Thursday 27 October 2016

God save America
I have long been fond of the United States, I admire-
the many Evangelical Churches which are available to be viewed here in the United Kingdom by television, to which I listen.
Of the thousands of hits on this site, 90% have been from the United States. ( Sadly, I am unaware as to whereabouts in the States the people live who kindly read the posts, perhaps one day someone will let me know.)

Unlike in the United Kingdom where it is frowned upon by some authorities to fly the Union flag, or the English flag, but not however the Scottish or Welsh for some twisted reasoning, the Americans love their flag and proudly display on every possible occasion.

Like many people in the U.K. I have been following the election with interest, perhaps with more than the casual approach others may have, for I fear as I anticipate many Americans will, if the wrong candidate wins. So much depends on the future for Christians with Supreme Court Judges to be appointed, for we have seen how the balance now lies with the liberal minded ones, resulting in many devoted Christians being forced to either abandon their beliefs or their livelihood.

I cannot therefore imagine why so many are reportedly considering voting for Clinton.

President Obama’s terms produced a new morality having introduced same sex marriage, and such is the influence of the so-call ‘gay lobby’, whilst people may adopt a live and let live policy, such is not enough; the agenda is being forced upon all to accept whatever is wanted by that lobby. In addition there is massive support for abortion; and it was planned for firms, including religious institutions, to be made to supply free contraception facilities to all employers. Clinton would only be worse.

Donald Trump is obviously not the ideal opponent, but he is the only one. He has been rightly condemned for some past remarks, but I wonder how many American men are in a position to say they have never said unpleasant remarks about women. (Perhaps it would help people to read Dolly Kyle’s account of Clinton’s behaviour towards other women who had affairs with her husband.)

It all seems hypocritical for every American drama programme I have seen contains the necessary sex scene, often very explicit, and some programmes from here to the USA have to have such a scene added to the British version.

I am sure Trump would cool down and have to assist him very competent men and women in executive positions. I recommend anyone in doubt to turn to the programme on CBN’s 700 Club on Monday 24th October, available on their website, and see how much sense he spoke, and of his more balanced and conservative views.

Friday 21 October 2016

For many years Bible Sunday was celebrated on the Second Sunday of Advent when the whole Church would join together in giving praise to God for Him giving us His written Word. For some reason I have never been able either to understand or learn why, it was changed to the last Sunday of Trinity. Since this happened, many Church do not recognise it and just follow the normal readings for that day. This can only show much the Bible has been downgraded, but then again there are so many clergy and others who find much of the Bible an anathema, and whilst this in itself sad, it demeans the Christian faith.

Turning now to the reading for Bible Sunday; Paul’s 2nd Letter to Timothy, in Chapter 3 v14. This whole Letter could have been written for to-day’s Church it is so relevant and relates to the situation in which we find ourselves.

Paul is now in prison and these are the last words he will give for he would be executed soon after. He wanted Timothy to take over the ministry he was ending, but knew Timothy was a young and timid man, so he wanted to warn him of the problems to be face and to give encouragement.

Paul has been warning Timothy that things are going to be difficult for Christians. People will only be self concerned, boasting, sneering at God, children becoming unruly; people will lie and cheat and think nothing of immorality.

In addition, the Roman authorities wanted several religions rather than just Christianity, and there were false teachers within the Church who did not want to uphold the moral, ethical and theological teaching of the Bible.

You will notice how similar that is to the situation we face today. Like Timothy we are a tiny minority facing an aggressive majority, living in a permissive society, amongst different faiths, and at times it seems as if the world has gone mad and has lost all credibility. It is like a car parked on a hill when someone releases the handbrake and sets the car rolling away. You can get into deeper trouble if you criticise how someone behaves than if you physically assault them.

Verse 14 states,
‘but as for you’, which is Paul identifying Timothy as being apart the general type. Timothy saw Paul as a role model and had been following his guidance, and having been brought up in a Jewish family, would know the Scripture from an early age and been taught by Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament. It is sad that unless a child attends a private school he will know little if anything of the Christian faith or its festivals, and be unable to differentiate right from wrong. All Christians are meant to be of a better nature.

Verse 15 states,
the sacred writings will make one wise for salvation. The Bible is all about salvation, which can only be achieved through Jesus Christ, which we learn from Scipture.

Verse 16
Makes the fundamental statement that ALL Scripture is inspired by God. It is profitable for teaching, rebuking, and correcting to make one right in God’s eyes; how we were created in the image of God, but fell into disobedience and so face judgement, leading to the coming of Jesus Christ, who would die on a Cross to pay the penalty for our sins, finally to be raised from the dead and ascend into heaven from where the Holy Spirit comes to fulfil our lives and make us worthy.

All that we read in the Bible was divinely spoken by God to 40 men with different personalities and occupations, over a period of many years and were so guided that it was in fact them telling us what God wanted us to know. The Old Testament predicts Jesus, the New Testament reveal Jesus, Acts preached Jesus. The Epistles explain Jesus, Revelation anticipates Jesus.

We are to believe that all the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired of God, and they are without error in the original writings, and they are the supreme and final authority for faith and life. The Bible is the supreme and final authority for faith and life. What the Bible says, God says.

The Bible is God's gift to us to reveal Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, who has come for our salvation. Today we find the liberal lobby repudiating all traditional teaching and rewriting Scripture to meet the new morality of the time.

4 Verse 1
Having outlined how Timothy should respond to the world and emphasised the importance of Scripture, Paul tells him to preach the Word, which he must do without fear or favour, and take every opportunity to do so. His concern for the world is as strong as ever and for thirty years he has faithfully served the Lord and for that he suffered much hardship, beatings and imprisonment. His earnest desire was to make more people Christians.

A preacher is given a great privilege in the Church but also carries a great responsibility, for he will one day answer for how that work is carried out, so all those false preachers will pay for what they have done.

Of course there are preachers who will freely admit they wander from Scripture but infer, ‘it is 2016, the Bible is old fashioned now, society has evolved and all the old shibboleths have been replaced by new ones’, as if God only existed for the first century. If anyone thinks morals and ethics and social behaviour have improved, they living a delusion.

Preaching has never been so unfashionable as now. Gone are the days when a Methodist preacher would speak for 30/40 minutes; anything over 15 has people shuffling.

I spoke to two men who came from Africa, and knowing I was a clergyman asked what denomination I was. I told them I was ordained into the Church of England, but in fact in recent times I have only served in Methodist Churches. One smiled in a sympathetic way, and the other said teasingly not a real Church. Both gave up having attended both denominations to attend black evangelical Churches because they didn’t think the others were fully committed to the Bible, whereas in their Churches the preacher would peak for 4/4 minutes. I don’t believe it is necessary to speak for that length to feel committed, but I do believe the Bible is being watered down.

A philosopher once stated whereas Jesus turned water into wine, the Church has done something much more difficult and turned wine into water. Dr Sangster a great preacher of the past stated, ‘preaching is now in the shadows the world does not believe in it’.

Verse 2
The standard given for preaching to Timothy is, to correct those who put forward wrong doctrine; rebuke those who are living wrong and fall into sin; and encourage all who are in doubt and have fears. All to be done patiently, for you can’t beat someone into faith; Christianity is not a faith which advocates violence.

Verse 3
Paul said a time will come when people will not want to hear the truth if it affects the way they live. Every Sunday the Bible is read in very Church in every nation across the world. When people attend Church they have a right to expect the Bible to be faithfully preached. There is no place for opinions, theories or ideas of the preacher. I do not get authority to express an opinion; I am here to say what the Bible says. Congregations should check what is heard by referring to the Bible themselves. I always encouraged my people to turn to the pew Bibles and follow as the passage was expounded, but I fear few Churches now have pew Bibles.

We live in a very aggressive secular society, one in which there are numerous minority groups who expect and demand consideration above their proportion. If we are to face the challenges of the day, we have to be people of the Bible, which is why sound doctrine has to be given. People are being denied on the grounds of political correctness combined with a fear by preachers they may be called bigots or have some form of phobia. To a world that rejects authority, the church must declare the authority of God. Never forget Jesus always upset people He either saved or turned them away.

This verse also states that people will turn to teachers who will say what they want to hear. Sometimes it is necessary to tell people what they need to hear rather than they want to hear.
Truth can be hard to accept at times.

A young boy returned from Sunday school one day and his mother asked him what story the teacher told. He said it was about an Israeli Officer who led some troops into Egypt to rescue some Jews who were being held captive, and he got them out but were followed by the Egyptian army. He knew they were coming to a river so radioed ahead to have the Israeli Air Force bomb the bridge when the Egyptians followed, and they were all drowned. His mother asked him if the teacher really told them that, and the boy replied, ‘no, but if I told you the way she told it you would never believe it’.

The Bible is hard for sceptics to accept, but it is the story of an all powerful God, and our only purpose as a Church is to preach it.

Verse 4
People will turn away from truths. Because the Bible comes from God, we must bow in submission to it. The Bible stands approved as read, without correction, without addition, without deletion, without any changes.

In this day of enlightened scepticism when unbelief seems to be on the march, we have to face this difficult question:

The question is will we believe the Bible, all of it? Believing the Bible means accepting its authority in all aspects of our life, and we have to show the world by how we live, that we truly believe what the Bible says. We can only do this if our life is in accord with biblical teaching. . We should be men and women under authority, who do what we are told even when it isn’t popular.

Verse 5.
In the final verse Paul again refers to Timothy’s dependability and calls on him to remain steady and be ready to face hardship but never to give up. This is a call we should all heed and not be silenced by political ideologues, or militant secularists and humanists. (or anyone else).

Shortly after this Letter was written Paul was executed and so went to meet his beloved Lord and Saviour.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Matthew 7 v 13/14

This passage is part of Jesus teaching where a great crowd had gathered on a mountain. He is telling the rules and practice by which Christians should live by, and tells them how they can be saved.

He taught there are two gates, to two roads, and two masters.

He said there are two destinies, heaven and hell and divided people into two classes. There are only two roads, no third, no alternative. This is not generally liked as it is seen as being too restrictive, too bigoted and intolerant, and we don’t like to be judged. Yet in spite of all this, Jesus says we must enter through the narrow gate. So let us look at the choice we face and consider honestly which road each of us is on and to where heading.

It is like driving up to a crossroad junction and you have to make a decision as to which road you choose. On the broad road you enter by a wide gate and the road is spacious, there is plenty of room on it and there are plenty of people on it. It is the road where you can live as you like. There are even otherwise decent men and women on it, so many claiming to be Christians albeit without due cause. It is widely assumed, and strongly encouraged by the secular press, that if you are honest and sincere you will go to heaven.

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 they were Christians.

As we come to the narrow gate leading to the narrow road, which Jesus wants us to take, but says only few take it, and those who do must do through Him. The command quoted in John 14, despite being non correct in many Churches now, still states ‘no one can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ.’ He is the only way.

Being narrow these days means you are classed as bigoted or phobic. You are expected to be broad minded, be modern, 2+2=5. The road is narrow because it is the way of truth and truth is always narrow.

Jesus said there is a life to come and it is a long life, it is eternal, and there are only two destinies, you alone choose, God will not push you. He gave you the ability to choose and lets you do so. Where you end up in eternity will be determined by which road you take, so what you do in the world is important.

One of these roads leads to destruction the other to life with Jesus. He took time to remind people of the seriousness of salvation. He wanted all to be sure of the future. People do prefer the easy road in life but Jesus made it plain He wants us to journey down the difficult road and enter the narrow gate.

Neither can the narrow road be pursued if we are motivated by a desire to please society. True disciples of Jesus Christ will not play to the galleries or form values according to the passing approval of people in general. God’s approval is all that matters.

Finally Jesus speaks firmly and rather profoundly when He says not all who think they are to enter the Kingdom of heaven will in fact do so. But it can be hard to be a Christian in this country at the present time and many find the going too hard and strenuous and the opposition oppressive. Any open expression of our faith is likely to lead to suspension or dismissal from work. There is so much harassment of Christians which is not reported here and you have to listen to the American news channels to discover what is going on in this country.

As Christians we must always seek to glorify the Lord in our ways and speech.

Jesus warns us that there must be a clear acceptance of His teaching and total obedience to it. Just to recite a creed and attend Church is not enough. We honour Jesus by calling Him Lord and sing hymns expressive of our devotion to Him. The lips that sing His praise should never be the lips that start trouble.

Sunday 9 October 2016

Almost a Christian
I want to turn to a verse in Acts of the Apostles, ‘almost you persuade me to be a Christian’. (Acts 26.v28)

During my years of ministry I have interviewed many people regarding baptisms, weddings or funerals, and the most common statement made is ‘we don’t go to church, but we are Christians’; or,’ ‘you don’t have to go to Church to be a Christian as long as you are a good person’. This is always volunteered, sometimes challengingly, indeed even aggressively; I suppose to ease the conscience. For someone who has no religious association or commitment to say this to a clergyman may seem to be both arrogant and impertinent.

A lady who was a stalwart of her local church once said to me ‘Vicar, I heard a man say on Songs of Praise last week that he had attended Church for many years but had only just become a Christian. What did he mean?’

This is a popular reaction. It is just assumed that if one is not an atheist or member of another faith one is per se a Christian. There is a little more to it than that.

The word Christian was originally a term of derision against the first followers of Jesus, and it is fast becoming an abusive term in this country by public officials, secularists and the judiciary, who want to eradicate Christianity from public life.

To become a Christian there must be an encounter with Jesus Christ. People have been urged to declare themselves a Christian without being told what that entails. Being born in a Christian country, to Christian parents, in a Christian home, does not make one a Christian. You cannot inherit Christianity. It is more than living up to a system of morals or ethics. Even Church attendance, however necessary and how much it is part of Christian life, does not on its own make you one. There has to be a conscious decision made, in which one wants to invite Christ into their life. You realise you have been offending against God and now want to live a life as laid down by Jesus and have Him come in to your life to give it new direction.

The Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and so we need forgiveness, and the only way we can get God’s forgiveness is through Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our misbehaviour. You need saving from your sins, and the only way is through Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made on the Cross. You have to realise that and decide you need His forgiveness. You then make a positive decision that you will turn to Christ and follow His way of living.

That deliberate decision, and subsequent commitment, may come from hearing a preacher. A lady used to visit my Church very irregularly and one day she came and after the service said, ‘whenever I come here I feel you are getting at me’. I pointed out that as I was unaware she would be attending it may be that someone higher than me was getting at her.

It may come reading the Bible; even if you have read something many times, one time God will use that word to speak to you.

It may come from seeing a poster with a religious message. The London City Mission posted many messages on the underground system, which spoke vividly to people. I found that posters with a catchy message on, placed on the Church notice board had an effect too.

People have on many occasions been introduced by a friend, which is why it is so important to let people know of our Churches and what they can offer. However it comes, you will know it has come. Christianity is not a vague feeling, it is something you can know and you know whether you believe it or not.

This will necessitate a change in living. You know there are certain activities which are no longer acceptable; the ways of the world are replaced by the ways of Christ. This will mean you will inevitably declare yourself to be a Christian, which will involve mockery and taunting, and mean you can’t join in any falsehoods, immorality or things unethical anymore.

Of course there will be temptations to face. There will be Sunday mornings when you will not feel like going out to Church and you think, ‘oh they won’t miss me at church this morning’. Never feel you won’t be missed. Whilst I am sure your fellow Church members will miss you, God will certainly miss you. Church should come before the golf club or shopping trip or whatever. It is only one hour per week for most people, and if we can’t give that, then there is certainly something very amiss in our life.

The reason there is so much unhappiness, trouble, and broken homes in the nation, is through the absence of Christian values. Children are facing a deprived life in many homes as parents do not have the time, inclination, or belief, to teach their children basic bible stories, and so many children haven’t the faintest knowledge of any character or major festivals of the Church. A lot of schools have virtually given up teaching Christianity, often in preference to other faiths.

Be ready to take a full part in Church life and enjoy the joy of coming to share worship with your fellow Christians. The Church is here to bring people to knowledge of Jesus Christ. It is not a spiritual dispensary to hand out soothing syrup, but to proclaim God’s Message as it is written. We take the bread and wine at the table of our Lord, when we remember His blood shed on the cross for us, and as we eat the bread we remember the broken body given for us, and Jesus can become very close.

A Christian needs discipline in his/her life, for the Bible says we have to take on those who are out to make us give in. The Bible likens the relationship of Christ and a follower to that of a husband wife relationship in marriage. When a man proposes to a woman to marry him and she agrees, they remain unmarried until they promise their commitment to each other in the marriage service. They then begin their life together facing both difficulties and happiness together. So in the Christian life it is when we declare our commitment to Christ, we become a Christian and face life with Him in all that life puts before us.

We all have to ask, ‘am I living the Christian life?’ People like to divide the world into two groups the good and bad, with ourselves of course in the good category. God is believed to judge the bad, but would not judge us. It is too easy to see people behaving worse than us, and convince ourselves we are all right. The point is, whilst some are offending worse than us, we are all offending in some way. We may not plant bombs like some do, but the tongue can be equally explosive in its own way. So let us consider Christian living.

Jesus said, ‘behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.’ In the East inviting a person to sit and eat with you infers you are inviting that person to have a special place in your life.

If there is anyone reading this message who has not yet invited Jesus into their life, then I urge you to consider making that decision and give Him that special place in your life, He is waiting at the door for your invitation.

But let us have sincerity. Today a cushy Christianity obtains in many places with the intention to say pleasant words which people want to hear. Rogue traders make goods and put the stamp of a famous name on them. Rogue Christian teachers are putting God’s stamp on their own brand of Christianity, even supporting behaviour which at one time would not even be mentioned.

It is total and disgraceful hypocrisy to loudly proclaim Christianity and advocate and support that which is un-Christian.

Our nation so badly needs Christian men and women who are altogether Christians, not almost ones.