Saturday 27 February 2016

Last week I wrote about Christian Concern, the legal centre formed to help and defend Christians penalised for holding and expressing Christian views. In doing so I referred to the Chief Executive Officer Andrea Williams not being called to speak at General Synod of the Church of England, where a debate was being held on the Church’s evangelism strategy.

I do not believe this was an oversight, for Andrea is a very talented and highly articulate speaker, with a high profile because of her regular appearances on television programmes to speak on Church matters. I believe she was not called because it was realised she would say all those things people in senior positions in the Church SHOULD be saying, but do not either have the courage or belief to do so.

With kind permission I here give you the speech Andrea would have made. And pray the Lord will bless and cause it to be widely read. Tell your friends so they can have the opportunity to read a truly Christian message.

I welcome the evangelism initiative and long for the conversion of this nation. The conversion of lives, families and a turning back in public life to Christianity and the flourishing that brings.

In Romans, the apostle Paul writes: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)

My concern is that in the General Synod body, we are not agreed on what the gospel is. Such a problem is not just confusing to us, but confusing to a lost and broken world.

Those writing the Report at Synod should perhaps draft a statement reaffirming what the gospel actually is.

We had a presentation on the Report from the Archbishops’ Evangelism Task Group, with an assumption that we are agreed on what the gospel is, but it was not set out in the paper or presentation.

Evangelism is the declaration of the 'evangel', which publishes the good news of the Kingdom of God; that Jesus Christ is Lord and King, and that salvation is assured by his death and resurrection for those who repent and put faith and trust in Christ, turning from sin and living in accordance with God’s Word.

We must be careful as leaders in the church charged with much responsibility not to truncate the gospel to 'God loves you'.

We pray the Lord’s prayer – “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” – but do we understand what this means?

The gospel is in fact the declaration of Christ's salvation and Kingdom rule that has invaded the earth.
Part of praying for the will of God to be done on Earth is the surrender of our human desires to the transformative power of Christ.

One of the most important areas where truth is under attack is on marriage – a primary gospel issue.
One of the visible manifestations of the gospel is the human body and marriage. Marriage sets forth the gospel and is the cosmological key to understanding the universe.
It declares that humanity has been made for intimacy and communion with God and that it is God's intention to have holy communion with his bride, the Church.

The Bible begins with a wedding in Eden, then describes the marriage of God and Israel and Israel's adultery. It then tells of the coming of the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, whose first miracle takes place at a wedding.

The Bible ends in the marriage supper of the Lamb!
The one-flesh union of male and female in marriage reflects the fellowship of unity in diversity in the Trinity, and so declares Jesus as bridegroom to his spotless bride, the church.

Therefore, the destruction of marriage and the confusion of genders is undermining the witness of the gospel in Britain. How can a person growing up in a culture where the meaning of marriage has been destroyed comprehend the gospel?

Since we remain confused about what marriage is; since no clear sound is being made and we are locked down behind closed doors in ‘conversations’ to come to a ‘common mind’ on what it is to have ‘good disagreement’ on this issue - how are we to evangelise?

A quote attributed to Martin Luther says:
"If I profess with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition of scripture every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle field besides is mere flight."

Today the battle rages for Truth over our God-given identity, God’s pattern for marriage and family and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

We must be clear that marriage and sexuality are not excluded from aspects of our lives that require total surrender.

We must bring our brokenness in all its forms to Christ, who in His love and mercy transforms us to His will, that we may walk holy and blameless before a world that is desperate to see the sons and daughters of the Living God revealed.

That is the Kingdom of God invading Earth. That is the gospel message.

People are punished in Britain for belief in the gospel; the Lord's Prayer was banned from being shown in cinemas: at the Christian Legal Centre, for over a decade, we have been representing people who have lost their jobs or been arrested for offering prayer, or testimony to Jesus Christ.

These men and women are not ashamed of the gospel. They are not ashamed of Jesus and his words; and his call to death to self and obedience to him; the transforming power of God that brings salvation.

Let us not be ashamed of the gospel. In Mark Chapter 8, as Jesus predicted his death, he said:
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels."

This is the gospel

A debate was also held on the Archbishop’s Presidential speech on the outcome of the Archbishops of the Anglican Communion meeting to discuss the question of how the Church should respond to same sex marriage. Here is a response from Andrea.


The Archbishop of Canterbury’s presidential address at Synod addressed the aftermath of the recent Primates' gathering in Canterbury, in which a compromise was reached between two diametrically opposed groups: those who hold to the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality – and those who do not.

That meeting was not a success, and it is disingenuous to suggest that it was. It did not tackle the fundamental issue and instead it tries to keep us on a path that can never secure true unity.
It failed to challenge an overarching relativism which allows human ideas and current cultural trends to override God's unchanging Word.

The Archbishop's analysis reflects an approach that prizes the appearance of institutional, formal unity over true, organic unity. But without organic unity, institutional unity will crumble and collapse as we have already seen.

Real unity can only grow in the soil of truth. No amount of institutional scaffolding can substitute for healthy soil.
God's pattern for marriage and His teaching on sexuality is not peripheral. Our approach to it tests our understanding of the authority of Scripture and the Gospel itself..
The underlying issue is whether the churches will submit to God's Word.

An approach to unity which, as long as the institution is upheld, allows an 'agreement to disagree' on Scripture's authority, is counter-productive and doomed to failure.

Unless there is a shared submission to God's Word, we are not on a shared journey to a shared destination, and no amount of institutional scaffolding will take us there.

During his speech, the Archbishop spoke of the necessity of "unity which relishes and celebrates the diversity of freedom and [human] flourishing within broad limits of order."

What we saw at the Primates' meeting, and have seen for several years, is not true unity.
Members of the Communion who hold opposing views on the key issue of marriage will simply continue to co-exist in deep disagreement. The Archbishop himself admitted that members are in "very different" places theologically.

We know these conversations will continue, and we know that liberal members will continue to push their agenda under the guise of 'love and acceptance'. Yet true love and compassion does not discard or distort God's good patten for human flourishing.

Only a fortnight ago it emerged that a new 'Anglican' campaign group, LGBTI Mission, has been established, in order to pressure the Church of England to accept clergy in same-sex 'marriages'. It demands that same-sex 'marriages' be considered equally valid to marriages between men and women.

How will the Archbishop address these increasing attempts to deviate from the standard God has set out for us in His Word?
The Scriptures outline God’s pattern for marriage as between one man and one woman. This is designed as a beautiful reflection of Jesus' love for His church, an expression of intimacy and communion, in covenant.

Jesus promised He will come back for a pure and spotless Bride. Yet the Bride of Christ will not 'flourish' under compromise.
The Archbishop of Canterbury emphasised the need for a balance between order, freedom and human flourishing.
But what freedom is the Archbishop speaking of here?
He is right in reminding us that Jesus came to set us free. Yet true freedom is freedom from sin, which is found in repentance and the surrendering of human desires to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not freedom to continue holding to disobedience of the Word.

Obedience to the Word of God is vital if the Church is to flourish.
If the Church compromises the Truth we are are not fit to evangelise. How can we evangelise with a watered down gospel that reflects the spirit of the age that is less appealing to many than the running club?

Obedience to the true Gospel is worth living and dying for: as Jesus predicted his death he said:

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels".

We are not preaching a true Gospel message, if the teaching of the Bible on such a vital matter as marriage and sexuality is compromised. There can be no relevance if the truth is truncated.

The Archbishop spoke of the picture of humility that Jesus painted through the washing of His disciples’ feet. But in that humility and servant-heartedness, we must point people to truth. Archbishop Justin failed to speak of truth or of objective revelation from God. It is as if truth has been relegated to a 'process of discernment' not a matter of scripture, canons and creed.

This is a capitulation to the 'spirit of the age', not the Spirit of God who has spoken in Scripture.

Sunday 21 February 2016

Christian Concern is a Christian Legal Centre formed some years ago to help and represent Christians who have found themselves penalised in some way for expressing their faith. The Chief Executive Officer is Andrea Williams, a barrister and member of the General Synod of the Church if England, and one of the most talented and gifted Christian speakers. Eagerly sought by television stations, she speaks the gospel with an evangelical message with clarity, and in such a manner that is understandable to the most unaware non believer.

When attending the current Synod meeting she had hoped to be called to speak on the Church report on evangelism strategy. I think Andrea was being supremely optimistic in expecting to be called, for her reputation would be well known to the committee, and the last thing they would want to hear would be a speaker with a clear and positive traditional biblical belief.

This was evidence by the fact that Christian Concern had been denied a presence in the lobby of the hall because of alleged (but untrue) lack of space. However, present with a prominent place was a stall manned by LGBT activists, obviously handing out a message contrary to Scripture.

I have always believed General Synod is a tragic waste of time and money. It costs millions with as many members as that of Parliament. One of the favourite actions is to refer to subcommittees, or a future meeting, any decision. They are supposed to support the promotion of the gospel without clearly defining what the gospel they believe in is. There seems to be more concern in falling in line with society’s word than God’s Word.

The Church has an official position against same sex marriage, yet priests are engaging in that with Bishops supporting the same rather than taking disciplinary action, and no one in any leading office has been prepared to say forthrightly that this wrong according to the Bible.

A famous statesman once said that a nation was only as strong as its homes. The very fabric and bedrock of society consists of the family, of one man and woman and children, yet the Archbishops, whose duty it is to set the teaching of the Church, have failed to stress that the law of God takes precedence rather than the law made by man.


A play that portrays Jesus as a transgender woman who refers to God as 'Mum' is to be performed in a Church of England church.

The one-woman play by Jo Clifford, an award-winning Scottish playwright who has herself changed gender, imagines Jesus returning to earth as a 'trans woman' and retelling the parables with a transsexual slant.

At one point, Ms Clifford, who plays Jesus, says: 'I love my Mum.
'I am the daughter of God and almost certainly the son also. My Mum said let there be light and I say I am the light…'

In another, she says: 'Our Mother who art on Earth, blessed is your name.' Against images of gay couples kissing, she continues: 'Give us this day our daily kisses, for yours is the Queendom…'

In the drama, to be staged at St Chrysostom's church in Manchester's Victoria Park as part of the city's Queer Contact festival, the prodigal son is thrown out by his father for wanting a sex change. The Bishop of Manchester has not only the authority to ban this play from being performed in the Church, he has a necessary duty to do so/

Under Church law, clergy have to 'take care' that plays performed in churches are consistent with 'sound doctrine', and clergy who are in doubt should refer the matter to the bishop. The law adds that clergy should obey any 'general directions' the bishop might issue 'from time to time'

I am not in the least surprised anything the bishop of Manchester will not.. The same man supported the holding of a Labour Conference party to be held in the Cathedral. He also called on people to take in refugees whilst declining to do himself; and despite general public support for welfare reform criticised the government’s action.

The devil must be laughing herself at what happens in Manchester

Saturday 13 February 2016

Luke 4 v 1/13

This morning we come to the first Sunday of Lent. We are now in a period of 40 days when we are to reflect and consider our spiritual state. In the early days of the Church this was a time for converts to the faith to prepare for baptism at Easter.

In observing the 40 days, we are reminded of the period Jesus spent in the wilderness directly after His baptism, resisting the temptations set before Him by the devil, and we journey with Christ in readiness for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to face the glory of the Cross and His resurrection three days later. We recognise we need a Saviour and accept Jesus was the One who came to seek and save us.

The story of Jesus’ trials is hard for modernists to accept and believe, and ask can you really believe this in 2016, but as Jesus was alone it must have been told by Him. Jesus and His Apostles clearly taught about the devil, and when see and read and hear of all the evil in our own world, it should not be hard to accept. Others ask why did Jesus had to be tempted, but He was both human and divine and it was His human nature which was being tempted. . This human side is revealed in the Bible when we read the descriptions of His compassion, tears, gratitude and hunger.

Jesus had not eaten for 40 days and when a person is physically tired and stressed, or under any vulnerable pressure, that is the time when they are most at risk of giving into temptation. We all have and all will be tempted.

Turn with me to this passage in Luke’s gospel, which is corroborated in Matthew’s gospel.

Jesus had just been baptised and was anointed by the Holy Spirit which leads Him into the desert. This was wasteland which lay between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, an area 35 x 15 miles of yellow sand and crumbling limestone which reacted like a giant furnace.
When we read Jesus was tempted by the devil it is often for people to conjure up an image of some wild eyed creature with horns and a flaming mouth. What we need to recognise is an evil spirit coming upon us to try and influence us to do or think something which we know is wrong. It is no sin to be tempted, it is the giving in which is. We know Jesus was meant to go through this ordeal by God to test His obedience and prove He would be worthy to carry out the mission God had in mind for Him, and if He had failed He could not have been our Saviour.

Jesus was very hungry because of His fasting and has the temptation to turn the stones, which were shaped like small loaves, into bread, and He knew God had bestowed upon Him the power to do so.

Imagine you have no money and your child is very hungry and is crying for something to eat. You think of the supermarket close by with all its plentiful food and your husband says nip in and sneak a loaf out. You know the commandment, ‘you shall not steal’. How would you react to that situation; would you obey the Commandment or steal a loaf? Jesus faced a like situation, but knew also God had power to provide what was needed, so He proved His obedience. He was here being tempted to doubt God’s reliability.

We all have been in situations when we have to make a decision in some controversial matter and in our mind we know what we should do to act morally and honestly, but the alternative often seem more appealing. It is to our innermost thoughts and desires that the tempter comes into our minds. In today’s evil world we are confronted by so many temptations.

The lesson for us here is to be obedient as Jesus was by following all the teaching God has given us in the Bible. The temptation is to fail to trust in God’s goodness and sovereign control in a stressful or worrying situation relating to the things of this life; and the alternative is to try any quick fix to put things right – with the fix being inherently wrong.
For Jesus at this stage, using his miraculous powers for his own personal purposes would have been wrong. His heavenly Father could have provided any miracle that was needed – as happened with manna in the wilderness.

So we are being encouraged to trust God, who in His way and in His time can solve all our problems in a way that is best for us. Jesus was going to wait for God’s timing for ending His fast.

In the second temptation Jesus is led up a mountain from which much of the regions could be seen, and is tempted by the devil to forsake God and turn to his way. Come to me and just turn a blind eye, don’t be too strict fall in with the times. Jesus again quoted Scripture and said, ‘we must worship God alone’.

For Christ the temptation was to have all the world under his control, by submitting to the devil’s offer instead of His Father’s will; it was to let the end justify the means.
The same thing is happening today in our world where it is what happens when you believe nothing in itself is wrong as long as you believe yourself it is right. It is a case of all that matters is you have a good intention.

Jesus was not into being bribed and should we be; neither should we try and bribe people into coming to Church, nor should we soft peddle when they do come.

Sadly at all levels in the Church men and women are fulfilling their own desires rather than accept the spiritual guidance God has given. To do this and to try and justify their actions, and in some cases ease their conscience if they have one, they also try to re-interpret Scripture in accordance with their actions, to convince themselves and others that the Bible is on their side. The ultimate sin is to ignore God and to live as if His Word is not binding. The Bible is not a pick/n mix option. Always be careful when the Bible is quoted to justify some action which is not what you would expect, even from a pulpit.

The final temptation came when Jesus was led on to a wooden plateau at the top of the Temple where the invitation was to throw Himself off and land safe and well 450 feet below which would be such a spectacle to those seeing. It is a temptation to use sensational antics. But Jesus ministry was not to be marked by sensationalism, nor should ours be. I have attended services where it was more like a party game with the preacher hosting a quiz.

I have been told by a Vicar that we should make people happy. One Vicar had a comedian visit her to instruct her how to tell jokes to make her sermons appealing. Actually if she wanted to be a comedian she should have chose the stage and not the pulpit.

I thought how revealing it was when she had a small congregation, and then I watched videos of the greatest preacher in Christian history, Billy Graham, who held Crusades being based solely on Biblical teaching, and to audiences of 80,000, regularly telling them they were all sinners and were in danger of going to hell if they did not repent, yet they flocked in their tens of thousands to hear him.

In verse 12 Jesus replies to the devil, ‘you shall not put the Lord your God to the test’. All of Jesus’ answers come from God’s Word, specifically from the book of Deuteronomy which was highly respected by the Jews in Jesus’ time. By quoting Scripture Jesus demonstrates the centrality of God’s Word.

In all His action and words, Jesus sets an example for us.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

In 2 Corinthians, Paul does not lose heart when facing rejection,but that was certainly his temptation.

Isn’t this true to our experience as Christians? Which of us has not been tempted to give up trying to share the gospel with friends, family and neighbours? Who has not been disappointed at the response; the consequence is that we give up.

We give plenty of notice about a Christian festival or special guest service, but with little if any increase in our congregations. There is a cynical and rather dishonest way perhaps of getting your Church full however; just put a notice outside saying there will be a Songs of Praise service being held here at….on… Just watch the response as people think they are going to be on the television programme of that name.

One Vicar in all innocence did advertise such a service and genuinely meant a service in his Church, based on the television format, and was horrified when people abused him for misleading them, making them attend when they otherwise not have done so. The connection didn’t occur to him beforehand.

We should be like Paul who no matter what rejection or rebuff he received never gave up trying.

Next Sunday the theme is temptation, when we see how Jesus never gave in to being tempted by the devil. To those temptations Jesus showed obedience to God, resisted bribe and sensationalism.

I wish some of the preachers I have listened to would learn from Him. I have wondered at times if I was at a Church party rather than a service, with quiz questions, amusements, and on Minister who invited the congregation, where the average age was 60, to stand and do raising of arms and bending down to pretend putting things in a shopping trolley. (really)

One Vicar invited a comedian to give her lessons in telling jokes to make the people happy with her sermons. I read that there are courses now to instruct clergy in telling jokes.

Our Churches are being filled with leaders who are not only unsure about what the Bible is teaching; many of them don’t believe large parts are either true or relevant. They only want to teach what is tallying with society’s culture.

There are so many clubs, organisations, functions and institutions offering a whole variety of activities. If the Church is to attract people it has to offer something entirely different and special which cannot be found anywhere else. The answer, however old fashioned it may sound to the majority, is the teaching of the Bible by men and women who truly believe it to be the Word of God. Such men and women are not in plentiful supply because there are so few who are willing to adjust their lives away from non biblical living

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel, they do not believe because they are blinded by the evil spirit.

When feeling despondent, say with Paul,
Therefore, since through God's mercy, we do not lose heart.