highest level.

Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, who never demands much credibility, once state where there was a man in charge of anything there should also be a woman. With typical inconsistency, she later supported two men being allowed to bring up a child.

A mother’s presence in the home is essential, and there has never been a more urgent time when good mothers are needed. I have never known a Jewish child get involved in anti-social behaviour or criminal activities, and that is due to the control the Jewish mama has over her family.

God intended motherhood to be of the highest calling, yet government is advocating children can be brought up by two men, which is irresponsibility of the highest order. An American psychologist stated a child will never come to full development psychologically without a mother in the home. In an older generation, a woman would not go to work when her children were in infancy, now we see even babies being left in nurseries with strangers to care for them. I realise it is a different economic and social climate, but children’s development has not changed.

An article in a newspaper once said that women were leaving Christianity for Islam because of the greater moral code. Without denigrating the strict Islamic moral code, it is also a fact that no religion has greater respect for women than Christianity, and the Christian code is as moral as any, it is just Christians do not adopt it.

The emancipation of women began with Christianity 2000 years ago when Mary received a message from an angel and was told she would be the only woman ever to wear the red rose of maternity with the white rose of virginity, and be the mother of the Saviour of the world. When her Son grew up He gave women a new place in human relations with a dignity that wherever Christianity has gone women have been respected.

When God created the world He made man and He made woman, and gave each different characters, equal but different to fulfil different functions in life, and did so for a purpose, being capable of creating one sex if He so desired. God endowed women with a more caring nature in order to be mothers. Abraham Lincoln once remarked that no nation is greater than its mothers, for they are the makers of men

Female politicians, especially in modern government have tried to turn this upside down, and in the false name of equality have made some women to adopt the worst practices of men. For 2000 years women had in many respects been superior to men, but in the cause of equality and feminism, have adopted not only the worst vices of men, but have excelled more so.

The Bible calls on older women who have an honoured place in society, to play a major part in guiding younger women in the bringing up of children from their years of experience. We must have concern for women bringing up children in a world where all moral values are being eroded. Theirs is a big responsibility, especially when the nation’s broadcasting system gives out such foul talk and explicit scenes that cause weaker minds to think that is the natural way of life.

We need women who will lead their families back to more old style morality decency and purity. Children are being brought up without any religious knowledge, knowing nothing about Jesus or Biblical characters even in the homes of whatever class of home. An idealism prevails as to how children should behave, but it is often in modern phraseology, ‘cool’ for a child to be sexually aware. Schools play little part in educating children in religion or conduct unless the school is a private one.

Now we have Tristram Hunt, the Labour Education spokesman, who seems to me to be one of the most unpleasant members of Parliament, suggesting children of the age of five should be given sex education. He is not alone in such irresponsible talk. It is surely more than coincidence that Britain has the largest numbers of teenage pregnancy rates in Europe, and the most explicit sex education.

Spiritual matters should be of concern to mothers. Promises are made at baptism services that children will be brought up in the fellowship of the Church, although few have ever any intention of honouring the promises made. When my two sons were growing up, my then occupation required me to be away from the home for many long hours, and so much care fell upon my wife. It is to her credit that they both entered the Christian ministry after being youth leaders at their local Church. Today they are successful Vicars at Churches of their own where they have been a powerful influence in the Churches they have served.

I would encourage every mother to teach their children the stories of Jesus, and other stories from the Bible; it will give them a sure foundation for life. To bear a child is a costly and sometimes very painful act, calling for endurance sometimes beyond the mother herself. Mothering Sunday calls on us to remember it is the giving of oneself.

Mothers continue to care and worry for their children even when they reach adulthood. We have numerous examples of godly mothers in the Bible as an example for us to follow such as the mother of James and John who sought favour for them from Jesus, Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth Salome, and of course above all Mary the mother of Jesus.

Women have been asked on radio and television what their occupation was, and have replied, ‘only a housewife and mother’. There is nothing to justify the word ‘only,’ such is motherhood one of the most honourable and worthy occupations.

May God richly bless all mothers.

Saturday 7 March 2015

1 Corinthians 1 v.18/25

This morning I want to turn with you to the Letter Paul wrote to the Church of God in Corinth. This Letter has been described as a Letter for the 21st century, because its contents are now so relevant.

The passage we are turning to is all about the heart of the Christian faith, the Cross. All religions have a symbol; the Jews have the Star of David, and Muslims the crescent, we have the Cross. We display it on our Churches, Bibles, ladies predominantly wear it around their necks, but even men in the entertainment industry wear it, despite their lives being unworthy of doing so. But everyone is relaxed about that, it is only when you wear it as a demonstration of your faith that you run into trouble.

Some ago 'The Times' newspaper reported on the tragic death of a young girl. Her grave, in a cemetery in the small seaside town of Mablethorpe, was marked by a simple cross. But before long her mother was told by the local authority to remove it. Their rules said: 'Crosses are discouraged, as excessive use of the supreme Christian symbol is undesirable'. Instead the family was given permission to erect a headstone featuring Mickey Mouse. As someone has commented, "The incident revealed where the true values of our society lie. The Disney interpretation of the world has supplanted the Christian one.

In Bath a chapel was installing a new window with the cross emblazoned in the glass, but objections were made that it would offend other faiths and the chapel weakly gave in. Can you imagine going to Saudi Arabia and objecting to the crescent being displayed?

However, let us be clear, other faiths do not object, unless it is one of the militants, most Muslims are more tolerant of our faith than many so called Christians. It is mostly just some public official trying to earn him/herself some notice.

Turning in detail to our passage,
Corinth was a sophisticated city and these Corinthians considered themselves wise and full of human wisdom, and such thinking had crept in to the church at Corinth, and the danger was that they would change the gospel, and so the importance of the message of the cross, to suit the world, and to make it more palatable to society.

The message of the cross of Christ is still foolishness today to many people. Even in the church there is much preaching of human wisdom in order to please society and to conform to what modern culture demands, so that the Church loses its moral and spiritual authority, and so makes it appear we have nothing special or different to offer. Rather than lead the way, the Church has itself be led. Like the Corinthians, we seek to operate by human intellect rather than the wisdom of God

Paul was telling the Corinthians, and by extension us, that the Church is to make known the will of God and take His authority to the world. Such is the purpose of the Church.

The Christian faith is the faith of Christ crucified. That Jesus, the Son of God, fully God and fully man, died in our place on the cross to pay the price for our sins, and rose again is central.

We must not alter the message of the cross, yes it is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul always held there are two distinct points of view, two black or white fundamental absolutes that can never be reconciled because they produce different responses to the gospel. Firstly, those who are blind to the truth of the gospel are perishing, and are eternally lost. To them however, it is absurd, and they refuse to believe the Biblical teaching that to achieve eternal salvation you have to believe that a man died on a Cross 2000 years ago, in a little country on the far side of the world, and did so that our sins may be forgiven.

I have taken hundreds of funerals over the past 40 years and there has never been any doubt in the minds of those attending that the deceased would be going to one of the many mansions in heaven. I have always been amazed how so many people who never attend Church or study their bibles know the verses from John’s gospel, and believe it automatically applies to them. Such is the effect of the Church’s false teaching. Most people sincerely believe as long as you are honest and leave a good life, such is your inheritance and to think otherwise is ridiculous. The Bible does not support them.

It is amazing how many people believe everybody, irrespective of lifestyle, will go to heaven; and there those within the Church, even clergy, who believe what is called the belief of universalism.

The other reaction is that those who believe Jesus did die on the Cross that we might be saved, will one day live with Him in heaven, having eternal life.

Paul then quotes from the Old Testament where God states, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’. We have men who write books and speak in profound theological terms. They love to debate issues from the Bible and put forward alternative interpretations of Scripture. Whilst this may entertain themselves in University Common rooms, they can only cause confusion in other people’s minds when they are transmitted to the wider public. God promises to frustrate such actions.

Again Paul quotes the words of God when God said where is the wise man? Human wisdom is transitory. At one time a highly educated person could be valued for having a great deal of knowledge, but such is the amount of knowledge available that a person needs to specialise in a particular field. Just in my time a person could do well in their occupation and rise to a senior position without having any degree, now that is becoming very less likely. Some people have more than one degree, but little common sense. One cynic remarked the Church is falling apart by degrees.

Many of the so-called educated in our culture are increasingly antagonistic toward Biblical Christianity. Those who claim there is absolute truth and morality, are looked at as if we are the uneducated ones. The so-called sophisticated like to think that we are backward and ignorant because we believe in a creator God before whom every person will stand to give account. And true Christianity is especially singled out because of the implications of the message of the Cross.

The Jews and Greeks both asked for a sign. The Jews could not accept that the Messiah could be crucified on a tree. The Jews found difficulty with the cross, because most of them were looking for a political leader who would deliver them from the Roman Empire. Jesus didn’t want to start a political movement that would overthrow Rome, He came to establish the Kingdom of God.

It is difficult for us to understand what crucifixion meant to the Jews. It would have been unthinkable in the first century to wear a cross as an ornament of jewellery, just as no one today would wear a model of the gallows or electric chair around their neck, but that is what is equal to how the Jews saw the cross. They could not believe God would allow his Son to die that way. This should make anyone wearing a cross to think deeply as to what purpose they wear it.

The Greeks thought their learning and wisdom was sufficient. A man hanging on a cross to save the world was just utter nonsense to them. These two demands are still evident in our society today. There are still those who demand that God perform for them. There are still those that demand that God conform to our logic and reason. But history has shown that they would not believe even then.
Things haven’t changed in the intervening years, the cross is still offensive as I pointed out earlier, it strikes at the conscience and gives a sense of inner guilt.

The gospel message is the opposite of worldly wisdom. Paul is here saying I know how foolish it sounds to those who don’t believe when they hear that Jesus died to save them, but we do believe, we preach Christ crucified. He never diluted the message to make it appear something different so people could accept it, as is now happening. How we need to hear that message today, but how often do you hear a sermon on the Cross? Have you heard one in recent times?

In the Cross we see the love of Jesus Christ displayed in a way that defies explanation. God loved us so much that he stepped in and did what we cannot do. How deep the Father’s love for us that He gave his only Son to die for us. The truth is that we are sinners and cannot save ourselves. The good news is that God would not sit idly by and do nothing. He has provided a way. It is the way of the Cross. Not everyone will travel that way. Many have and will reject it. But for those who do receive it, they will experience its power.