Tuesday 31 January 2017

We are being told constantly on television how the number of people signing the anti Trump petition is growing by the minute. Anyone who takes this number seriously is either deluded or naïve. Previous petitions have been found to be signed fictitiously or by repeated signatories.

Jeremy Corbyn and the rather asinine Tim Farron, are two leaders of great political parties of the past, whose previous more notable predecessors would be turning in their graves if they could see the hypocrisy and witless fatuity now being put forward in the parties names.

We hear calls for the visit of Donald Trump to be cancelled amid crocodile tears for the Queen, when Corbyn could not bring himself to acknowledge when the national anthem was played. Where were Corbyn and Farron when calls were being made for Israeli goods to be boycotted? When rockets were being fired on Israeli villages? Why were foreign terrorist leaders invited to speak in London by Labour leaders, yet a man only concerned to fight against terror is so bitterly opposed?

We have had world leaders from all over the world come to London, and been presented to the Queen; some have been from countries with appalling human rights records, yet without protest of any size. Trump’s actions in being more to the right of politics, and being opposed to abortion, gay rights, and doubts about climate change, are the worst subjects to so many (il)liberal minds. They just can’t get their heads around the fact that after the liberal disaster of the Obama years, the normal ordinary man and woman rejoice in having someone with a more natural outlook.

Trump made explicitly clear in his campaign for election what his policies would be, and the American people hugely voted for him. Any action now against him should be left to the American people, and we should support and commend Theresa May for her diplomatic skill. We must remember that whilst he may not be the ideal candidate for the Presidency that many would wish, we can be consoled when we think what the alternative was.

I read that women bishops and priests have joined the protests, although there was not much protest when marriage was redefined; at the number of teenage pregnancies; the massive killing of unborn children in the abortion clinics in America and Africa by Marie Stopes International, who have received £91 million in the past two years from the United Kingdom government, and whose Chief Executive director is stated to have been paid £420, 755 salary. Nor at all the young women being sold as sex slaves in Islamic nations; or of the beheading of Christians. No protest yet about men who think they are a woman can be Girl Guide leaders.

Emotional outrage is obviously a selective one with equality being graded, according to which will get the most attention in the media and the BBC, which has excelled itself in bias at the present time.

Friday 27 January 2017


‘if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land'.

In 960BC Israel was in moral and spiritual decline with people failing to worship God. Solomon pleaded with God to forgive the nation of their sins, and God answered that if they humbled themselves, prayed, sought His face and turned from their wicked ways He would heal their land.

As we look and consider life in this country at the present time it must surely give to all intelligent people grave cause for concern for we see a nation in moral and spiritual decline, where the barriers of decency have been swept away so that we are left without restraint. All around us storm clouds are falling on a world so different from what many of us knew. So what hope does the Bible give us?

God said,
‘if my people who are called by my name’.
This verse is directed to particular people. God’s people are those who worship Him, who accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, who profess Christ and own up to doing so. They are people who regularly attend Church to worship Him week by week, not only those who have a nodding acquaintance with Him at Christmas time.

‘if they will humble themselves’.
Both as a Church and individually there is need for repentance. As a Church we begin by humbling ourselves by casting ourselves on the mercy of God and asking for His forgiveness for failing to stand out fully for righteousness.
As individuals, not being proud. Satan said, ‘I will exalt my throne above God’, and some people want to do the same. They become obsessed by their own importance and if not given due acknowledgement and granted their way, become disruptive.

All Christians should be pleased to be known as God’s people whereas there is often a reluctance to identify oneself as a Christian. Sadly this is more the case with men who unnecessarily feel embarrassed at doing so.

Ministers in the Church must accept their first duty is to teach God’s Word, as it is written in Scripture, not as they might like it to be written.

It is a sad fact that there are those in ministry whose priority is to further their own careers and are more interested in their ‘c.v’ than spreading the gospel.

‘if my people pray’
Jesus told us to pray without ceasing and gave examples of desperate prayer. Jesus told us to keep on praying, stating ‘ ask and you will receive.’ Whilst there are many tasks the Church has to undertake and requires people to help, age or infirmity often prevents some willing folk, but all can serve God by praying for His Church.

The story is told of two ladies who prayed for many months for a revival to come to their town, and eventually a Billy Graham Crusade was held close by causing many to find their Saviour.

‘If my people will seek my face’.
God wants us to turn to Him to answer our needs and create a relationship with Him. We have to realise we have to be dependent on Him for all things not seeking intellectual answers or our own solutions.
Too often we find God’s help is the last we seek. We have to learn to seek His will in all situations. God’s people accept that life’s problems can only be solved by divine intervention.

‘if my people will turn from their wicked ways’
God expects us to put Him first in our lives, but we can relegate Him. First there is a slipping away from attending Church, followed by a lack of Bible reading.

God says there are certain things I don’t want you to do. God says certain behaviour is sinful, but some disagree and try to justify disobeying by saying times have changed and society accepts such behaviour. Things which were once unacceptable now become acceptable. We turn to worldly things and become uninterested in Christian teaching. The conscience which once gave warning doesn’t seem to work anymore. There is a need to root out ways which are unworthy of us as Christians

The Church has failed to speak out on moral issues. Too often the attitude seems to be ‘we can’t beat them so let us join them’ and we compromise. The Church must speak out in condemnation against what passes for acceptable behaviour and is contrary to that laid out in the Bible.

The Church should be such a prominent voice in society that it can influence and stop politicians from promoting behaviour expressly forbidden in Scripture. It should be the leader in moral issues, not just another (reluctant)follower.

Then, I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
God has given a promise so all of us need to have a passion for revival and we are poor Christians if we do not feel concern for the Church in this nation.

Politicians, academics, social workers have all failed society miserably causing a mindset that sees virtually anything is permissible as long as it leads to a peaceful political life, whereas ordinary people know there is so much wrong. I do not intend to go into those things; they have all been spelled out in other postings on this blog.

Revival only begins with God’s people, but with the power of God becomes so strong it soon affects society. We know God answers prayer and the promise of this verse is that if we do the things God has asked of us, He will surely respond.

Be in Church on Sunday and may God bless you.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Turning to Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians.

This is the first of Paul’s Letters to this Church which was situated in the heart of Corinth, a trading and manufacturing centre. The city was a cosmopolitan and sophisticated place where there was sexual immorality, which likened it to the Soho of the day.

Within the city there was a Church which Paul had founded and it came to his notice that tensions had arisen in the congregation. The worldly view of spirituality and morality did not equate with the Church’s standards, but some members were influenced and were encouraged by false teachers. This was causing disunity and such grieved Paul who disliked Christians disagreeing. This is what caused him to write and give guidance.

In the opening verse of our passage, Paul calls on Christians to agree and be of one mind and judgement. We can only achieve this if we are all one in Christ Jesus. He alone is means of unity and the only way to God.

You will note how relevant this Letter has become to us as the same thing is happening here and other Western nations. Parts of the Church are embracing, encouraging and accepting society’s moral standards, which causes anguish to others.

In Accordance with Scripture the official Church position is that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. An increasing number within the Church are not willing to accept this, so disunity is occurring which can only damage the Church and our faith. When General Synod meets next month it seems inevitable that there will be disputes, which the press and secularists will love to exploit, as some will want to try and force the Church to accept same sex (so called) marriage. There is a duty on all Christians to put the will of God before all personal desires.

One issue which all Christians should be concerned is that of falling attendances. Whilst we have to accept that we live in a godless age, where the Church is a no go area to a lot of people, except of course when it suits their purpose, occasions arise which demonstrate that there is still a lot of feeling for the Church.

I have taken services at over 30 Churches in and around Bedford over the last few years, many in villages like Renhold, but congregations are small. The people live in beautiful surroundings with lovely homes, most in good employment, no anti-social behaviour as some people are forced to endure, so it is not unreasonable to expect them to be grateful for such blessings and give an hour to thank God for such.

There are of course Churches which have large congregations, which suggests logically they are doing something right, which other Churches are not, but they seem few and far between.

We get told there is pressure on combining home and business life which makes it hard to attend Church on Sundays, but Muslims seem to manage attending their places of worship it without much difficulty. I can assure however you if letters were sent to the homes of people in this parish telling them the Church was closing there would be an immediate outcry.

But above all people see mixed messages coming from Church Ministers as to what should be believed. Both Conservative and Labour Parties spent years in the political wilderness because there was no unity and people did not understand what they believed or stood for, and the same applies to the Church. Jesus said a house divided against itself will fall.

If we look at Eastern nations in the Orient and Africa, the Churches are growing at massive rate, and China once seen as the anti-Christ, has now more Christians, and committed ones, than any other nation on earth. In those places they have not been dismantling the Bible.

Jesus Christ said, ‘I will build my Church.’ In Acts we read the first Christian Church was devoted to the teaching of the Apostles, in consequence ‘the Lord added to their numbers daily’. So there is a message, follow the teaching of the Apostles, who were taught by the Lord Himself. God graciously provided us with a copy of their teaching; it is called the New Testament. That is the purpose of the Church, to preach the gospel, not social or political issues. When we do the Lord will bless and help us, when we fail and follow the world’s agenda rather than God’s Word, we fail.

When we try to please man rather than God; when we depart from the Bible by adding to or subtracting from, we are causing cracks in the foundation of Apostolic teaching; we are building on sand rather than rock.

If we allow ourselves to withdraw from plain speaking of the gospel we are failing our Lord and reducing ourselves as a Church to little more than just another social organisation, perhaps with a spiritual touch, in which case we have nothing to offer those lost souls seeking real spiritual help. We have to show that we do have something special to offer which no other organisation can.

Paul then rebukes them for following and favouring particular preachers. It is natural for us to have a favourite one, but there is also a danger that we may become attached to one who is not a biblical teacher. Paul was concerned and had occasion to warn that some people, who did not want to hear sound doctrine, were turning to teachers who would say what they wanted to hear rather than what they should hear.

Paul reminds that Christ was not divided and neither should we be. We can still worship in different ways as some like much ceremony and others a simpler method, as long as the doctrine of the gospel is the same.

Paul turns to baptism where some were boasting of who baptised them, when it is the act which is important not who the baptiser is. We have situations where people who never attend Church on a regular basis ask for a particular Vicar because of a past connection of some kind. But baptism in Paul’s day was not the charade it is today whereby a person enquires about baptism and is told to turn up at the Church on a certain date.

Baptism is the most sacred sacrament of the Church. In its original form it took place when a person made a public confession of faith, repented of past way of life, and turned their life to Christ. This was the way people entered the Church. At some point the Church adopted the practice of baptising the children of committed Christian parents, but it was never meant to be of the indiscriminate kind we practice.

What is more unacceptable is we ask them to make vows to bring up the children in the fellowship of the Church, by their example, which they promise to do without any intention of doing so, and we perpetuate this falsehood. How rare to find a Church with a Sunday school these days.

In the final verse Paul emphasised the importance of preaching the gospel in simple words so all could understand and believe, so contrary to some preachers who like to show their intellectual abilities. The Church of England had one eminent person who spoke in such convoluted terms few had any idea what he was talking about.

We must be committed to letting people know what the gospel is in simple, unabridged terms. There are so many people with cares and worries and the Bible offers encouragement and hope, but it must be preached without fear or reservation.

There is now a reluctance to be really faithful to the Bible for fear of being called a bigot, or accused of having some sot of phobia if one speaks out. If we face up to reality, we have modified Scripture to avoid offending other faiths or none. Secularists, humanists, and followers of Islam will not allow their beliefs to be suppressed, and neither should Christians;
believers have a reasonable expectation that the Churches will stand up for them and not surrender to the humanist agenda.

In the United States as well as here, we have had two leaders in recent times who have been more anti-Christian than any in my lifetime, both ready to make it harder through legislation, for Christians to express their faith. We can be called infidels by other faiths, but a law is about to be proposed in the U,K which will make it an offence for Christians to quote certain verses, even in Church lest they offend another faith or minority faction.

Fortunately after yesterday, we have two new leaders who are actually pro Church, and what America does today we follow shortly after.

As Christians we have to make sure our nation continues to hear about Jesus Christ and stop the attempts to push Him out of public life. We have to make sure an authentic Christian message is heard. At the moment people hear many different voices speaking in the name of Christianity, some of which are not faithful to the Bible’s teaching. The Church must awake from its slumbers, for people need to hear that the Christian message.

May the Lord bless us in this task, and may the Church here at..
be a part by making this place be a beacon of light in a darkened world.

Friday 13 January 2017

I have chosen marriage as my subject this week.

The Catholic Archbishop of England and Wales once issued a pastoral letter which was read in all Catholic churches which challenged the government’s redefinition of marriage; as no one in authority within the Anglican Church has had the courage to do so, or perhaps because of a lack of belief in the (sole) traditional marriage definition, we should join our Catholic brothers and sisters and appreciate the Cardinal Archbishop’s act.

It is significant that the woman appointed by the government to examine the issue of community cohesion and integration attacked the CATHOLIC Church, not just the Church, for its homophobic attitude and its opposition to gay marriage when appearing before a Commons Committee.

Let us turn to some verses from the Old Testament in the book of Genesis, God said, ‘it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper for him. So the Lord God caused man to fall into a deep sleep. Then the Lord God made a woman and brought her to the man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they shall become one flesh’

If you but a new car or electrical implement you are given a manual which tells you how to get the best of what you have got, a sensible person will abide by the manual. When God created the world He ordained marriage, He set out in His manual how we can have the best in that relationship, it is called the Bible.

I once attended a Church where the Minister refused to have the Old Testament read or preached upon as he considered it of no relevance. Our Lord constantly referred to the Old Testament, particularly when referring to marriage.

Let us turn then to the Scriptures where we read God having created the earth with all its elements and animals then created man. He then saw that man was lonely and loneliness can lead to depression. God saw that man needed a companion,

We are told the man was sleeping when God decided to make woman. So God gave woman as man’s helper, someone who can be at man’s side. who will give life more meaning, pleasure and support; someone to love and cherish. Matthew Henry wrote, ‘woman was made not out of man’s head to rule over him, not out of his foot to be trampled on, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, near to his heart to be loved’

Most men if honest would concede how their wife has been of much help. When I was a Vicar, Olive, my wife, attended every service I took, and not being one who liked the limelight, preferred to be amongst the congregation, where in fact she became very popular. People who wanted me to know something, but didn’t want to tell me directly, would use her as a communication, and I would be advised as to who needed attention and help, in addition of course to telling me what I shouldn’t have said.

The Bible states, ‘he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord.’ God has now made two people, man and woman, Adam and Eve. He is an all powerful God and one who knows what He wants and what is best for His world. He could have made a Tom and Harry or a Margaret and Elsie, but He did not, just Adam and Eve.

God however gave us free will and if some people choose to take a different way, so be it; all of us will have to answer one day for all
of our actions.

We must accept that God knows best and when he wanted man to have a companion He made a woman as the perfect answer, someone who could complement man in every way, physically and mentally in a way other men could not, and men throughout the ages have appreciated and recognised this. God wanted to supply what was lacking in man’s life and together they could have children and create the ideal family. God planned the human heart to love, marry and have children, otherwise mankind would become extinct.

So we have two people, equal yet different, no question of superiority or inferiority. They were not meant to be identical, men are generally stronger physically, more aggressive, with a greater propensity for leadership, women softer in nature and sensitive and caring, specially equipped to be mothers, and usually live longer.

In the film ‘my fair lady’ Rex Harrison playing a professor of phonetics asks ‘why can’t a woman be like a man, and gets the answer, ‘because she wasn’t created to be’. We are a mixture that complements one another.

The Bible states a man should leave his parents and cleave to his wife. Cleave means glued together, so the two should grow in love through the years in an exclusive commitment. As they do so they share likes and dislikes, and whilst they will have different strengths and weaknesses, each will help the other. They will find they can know the other’s feelings and often anticipate what the other is thinking. They need to trust each other and have no secrets. The wife is now the one in the man’s life who takes precedence over all others.

Marriage today is under attack as never before and not seen as a lifelong commitment, divorce is easy and generally taken as acceptable. Jesus laid strictness on marriage but ruled divorce out. In Britain we have one of the lowest marriage rates in Europe but the highest number of divorces.

In the days of Henry Ford and the Model T, someone asked him to say what formula he attributed his successful marriage. He said, "The same formula as the making of a successful car: stick to one model."

Marriage is the bedrock of society, yet now long held beliefs are being challenged. Marriage lends stability to society and builds a framework which is held in high esteem. It is one of the most important aspects of our culture which no government has the right to redefine or diminish its value.

Jesus highly valued marriage and performed His first miracle at a wedding. One boy asked by his father what he learned at Sunday School, told the story of this wedding and his father asked him what that taught him. The boy answered, ‘if you are going to have a wedding make sure Jesus is there’. A much better answer than that of another boy who was asked did Prince and Cinderella live happily ever after said, ‘No they got married’

Marriage is a solid foundation for the bringing up of children, who are a key factor in God’s intention for marriage. I once remarked to a Jewish Rabbi that I had never known a Jewish boy (or girl) get into trouble for anti-social or violent behaviour. I asked him what he attributed this to and he said ‘the Jewish Mama, she keeps control of her family.’ I am sure that is true, but there are many Christian mamas too, perhaps not as many as hitherto.

Those of you in my generation will remember that women when they married did not usually go out to work, most in fact thought it their privilege to look after the home and children, which again is why there was nothing of the anti-social behaviour we now hear of and see.

When God’s plan for marriage is not followed there are so many failed ones. We need to return to the Biblical pattern where the secrets of a happy married life are laid out.

When two people appear together at Church for the wedding service, they pledge their faithfulness to each other and there is the giving of a ring(s). The ring has no break, no ending, signifying unending love. The ring is made of gold for precious and longevity.

I close with the words of Archbishop Nichols, ‘we have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations. What a wise man.

Saturday 7 January 2017

The Collects for Sunday’s service pray that we who are born again by water AND the Spirit; and may we recognise Jesus as your Son and our Lord.

I have been asked (1)if I believe in infant baptism
(2)have I baptised infants and if so why.
(3)what kind of baptism do I believe in.

I do not believe in infant baptism as I think it un-biblical.

Yes, I have because as an Anglican priest I was morally obliged to do so. Fortunately this was not in great numbers as my parish did not require it. But I tried to limit this to parents who were prepared to come to Church before the service.

I believe in the baptism for believers.

I do however respect the views of those who take a different attitude to me, and trust they will respect my understanding.

Following on from the events recorded in Acts, we find a confession of faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit happen together. Nowhere in the Bible is there a separation. I believe this means that within Churches we need to have a deeper understanding of baptism and confirmation. Whilst I have often preached on baptism, I have never been at a service when this has been preached upon by others.

I think this is very regrettable, especially when people come to a baptism service who do not normally attend Church. It seems to be so essential that they should know exactly what baptism was meant to be. I have been at a baptism service when the name of Jesus and the word ‘Cross’ have not been mentioned once in the sermon. On other occasions there has been a good sermon in the normal course of things, but totally beyond the understanding of the non Church attender.

Looking at the events recorded in Acts, the normal pattern to becoming a Christian is that someone ‘repents, believes, is baptized, and then receives the Holy Spirit’. This, however, is not a chronological order. These are the essential components to becoming a Christian, but God can change the order in which they happen as was the case with Cornelius and the Ephesian believers.

It is because Acts and the New Testament do not give a chronology that has lead the overwhelming majority of Christians over the Church’s history to feel that it is right to baptize the children of Christian parents. However, it is the fact that, in Acts, it is the normal order that has also led some equally sincere and committed Christians to refuse to baptize anyone not old enough to decide for themselves.

Whilst it may have been the intention that infants being brought for baptism should be of Christian parents, in practice it is now accepted that the infant of any parents irrespective of belief (or none) is accepted.

Baptism has always been a problem for me. I have read, listened and pondered hard, but cannot bring myself to accept the case for baptising infants indiscriminately. I find myself compelled to sympathise with those who believe baptism should be for those who can make a decision for themselves. I do however respect the view of those who are in favour of infant baptism, and hope they will respect mine.

As an Anglican priest I was morally required to do so, but felt distinctly uncomfortable in doing so. It still distresses me when I see people coming to a Baptism service showing no respect for the place they are entering, and only being concerned to have their cameras and camcorders ready, without taking an interest in the whole service. Fortunately for me all that is now over, I can choose which services I take.

I believe when the Church first decided to baptise infants it was intended to be for the parents of worshipping members. This can be deduced by the fact that the Canon relating to the subject states, parents and godparents must fulfil their responsibility to bring up the child within the Church, and by their own example.

Whatever the practice was in past years, it is now the common practice to accept anyone who requests, without any requirement other than being told to attend on the relevant date.

The Church of England liturgy in Baptismal services asks the parents and godparents if they turn to Christ as Saviour and submit to Christ as Lord, and are allowed to affirm without question. Similarly they vow to bring up the child in the life and worship of the Church, but the falsity of this is shown by the fact that Church congregations do not reflect these promises. Further, to state ‘this child who has been born again’ is theological nonsense.

Even however in the case of parents who are Church members, I feel it is stretching Scripture’s teaching. I cannot trace any instance in the Bible where the baptising of infants can be proved, but at least it shows some respect for the service.

I cannot find any reference in Scripture to babies being baptised. They were welcomed and treasured, but not baptised. I accept it has become tradition to do so in our Churches, but there is the question do we put tradition before Scripture.?

Baptism is a most sacred act. There is a jojnt action between God and man. Man repents, God washes sins away and there is then forgiveness and a person can really say they are ‘born again’. Can a baby have sins to be washed away?

Within Scriptural terms a person is baptised when he/she realises their life can be different and better if Jesus Christ is part of it; they therefore repent of past failures; believe that by His death on the Cross, Jesus Christ became their Saviour, and they promise to follow His teaching for their future life. How such can be fulfilled by people who never have any intention to attend worship, never read a Bible, never contribute anything in effort or finance to the Church, or really seek to know the Lord, I have yet to understand.

I know it is often said to be a means of outreach, but apart from it being wishful thinking, it hardly justifies departing from the true purpose. If all who have made the promises of the Baptism service and adopted the words used, we would need to build more Churches as they all joined us on Sundays.

Where we can agree, I think, is that we ALL should have repented of our sins, believed in Jesus, been baptized AND received the Holy Spirit.

Most of us, I think, can agree on the first three components of the Acts formula, but how many of us feel comfortable in saying that we, personally, have received the Spirit? Received, that is, in a way that we know it to be true.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is stated to have said, ‘unless someone is born of water AND the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God’. And also, ‘whoever does not believe (in Jesus) is condemned because he has not believed in the Son of God.’