Saturday 22 July 2017

Matthew 13 v, 24 =35
To-day’s gospel reading is really a continuation of the parable of the sower, which you heard last week. I imagine it will cause some preachers more than a little difficulty in facing its teaching.

When Jesus was teaching He always took scenes from life which people could understand and then He applied this to convey a message.

When looking at a Bible passage it is helpful to consider three questions. What does it say; what does it mean; how does it relate to me?

The farmer has sown wheat seeds but an enemy came and sowed weeds amongst the wheat seed.

The weed was called darnel, a bitter poisonous weed which could cause serious consequences. When sown it so closely resembled wheat that it could not be recognised and it was only when it began to grow that it became identified and by that time the roots were intertwined so that to pull them up would disturb the good seed. Therefore it was not practicable to separate one without damaging the other, so the separation had to wait until harvest when the reapers would gather and pick the bad seed out and use it as fuel to burn on the fire. That is the story.

The meaning is that the farmer is our Lord; the good seed are those who gladly acknowledge Him as their Lord and Saviour. The weeds are those who are not followers of Jesus. There is no in between, you are inevitably either on the Lord’s side or if not, on the side of the evil one.

The field is the world; the harvest is at the end of the age; and the reapers are the angels, who will gather Christ’s people and make the separation.

What then is the explanation that affects us?

We are reminded there is always the presence of hostile powers in the world seeking to destroy goodness.

This parable is not a discourse on farming, but rather the theme is that of separation and judgement. Jesus used imagery to deal with the reality of emphasising what can be for ever lost. Some people think that Jesus was just trying to frighten us which raises the question is there something to be frightened of?

If you travel on major roads you will see signs warning of speed cameras, which infer a penalty if you drive over the limit.
There are also signs telling of the number of accidents and fatalities due to careless driving. Yes they are trying to frighten us, but they are also reminding us how close death can be and any sensible person will heed the warnings.

Jesus is here warning of the consequences of what faces us if we reject Him, and showing His love and care for us through the death He suffered at the Cross that we may be forgiven for all our wrongdoings..

Jesus always made it clear that this life is a preparation for eternity and we face a choice now. He taught there were two roads in life, a broad one leading to destruction which many take, a narrow one leading to eternal life. There are two masters, Jesus and the devil; two destinies, heaven and hell.

To suggest hell is for many people, including clergy an anathema. There will be preachers this morning putting a completely different interpretation on this parable. But if we are keeping to the Bible’s word there is no room for personal opinion or sensitivity.

Verse 42 clearly states, referring to the evil ones, ‘they will be cast into the fiery furnace.’ Jesus used this term elsewhere also to signify hell

I am a fond follower of Charles and John Wesley the founders of Methodism. I had the joy of studying Charles life in order to lead a service in his honour, and I have no doubt whatsoever what his interpretation of this passage would be.

People have various views of what happens when we leave this earth, such as, there is no such thing as a soul or spirit so that when we die, we simply cease to exist; or a loving God would never send anyone to hell, everyone eventually ends up in heaven. It is true God will not send anyone to hell; people just make the choice for themselves by rejecting Jesus Christ.

In all the world there is only one source of authoritative information about the afterlife, and that is the Bible. Outside of the Bible, everything else is only speculation and wishful thinking. If we want to know what God has to say on this important topic, it is to the Bible we must go.

Turning first to consider the reality of heaven, on the night before He was crucified, Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house where there were many mansions; the Bible states heaven is–God’s dwelling place where Christ is today and where Christians go when they die.

People don’t believe in it like we used to. They are all too busy making a living to worry about what happens after we die. To the unbeliever such words seem either sentimental or simply incredible. But to the one who accepts God’s Word at face value, they are nothing less than the sober truth

So let us turn to consider what the Bible says about hell. Jesus believed in a literal hell. In fact, he spoke of hell more often than he spoke of heaven. For instance, Jesus told a story in Luke 16 about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. When Lazarus died he went to heaven but the rich man went to hell.

Some people have grave difficulty with this story because they reject the notion that Jesus believed in a literal hell. Here Jesus plainly says that there was a rich man who was tormented in the fires of hell.

We don’t talk about it nowadays because it isn’t popular to suggest that unbelievers are tormented for all eternity for their sins. Yet the Bible teaches the eternal punishment of the wicked in many passages.

I was once told of a mural which was quite well spoken of in a Church not far from my home. Shortly after hearing of this I had occasion to attend a clergy meeting at that Church. The mural was pointed out to me and I said that I found it hard to distinguish what it meant, when a fellow clergyman said it had been meant to show people being dragged off to hell but it had not received attention so had faded as we don’t preach about people about going to hell now. I replied, ‘I do’, and he looked at me completely astonished, as if I was some stranger from another planet..

Those who fail to repent now and turn to Jesus will find it will be too late for remorse, too late to give your heart to Jesus.
The day will be long past.

Since some people scoff at the notion of an afterlife, let’s pause for a moment and ask why the Bible reveals heaven and hell to us. What do we gain by knowing about these things and why are they important to the Christian faith?

1. To right the wrongs of this life.So many crimes go unpunished while the perpetrators are set free to hurt others. Hell must exist, if for no other reason than to balance the scales of justice.

2. To Reward those who serve the Lord.
Heaven must exist so that those who served Jesus faithfully may enter their eternal reward.

3. To fulfill the promises God made to his people.

4. Redeem the suffering of this life.

The Bible states that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

We constantly hear of people whose suffering seems to be overwhelming. It may be cancer or some other disease, it may be a broken marriage or a child in trouble, it may be financial disaster or trouble at work or at school. God’s people endure many hardships in this life. Most of the time, we can’t fully understand why God allows certain things to happen to us.

But we have this promise. When the books are opened and the scales are balanced, we will discover that the things we went through in this life are nothing compared with the glories of heaven.

It has been said, for the unbeliever, this life is the only heaven they will ever know. For the believer, this life is the only hell we will ever know.

Each person must make an intelligent and informed decision about heaven and hell. If what I have said is true, then you must do whatever it takes to make sure you go to heaven and you must make sure at all costs that you do not go to hell.

Sometimes we are ready to think a person is a wonderful Christian when in fact they may well not be, and on the other hand wrongly condemn someone. Judgement must wait for the harvest, when we will be judged not anyone aspect of our life, so much as our whole life.

It is often thought that the fact a person attended a Church and was accepted as a Christian would automatically be at the Messianic banquet, but the Bible makes it clear that is not necessary so. Many Church people these days live lives which do not measure up to what the Bible expects. Indeed, there are preachers who are living and supporting ways which are so totally against the teaching of Scripture. Judgement however is in the hands, and at the mercy of God, who alone knows the secrets of all our hearts.

Let’s go back one more time to the words of Jesus Christ. When Thomas asked him the way to heaven, Jesus gave this answer: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Those words are clear; it is not enough to have a casual approach to Christ, there has to be a firm commitment to believe and act according to His teaching.

The way to heaven is as narrow as the Cross. Only those who trust Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord will enter the gates of heaven.
It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. By the same token, the road to heaven is paved with the blood of Christ. Let us all be assured we are on the right road.

Sunday 16 July 2017

I want to speak to you this morning on a verse from Psalm 11. (v3)
‘When the foundations are being destroyed, what shall the righteous do?’

We have all witnessed the traditional foundations of law and order, social cohesion, morality based on biblical values and teaching, Christian education being given in schools, politicians creating legislation based on Christian principles. Much of those foundations have been destroyed to such an extent that there are now no moral absolutes, all is relative and one does one’s own thing.

But this morning I want to deal with the foundations of the Church being destroyed.

In all our Churches in this country this morning there will be people like you who devotedly come week by week to join in worship. After the service most will return home and probably have little to do with the Church until the following Sunday. Others may attend a midweek meeting, but even fewer will follow with great interest deeper matters affecting the Church at large.

I hear people expressing regret at falling attendance, which I share, due mainly to illness preventing attendance, dying or frustration. I take services in quite a number of Churches of mixed denomination and particularly notice difference from previous visits. The sad point is we are just not attracting the younger generation or even men and women less than 50 years of age, especially in the case of the Church of England from the middle class of society.

But is it any wonder; for any thinking person would ask themselves what does the Church stand for? I don’t even know; I know what it should stand for, but there is a marked difference.

General Synod met recently. When I am reminded of the approaching of a Synod I shudder and wonder what embarrassment I am likely to suffer for being known as an Anglican clergyman. As I take regular Methodist services some people get confused and I am spared somewhat. This apprehension was proved well founded when I read of the Church upholding and approving what is unequivocally described as sinful in the Bible.

Those of us who are privileged to be Ministers in our Churches have passed through Ordination and have vowed before God in a Cathedral service. In that service we accept that we will follow the will of God and not our own; to minister the doctrine and discipline of Christ and to banish and drive away all doctrine contrary to God’s Word.

There is no doubt not all are holding fast to such vows. This is due to some being fearful if they do too closely they will upset someone. Increasingly others just do not fully believe in what they are called to believe; some want to follow society’s ways.

So it was with a mixture of alarm, despair, astonishment and frankly disgust that I read of the Archbishop of York calling for Synod to reject a motion which stated there was ‘a need for the Bible to inform our understanding of the common good’; in other words rejecting the authority of the Bible. There was also the case of Bishops, the senior Officers of the Church, supporting motions which were in direct contradiction of the Bible’s teaching; in other words what God has called us to follow.

Then we had the Archbishop of York stated he could not sleep at night when he thought of therapy being offered to people who wanted to change from their homosexuality, even though it was their decision to do so.

The Bishop of Liverpool spoke in support of a motion to ban unwanted same sex attraction and said LGBTI orientation and identity is not a crime or a sin and people within the church should be given the choice and spoke in support to live in "faithful, permanent, stable" same-sex sexual relationships. The Bishop is patron of ‘gay pride’ on Merseyside.

If we cannot get clergy believing, supporting and living according to the Bible, we cannot expect God to bless and add to the Church. Remember, the Bible states it is God who builds up the Church.

In addition, we have an aggressive and forceful secularist and humanist lobby with a fixed and stated agenda to remove Christianity from the public arena, which they are determinedly pursuing, by activists in education, the press and judiciary and parliament, and as you have seen above even within the Church now and the Church is not combating them. Notice too how they do not attack Islam, for
they know their followers will challenge them.

So to the question, ‘what shall the righteous do?’ If a house is to last, it must be built on a strong foundation. Otherwise it will begin to crumble and the house will fall. In the same way, a church whose foundation is weak cannot endure. God’s Word is our true foundation

Even those who were not Christians were basing their ideas for a new nation on those Christian principles that we find in the word of God. In this age of religious pluralism we are told that no one religion should influence the decisions of those in political power, and the influence of Christian standards will not be considered
We must continue to spread the word of God in a world that is hostile to it, and live what we preach. We must live in such a way as to show others how right it is to live according to God’s word.

The righteous are represented by the Church, which is a moral disinfectant for the nation. Therefore the Church should stop embracing, applauding and practising what is deemed to be wrong in Scripture. If others outside the Church wish to indulge that is a matter for them and God will one day make a judgement.

There is false teaching being put out which is readily being accepted rather than the factual one, that one only has to be a nice honest person to attain a future place in heaven. There is also a marked reluctance to preach the need for repentance and personal acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

We need to be more positive, even aggressive, in giving people a clear vision of what it means to be a Christian and to have a Christian based society. We now have to proclaim it boldly and challenge those who try to put us down. We have allowed the absolute authority of the Bible to be challenged, so that people venture more and more away from its teaching. If Christians lose the shared beliefs that have held us together, we will begin to fall apart and disintegrate.

The Church is beginning to look more influenced by the world rather than the other way round. The more we try to be relevant, the more irrelevant to our purpose we become. We should not be blown away by every whim of public opinion, but let our anchor hold in the storms of life. Let us stand for the old standards, the way Christians once did no matter how difficult that might become, and not go with the trend of the times where the secularists are setting the agenda.

A great difficulty arises within the Church in that it does not speak with one voice and message and therefore lacks credibility.. At present we have those who are theologically conservative trying to be faithful to Scripture, whilst those of liberal persuasion, want to rewrite those parts of Scripture which do not conform to modern morality and social custom. It is fatuous and irrational to suppose biblical injunctions, which do not conform to modern attitudes, can be reinterpreted to suit to-day’s requirements. The Bible does not need any amendments. We have allowed the absolute authority of the Bible to be challenged, so that people venture more and more away from its teaching. God will condemn those who challenge His authority

This can only cause confusion in people’s minds. They can be excused for saying if the Church can’t make its own mind up, how can they expect us to believe and trust them. No Muslim would ever think of challenging their holy book, the Koran, and look in amazement that even within the Church, there are those who dispute much of our Holy Book.

Today the Church in the West is in decline, in stark contrast to Africa, Asia, South America, where the Churches have memberships of thousands. The reason these Churches are so strong is because of the strong biblical foundation, and they have not been tearing the Bible away as we have in the West. They still believe it and boldly proclaim it, often suffering much hardship for doing so. Many Churches in the West have given up on Scriptural teaching and have engaged in dismantling the Bible and re-interpreting to fit in with the morality (or lack of it) they wish to portray and avoid any suggestion of future judgement.

A pastor in America was asked a question on a television show which the host knew would be controversial. He was asked to give his opinion as a pastor on homosexuality. He replied “ I’m not called to give my opinion. I’m called as a pastor to give the scriptural position on it. It doesn’t mean that I have to agree with you to love you. I don’t dislike anybody. I love everybody.” “I think that sex between two people of the same sex is condemned in the Scriptures, and as long as it is condemned in the Scriptures, I don’t get to say what I think. I get to say what the Bible says.’

The Church should be following the example set by the Apostles who were taught by Jesus who sent them out to proclaim His gospel. They went out across the world telling of the unique and divine Birth of Jesus; His being sent by God to do His work on earth, to die upon the Cross for the forgiveness of all our sins, that we may be made righteous in God’s sight, and was risen from the dead and continued to teach |His Apostles until ascending back to heaven. God then sent the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost with the message that all who accept Jesus as Saviour will be granted salvation.

Whilst Christianity has been the faith of this country for centuries, in recent times our Churches have retreated and allowed a secular agenda to exercise undue influence on both society and the Church. People, I believe, are longing for and wanting spiritual leadership. Our strength is limited only by our faith. .

When you become a Christian you effectively become like a soldier, there is warfare between what the world wants and what God has laid down, and we enter a battlefield. The Bible calls on us to stand firm and not yield.

Every army needs to attack, and we should be promoting Christianity as vigorously, as other faiths push their faith, armed with the two edged sword of truth. Our faith is based on the historical and divine Jesus Christ who calls for people to turn back to God. Never let us be ashamed to tell the story of a Saviour who gave His life on the Cross, so that all we unworthy people may have our sins forgiven because He died that we may be made righteous for heaven when our life on this earth is over.

We need to be more positive, even aggressive, in giving people a clear vision of what it means to be a Christian and to have a Christian based society. There is a spiritual and moral vacuum, and if we do not fill it some other philosophy will which will be much inferior

All who treasure the Christian faith, and the memory of those who gave their lives to preserve a Christian heritage, must work and pray for a spiritual revival of the Christian Church. The valiant hearts that died to preserve the loveliness of these lands we call Great Britain, will not be failed by God.

May we well remember the sacrifices others made on our behalf that we might be here at this hour? We must never ever forget the lives of so many gallant young men and women given that we may have peace in our lives, and Christianity in our hearts.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

The Church of England General Synod is meeting (again) at an annual cost of something over £6 million annually, in order that 467 members may meet three times a year to engage in a lot of talking on subjects, not all relating to Church advancement. In fact so many motions seem to get constantly ‘referred to next meeting’.

When I am reminded of the approaching of a Synod I shudder and wonder what embarrassment I am likely to suffer for being known as an Anglican clergyman. As I take regular Methodist services some people get confused and I am spared somewhat.
Please read some (at least) of the following to understand what I mean.

At the present time our Christian brothers/sisters around the world are suffering extremely. In India, a village where Christians live, their water supply was cut off when the temperature was 120F, in order to try and force them to deny their faith. In Kenya and Egypt Christians have been shot dead; in Syria been abducted to unknown fate; a woman detained for the last seven years in Pakistan for falsely alleged to have offended their prophet; Churches and homes torched in Pakistan, India Nigeria; sufferings in China, Iran, Iraq, Eretria; Philippines, plus endlessly more. None of this has so far merited notice of a question.

So what more pressing matters are being debated at Synod? Well there is a woman who has become a George and her local Vicar is concerned that he/she should be able to have a service where can be re-christened as there cannot be a second baptism. Has no one told that you go to a registry office?

Synod has agreed to look at preparing special services for newly transgendered people. There are also eleven questions relating to sexuality and LGBT matters.

A female activist for homosexual rights wants a ban on all treatment to help people who do not wish to remain homosexual. Synod has agreed with her much to the relief of the Archbishop of York who said he can’t sleep at nights if such conversion therapy is practised. (He could always have taken a sedative). But there again the Bishop of Liverpool is more forthright than a political leader who procrastinated when asked if he thought homosexuality was a sin; the Bishop says it is not.

If people want to have such therapy surely in a free country they should be allowed. I notice no protest when women are denied cancer treatments because of high cost, yet men who want to have unprotected (homosexual) sex can get free contraception.

Some members are getting very overheated about gender bias on committees and want an equal number of each gender all the time. So it doesn’t matter if a person has any intelligence or suitability as long as there is equality.

Clergy are not permitted to be members of the British National Party even though it is a legal political party, although I have never heard of any clergyman wanting to join. BUT it is perfectly all right to join Momentum as one London Vicar proudly claims to have done, and to call for an end to non violent protest and the overthrow of the democratically elected Conservative government. Where has the equality concern gone in that issue?

The next time anyone asks me why I think the Church is losing members and others not joining, I will tell them read the reports of Synod, and then to visit one of the Pentecostal Churches where they have the strange practice of teaching the Bible. At least you will not find Bishops giving false teaching

Thursday 6 July 2017

Matthew 11 v 28/30

There must be very few Christians or non- Christians who have not experienced some worry, some anxiety. We need hardly ask whether worry harms, it causes us to lose sleep, takes the joy out of living, causes our hair to fall out or turn grey, even leads to an early grave.

There are so many fears in modern life. Young people facing life away from home for the first time. The man in his 40s fearing redundancy. Young managers worried at having to constantly achieve ridiculously high targets. The business man working such hours he hardly has little time to see his family. There is the fear of marriage breakdown, or serious illness; fear of losing someone dear.

What is the answer for the growing number of older people frightened to venture out of their homes? The one parent abandoned by their husband /wife.

In addition to all such personal problems there is the worry of what is going on in the world at large as we see a psychopathic leader of a small insignificant country wanting to take on the mightiest country in the world. We face terrorist threats in our cities’ and irresponsible politicians call for civil disobedience to overthrow a government or to reject the result of a democratic held referendum,

In our own country there is a deep concern over the future as one Party cannot make its mind up and another lives in a kind of make-believe world.

It is like watching two trains heading towards each other on the same track.

As Christians we need to ask, ‘what is life all about’? So many people, especially the young, have no meaningful purpose. They have a hard outlook of, ‘live life to excess, get what you can out of it by any means whatever’, and we see drug and alcohol addiction. The Bible says life has no meaning apart from God, but for many God is unreal.

The Bible says that God is separated from us by sin. Sin is not just immorality; it is an attitude of rebellion and independence, saying ‘I go my own way’. The Prodigal Son went his own way to be free and independent, but failed to find any true purpose in life, and found he was cut off from the only person who really loved him. Yet this is a common situation.

God is willing to pour His grace upon all. You can’t however come to God except through Jesus Christ. Not by Mohammed, Buddha, or anyone else. Jesus came, sent from God with the sole purpose of bringing us into a living relationship with Himself.
Christ came to seek and to save the lost, the fearful and the lonely, the worried and the broken hearted.

To all who are worried, afraid or anxious, Jesus says, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ It is said that these are the most wonderful words spoken by our Lord, the very heart of Christianity. They speak of the failure of men and women to solve the problems of the world.

Come===, just as you are; He is waiting. Jesus has said, ‘Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’. But the door handle is only on the inside, and it has to be opened from within, you are the one who can turn it, in faith.

In the East to receive an invitation to eat with someone was considered to be a most generous, honoured and favoured act, and the greatest act of friendship is to dine with someone Jesus is ready to be faithful to His Word; we come at His invitation in a spirit of simple trust. Jesus was brought up in the East, and is offering to dine with anyone who invites Him.

The invitation was given in a chapter where John the Baptist had expressed doubt about Jesus. The task of telling of God’s love, mercy and compassion had been given to Jesus, but many had rejected Him as they are doing so now.

So who can come? All those who are weary and heavy laden with care. This is a selective invitation. There has to be recognised a need and be prepared to admit it. The problem may not be despair; it may be something quite different. All who are weighed down, to all these Jesus speaks.

The Bible says, ‘there is no distinction since all have fallen short of the glory of God’. It doesn’t matter what the past has been, if you repent and turn to Christ, God is ready to blot out your sins and give you a clean sheet. We have all broken God’s laws, but if we are prepared to admit this, then Christ’s invitation is for us.

What happens if you come? Jesus said, ‘I will give you rest’. These are words spoken by someone who fulfils His promises. So many people make promises they either cannot, or have no intention, of fulfilling. All the changes in the world will make no difference. On the other hand, if heart and mind are at rest, that is a priceless feeling. It is constant peace that Jesus is offering. He says, ‘I can set you free for I am the Way, the truth, and the life. He is able to do all He promises, and is faithful and willing to do what He promises. Rest is what we all find pleasant, but so many are restless and weary. Comfort offered equips and strengthens us to live on as Christians.

Jesus said I leave you with peace of mind and heart, and the peace I give you is not fragile like the peace the world gives.

The Bible tells of men who went to Him blind, sick and poor. Jesus gave them sight and riches beyond measure, releasing them from restlessness enabling them to face the future.

Jesus said, ‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me’. A yoke was a wooden frame used to put over a pair of animals to enable a load to be shared. So Jesus is saying ‘let me help you carry your burden. Instead of going your own way turn around and come with me’.

The moment you come to Him is the time a lasting and new relationship begins. But it is not just mouthing words. It is truly believing that Jesus died on that Cross for your personal sins, and because of that alone, you can be forgiven totally by God and earn your place in heaven. It means putting Him as a priority. If we give preference to some other activity we are putting God in second place, and in the Commandments He tells us He is a jealous God and will not be relegated.

Jesus will welcome all, pardon any failures, cleanse your heart and relieve your anxieties and cares, because of the promise He made in John’s gospel, that whoever comes to Him will never be turned away. The Bible tells us that the love of Christ goes far beyond human understanding, to break every barrier down. Only pride, fear or doubt can hold us back

You see it is not just being religious or even coming to Church that brings peace and rest, or indeed makes you a full Christian. A person can be baptised, confirmed and be regular at Church and not be a true Christian. Many Church people are really unpleasant, arrogant and very un-Christian. Coming to Church should be a delight, like sons and daughters coming to meet their (heavenly) Father in complete harmony, as children go their earthly parents’ home, giving support to each other.

It may be someone’s life is in a mess. It may be God seems far away. It may be after long time searching there is still a reluctance to commit. It makes no difference, if we are humble enough to admit our need.

The words of the hymns this morning have so much meaning, telling of God’s faithfulness, and 10,000 blessings beside. Of the friend we have in Jesus who will all our sins and grief He bears; no need to be discouraged in our trials and troubles; in His arms He will shield you and give you peace without needless pain. We are invited to take it to Him in prayer.

A question often asked is, ‘does God answer prayer’. One Minister said dependent on the prayer the answer was yes, no, maybe or you got to be kidding. Being serious the true answer is yes, even if God says no to your prayer, because just like an earthly father who will refuse a child’s request on account of it not being good for him/her, so God our heavenly Father acts to protect His children.

There are some qualifications, you must have accepted Jesus as your Saviour; be free of un-repented sin; not living a life which is in total contradiction to God’s teaching in the Bible, which increasingly many Church people are doing, and as Jesus stressed have faith.

Jesus said, ‘and whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son’.

I believe the burden most borne for which we seek Jesus’ aid is regarding sickness, of ourselves and those dear to us. The gospels record 41 separate healing miracles in the life of Christ. People with various maladies were brought to Jesus from Galilee and Syria and he healed them all. Some were blind, others deaf, some were demonized, some paralyzed, and still others were sick with various diseases. He healed them all. There is no record of Jesus ever failing to heal anyone who was brought to him.

In the last few years a whole host of studies has validated the fact that when people of faith pray for the sick, the sick get better. And in recent years there has been a reemphasis on the importance of praying for the sick. In some churches this has become a major ministry involving healing services, as indeed in my Church for a number of years.
There is a need to be careful. I have seen some excesses in the practises of some charismatic services, and I have known people suggest we throw away all medications. The healing by the use of medicine can be used in combination with prayer, for we pray for God to help mankind to discover was to find cures.

Some illnesses stem directly from our sinful actions and attitudes, such as excessive smoking and drinking. Until those things are confronted and confessed, it is pointless to pray for healing.

It is an undeniable fact that not everyone we pray for is healed. This is a mystery here that cannot be fully explained. Just because the doctors have given up doesn’t mean we give up on God.

Let us then in all circumstances when weary or heavy laden, come to Jesus. Believe His promise, take Jesus at His word, come, just as you are.

Tuesday 4 July 2017

A very happy Independence Day to all my United States readers

Have a wonderful time

God bless America

Saturday 1 July 2017

Turning to Paul’s Letter to Romans, in Chapter 6 v.12/23 A chapter on holy living

Paul is writing to new Christians in Rome who had come to know Christ, repented of past sin, were baptised, and figuratively by passing through water, died to all sins and became born again into a new life. Some were suggesting that since they had experienced the grace of God they felt they could go on sinning and God would forgive them. This kind of thinking is still very prevalent to day as people say God will forgive me so I can go out and enjoy myself and live it up.

This passage could mean different things to each of us. Some people know they are not living as a Christian should; they don’t want to, but things get the better of us, and there is remorse and regret afterwards. You wish you could be something else.

Others don’t really experience any of that regret or remorse. Either because they don’t care about living God’s way, or because we think that any sins we commit are so small and insignificant that it doesn’t really count.

Paul in this passage has words of encouragement for those who are struggling and words of challenge for those who are comfortable.

Paul uses the example of slavery. Life becomes a form of slavery, we become slaves to sin or slaves of Christ, we have a choice and there is a cost in both cases. Following Jesus can be costly; Jesus always made it very clear that following him would mean paying a price. Your friends may cool off you, within families people fall out when one wants to attend Church and live a true Christian life.

A lot of people say I’m a Christian, whether they are in the true biblical sense or not, they think that it is acceptable to engage in illicit relationships, engage in immoral or illegal behaviour, and believe they will be forgiven. Paul is pointing out this is not on and says control the way you live. He says there has to be a complete change in the way a Christians lives, there has to be commitment and devotion.

Athletes in major competitions will spend up to eight hours a day or more, training in order to succeed in races, and we Christians must be committed in the race of life. Paul is eager to ward off any suggestion we are free to do anything which comes into our mind.

When you pass your driving test you are required to observe the traffic laws, you don’t have unrestricted freedom to speed as fast you like or drive on the wrong side of the road, you drive within the framework of law.

Freedom is not a moral vacuum, it comes as the result of the death of Jesus on the Cross, and whilst we may have to sacrifice doing some of the things we may once have done, the reward we will receive one day when we appear before the Lord will more than recompense us. Those having their pleasures and enjoyment in this life will pay a much heavier price in the next.

When you move home to a totally different part of the country you have to learn the roads. Driving in a new city can be a total nightmare with all the restrictions and one way signs which apply. Just as it matters which road you choose to take, so there are restrictions and one way choices for Christian living.

Jesus told in Matthew’s gospel there are two roads in life; one is narrow and the other is broad. The broad road is spacious, there is plenty of room on it and there are plenty of people on it. It is the road of self-gratification without any restrictions. There are even otherwise decent men and women on it, so many claiming to be Christians albeit without due cause.

The narrow road is the one which Jesus wants His people to take, but says only few take it, and those who do must do through Him. John 14 despite being none 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. It is the way of holiness and righteousness.

There are only two roads, no third, no alternative. This is not generally liked as it is seen as being too restrictive, and intolerant. These roads lead to two different destinies, heaven or hell

It is like coming to a cross roads. Jesus said there is a life to come and it is a long life, it is eternal, and as you come to the crossroads, you alone choose which one to take. 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.

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.

Jesus spoke firmly and rather profoundly when He said 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. 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. Just to recite a creed and attend Church is not enough. Jesus warns us that there must be a clear acceptance of His teaching and total obedience to it.

The Bible makes it clear that there is no middle ground. Either we are slaves to sin or we are slaves to God. If we place our trust in Christ Jesus and accept God’s free gift of salvation then we will be living in righteousness, and must live in righteousness, because we serve our new master, the Lord Jesus Christ.