Friday 26 July 2019


                                    Luke 11 v. 1-13
 The Gospel reading for Sunday contains the giving by Jesus of the Lord’s   Prayer.                                      
This is the most well known prayer in the world, being said daily in so many places.

I am often in mind of a scene broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network in America when I say or hear this prayer.  It is of the first English settlers who landed at Virginia Beach in April 1607, led by a Minister 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 had a Vicar who was masterly at praying at any given time for any possible reason, but others find it hard to do so without a book of set prayers. Similarly, a friend of mine is gifted, who turns to pray in a most profound way that she exudes confidence that the Lord will hear and answer.
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, we make Him known and His name glorified.
We pray His rule, His Kingdom, will be established so that evil will be quickly overcome and all people will acknowledge him as King and God. 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, but  the term also all that our bodies daily need so we are depending on God for life, health, and 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 min
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. Evil is anything that can hurt us, bodily or spiritually and for which we have not the power to save ourselves
The words of this prayer have passed over our lips many times.  How many who recite it, sometimes automatically, really desire its 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.
.When we say ‘our’ Father, this is referring only to those who have accepted Christ as Saviour, it is not an all-embracing term. Jesus said, ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’; therefore, you need to belong to Christ
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.
Jesus did not want to hear long prayers he mocked the
Practice. 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 Syrophenician 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, probably a good thing, 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 23 July 2019

I attach of the latest news release of Christian Concern, the legal team which represents Christians who experience problems because of their belief.

I suggest this is one of the most deplorable situations of the many disgusting experiences our young children are facing from head teachers in our primary schools.

Remember it was a woman who a Prime Minister told us regularly she was a Vicar’s daughter and had herself photographed leaving Church each Sunday who authorized the teaching of such explicit subjects, and notice the deafening silence of the Churches

Children excluded for opposing LGBT lessons in schools

A ten-year-old has taken a stand against the growing LGBT agenda in the classroom

They say that lightning never strikes twice, but at Heavers Farm Primary School in Croydon, South London, it has.

As parental protests against the introduction of LGBT lessons in schools sweep across the country, the Christian Legal Centre has started supporting a courageous 10-year-old and her mother who are taking a stand against a school that is seeking to eradicate any opposition to its LGBT agenda.

Video shown of 11-year-old getting implants

You may remember the case of Izzy Montague, whose four-year-old son was last year forced, against her wishes, to take part in a Gay Pride parade at the same school. In a story that captured national media attention, her son was subsequently bullied by members of staff and Izzy was forced to move him to a different school. Other parents also protested, but were ignored and silenced.

That same 'Gay Pride month' in 2018, Christian pupil, Kaysey Francis-Austin, and her year 4 class were also take part in LGBT lessons. One lesson was based on themes of transgenderism. Shockingly, the class was shown a video about an 11-year-old child who wanted to transition from a boy to a girl by undergoing surgery.Kaysey has spoken about how upset and disturbed the children in the class were while watching the video, to the extent that an embarrassed teacher had to turn it off. Troublingly, the school failed to mention that the same transgender child, years later, had to be rushed to hospital after surgical complications as a result of getting implants. 

LGBT maths problem solving lessons

Kaysey's mum, Karen, raised concerns with the teacher and headteacher, Susan Papas. But a year on, instead of listening, Papas has gone to even greater and disturbing lengths to eradicate opposition to the LGBT agenda in the school.

This began again in June during 'Gay Pride month' when LGBT themes began permeating the whole school. Kaysey and her classmates have had to do rainbow colouring art lessons, maths lessons with LGBT problem-solving themes, and English lessons that involve writing to MPs saying that people should be encouraged to 'come out.' They have also had to read and watch a number of children's stories which encourage and normalise same-sex relationships and transgenderism, for example 'Tango Makes Three.'

Watch 10-year-old Kaysey Francis-Austin talk about the negative impact LGBT lessons are having on children

"They are trying to confuse children"

Kaysey, whose favourite subject is maths, has described the lessons as "weird" "forced" and '"boring", and said that requests not to take part in the lessons had been denied. In one class, Kaysey was sitting next to her friend Farrell when he was alleged to have said: “LGBT sucks and LGBT’s dumb." He denies this. A conversation ensued which resulted in the teacher asking Farrell and Kaysey if they wanted LGBT people to die. They said that they didn’t, but added that in their countries of family origin people would be punished for being gay. 
After being quickly informed, headteacher Susan Papas came into the classroom and shouted at Kaysey and Farrell calling them “a disappointment to the school.” Papas then interrogated them in separate rooms, accusing Kaysey of saying she wanted to kill LGBT people. Confused and shocked, both children were kept in isolation for five hours without their parents being informed, until they were allowed to go home in tears. 

Child's church reported for hate crime

A timeline of events produced by headteacher Susan Papas in which she notes reporting one of the churches the children attend for a hate crime.

Despite this, both children were then unlawfully excluded for five days, a punishment usually reserved for a pupil who has assaulted a teacher. During this time, the parents requested to see their children's written 'confessions' , only to be sent a vague, incomplete and threatening timeline of events produced by the headteacher. This included details of the headteacher contacting the police, social services, the government's counter-terrorism body, and reporting the church that one of families go to for a hate crime (see image above); the implication being that the Biblical teaching of the church was the source of the alleged anti-LGBT behaviour.

When Kaysey returned to the school after the exclusion, she was heartbroken to discover that the headteacher had told her peers not to speak to her, and the star pupil, described in her report as being "a delight to have in class,"  was now treated as a danger to other children.

The Christian Legal Centre was contacted and a complaint has now been lodged with the local authority against the headteacher for unlawfully excluding the children. Despite all the threats and upset, Kaysey and her mother are even more determined to continue to take a stand. 

"Children treated like terrorists"

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said:

"My hope is this case will get people and particularly church leaders to see the gravity of the situation we face. What kind of society are we living in when a headteacher - whose job it is to look after and teach young children - is reporting their alleged words to social services, the government's counter-terrorism body and the police. Ten-year-old children are being treated like terrorists.

Help Christian Concern in their continuing representation of so many Christians who are being subject to harassment, dismissals and prosecutions because of their faith and belief .

This is a voluntary organization relying on the kindness of people in their support.
You can find them on Facebook

Christian Concern
70 Wimpole Street
London  W1G 8AX

Saturday 20 July 2019

Colossians Chapter 1

Turn to the Epistle from Colossians.  False teachers had infiltrated the Church just as we experience today, and when there is false teaching there is inevitably division and ill feeling.  We do not know what the trouble was in Colossae, but it was serious enough for Paul to write and admonish them.
Paul describes Christ as the first born of all creation; pre-eminent over all creation; the One who holds all things together; and the head of the Church. All these statements are to emphasise the deity of Christ and His having Supremacy over all in heaven and earth.
It is in Jesus’ position as head of the Church which I am concentrating on this morning.   Jesus is the one that builds His church, so all His servants need to be careful to follow all He directed.
Whilst all His followers should respond to Him, there is a special duty placed on all holding Office within the Church to lead by example.
The last words of Jesus before His ascension were to His Apostles:  Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  AND teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.   Here in the words of our Lord is the purpose for which He founded the Church.
The church began on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, and the first Church was founded on the teaching of the Apostles who took the gospel around the ancient world, and that church was a model from which we might do well to follow as the Bible states the people were devoted to such teaching.
The Apostles taught the truth about Jesus Christ. They taught about the way in which he fulfilled the Old Testament Scriptures in order to bring people to salvation through His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection. They also taught how salvation in Jesus Christ was to be worked out in the life of the believer. They are not teaching something that they have made up in their own minds, but only things which have been revealed to them by Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus had already made it clear to them that their teaching was to be consistent with His.
What should occupy our minds is to consider if the Church is still preaching the message of the Apostles, and is it fit for the purpose Christ and His Apostles built it?  That is a hard question to answer; in places yes, especially the Pentecostal Churches; but in the main denominational Churches, only to a limited extent. In order to justify that let us reflect.

Jesus gave strict commands on spiritual, moral, ethical and social matters.  Paul warned that there would be those who would not wish to here sound doctrine and would seek false teachers who would say what they wanted to hear and there are plenty of them in the Church today. Never forget, the church does not belong to men (or women) it is Christ’s church and he builds it through the teaching of the men who were His Apostles.

When we hear their teaching on a regular basis, not only does our faith grow, but also our ability to defend and help others to understand, especially those most closest and dearest to us who are not yet followers of our Lord.  We may not remember all we hear, but will be inspired by the power of what has been preached.  We will learn to be guided by the Scriptures and will come to know more about God and His Son and how we should live according to His commands.

Charles Wesley taught that the value of a person’s life was to be measured by their faith, so we need to get our way of life in order to justify our faith..

I am sure that many Church members do not realise the danger our faith and Church face.  There are forces out to annihilate Christianity from the public arena and silence biblical quotations on moral and ethical issues.

Whereas in the United States of America they now have a President who has forcefully spoken out in defence of Christian belief, and assured the people of their freedom to express their beliefs as laid out in the country’s Constitution, we have a Prime Minister who regularly tells us she is the daughter of a (late) Vicar and is proud of being a regular Church of England attendee, she still lends her support to opposite views to those we might have expected.

Paul taught it would never be an easy task for us, that opposition would be met, but said we do not have a spirit of timidity, be strong. We should show no fear or favour and never ever be ashamed of our faith. But that is exactly what is happening in some of our Churches, especially in the Church of England.  We are bound to preach what people need to hear rather than what some might prefer.

If we are to be the witnesses for Jesus, we must first be sure we have experienced His presence, and secondly tell positively what Jesus stated and commanded. It is not enough to say we know about Him, even the devil could say that, we must have accepted Him as Saviour and believed in all He did and commanded. We cannot amend or put on an application which He obviously would not have approved. 

Being a witness is something that falls to all Christians to be and it doesn’t mean theological knowledge required, or being intrusive, we can be a most effective witness by just letting it be known we attend Church, which tends to show we are followers of Christ. 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.

The responsibility for teaching falls principally on the clergy, and the Bible states a preacher is given a solemn task to preach in the name of God and Jesus Christ, and will one day have to answer as to how faithfully we carried out that privilege.

We have to tell our faith is not something someone made up. There is testimony from people alive at the time of Jesus’ life on earth, and not only from His followers but from literary men of the time, and it has been recorded.  The Bible has many prophecies in the Old Testament made many years earlier which most have come true.  There are so many interlinked stories none of which have been contradicted, and not even the most sophisticated computer could excel. 

Our Gospel is that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.  This, which was an early Christian confession, give us the heart of the gospel and show that the resurrection is an integral part of the gospel. The reality can be verified by the Scriptures and historical evidence as the empty tomb and the eye witnesses

Only Christianity has a Cross at the centre of its faith. Only Jesus suffered an horrific death on the Cross, a death made for criminals who were made to parade through the streets with a crown on his head beaten 39 times with a leather belt fitted with metal studs to cut the skin, stripped of clothes and nailed through His hands and feet on the cross, and all for the sake of paying the penalty for the sins you and I commit.

He could have refused to go there, but went willingly so we could be forgiven and put back in to a relationship with God and made us fit for heaven, where we will live on day with Him.  God said this is what man has shown and done to my Son; this is what I have done, and showed by raising Him to life again.

Let me close with the words of John Wesley,
I want to know one thing, the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book! O give me that book! At any price, give me the Book of God!  I have it: here is knowledge enough for me.

Saturday 13 July 2019

Luke 10 verses 25/37
We are looking at a story which has become part of biblical folklore, the story of the Good Samaritan, a story which the word ‘ love’ features.

One of the most overworked words in both religious and secular worlds is love. There is a song entitled, ‘all we need is love’ yet as we look around the world, we see anything but love. For millions of people, men women and children life is hard and even tragic, unable to live as God intended. There are equally so many people who want to kill, injure, deprive others and defraud, causing others misery and sadness. Love is far from their minds.

We find violence perpetrated in the name of religion, racial tension in the Middle East where there is
 a desire to see Israel destroyed as a nation, warring factions in Africa.  Within our nation family life, the bedrock of society, is being attacked by activists, intent on obliterating the traditional understanding of marriage, and homes broken and divided with bitter divorces, men and women who once professed love for each other now exchange for hate. Whilst many talk of love, not all practice in their lives.

God is a God of love and Jesus told this story to a Jewish religious leader, an expert in Jewish law to show the disappointing gap between words and practice.

I had a girls’ school next to my church and the head mistress asked if she could bring senior girls into the church to learn about the church. There was one girl   who each time tried to embarrass me by asking an outrageous question. I was reminded of the story of Martin Luther who was asked by a man what was God doing before he made the world, and Luther answered,’ he was making hell for people who asked stupid questions’.

Jesus often faced people who wanted to trap him and we have an example here from the lawyer. He asked Jesus what appears to be a serious question, what must I do to inherit eternal life. He recognized that what matters, is not the here and now, but the there and then.

You inherit something when someone close to you who loves you leaves us something in their last will and testament. We don’t do anything to earn that inheritance it is a free gift, we receive it because of our relationship with that person; such is the way with eternal life.

We have to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ who loved us.  When we accept him as Saviour, we are born into God’s family. The Bible says as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become children of God. When we become part of God’s family, we are included in his last will and testament. We do nothing to inherit eternal life, we accept it as a free gift of God through faith in Jesus who died for us.

The lawyer did not understand, he thought of eternal life as something he could get by his own effort rather than be by God’s grace. So it is not a genuine question, he knows the law and thinks Jesus didn’t. What Jesus did cleverly is to make him answer his own question by asking him,’ what is written in the law.’

As a scribe he would wear a phylactery, a small box fastened to his wrist or forehead which contained the Jewish Scriptures.  The lawyer’s reply is from Deuteronomy/Leviticus, a perfect summary of the law and Jesus commends him.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.

We see the importance Jesus places on Scripture. He referred the lawyer to the Bible as the only way of faith and practice; not the priests, not the Jewish church, but straight back to the Bible.  When any priest or bishop tells you what is right or wrong, check the Bible. We have seen lately too many instances of even bishops discounting and ignoring Scripture.

The lawyer asks who is my neighbour?  For him God was the God of Israel and so his neighbour were Jews. For Jesus however, God is the God all the world and a neighbour is anyone in need.  In his reply the lawyer showed there was no way he loved the Lord with all in him.

Today many people are like that. Who needs God and Christianity, God has passed from their view. So many people will say firmly, all you need for heaven is to pull out a list of what are all your good deeds, perhaps throw in a bit of religion, but not a lot. They then fix things to make sense in their minds.

This now a way of life. When government wants to boast about their record, they fiddle the figures and are economical with the truth.  The name of the game is accommodation, and this is what the Jewish leader did.  This was behind the lawyer’s question, who is my neighbour, he wanted to justify himself.

Jesus then told a parable about a man going down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  This road was notoriously dangerous and few people would travel alone or even take a diversion to avoid doing so.

Jericho was 2,300 feet above sea level whilst Jerusalem was 1,300 feet below, so over a distance of 20 miles the road dipped 1000 feet.  It was rocky and narrow and robbers would hide in the valleys and hills waiting to pounce.

A man was stripped and beaten and left lying in the road. Jesus tells first of a priest passing and then a Levite, and both crossed over and passed on the other side.  Jewish law stated anyone who touched a dead body was considered unclean for seven days, so the priest felt he could not go near the man in case he was dead, which would have meant he could not have officiated in the Temple.

There was also the danger this was trap for robbers would send a decoy posing as an injured man, and if someone stopped to help they would be set upon.

Now we have the Samaritan.  The Jews and Samaritans hated each other with a passion. The Jews said the only good Samaritan was a dead one, and they were publicly cursed in the Synagogues. Yet here was a Samaritan man who saw a Jew battered and helpless and took pity upon him, risking his own life in doing so.  He took care of the man after dismounting, and walked the rest of the way after putting the injured man on the horse and arranged for his safe keeping.
Jesus asked the lawyer who was the real neighbor to the injured man. Jesus had chosen a hero so offensive
It would be like expecting a Scot to support England when they were playing another country in a football match.

God is like that Samaritan. He looks at us battered and helpless and unable to help ourselves of spiritual; sickness.  He is moved from heaven to help us, having made himself human in the form of Jesus, and leaving himself open to mockery from the heathen.  As the Samaritan bound the wounds of the Injured Jew, Jesus bound our wounds having been tortured and placed on a Cross on our behalf.

The Bible states, ‘by his wounds you shall be healed’. That is why Jesus made the journey the opposite way from Jericho to Jerusalem.

We have here an exact picture of what is happening in the world.  Selfishness is the leading characteristic of the majority of people. People may put coins in a collecting box or send a cheque to a charity, but the self-sacrificing which Jesus is calling for is rare.

We constantly hear of people who are old and/or defenceless being attacked, women assaulted, whilst people pass by on the other side.  Quite recently a woman police officer was attacked whilst helping a colleague make an arrest, and knocked down in the path of traffic but no went to pull her clear.

There are of course times when it is not wise yo interfere, but we could call the emergency forces, even if in practice they are reluctant to attend.

Jesus told this parable after the question was asked, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Here was a man who was under the delusion, as many are today, that he could earn his way to heaven by good deeds. He thought that way because he misinterpreted Jewish law, and the point of the parable is to tell this is not possible and comes from the highest source, our Lord himself.

We are called to think of practical things in our life. We will not, and are not expected to have such a dramatic experience as the Samaritan, but may be there is someone in our family circle, or a friend who has been neglected and would benefit from our attention. May be within a church membership there is a tense relationship that needs to be healed. Whatever it is, it should be faced up to and in the word of Jesus, go and do likewise

Monday 8 July 2019

               I Thessalonians 1

1 Thessalonians is one of the oldest books in the New Testament. Scholars date it at approximately 50-51 A.D., meaning that it was written only 18 years after Jesus’ life and death. This is the first of Paul’s thirteen Letters in the New Testament, and tells us why Christianity spread so far and fast, without all the modern means of communication we have, and why the Church was so successful. We can learn from this small passage what the Bible teaches us is a successful Church, and what it means to be a Christian in the purest sense.

Paul had been on a mission with Silas and Timothy and chose to visit Thessalonica.  This was a proud capital city of Macedonia with a large population, a fine harbour, and was a busy trade centre, strategically situated on the main highway between East and West across Europe.  What happened there tended to happen all along the way between.

The three missionaries preached in the Synagogue for three weeks and converted a number of people, mostly Greeks but also Jews.

Paul writes to show he recognises they are truly Christians, who have fully accepted God and Jesus Christ.   They had listened to Paul, their minds were engaged, they were the church in God. They knew the life and ministry of Jesus Christ  .They had experienced the grace and peace of God. Paul prayed for them. He thanked God for them always.

Such was the vibrancy of their faith that it had spread widely and people were speaking of their devotion, their past practises were behind them.  The result here was that the believers shared the good news widely through the area, telling what God had done for them.   The friends of those believers began to ask questions about what had happened to make such a change in those believers’ lives.

Research has shown that the most successful form of evangelism is that of ordinary men and women Christians telling others of how Christianity has changed their lives.

Paul commended them for the main element of a Christian life, faith love and hope. For a faith that worked, a love which laboured and a hope which endured. Faith is not merely belief, it is something that changes you, making you turn from what is wrong to that which is right; love which causes you to work for the gospel; and hope which makes you steadfast in the faith and enable to endure. This is the whole Christian life, which begins in faith, continues in love, and culminates in the hope of eternal life.

Most people would think of a successful Church as one which had a large congregation, well financed, perhaps in a big building, but that could be a complete misconception.  Here was a Church which started off with people new into the faith, but such was their commitment and enthusiasm, it made others want to join them. 

We may think of a successful Church as one where there is commitment, enthusiasm, a firm belief and the teaching is that given by the Apostles, passed down to us in the New Testament. 

God does not choose large Cathedrals to perform His plans, nor pick rich influential people.  He chose a humble Jewish village girl to bear the Saviour of the world.  None of the Apostles had a degree between them, they were ordinary working men.  Such was their devotion to our Lord’s teaching, if they faced a Church Selection Board today, they would likely not be selected.

Remember in Acts we are told how the Church grew as the people listened to the teaching of the Apostles. This is Christianity in its purest and rawest form, stripped of centuries of man influenced additions and ritual, which transformed the ancient world.  This is how it was in the beginning. This is what makes a successful Church.  It is not a religious club united by common interest; it is a people chosen by God, receiving power through Jesus Christ, who demonstrate this in faith. We all have to consider how deep our commitment is to Jesus Christ

I want to now consider with you how this model of evangelism emanating from the local church can make such an impact.

Paul tells the believers they had been chosen by God.  
In order for a person to be a true Christian rather than pretend one, two things must happen first—something from God’s side and then something from the human side; but God’s side must always come first.

 So many people have said to me over the years, and still do, ‘I don’t go to Church but I am a Christian’.  This is usually said in good faith, they truly believe this, but nowhere in the bible can this be justified. The church has perpetuated this belief that everybody is going to heaven irrespective of lives lived with its unqualified liturgy, and the fact preachers haven’t the courage to tell them it is false, deceitful and improper.

People come to know Jesus and become a Christian by various means when the Holy Spirit touches them.  The most effective way is through preaching.  This why preachers should always endeavour to preach a gospel message, for more people are converted through listening to preachers than any other way.

Preaching should not be on human opinion, or be a re-
interpretation of the gospel to suit the time; it should not be on the false doctrine of climate change That’s why we ought to pray for the preaching of the Word, that it might be accompanied with the power of the Spirit. When the Word is based on Bible preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit, it produces deep conviction in the hearts of the hearers and people become convicted of their sin and their need for a Saviour, and accept Jesus as that Saviour who died on the Cross that they be forgiven of all sin.

There are other ways such as someone close telling them of their own faith, or by a message on a poster; the London City Mission touched many by their message posters on the London underground, but the majority come to know the Lord by preaching.

 The Billy Graham meetings were evidence of this, as so many millions over his forty years of preaching became committed Christians.  He spelled out plainly the consequences of rejecting Christ.  Sadly now, too many preachers are afraid of upsetting congregations, but if people are upset, perhaps they should search their conscience lest the Lord is telling them something they don’t want to hear.

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.  We can either respond to God’s calling, or reject him. When we respond, we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross was so that we might be forgiven for all that was wrong in our past life, and that we declare we will then live by the teaching and commands that he has given us in the bible.  God acts when people respond to His Son, and when people turn to Him.

This can become costly as some, friends or even family will turn against  you; it may mean a change, of lifestyle if you have been living in a way which is against what the Bible states, but the reward will be greater, for you have a promise to be in heaven with the Lord when your life here on earth is over.

But you have to make the decision to turn to Jesus; you cannot inherit, you can’t earn it no matter how honest, good-natured, you can’t buy it. God in his amazing grace offers it free to us.  It is however like someone offering you a present, you have to accept the gift to obtain what offered.

There does however need to be a personal response. Have you ever wondered Why two people can listen to the same message and respond in utterly different ways? Why will one brother follow Jesus while another completely rejects the gospel? Why does one person believe and the other say, “I want nothing to do with Jesus"? The answer must be that one person had an open heart while another person had a hard heart in terms of the gospel. The reason for people to respond differently is 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.

You will find some people mock the Bible, usually knowing little of its contents. I know a young lady who I always thought of as having a brilliant mind, yet she expresses her opposition to the Bible in a manner so fatuous as to be unworthy of anyone of a balanced mind.

It is quite interesting to watch the Billy Graham Crusades where you see the different reactions.  Most people are listening intently whilst others look as if they wished it was all over.  At the end of the meeting, thousands respond to the call to make a commitment, whilst similar numbers do not.  The reason is that some are willing to have an open heart and let God speak to them, which He does through the preacher.  This explains why some members of a family are Christians and others are not.

Paul who had suffered much in the gospel cause, called on them to follow his example and be imitators of him, which they did.  Many of us are inspired by people who leave a great impression upon us, and whilst we may not match up to their brilliance, we can benefit by following a similar path, and it is good to do so. A lot of young people imitate footballers or pop stars with dreams of becoming the X factor, neither of which materialise or do them any good.

We all owe it as a duty and a privilege to be able to do something in the cause of evangelism in however small a way.  This can be done by simply letting friends know you attend Church, ordering your life in a way which clearly demonstrates you are a Christian, and you don’t have to go to the other end of the earth to do so. 

Remember Jesus told one man to go to his own town and tell what the Lord had done for him.  We just start living for Christ in our daily lives to show others what a difference he makes.  Having responded to Gods’ Word you live it on a daily basis and others will notice. 

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, and strive for the fruits of the Spirit, namely love, joy kindness peace and gentleness, faithfulness and self control.  I have seen too many who have the opposite characters and do not reflect any credit on the Church.

Let us pray that we will always hear sound doctrine preached, and pray for the Holy Spirit to be upon us, and then we must depend on the Lord to give people the grace to respond with saving faith, and so that we may be true Christians worshipping in a successful Church.

God bless you and be at Church on Sunday.