Saturday 23 February 2019

Genesis 2 v 15/25

The Old Testament Lesson this week is from Genesis 2 and is the story of God creating man and woman. I bet this will not be followed in many Churches it is too hot a topic these days and few preachers have the courage to face up to what the Bible is stating.

But it is a vital important subject, the foundation on which a society is built. It is a social, moral and spiritual subject on which the Church does not want to take a stance. In the last few years there has been a massive attempt to destroy this divine institution, and the Church establishment has failed to meet the challenge by not speaking in defence of what God ordained.

Governments of all political persuasions have little if any respect for marriage, (except of course when receiving invitations to royal weddings which they eagerly accept) consequently it has come to lose its importance.

Let us turn to some verses from the Old Testament in the book of Genesis to learn just how important marriage is.

God having created the earth with all its elements and animals then created man. He then saw that man was lonely and loneliness can lead to depression. God saw that man needed a companion.

God said, ‘it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper for him, so the Lord God caused man to fall into a deep sleep. Then the Lord God made a woman and brought her to the man. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they shall become one flesh’.

Note carefully what God did; God created a woman to be at a man’s side, and we must be prepared to accept that God knew what he wanted. He created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Harry, or Eve and Margaret. This was God’s natural partnership.

God has now made two people, man and woman, Adam and Eve. From creation God intended the creation of a woman for a man, not a man for a man, or a woman for a woman. We must accept that God knows best, and when he wanted man to have a companion, He made a woman as the perfect answer, someone who could complement man in every way, physically and mentally, in a way another man could not, and men throughout the ages have appreciated and recognised this.

God wanted to supply what was lacking in man’s life and together they could have children and create the ideal family. God planned the human heart to love, marry and have children. Heterosexual couples bearing and raising children together has been found throughout in history and around the world.

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

Most men if honest would concede how their wife has been of much help. After many years of marriage, I readily concede how much my wife added to my life.

When I was a Vicar, Olive attended every service I took, and not being one who liked the limelight, preferred to be amongst the congregation, where she complemented me so well. People who wanted me to know something, but didn’t want to tell me directly, would use her as a communication, and I would be advised as to who needed attention and help, in addition of course to telling me what I shouldn’t have said.

The Bible states, ‘he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord.’ .

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marriage lends stability to society and builds a framework which is held in high esteem. It is one of the most important aspects of our culture which no government has the right to redefine or diminish its value.

Jesus highly valued marriage and performed His first miracle at a wedding Marriage is a solid foundation for the bringing up of children, who are a key factor in God’s intention for marriage.

Families are what a nation is built upon, the strength of every nation, and as men and women live in a strong and loving relationship, they create a safe haven for children.
Researches after researches have proved children grow better and are cleverer in stable families.

We have now reached the stage where the whole of God’s original plan for men and women has been widely abandoned. Just as in the days of Malachi described in the Old Testament, there is a spiritual decline with people forsaking God, and an alarming breakdown in family life.

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

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

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

It is vitally important that people realise marriage, and those who support it, are under the most vicious and uncompromising attacks, more serious than ever previously. Throughout the entire history of the world, marriage has been a union between one man and one woman, now that is being challenged.

Politicians have now tried to replace God with their own discredited plans and decided to redefine marriage on the spurious grounds of supposed equality. People can be perfectly equal without being the same; God did this at the time of creation when he made both man and woman equal in His sight, but for different purposes.

God created us different so children could be brought into the world, something same sex couples cannot do. Civil partnerships provided all the legal provision for people who wish to live together, and that is a matter for choice which we all accept is a personal decision.

So for 1% of the population (based on government figures) and for a cheap voting aim, which has backfired spectacularly, we have the time honoured understanding of marriage being destroyed.

Amazingly it has been under a Conservative government that marriage has been so devalued with same sex marriage, easy no fault divorces, just get fed up and walk away, legally enforcing schools to instruct children from tender years onwards of all forms of sexuality and marriage, with parental Rights to withdraw from such teaching denied. Promises were made prior to an election that no such legislation would be enacted yet within a few months was enacted.

I commented recently we have ceased to be a Christian country and government is seeking to make us a heathen one.

It is quite impossible for Christians to support same sex marriage when it is recognized that this was not God intended, as numerous Biblical passages spell out.

The Bible is unequivocal that marriage is heterosexual; tradition is that marriage is solely man and woman; and reasoned experience has proved that marriage creates a stable structure and is the bedrock of society.

Activists have been allowed to organise a campaign of attacks by all manner of interventions, gaining influence in legal, media, educational, entertainment, circles, and they have organised quite brilliantly, but the degeneracy which has followed has been devastating in the effect on young people and children.

Sadly, and shamefully, rather than responding with moral, ethical and spiritual guidance, the Church rather than rebelling is colluding. We have bishops calling for, abandoning biblical teaching on marriage lest it offends,working to make accommodation with the homosexual lobby on their issues, and creating liturgy to facilitate transgender reception with a second baptism which is contrary to the regular reciting of the Apostles Creed.

In effect, the Prayer Book and Bible have been cast out by the Church (in places and by the leadership) . People have lost employment and positions in society for simply stating they do not approve of same sex unions; teachers dismissed for not teaching all forms of partnerships. Private social accounts used to destroy a person’s living by quoting words written.

I close with the words of Archbishop Nichols, from Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, ‘we have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations’.

Wednesday 20 February 2019

John;s gospel in Chapter 12,verses 20-33. Turn with me to this passage which John alone tells.

Jesus had entered Jerusalem for the Passover festival having just raised Lazarus from the dead, and was receiving an enthusiastic welcome from crowds of people gathered for the festival. He was greeted with palms, the symbol of the Jewish state, but there were some who did not welcome Him, and indeed were plotting His death.

This was Jerusalem’s big religious festival held annually to remember how God saved Israel: we might compare the Passover to our Christmas, when the Churches attract many people who attend not so much from a religious attitude, but see it as a social event.

At such a time as this many Gentiles would go to the city, and although not Jews, would join in the celebrations. Some Greeks were amongst the crowds who had heard of Jesus and were determined to meet Him. They were from a settlement in the North of Galilee and went to Philip who came from near their area and said to him, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus’.

Having heard the stories of what Jesus had done, they realised something was missing from their lives, and wanted to receive from Him that something. When they said they wanted to see Jesus, they were in fact seeking a meeting with Him.

These words, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus, were the theme of the preacher, who gave the address when I was ordained. They are carved on the pulpits of numerous evangelical Churches in both England and the United States, to remind the preacher that his duty is to teach about Jesus Christ; not to entertain, or engage in politics, nor speak about climate change, nor be intimidated by political correctness, remembering he is there to bring people closer to God, and there is no other way people can come to God, except through Jesus Christ. The Bible states, ‘how can they believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?’

I recall seeing a Songs of Praise programme on television, which told about a Vicar who was being coached by a comedian because she wanted to improve her ability to liven up her sermons by telling jokes. As a favourite journalist of mine would say, you really couldn’t make it up. But she is not alone in confusing the pulpit with the theatre; in recent times I have witnessed slide shows, drama, and guessing games; all worthy, but not from the pulpit.

I believe such action from the pulpit lowers people’s respect and reverence for the Church, even if they feel amused at the time. Our whole purpose is to lead people to Christ, and the Bible states we should do so with reverence and awe.

When Jesus was told of their request He was pleased and responded immediately. He had not gone to Jerusalem to enter for the same purpose as the crowds had in mind; events were building up and were leading to the time of our Lord’s road to the Cross. So when He heard a group of people were genuinely seeking Him, He said, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.

The Jews would not have understood what Jesus meant. For them the Son of Man conveyed an image of someone who would lead to world conquest and so attain glory, but Jesus meant it was time for Him to make the supreme sacrifice for the world by dying on the Cross, so bringing glory to Him and to God.

He went on to say "Truly, truly, I say to you." Whenever Jesus used those words, it meant that He was going to say something important. Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone." He was pointing out that when a seed died it brought forth fruit.

He was here meaning that He was like the grain of wheat, and unless He went to the cross, His whole purpose in coming to earth will have been in vain. He knew what He had to face, and that He is going to be glorified through the sacrifice the cross, because by that cruel death, the way to forgiveness for all believers was made possible. If He had not made the sacrifice on the Cross, you and I and everybody else, could not have forgiveness. His death meant eternal life for all who believed in Him.

When He met those Greeks, it was as the first sign that the gospel was to go to all the world, and part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the Gentiles, the symbol of the great harvest for which He came.

If He had not died, we probably would not know any more about Him for He would have just been another figure of history, of no greater significance than any other great religious leader. Because of the cross, He was able to do something He could never have done otherwise.

Jesus said the one loves their life will lose it. He was referring to those who live solely for themselves and out to get as much as they can without thought for others.

Christians generally are called to put service of the Lord first, and indeed there are many men and women who could have followed brilliant careers for rich rewards, but chose to go on mission fields far away from their homeland and work for very little.

We see the humanity of Jesus displayed when He expressed his fear at the thought of the Cross, but was ready to give obedience to God and suffer much pain, which would ultimately lead to triumph. God spoke to Jesus in His hour of torment, just as He did at His baptism and when on the Mount of Transfiguration. God is always ready to give strength when we seek it for the tasks we face in His name and cause.

The cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of the human being. The man in Roman times who took up his cross and started down the road had already said goodbye to his friends. He was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life redirected. He was going out to have it ended. The cross made no compromise,

At the cross, Jesus underwent the judgement we deserve, and paid our debt to God. His death gives us hope of everlasting life with Him one day. He wants to give you that hope in your life today. He alone can give you that new life that can never fade, and you can find that new life by meeting Jesus.

People in these high pressure days are so often weary and depressed and looking for that spiritual something. People are looking for something beyond themselves, looking for a way that gets the most out of life, yet carrying a load of guilt, fear and worry. Jesus said, ‘come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest’

Maybe something has happened in your life, or you have a feeling you cannot explain. You are attracted to the teaching of the Bible; the God of the Bible is growing on you; you are being drawn towards Jesus. You may have been coming for years, but in your heart, you sense there is something more.

If we want to see Jesus, we must refer to our Bibles. You can meet him now through the pages of the Bible – not a physical encounter of course, but a spiritual encounter just as real. We now have the advantage of unlimited direct access.

Of course, on the other side of the coin, people can choose not to meet Jesus, and that is precisely why it won’t happen – because of choice. And if we walk away from Jesus, and want nothing to do with him, then in the end He will close the door on us – for all eternity. If we do not take the opportunity now, the time will come when we will not be able to meet Jesus.

Even the most ardent atheist has to concede that a man named Jesus existed, who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago, for there is historical evidence of this. What many challenge is His divinity, that He truly was the Son of God. If however we reject these doctrines, we reduce Him to what many want to see Him as, merely a religious cum social worker. But, that is not how the Bible portrays Him. All other religions are founded on philosophies or principles, only Christianity has a person.

Jesus went further, and said, much to the annoyance of to-day’s politically correct theologians, ‘no one can come to the Father except through me.’ This is now unacceptable to many Christian preachers who claim (erroneously) that all religions lead to God.

There are so many reasons for wanting to, ‘see Jesus’. It is said, that people are hungry for love, hungry for security, hungry for significance. Jesus said ‘I can fulfil all those needs.’

People are looking for something spiritual; looking for a way that gets the most out of life, yet carrying a load of baggage of guilt, anxiety, fear and worry. Jesus said, ‘come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest’

So many men and women these days are doing things and behaving in a way that once would never have been thought of, so carrying all sorts of moral problems. Then they feel guilty and ashamed, become troubled in mind and turn to drink and/or drugs.

We all have a fear of dying, and many have no hope for the future, no answer as to what shall become of them. Jesus said, ‘whoever believes in me shall not die but have everlasting life’. When He said that, He did not mean believe He lived, He demanded people accept Him as their Lord and Saviour; just an emotional attachment to the Church is not what our Lord is seeking.

But when a person claims to be someone, you have to make sure they really are who they say they are. Margaret Thatcher, when Prime Minister, visited a psychiatric hospital and met an old lady. She greeted her and said, ‘hello, I’m Margaret Thatcher, your Prime Minister.’ The old lady said, ‘don’t worry dear. I was the same when I came in here, you’ll get over it.’

With Jesus we have His teachings. From the time He walked the roads of Palestine to the present day, men and women have had first hand evidence of Jesus influencing their lives.

God will always respond to the seeker. If you have loved ones in your family or amongst your friends who are not saved, keep praying for them that they may come and see Jesus.

All Jesus ever did was from a heart full of love compassion and grace. Yet the very people He helped betrayed Him, and conspired to nail Him to the Cross.

A day is coming when we will all see Jesus. The Bible says everyone will assemble before Him as He sits on the judgement throne. Some will go one way with the goats, some the other way with the sheep. We will have either joy in the after life with Jesus, or eternity with the lost. This is determined by how we respond whilst we are here on earth. The bible says ‘now is the time of God’s favour, now is the time of salvation’. It will be too late after we have died, and no amount of intercession will then save us.

I hope you are here now, wanting to see Jesus, for He wants to show us Himself. May we ever be like the Greeks in our passage today and want to see Jesus.

Thursday 14 February 2019

Luke 11 v. 1-13
Turning to this passage of Scripture which is all about prayer.

When I think of the Lord’s prayer I am often in mind of a scene broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network in America. It is of the first English settlers who landed at Virginia Beach in April 1607 planting the Cross and reciting the prayer. They were the forerunners who were joined by others to make that such a great and powerfully Christian nation.

We read that a disciple asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. This is a reasonable request for praying is hard for a lot of people.

I have recently met a young lady who is masterly at prayer, and have had the privilege of hearing her pray in such a deep personal way which is inspiring, indeed, have seen positive results occur in answer to her praying. But such is a God given gift that we can only admire and hope for, accepting not every one can possess. (In 1 Corinthians 12v11, such are empowered by one and the same Spirit who apportions to each one as he wills)

Jesus gave His disciples and by extension us, a model prayer simple in its composition but profound in its teaching. The prayer begins with us thinking about God and our relationship to Him, and then moves on to our own concerns.

We have to remember that prayer is talking to God, who we are encouraged by Jesus to call Father, so we begin by recognising God as ‘our’ Father who cares for and loves us just as an earthly father cares for his sons/daughters. The Jews would not recognise such intimacy and not until Jesus spoke to us had anyone ever done so.

We recognise His holiness and that He reigns in heaven, and approach Him in reverence. We also acknowledge that in being holy, God is above and beyond us. In Jewish thought a name reflected the character of the person so we recognise God’s holiness and seek to display it in our lives. We cannot see God, but He is present in heaven and all authority is His. If we trust in Him, He is always ready to hear us in time of need.

We pray for the time to come when God’s name will be honoured on earth as it is in heaven and His rule will be established. This is the mission of the Church which is often overlooked as other (worldly) causes are pursued.

In saying ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ we are praying that God’s rule be established more and more. We want God to be fully present in life and not just an invisible hope. We want to see more and more people converted and obey His will and that those who disobey and hate His commands will decrease. We are praying that all God’s plans and purposes will be fulfilled.

We pray that God will provide for our daily needs; bread being the basic food which sustains our physical life, so we are asking God to supply for us as He did for the people of Israel when in the wilderness and He sent manna from heaven. This reminds us of our dependence on God and approach each day as a separate entity in our life.

We recognise God’s grace as we seek forgiveness for the debt we owe to God for sinning, and lay our sins on Jesus Christ. The Bible states ‘there is no one righteous, no not one, we all fall short of the glory of God’, so here we confess we are in fact sinners.

There is the need to forgive those who offend us, forgiving the person not the sin, for only God can do that. This is a hard call for many people and even harder to put into practice. It is important to remember that the word ‘sin’ has a far greater meaning than just sexual matters, which people usually have solely in mind.

Finally, we plead with God to so order our lives that we do not face temptation beyond our ability to resist. God will never lead us into temptation, but we face this every day of our lives and will do so as long as we live on this earth. At this point we also want Him to protect us from evil which abounds so much all around us, and so order our lives that we may not be faced with anything we cannot bear.

The words of this prayer have passed over our lips many times. How many who recite it, sometimes automatically, really desire is petitions to be granted. Do we really see God as our Father and truly care for His will and name, and wish for the kingdom to come?

This prayer is read at almost every funeral service and said by people who have little if any religious faith and do not appreciate its wonder or meaning. The prayer is factually for believers who are entitled to call God ‘Father’, for Jesus stated no one can come to the father except through me.

Jesus went on to give a parable. In Palestine travellers often travelled late in the day to avoid the heat. Jesus tells of one traveller who arrived at his friend’s home at midnight and put his friend at an embarrassment.

In the East hospitality was a sacred duty, it was not sufficient to give a basic meal; the guest had to be given a full spread. Bread was baked at home, because if it was kept it would go stale and be uneatable. The late arrival meant the householder had an empty larder and could not therefore fulfil his obligation of hospitality. He went out and asked a neighbour to help, but no one would normally knock on a door which was shut, for that was an indication that the householder did not want to be disturbed.

The home would have been one room with two thirds on ground level and the other third raised. It was also the custom to bring their animals into the house at night, so when there was persistent knocking on the door the whole family would be disturbed. The neighbour gave what was asked of him.

Jesus said the lesson of the parable was that we must persist in prayer and knock on God’s door until we can persuade God to answer. Jesus was pointing out that if a rather unwilling man can eventually give what was asked of him, how much more can a loving God give to supply His children’s needs.

This does not mean we can treat God as something like a heavenly beneficiary and make a list of things we want. We often pray for things to happen and sometimes God will not answer directly because He thinks they are not for our own good, just as an earthly father will deny his children because they make come to harm or not be for their good. We must pray with intensity and passion knowing we are asking the One who knows all our needs and will act for our best interests.

In Church intercessions some think it necessary to pray for every conceivable person and thing, or to use flowery phrases, whereas Jesus in this prayer He gave was a model of simplicity. We share this prayer with millions worldwide.

Our Lord’s prayers were short when offered in public, but when alone with God mean a whole night in prayer. Long prayers in public can weary listeners. The publican’s prayer was, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’. The Syrophoenician woman was shorter still, ‘Lord help me’ and her prayer was answered. Let our prayers be to the point, just telling God what is on our mind.

Some people try extemporary prayer and then find it hard to terminate. The secret is to keep it short and get to the point of the prayer. There is a lady in my Church who is quite superb in her prayers; she is concise, relevant to the intercession, simple and brief. I don’t think she has had theological training, and in fact I don’t think she realises how good she is.

This passage shows how wide and encouraging are the promises which the Lord holds out to prayer. Ask and you shall receive seek and you will find knock and it shall be opened unto you.

Be at Church on Sunday and may God bless you

Tuesday 5 February 2019

Acts 2 v 36/44

In the days before this Epistle begins Jesus has just died on the Cross. He had been falsely convicted, subjected to 39 lashes from a leather belt lined with steel studs, had a crown of thorns placed on his head, and they gave Him a heavy cross to carry. He stumbled along the road with that cross until Simon of Cyrene had to come and help Him carry the cross; then they put spikes in His hands and feet. He never uttered a sound. The pain, the thirst--His tongue was swollen double. He hung hour upon hour on that Cross.

Jesus suffered all that so you and I may be forgiven for our sins. Jesus need never have gone to the cross. That night God could have said, "Jesus, you do not have to go to the cross." But God did not say that to His Son. There was no other way.

Simply put, it is that God wants all people to be saved, but that can’t happen if we are sinners. The Bible states all have sinned and fallen short of the standards of God. We all need to be forgiven and that requires a penalty. God sent Jesus, his only Son, to pay the penalty for us when he took our place on the Cross and died that we may be forgiven. Whilst mankind has turned its back on God, God has not turned his back on mankind

In the Cross we see the love of Jesus Christ displayed in a way that defies explanation. God loved us so much that he stepped in and did what we cannot do. He loved us so much that he gave his only Son to die for us. The truth is that we are sinners and cannot save ourselves. The good news is that God would not sit idly by and do nothing. He has provided a way. It is the way of the Cross, the only means of salvation.

On our Bibles, we wear or display the Cross; to others the cross is just a piece of jewellery with no significance.

To get a better idea of its meaning as a cruel method of execution, it is like someone being immaculately dressed wearing an electric chair on a chain around their neck or a hangman’s noose or guillotine as a piece of jewellery. Everyone who wears a Cross should bear in mind what it stands for.

The message of the Cross is the very heart of Christianity, it is the message of the Christian gospel. This is the message Peter would tell the people at Pentecost who had rejected God and lived their lives as if God did not exist; they needed to repent and turn to Christ and 3,000 people committed themselves to do so.

We are told they responded as they were ‘cut to the heart’; in other words, they were deeply convicted. They devoted themselves to the teaching of the Apostles, who in turn had been taught by our Lord Himself; they didn’t need persuasion or coercion, they were eager to learn. They were filled with awe, and their praise and worship was inspiring, others who saw and heard joined. I wonder how many of our congregations could say they were filled with awe and felt inspiration?

Quite recently I saw a Church on Songs of Praise, it was a black Pentecostal Church, and they were singing ‘leaning on the everlasting arms.’ It was exciting and thrilling to see the joy on the faces of that congregation as they sang so heartily; they were filled with awe and inspiration and exuded inspiration. No wonder it was well attended, as other Churches of similar worship style are.

Christianity is meant to be a joyful faith. The Bible states, ’tell the message of Christ in all its richness singing hymns and spiritual songs with thankful hearts’.

The wonderful thing is God has graciously made possible for us to have that Apostolic teaching; He has left us with copies of those Bible classes, it is called the New Testament, and it is on that the Church was founded.

The result here was that the believers shared the good news widely through the area, telling what God had done for them through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Such was the vibrancy of their faith that it had spread widely and people were speaking of their devotion. The friends of those believers began to ask questions about what had happened to make such a change in those believers’ lives; unbelievers were seeing the grace of God being displayed in the lives of the believers and were impressed with what was happening and were attracted.

There is a false Christianity around today. For most people a Christian is someone who is not of another faith, or is an atheist; that is not the Bible’s definition. A Christian is someone who is a fully devoted follower of Jesus, accepting the message of the Cross. You are not born a Christian nor are you a Christian simply because you were born into a Christian family, or in a Christian country.

We cannot call ourselves a Christian country now. There are Christians living here and Christian influences have been felt in this country; but today we are a heathen, pagan country. We are away from God. We have beautiful churches, but our hearts are far from God. The heart itself must be changed so that you become a follower of the Lord. A Christian is someone who responds to the gospel message.

Have you ever wondered why two people can hear the same message and respond in opposite ways? It happens because one man hears words, while the other man hears the message. It is the Holy Spirit who takes human words in preaching and makes them alive inside the human heart.

The Bible tells us that God knows the secret working of our hearts, and when He knows we are ready to acknowledge Him through Christ, by whom alone we can come to God, He by His amazing grace chooses and calls us into His family. God finds us before we find Him.
In order for a person to be converted two things must happen first—something from God’s side and then something from the human side; but God’s side must come first.

It is possible for people to come for Church for years, listening to the Bible being read, listening to preaching, singing devotional hymns, yet never opening hearts to God. You have to come with ears and mind open so God can enter your heart.

There are people who put on a Christian front. They act like Christians, they read the Book, and sing the hymns, but they have no reality of Christ in their lives. That kind of Christianity is worthless. If we want to be men and women of God, we are to follow the teaching God has provided for us. This clearly set out in the Bible and readily available for all to follow.

Being a Christian is not an easy life for there is much opposition to a faith which makes one feel uncomfortable when they live as they like rather than the way they should, which is why we have to count the cost. You may find friends become not so friendly.

There are so many people who do not understand the gospel; why Christ had to die on the Cross; why the Church should place so much stress on the Cross. This is because the Church has become so disconnected from the Word of God; it has no firm statement of belief and so is unable to fulfil our Lord’s commission for the Church to teach the gospel; bible illiteracy is at all-time high. The Bible has been cast out of a lot of churches and when the church turns away from the Bible the nation does so as well.

Liberalism is tearing the Church apart by trying to supplant biblical authority for cultural expression and denying the infallibility of the Bible with trendy social issues replacing the Cross of Christ.

Luther wrote ‘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.

We have to accept that the Church exists primarily for one purpose, to proclaim the Christian gospel. If we restrict that then we have no claim to be here. If we are to face the challenges of the day, we have to be people of the Bible.

Everyone has a choice to make between two points of view, black or white, no grey; two fundamental absolutes that can never be reconciled because they produce different responses to the gospel.

We have to make a choice now in this life for our future when this life is over. If you are hoping for a future life in heaven, you too must come to the Cross in simple faith and believe Christ was willing to die for you and accept him as Saviour. We are warned we have to do the will of God and he guarantees a future life

Jesus was very clear in His teaching; in parable after parable He spoke of two roads, of sheep and goats, of tares and wheat, of heaven and hell. People say live a good life, there is no need to worry we are all going to heaven for God would never send anyone to hell. That is true, God lets people choose to go by rejecting the gospel.

Jesus makes a profound statement which goes to the heart of Christian faith and belief. He states He is the only way to God. People are falsely being told all religions lead to God. There has to be a commitment to Christ and acceptance that his death on the Cross was for your sins too.

I once went to Birmingham before the days of satnavs and stopped to ask a man the way to where I was heading. He told me I would not be able to get there by myself but he would take me as he was going that way. He got into my car and guided me there. That is what Jesus is saying to you; you can’t get to heaven unless I take you.

The Bible states of Jesus, ‘there is salvation in no one else. God has given no other name under heaven by which we may be saved.

The once great Methodist Church was built on strong Biblical foundation. The greatest revival of Christianity in this country came during the ministry of John/Charles Wesley If they were alive today they would have much to say at the way the Church has failed to proclaim the message they left, that salvation was through Christ alone, the value of a person’s life was measured by their faith; by the manner in which they lived their lives, and the doctrine of heaven and hell.

Never be ashamed to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but like Paul be proud to tell of his death on the Cross.

Saturday 2 February 2019

Matthew 11 v 28

I wonder if there is anyone in who can stand up and say, ‘I have no worries in my life?’ If there is, would you like to stand up so we can all admire you?

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 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. These are all perils faced by people every single day. 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’.

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. Wherever you look you find sadness and heartache and despair. The Bible says the answer is that life has no meaning apart from God. But for many God is unreal.

You can’t however come to God except through Jesus Christ. Not by Mohammed, Buddha, or anyone else. Christ came to seek and to save the lost, the fearful and the lonely, the worried and the broken hearted. God is willing to pour His grace upon you so that you no longer need to fear if you repent of any sin and turn to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

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.

Jesus came, sent from God with the sole purpose of bringing us into a living relationship with Himself and to all who are worried, afraid or anxious, Jesus says, ‘Come to me 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’

So who can come? All those who are weary and heavy laden with care. This is a selective invitation. You have to recognise a need and be prepared to admit it. All who are weighed down by sin or guilt.

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. Jesus is ready to be faithful to His Word. He says, ‘I can set you free for I am the Way, the truth, and the life. Come just as you are. We rely on what He has done for us, and at His invitation in a spirit of simple trust.

Jesus said, ‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me’. A yoke was a wooden frame placed on a persons shoulder in order to make a load easier to carry. So Jesus is saying ‘let me help you carry your burden. Instead of going your own way turn around and come with me’.

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 In far too many Churches there are dominant personalities who, instead of looking for the good, want to put their own interpretation on matters, such interpretation not always being favourable. In such cases it is because their own personal life is unhappy, disturbed or there is something lacking.

In one famous promise Jesus said ‘behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with Him’. As He stands outside the door of your life, He longs to come in to make His presence and friendship real. But the door handle is on the inside. All you need do is turn it in faith.

Jesus was brought up in the East, and there the greatest act of friendship is to dine with someone. Jesus is offering to dine with anyone who invites Him.

At the end of every one of his Crusades, Billy Graham asks people to make a commitment to Christ and to demonstrate that commitment to go forward to the front of the stadium. At the same time, the choirs sing the hymn, ‘Just as I am…I come to Thee’

Believe His promise, take Jesus at His word, come just as you are.