Tuesday 29 January 2019

Luke 2, v.21/40
The story in this passage begins just after the shepherds who had visited the baby Jesus left. It is essentially a Jewish story telling of three ancient Jewish ceremonies, and this relates to emphasise the close relationship we have (or should have) with Israel in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The mother and father are Jews, so the baby is Jewish. We worship the same God, the God Israel, we have a holy book written by Jews, and worship a Jewish Saviour.

Like every Jewish boy, Jesus was circumcised on his eight day after a Jewish tradition carried out over thousands of years. This was a sign of a covenant God made with Abraham that every male child must have that operation or be rejected as a Jew, and in return God promised to care for Israel. If Jesus had not had that ceremony he would not have been accepted.

God commanded that the child would be called Jesus, which means Saviour, and he would be the One to deliver the world from sin and evil. The fact that he went through the ceremony when he was the Son of God should encourage us to make sacrifices and readily perform tasks in the service of God.

Jesus being the first-born son made him sacred to God as every first son was as such. According to Jewish tradition the parents could buy back their son for five shekels, which had to be paid to the priest within 31 days after birth. This ritual was to remind the Jews of the night when the Israelites were in Egypt and all the Egyptian first sons were slain and the Jewish children were spared. It also helps us all to remember God has the right to the first things in our lives.

There followed another ritual which meant Mary and Joseph going to Jerusalem to fulfil a duty, the rite of purification and the offering of a sacrifice. Until this was done Mary could not worship in a Synagogue.

When a woman bore a child, she had to wait a period of 40 days if the child was a boy, and 80 days if a girl before being allowed to join in worship. When she returned, she was obliged to take to the Temple a lamb, or a pair of turtles. If a woman was poor, two pigeons were allowed. The fact that Mary took the poorer offer suggests the home in which Jesus was brought up in was not a luxurious one. This dispels the belief that religion was not for poor people.

On arrival at the Temple they did not try to buy Jesus back, they just said they gave Jesus to God, who had chosen an ordinary Jewish village girl to be the mother of his Son.

For a period of 450 years in Jewish history God did not speak to his people. God had promised the prophet Malachi that he would come into the world by a Messiah, who would bring salvation and judgement, and would be preceded by a messenger who would prepare the way for him. For all those years people of God waited for the promised Messiah who would destroy God’s enemies, and fulfil their dream and belief of a rightful place in the world as supreme, and this would be seen as a king who would be like David to obtain world supremacy.

We move on to meet two older people. The first is a man named Simeon who is described as a devout man, but otherwise we know nothing about him. He didn’t have the same kind of guidance as others had, but he had the Holy Spirit in his heart. All who have Jesus in their hearts will receive the same kind of guidance which will guide them to Jesus Christ.

Simeon was in the Temple when Mary and Joseph took Jesus there, and he took the child in his arms and said the words which have been used in every Anglican Church Evening service since its inception, known as the Nunc Dimmittus.

Simeon believed things had to be left in the hands of God, who had given him assurance that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah, God’s appointed one. There was therefore excitement in Simeon’s voice when he heard that he would actually see this great coming. He knew that whilst others had waited years wondering when how and when, he knew then that the promise had come true.

When he saw Jesus, he knew the time had come and was ready to die in peace and foresaw Jesus to be the light of the world. He prayed from his heart when he saw the little boy. This is faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen by the great names of old like Abraham, Moses, Elijah who all played a part in this story but never lived to see.

The kingdom brought by this baby is not just for Israel, but for the whole world. God was unveiling a plan of salvation for the world without distinction. This will be the true glory of Israel, the nation in and from whom came the Saviour and ruler of the world.
Now Simeon is ready to die and his face changes from gladness to sadness. He tells the parents that Jesus would cause division, as some would accept him but others would reject him, and it has been so and still is.

Whenever Jesus is mentioned people either rise or fall, but many stay the same. Simeone knew a sword would pierce Mary’s heart, for there was a shadow of the Cross, and 33 years later Mary would see her son die on that Cross in a cruel and horrifying death.

In an age of early deaths there came a woman on the scene, a woman of 84, who had been married for only 7 years; her name was Anna, which means grace. She spent much of her time in the Temple worshipping and praying, and when she saw the holy family, at that very moment she gave thanks to God and spoke to all about the child who many were looking forward to be the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke shows us there is a plan for everyone in God’s Kingdom, older people able to wait on the Lord; a young woman having a baby to dedicate to God; a husband going to Church with his wife, all having a role to play. How wonderful it is when men put aside their macho image and go with their wives to Church.

All Christians should be comforted by the fact God never leaves the world without a witness. Where there is a hard core of believers God will be with them to support them who are faithful, and grace can flourish even when men and women in the Church who have been given the privilege of serving God in His Church become betrayers and traitors to the One they vowed to serve. We witness them instituting, endorsing and accepting false doctrine and trying to force it on those in their charge.

The words of Simeon in which he saw the light of Jesus will one day shine bright on our nation if those who love the Lord work and pray. Christ has spoken and had many darts aimed at him; he has been despised and rejected but has proved to be the Saviour of many who at one time forsook him.

Simeon and Anna were aged saints who kept the faith and run the course. Will we be able to say the same; can we say Lord dismiss our servant in peace for my eyes have seen your salvation? Is there any doubt, scepticism, or are you truly godly in believing and trusting.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Nehemiah 8 ,v.1 to 4, 8 to 12
This morning I want to turn with you to the reading from the Book of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah was a Jew taken into exile by the Babylonians and after they had been defeated by the Persians, he became a cup bearer to the King, and later became civil governor of Jerusalem.

The people of Israel had been taken into captivity and after 70 years were returning to Jerusalem, their spiritual homeland and capital then in ruins, to rebuild their lives and homes. The walls of the city had been destroyed and needed to be rebuilt been created. Nehemiah realised that a nation needs more than material works and wealth, there was a need for a firm spiritual and moral foundation as well as wealth and material things.

Ezra the priest was present and preached the Scriptures to them. In what is perhaps a new passage of Scripture for you, we have a glorious story of a people who gathered without coercion, devoting themselves to standing for something like five/six hours.

This indicates the tremendous desire of these people for truth. No complaining there if the service went over the hour! Some times when I first visit a Church I ask the Vicar/Minister for guidance as to how long I am expected to preach, and often told well after ten minutes people will begin to shuffle their feet. (Not so bad in the Free Churches.)

Notice also that the place where they met was by the Water Gate, the seventh gate, a prominent number to the Jews, a number meaning perfection. There were a series of gates, sheep, fish, east, etc. this gate was the symbol of the Word of God -- the water of the Word. There could have been no more appropriate place for them to assemble.

What a marvellous clear statement of how a church service ought to be conducted! The primary business of Christians is to understand the Word of God so as to think God's thoughts after him -- to learn to think like God. It is not only important to know what the Scripture says, it is even more important to know what it means!

This teaching had such a profound effect upon the people that we are told they wept as they listened. They did so because they realised how their lives had gone astray and they had wrong thoughts and ways. When God’s people get away from loving and reading and obeying the Word of God they lose the blessing of God upon their lives. The cause of their problems lay in their own thoughts and attitudes. These people saw the holiness of God contrasted against the evil of man. How careful it was made clear what the meaning of Scripture was.

We so desperately need to tell in simple terms how he loves us, wants us to be saved, and for that purpose he sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world to show us by word and example how that becomes possible when we obey all that he tells us in that holy book we call the Bible.

There are Church members who live knowingly and deliberately against God’s teaching, yet hypocritically carry on doing so. How God must weep when sees people singing hymns of praise in Church, listening to the Bible, (sometimes even preaching it) and then behaving totally in contradiction to what he has laid down.

When the Bible is faithfully preached as it is written, it points out the way are going astray, how far we have wandered from the pureness of Christ in thought word and deeds. How we all sin most often by mistake or carelessness, and God provided a way of forgiveness in letting Jesus die a cruel death on the Cross so that all who accept Jesus death was for their sins, would be forgiven.
The whole Bible is about God’s offer of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. In the Old Testament Jesus is predicted. In the Gospel Jesus is revealed. In Acts Jesus is preached. In the Epistles Jesus is explained. In Revelation Jesus is anticipated.

We need the Bible to have a relationship with God and it brings us into the presence of God. All true Christian ministry should be based on the Bible, it is our only authority for the Church to exist.

The great tragedy of our day is how few churches seem to understand this power of Scripture. Across the country there are churches in which there is little life. The services are dull and dreary because the Word of God is not central. Whenever there has been a revival in the Church at the forefront were men like Charles and John Wesley or Evan Roberts in the 1904 Welsh revival, men who were boldly preaching the Bible.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the greatest preachers of modern times once stated, ‘the primary task of the Church and Christian Ministers is the preaching of the Word of God. The decadent times in the history of the Church have always been when such preaching has declined.’

The Church was founded on the teaching of the Apostles and such was authoritative because it came from our Lord Himself, who claimed he was the only way to God. We should not be afraid to state this, for the Bible states ‘we do not have a spirit of timidity, we have the power of God’

The Bible states, ‘do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. All our minds have to become transformed and adjusted to receive, and obey, what God expects from us.

It is fair to say Britain is in moral decline. It is like a car parked on a hill when someone releases the brake and it careers downward. There is so much evil in society, even listening to news broadcasts creates fear. Murder was for so long a rare and major crime, now it is a daily occurrence hardly worthy of more than a passing paragraph in a newspaper. Fraud, theft, corruption stems from top of society to the bottom.

Of all that is happening today, the most frightening thing is the lack of a sense of sin in society, a total lack of moral values -- but they do not feel they are doing anything wrong.. That is what the Word of God is given to correct. It awakens afresh an awareness of what is causing the wrong.

All the time honoured beliefs of morality and ethics have been abandoned so that nothing is considered immoral or improper by society. What is most alarming is that no one in authority seems to be concerned.

We have allowed secularists, atheists and activists for LGBT lobby to influence society and take over the country, in the process they are trying to silence us and forcing us not only to accept, but approve all they call for. People are free to live as they wish, God gave us free will, but we must be able to state what the Bible says.

The Church, which is meant to be the conscience of the nation, has in the mainline denominations, conversely accepted, adopted and embraced behaviour specifically condemned by Scripture, to such an extent that there are calls to abandon biblical teaching to meet society’s culture, and created liturgy to accommodate the same. Even the Church appears to have lost it definition of sin.

Scripture reveals that as individuals, we have turned our backs on God's ways, and ignored his teaching. We have failed the young people who see an institution created by God for the purpose of providing spiritual and moral guidance, failing to point out what are clearly called sins in the Bible, and either incapable or unwilling to offer better. Children are now denied these foundations and are growing up without knowing the country’s religious faith and heritage.

It is so easy to say that is just being old fashioned and dismiss. Old fashioned we may be, but we didn’t have 1in 2 divorce rate—such anti-social behaviour and juvenile delinquency- the highest abortion rate in Europe-= the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Europe-and the lowest Church attendance, we knew what being a Christian meant.

A lot of people are now trying to discredit the Bible. Can we then be sure the Bible is true?

The Bible comes to us from God, written over a period of thousands of years, consisting of 66 books, written by a wide variety of authors, each with different characters and occupations, living at different times over the years, most of them not knowing others yet what they wrote was never in contradiction, and was all as God wanted. The most sophisticated computer could not have composed such perfect harmony; the only explanation is the Holy Spirit was the guide and one dictating.

Most of the men who wrote the Bible were simple fishermen, shepherds and the like, without a degree amongst them, and were moved by the Spirit of God. If they went before a selection committee for Church ministry, I doubt they would have been chosen.

That may seem hard or even cynical, but it is not meant to be, I say it seriously and being realistic. The teaching of the Apostles would be too fundamental for selectors to accept, for Christian orthodoxy has now been replaced by equality and diversity consideration. I can say with confidence, preferment in the Church of England is dependent upon accepting not the Bible’s moral and ethical teaching, more on the calls of society’s activists.

The wonder of the Bible is all the writers declare they were writing under God’s inspiration.

The King James Version of the Bible has been described by academics and intellectuals alike as the greatest and most influential book of the ages, containing the most beautiful literature and the most perfect moral code ever devised. Yet a Court in Bristol said it contained words which a criminal offence and fined street preachers for using it.

Men and women have given their lives to take the Bible to the utmost parts of the earth and to live in primitive conditions. Most could have earned an enormous amount more money with comfortable lives, but chose to serve the Lord. They were mostly well educated and learned people with brilliant minds, who God will richly reward.

It would be interesting to know how many church members have bibles in their homes yet never bother to read them. I think the majority of Church people rarely read a bible in their own time and place.

It was once custom to have bible in pews and members could follow the readings for themselves as they were being read out, and follow as the sermon was preached. Most Churches had a Bible study class meeting , which has now a rare meeting.

If the churches of this land were faithful to the Bible preaching what it was saying, without amendments, do you think the nation would be in the condition that it is today? Never has the Bible been more needed than now.

Monday 21 January 2019

John 2 v.1/11
When we study a Bible passage, we should view it in two stages; first, what is the story telling us, and secondly what lesson and meaning is it giving to us as followers of Jesus.

This was the first miracle our Lord performed and it tells us how honourable and important marriage was in the eyes of Jesus, it having been ordained by God for society’s benefit when he made a man and a woman.

This story takes place in a village Cana which is situated near Nazareth, and is the story of a wedding. An Eastern wedding was a very special occasion, different from a Western one where the bride is the main figure. She enters a Church in all her glory, to the playing of organ music and the congregation standing to greet and admire her. In the East the groom is the main one and he pays for it, the bride just turns up.

It was Jewish law that a virgin got married on a Wednesday with the ceremony in the late evening after a feast, and the festivities would go on for days with relatives of both families joining in the celebrations. After the ceremony, the bridal couple would be conducted to their new home through the village streets by the light of flaming torches, with a canopy over their heads. They were taken by as long a route as possible so as many people as possible could wish them well.

In a land where there was so much poverty and constant hard work, this week of festivity and joy was a significant occasion, and it was this that Jesus came to share in. An added problem was he brought with him five Apostles, which meant more people to wine and dine.

For a Jewish wedding wine was an essential, but there would be no drunkenness for that would be seen as a disgrace, and the wine would be two or even three parts water. In the East hospitality was a sacred duty, so failure to provide would have meant humiliation.

Mary heard of the problem and told her Son, and Jesus’ answered her by what seems rudeness, ‘woman what have you to do with me, my hour has not yet come.’ Jesus was kindly stressing that she must not see him only as her son, for when he will suffer, the more she will suffer. She must the see him as her Lord.

Standing there were six large jars each holding about two or three measures, that is about twenty gallons of water, making a total of over a hundred gallons of water intended for purifying or cleansing. The roads were dusty and as the men wore sandals the men’s feet needed washing, but Jews also washed hands before each course of food.

Jesus sorted out what normally would take hours in preparation, by cutting out the normal procedure of crushing and fermenting, and turned the water into wine. This is included in the story to emphasize the great ness of the Lord’s gift. The head waiter then praised the quality of the wine produced. Jesus showed his glorious powers and bestowed his blessing on marriage at a village girl’s wedding and his Apostles accepted him as God’s Son.

Every Bible story has a meaning and a lesson for all the Lord’s followers, including this story. We see Jesus ready to share in all our celebrations; Christianity is not a dour mournful faith. No support for those who see a lady dressed attractively in a colorful dress and wonder why she attends Church in such fashion. Jesus never saw it offensive to be happy and bright.

This wedding took place probably in a village hall, no need for fancy mansions and plush hotels with large number of guests; Jesus is ready to take part in the ordinary things of our lives. For Jesus a home was special, no family abuse such as we see in so many homes.

A great loss in our time is that Jesus has no place in the majority of homes in this country. The bedrock of our society was once a family home of a man and woman in a happy marriage, raising children with a Christian faith. Now such a situation is mocked as old fashioned, but we never had so many teenage pregnancies, child abuse, and a divorce rate of more than 1 in 3 marriages. So many children do not know love, security and fellowship of a loving home. A lot of children don’t even know who their father is, and have brothers and sisters of different parents.

We see Mary’s faith in Jesus. She turned to him when a problem arose and even when he answered her sharply, she told the waiter to do what he asked, giving us a message to trust Jesus even when we do not understand is happening. In every life there comes period of darkness when we despair and wonder what the outcome, happy are those who still trust.

Every Bible story tells us of Jesus doing things, not just once off, but repeatedly. This was the first of the Lord’s miracles, all of which are signs with meanings. Today people say of some event it was a miracle, when in fact it was just a lucky happening. A true miracle has a religious significance in people realizing there is a divine presence in our world. Human men/women can do even extraordinary natural things, only God can create life and supernatural things.

Don’t be discouraged. When we let God and Jesus into our lives all ordinary activities receive new power, so don’t close the door of your life on the Lord, for if you do you reveal your lack of faith and trust. Give God a chance to do want you cannot do.
Jesus said I have come that you may have life in all abundance; be prepared to accept and believe him.

One day a great marriage feast will be held at which Jesus will be the bridegroom and his believers will the bride.
Be at Church on Sunday; making sure it is a Bible believing Church.

Friday 18 January 2019

1 Corinthians 12 v.1/11
Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church having received a letter from them seeking guidance, and has come to a point where he is dealing with spiritual gifts. Corinth was a major seaport and some of the immorality of the city had entered into the Church and divisions were created. Paul hearing of the disruptive influence, wrote this Letter offering guidance as well as rebuking them.

If we are going to understand how we can relate to the teaching of this Letter, we must first understand what it meant for Paul. He founded this Church in Corinth and it had grown and prospered, but had also developed disharmony.

He begins by stating he does not want them to be confused and not understand spiritual gifts. In calling them pagans, which meant Gentiles or non-Jews, he reminds them they were worshipping idols so had been led astray, but acknowledges they have now become true believers in God.

Some of these converts were worried about people who were speaking spiritually, or what is referred to as ‘speaking in tongues’, and Paul is assuring them no one can say ‘Jesus is cursed’ if they are speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit, but can say ‘Jesus is Lord’. If a person can truly say, and believe, Jesus is Lord they are being led by the Holy Spirit and have been born again

We have to be very discerning when people claim to be ‘born again’; some years ago, especially in the United States, there was an epidemic of people claiming, it seemed particularly fashionable for politicians.

Every Christian has some gift which can be used in the Lord’s service. It has to be acknowledged and accepted that every gift of every kind we possess has been given to us by God.

We find professional men and women who have their professional talent to use in the service of the Church and they serve well and so usefully, especially gifts of accountancy and law. But also valuable is the man or woman who can do technical work effecting repairs; or the lady gifted with flower and decorative arrangements; ladies who spend hours baking for Church fairs. I had two sisters in their 80s who worked tirelessly and I cannot imagine how we could have done without them

We may use as an analogy that of an earthly father who has a family of children who passes out presents to them, and knowing each child, will give what he knows that child would best like and use. God knows our characters and gives to meet them.

Paul likens the Church to a human body and describes it as the body of Christ. The Church is the means by which Jesus reaches out to the world; Jesus is no longer physically in the world, so it is very important that we keep this in mind. We, the members, are the Lord’s voice, hands and feet to carry out His commands.

The Bible states that we are ambassadors, and the duty of an ambassador is to represent the monarch of his/her country, and we represent the King of Kings in what is a country foreign to our standard of belief. We are also soldiers for Christ, bearing mind the world outside of the Church is a battleground not a playground.

There also different types of service, and all should bear in mind whatever service we perform, we do it for the Lord. In the New testament, when the Bible speaks of God it refers to the Father, when it states ‘Lord’ it refers to Jesus, and there is God the Holy Spirit.

Paul then writes about some of those gifts, and even beyond this passage he continues to name some. Some have a supernatural gift of wisdom from God, others just a natural gift. Some have a special endowment of faith for some mission.

Paul speaks about the gift of tongues which has long been a subject of contention, in that some charismatics claim unless a person can speak in tongues, they are not a Christian. I had a lady very distressed because someone had said that to her. This is totally unacceptable to rule any gift is particularly necessary.

Speaking in tongues can also be counter-productive. If there is such being practised in a church and some stranger walks in seeking spiritual support and heard such speaking, and there was no one present to interpret, they would wonder what was happening.

We also have to be aware that for a body to function in a healthy condition, all parts relate to each other, working in unity, and functioning as intended.

The Church is not just a group of religious people gathered together to enjoy mutually desired functions. We should be sharing the same kind of life, belonging to the one Lord, filled with His Spirit and be working together to change the world; such is what makes a true and healthy Church. Just coming to Church in itself does not necessarily make you a Christian, you have to believe in and trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

Paul emphasises the analogy of the human body to that of the body of Christ by explaining how the body functions. He stresses the importance of each part of the body working together, and indicates that every member of the Church is of importance. An ear performs one vital function, but so does an eye; the body needs both; similarly, with hands and feet. Never consider yourself as an unimportant part of the Church. You may not be called to preach or lead a Bible study group, but there are so many other equally important tasks in their own way by which you can take an active part. If everyone did the same thing the Church would be ineffective.

But a body only functions properly if it is healthy and every part is working properly. We must accept we need one another and there is no need for competition or jealousy. Occasions arise when someone feels they are not being given the recognition they feel their secular work demands, and others are doing what they should be doing. If any organ in our body fails, the whole body is affected and any disruption in the Church affects the whole situation.

So, in what way can you play your part? There are so many ways by which your gift can be exercised, possibly in a manner you have never considered. In a Church I was once at we gave everyone £5 and invited them to use their talent to increase it with the proceeds going to the Church. People found they had hidden gifts. So often gifts are seen as only relating to ministry which is so wrong and narrow an outlook. The Church is not like a bus with the Vicar being the driver and all others passengers.

.Sometime of course it may seem as your work is not appreciated when you do not get the thanks and recognition your work has merited. Do not be depressed or disheartened, if you have done it for God, He will be pleased and recognise you. When all our gifts are put together we can become a strong body able to serve the Lord as He would want.

God bless you. Be at Church on S

Saturday 12 January 2019

The gospel passage for this Sunday is from Luke Chapter 3 v 15/17 and 21/22, which tells of the baptism of Jesus.

In the first verses John is ministering to the crowds who are waiting for the promised coming of the Messiah, and John points out he can only baptize them with water, but when Jesus comes, he will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, a Minister of the Church can perform the Office of baptism without ever knowing if the recipient is truly worthy of undergoing the baptism. Has he/she really repented of sin and ready to commit to believing Jesus died as their Saviour? Only Jesus can know the true feelings and beliefs of the heart.

John also tells that when Jesus returns a second time he will come as judge and like a farmer uses a pitch fork to separate the wheat from the chaff, so will Jesus separate the true believers from the pretend ones. This is a form of warning of what is required from his followers.

In the second passage we come to the main message which is when Jesus gets baptized by John, marking his first step into ministry. For thirty years Jesus had lived in Nazareth preparing himself, knowing that at some time God would call upon him; now that time had come and it was time to leave the carpenter’s shop.

When royalty visit a place there are massive preparations. Roads previously left are quickly wept, red carpets rolled out, and people are organized to make sure there are welcoming crowds however insignificant the person is, nothing is spared to create the expected recognition. Civil officials in all their pomp rush to be photographed.

When you read this passage, you find none of the fanfare, all you find is the King above all kings coming from an obscure Israeli town to submit himself to a ritual which was humiliating to a Jew. The crowds were made up of common people and common sinners.

No Jew would submit himself for baptism, that was seen for sinners and Gentiles, and they being God’s chosen race and descendants of Abraham did not need baptism.

This little story of Jesus coming into human history teaches us vital points that we must grasp if we are to understand his ministry properly.

Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized by John, a ritual in which people were washed with water and publicly confessed their sins. The outward washing was symbolical of an inward change of heart as people repented, were assured of forgiveness, and the ceremony was meant to be a sacred and humbling experience; it was a public confession of receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Baptism was to equate with Jesus death, and emerging from water to begin a new way of life, likening to Christ’s resurrection. It was never meant to be a naming ceremony, which most people see it as today; you go to a registry office to do that.

John was surprised to find Jesus asking to be baptized, they were cousins and John wanted to know why it was necessary for him to baptize Jesus. Why should Jesus who knew no sin need to do so, there was nothing to forgive; but Jesus was giving us an example to follow and revealing the human part of his nature as well as divine and showing he identifies himself with us in the clearest way.

In Jesus we see God living with us, sharing our problems and hurt, who knows how we feel, and knows our suffering for he suffered more than we could ever imagine. He was fulfilling the Old Testament’s prophecies. In the Old Testament God speaks of the coming of a king as his Son, and looked to the coming of the Messiah. Now in Matthew’s gospel God speaks directly of Jesus as that Son and long promised King

As soon as he was baptized, heaven was opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove from heaven saying, this is my son who I love, with him I am well pleased.

When you study the Bible’s description of baptism, as we have just seen by the example of Jesus, it is blatantly clear how the Church has manipulated the Bible to accommodate society.

We seek people to bring their children for baptism and in most places without any preparation, just be there at the stated time and place. Hence another statistic for the Church.

The Introduction to Baptism in the Church speaks of ‘making serious promises on behalf of the candidates’. Anyone who has been a parent knows it is a fragile promise for a mother or father to make on behalf of their child. To speak of a child as being ‘born again’, one of the most treasured words of evangelical Christians, is ridiculous. To then ask the parents to promise to help them to take their place within the life and worship of the Church, is a monstrous betrayal of trust by a Minister of the Church when it is known neither the parents nor the child will be seen in a church in most cases until some further service of baptism, wedding or funeral is required.

We ask the parents if they repent of sins and tell them to say ‘I repent of them’, when so many are not even married. Whilst having children outside marriage is a common and accepted practice in society, it is not an accepted practice to God.

The Church at one point even suggested people getting married should bring any children to be baptized at the same time. There are other contradictions, but I leave it there.

People generally are on a collision course with God, they ignore him unless they feel he can be useful to them, but in the normal course of life can get along fine without any restrictions of religion in their lives. So why do we let God be abused in our churches.

The Bible is very clear that defiance of God will not be tolerated for ever. Jesus opened the way for us to God and made it clear he was the only to God, even if his church is reluctant to still say that. People think they can find their own way to God and will one day find out how disillusioned they were.

Imagine two cars being driven down a single-track road with neither driver willing to stop or give way; an inevitable collision will occur due to stubborn resistance. Such is the situation now, and whilst people will not give way to God, he will on the last day not give way to them.

The Bible makes it plan that the gospel is about the coming of Jesus in meekness with the spirit given to a King. Jesus has come to bring about Gods plan for the world. He will deal gently with people and the climax of his ministry will be to die for them. He is the king before whom the proud will be broken and the broken hearted will be healed. All our debts will be paid for by him.

This passage gives us a solemn understanding of just how sacred baptism should be; it should never be treated casually as it is now. Jesus saw it as a most sacred and important act and should not be treated with irreverence. Some people see it as a prelude to socializing and merriment of a most irreligious kind. This may seem churlish to say, but I can assure you it is not. I was often asked how long the service would take so the people would know what time to book the pub for, or in more exclusive circles the restaurant.

It can also be taken in a superstitious way. A woman once told me she was having the child baptized but didn’t believe in God, and was only doing it because her mother in law told her the child would die and go to hell if she didn’t.

People should approach this sacrament in faith with good intention to keep the vows they are called upon to make. The vast majority have no intention of doing so,

The baptism of Jesus is an example of preparation, obedience to God’s plan, and total commitment to Christian worship, which all who submit themselves should follow.

Monday 7 January 2019

The Epistle for Sunday was Paul’’s Epistle to the Ephesian Church.

In every bible study there are three stages; first you hear or read the passage; the find out what it means; then thirdly consider how relevant it is to us and the Church in the present day.

You have heard the passage read, so let us try to see what Paul was meaning. He is in a Roman prison awaiting trial by the Emperor Nero, and is writing to the Ephesian Church describing himself as a servant of Christ, and sees himself as a prisoner for Christ. He is in prison because he preached to the Gentiles so upsetting the Jews, who had forced the Roman authorities to act against him.

God had originally chosen the Jews to be the people to whom He sent Jesus to offer salvation, but when they rejected Jesus, God chose Paul to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Paul was proud of the fact that when Christ called him on the Damascus Road, he had the revelation that God was going to send him to the Gentiles; now both would receive all the blessings meant for the Jews alone, and Paul saw himself, having been given the special privilege of discovering the secret of God’s grace.

He admits he had done nothing to deserve this and had been totally unworthy as he did not claim to be much of a Christian, knowing personally of the way he had persecuted Gentiles and Jews previously before his Damascus Road conversion. He was now able to tell all people of the endless treasures they could have if they turned to see Jesus as their Saviour, which God had planned from the very beginning through Jesus Christ as Lord. Now all the angels in heaven could rejoice that all alike could share the inheritance.

We now have to consider how it relates to us and the Church in the present times. This passage ought to be a lesson to those Church leaders in the West who adopt anti-Israel views and express criticism unjustly in any situation, and have unwisely endorsed a boycott of Israel made goods, when in fact they provided employment for non Jewish citizens. The United States Churches have on the other hand have recognised we Christians and Jews worship the same God, and are part of an ancient Judea-Christian tradition.

Paul was an example to all who are allowed to preach for Christ, he always remembered and acknowledged he had been favoured and never claimed credit or showed pride. He never expected others to look at him or seek praise, and was someone quite a few people I have met could learn from. He was never ashamed of the gospel and suffered mightily for preaching it without spirit of timidity, and never ever failed to acknowledge the gospel’s authority as the Word of God, or support any behaviour or action contrary to God’s commands.

Despite the evil they faced, Paul and the Apostles were following the command of Jesus to make disciples and teach all that He had commanded, and they had much success. They taught that the Bible had the authority and completeness for all things in life; they told of the need for us to be in a proper relationship with God, which was only possible because of the death of Jesus on the Cross so that all who put their faith and trust in Jesus and accepted Him as Saviour would be seen as righteous by God, and the gospel spread quickly without any of the wonderful technological aids we enjoy. Over the years, men added unnecessary and false doctrines which changed the message.

There are various ways we come to know Jesus; through a friend telling us; through a poster carrying a message; but primarily through hearing a preacher. Paul was intent that people could only hear and believe if someone told them, and this was the appointed task and duty of the preacher.

When starting the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther stated, ‘the true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.’ This is the message the Church should now be preaching, but instead too many are more concerned with following an equality agenda which is obsessing the country. Luther’s stance was that any issue which tended to overshadow the gospel must be ignored and abandoned. He recalled the Church to follow the gospel.

Figures have just been released for Church attendance and are frightening; it looks as is the Church is falling apart. We desperately need to recall the Church back to the gospel as we see it flagrantly abandoning the teaching our Lord gave. Until we get back to the teaching of the Apostles there will be little improvement.

We have services of baptism in which we encourage people to make false promises; we tell that ways of living which are expressly deemed wrong in Scripture are perfectly acceptable; we hold funeral services which we infer heaven is open to all irrespective of their lack of belief in Jesus as the only way to God.

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.

Jesus in His preaching had two effects; He either saved people or upset them. If we study the preaching of Jesus the people did not always go away smiling, even His own disciples walked away from Him at one time. We like to read and hear the stories of Jesus as long as they do not place too much of an obligation on us. But many did believe in Him and went away with a different reaction.

The Bible should be the basis for ALL our preaching, it is the foundation of all truth. We cannot just pick and choose which parts we want, and cast out those which are not popular with society. We should all be preaching on the same lines. We have to also accept that the Church exists primarily for one purpose, to proclaim the Christian gospel. All other activities are subsidiary.

It is good and helpful to have involvement in social activities, but the primary means of bringing people to Christ is through the preaching of the gospel. If we restrict that then we have no claim to be here; people can get social amenities from many sources, they can only get the gospel from the Church.

The Bible states the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation for all who believe. This means more than just believing there is a God, the devil accepts that. It is not enough to just hear and say you believe, it demands a response. God wants all people to turn to Him.

Remember the words of Jesus, ‘for whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father’.

We all no doubt are ashamed of things we have done in our lives, and the things we have said but wished we hadn’t, and that is understandable. But we allow ourselves to become ashamed of something for which there is no need to be ashamed of.

Let us Christians be as proud of our faith as other faiths are of theirs, remembering there is salvation in no one else than Jesus, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we can be saved.

Sunday 6 January 2019

The Visit of the Wise Men
Today is the first Sunday of 2019 and the Church celebrates it as the feast of the Epiphany. In other words, the sign of Christ being revealed to the Gentiles; a moment of sudden and great revelation.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men came from the East came to Jerusalem.

The wise men began asking where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage. These men had studied astrology and they would have known of the prophecy in Numbers, which told of a star which would point to the place where the Messiah would be born. We do not know exactly who they were, but God knows, just as many now are serving God faithfully and God will reward them.

When Herod heard of a king being born, he became most concerned that his authority would be put in jeopardy, and the political leadership in Jerusalem would be affected. He called the priests who were in charge of spiritual activity, and scribes who interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures, and asked for their knowledge, and they told him that the prophet Micah had foretold the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Herod sent for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out and followed the star which guided the men from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, a short distance of about 6 miles, where it stopped over the place where the child was. The men were told were filled with joy for they knew their mission was successfully fulfilled.

They were able to see the child and present gold, which was the gift for a child, frankincense which was used for the incense in the Temple, and myrrh a perfume and stimulant.

The time of this event must have been some time after Christ’s birth for we know that Herod was furious when he found out the wise men had not told him where Jesus was and so ordered all the boys born within two years to be killed.

The actions of the wise men reveal a deep commitment for they travelled many miles in conditions of some discomfort, for they would not have anything like the means of travel we have and would have taken much time to complete. Yet to day we have alleged Christians finding it hard to travel even the nearest of distances to attend church and worship the Lord. It would be well for all professing Christians if they were ready to follow thee ample of the wise men and show some self-denial.

Above all they believed in Jesus without first having seen him, whilst so many people still won’t believe in him although the evidence for his birth and life is overwhelming. The wise men believed when the religious leaders of the day did not. They did not go to colleges to be convinced, they were not given teaching, yet they saw the baby and believed he was the Saviour of the World

This teaches us that it is not only those who receive most notice and are considered to be of such importance are those closest to Christ. A few strangers from a distant land and some shepherds were those who rejoiced most the birth of Jesus.

The Bible states he came unto his own, and his own knew him not. The same may be said of the Church today; those who appear to be so religious and devout in their words, betray the Lord in their beliefs and actions. How applicable thus applies to those in high places who have many degrees and fancy titles, but no true grace in their hearts.

We must not feel holy because of knowledge which is wonderful if faithfully applied, but a lot can leave a person graceless.

Thursday 3 January 2019

At this time of the year two of the saddest words of the English language are used; namely if only. We look back on some of the events and occasions and in the gift of hind sight realise the opportunities we messed up on and how things could have made such a difference,…if only we had etc. I wonder if our Church leaders feel that way when they look at the state of Christianity in the country today.

The Church in this country, is losing members almost weekly, and is failing to be of any interest or relevance to the under 50 age ranges. This should give all sincere Christians real concern, and as we enter a new year reflect on the challenges facing the Churches, especially the Church of England.

The foundation of the Church is built on the teaching of the apostles. However unpleasant it may be to accept, we are failing God, Jesus, the saints down the ages and the Church we called to serve and save by failing to maintain that teaching.

In every business the owners, or the company which owns, want to promote the product they have to the best advantage. When one considers the success of just two outstanding British companies such as John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, the application of the desire for perfection in every aspect of their business, promotion, caring for customer satisfaction by offering what is sought, and the loyalty of staff, the reason for such success is obvious; commitment to the purpose of their business. Bankruptcy does not face them.

The Church is engaged on the Lord’s business and we should show similar devotion rather than appear to be striving for bankruptcy. Jesus said, ‘I will build my Church’, but it seems as if those within are saying and we will knock it down.

Can anyone imagine a manager in a secular business being allowed to tell customers not to believe the firm’s
advertising because it wasn’t true, or the goods being offered were faulty; he would be dismissed forthwith. Would a branch manager be allowed to sell goods from a rival or be indifferent as to whether customers attended his branch?

Such comparisons may appear frivolous to some people, but just take some similar situations to those displayed by those engaged in the Lord’s business.

The purpose of the Church is to offer and present the teaching of the Apostles, which we know as the New Testament. This tells us God made a man and then woman to be man’s companion, equal in every way but different in style. But our bishops tell us God got it wrong, so we must offer services to change the gender of people and restyle them.

In addition, God was wrong to suggest a man must only marry a woman, it was perfectly good for it to be another man. Furthermore, as managers we must not offer just the product we are in business for, but also what people in opposition to us would like others to have. If we go bankrupt, we can always apply for work in their occupations.

Whilst our branches should be clean and appealing, letting people know what is on offer week by week, and then having that offering carefully presented with enthusiasm and purpose to make the people want to come to us regularly to be served, as long as the places are opened so people can please themselves when they come and there are special offers such as baptisms and weddings and transgender services to be had, all will be well.

So, coming back to reality, we should never suggest the Bible has got things wrong; we must maintain the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, unbreakable, fully trustworthy Word of God, and stop trying to please people in order to be accepted.

God chose 40 men of different occupations and characters and over many years inspired them by His Spirit to write all He wanted people to know and believe and practise. They did not know each other or what others were writing. There are so many interlinked stories yet there was no contradiction on what was collectively written; not even the most sophisticated computer could do that.

The Church has thrown out the Bible and in doing so the country has lost its influence, guidance and standards with the consequence the young are growing up not knowing right from wrong.

In recent times the leaders of the Church have made one concession after another to meet the agenda of the LGBT activists, who will never be satisfied until everybody not only accepts their agenda but approves of it. How individual people live is a personal matter for each person, God gave us free will and we place ourselves in His hands; we don’t bear personal animosity, but we do resent the provocative acts of the activists who have caused so much hurt in pursuit of their agenda, causing people to be deprived of their occupation, just for having a different belief.

If you are not a (true) believer these things may not matter to you, indeed may seem trivial to mention, but to those who have chosen to enter a preaching ministry it is quite out of order to support, and even more so to practise. If we are to be the witnesses for Jesus, we must tell positively what Jesus stated and commanded.

Today there are many attacks on the truth of the Bible. The Bible is not the book of the month; it is the unchanging book of the ages. The early Church never questioned it, they just preached it. Can you imagine a Muslim cleric ever questioning the Koran?

If the Church is to survive in any meaningful way it is down to the ordinary Church members, as there is now no one on the national scene with any notable charisma or the will and courage to speak out.

I close with this prayer.
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit upon the Church in the burning fire of your love; grant that your people maybe fervent in the fellowship of the gospel that, always abiding in you they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service. Defend your Church from all false teaching and give to your people knowledge of your truth that we may enjoy eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.