Thursday 26 September 2019

I am turning to the Epistle to the Ephesians, in Chapter 2

Our epistle looks at the hostility that existed between Jew and Gentile in Paul’s time.  The Jews hated the Gentiles, so much so, that if a Gentile woman fell into difficulty during labour, they would not help her, in order to stop another Gentile being born into the world; and the Gentiles were not too fond of the Jews either. 

The Jews saw themselves as God’s chosen people,  anyone else did not belong to God’s people, which they saw as justification for despising them.

The Jews had a national home in Palestine but were scattered around the Mediterranean area.  Wherever they went they took with them a high moral standard and pure faith in a holy and righteous God in contrast to the Gentile gods.  They did not want to be dragged down morally by those who lived in a world of moral and spiritual corruption.

It was a multi-faith society, and like those today who have their own gods of money, property, etc, all of which do not give the spiritual satisfaction of belief in the one true God, they were without hope, for there is no fulfilment in an empty product.

The Gentiles felt like many people today in that they did not seem to belong to anything and had no clearly defined belief.  They knew there must be something better within their grasp and wanted to find it.

We can see a parallel situation within the main line Churches to day.  People see clearly defined doctrine being ignored and re-interpreted to suit and embrace modern culture, and to make the Church appear worldly friendly, but which lacks a clear moral basis.  So each year there is a decrease in the number of members, whilst people go to the small evangelical churches or just drop away, which is extremely sad and very worrying for the future.     

The evangelical wing has formed an association called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, which is campaigning for a return to orthodox doctrine and biblical integrity, yet whilst everyone is entitled to an opinion, some of the remarks from the liberal establishment, you would think they were trying to destroy the Church and deprive people of their liberty.

Whilst Paul was an Apostle to the Gentiles, he still had great concern for the Jews and is striving to bring the two together.  He saw the need for all to get right with God, and saw the answer for this reconciliation to be achieved as being through our Lord’s death on the Cross.

So anyone can come to Church without acting as if you need some special dispensation, not like the foreigner who needs a passport, but as one who has the full rights of a citizen of the Kingdom of God.         

We should realise what a privilege and how wonderful it is to be a Christian and know the one true God, and to belong to a Church. The hymn puts it so well, ‘Christ is our corner stone on Him alone we build.’ Every Christian is like a stone built into the Church.  It is so tragic that far too often Christians seem to be at war with one another just as much as the Jews and Gentiles were.   When we are able to understand how God sees the Church, we will want to do all we can to make others want to become part of it and share together with no divisions.

We have to accept that our world has divisions.     In every walk of life we find hostility, even regrettably within the Church.    We don’t have to go back 2000 years however to find racial or cultural hostility. There is still bitterness between Protestant and Catholic keeping each other apart .  Such rivalry in the name of religion is appalling, but even more shameful is the fact that such rivalry could have been cut out if the Church leaders of both faiths had got together and told their peoples to stop, for clergy in Northern Ireland have more influence and are listened to more than here, but on either side there was support for their own factions, one especially so.  

There are differences between people, which God no doubt intended.  We are not, despite the efforts of the equality zealots in Parliament, all equal or the same.  Those inequalities and differences can be an asset.  You don’t have a body which is all hands or heads. If the body of Christ is to be complete and functional, it needs to have various qualities.  And each sex performs some functions in life in a better way than the other and should be allowed to get on, without interference.  Equality does not mean we have to be the same, each sex has qualities the other does not have, and failings.    

In the concluding verses of our passage Paul wants to encourage us to come into a living relationship with God.  We are children of God who cares for us and has a purpose for our life.  As Christians we belong to the heavenly family with one Father.  This means we meet not with strangers but as brothers and sisters of God’s family.

The sooner all Christians appreciate that and act like Christians the sooner the Church of Christ will grow and become an influence in society.  How a Church can deny access to its full communion to another Christian I have yet to understand; yet we have the ridiculous situation where even the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of a Church with millions of followers around the world, is not permitted to take Communion with the head of the Roman Catholic Church .

Make sure you are at a Church on Sunday, and make sure it is a Bible believing Church

Tuesday 24 September 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.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Matthew 13 v24/44
I was told of a mural in a Church not far from my home in which is depicted a scene in which people are being driven to  hell. 

Shortly after hearing of this I had occasion to attend a clergy meeting at that Church.  The mural was pointed out to me and I said that I found it hard to distinguish what it meant, when a fellow clergyman said it had not received attention so had faded as we don’t tell people about going to hell now.  I replied, ‘I do’, and he looked at me completely astonished.  However I feel it should be me being astonished.
     When we who are being ordained into the Church of England appear before our Bishop at the Ordination service the Bishops asks, ‘are you persuaded that the holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined out of the said Scriptures to instruct the people committed to your charge and to teach nothing but that which you shall be persuaded may be proved and concluded by the Scriptures?’ We are then asked to affirm our acceptance .There is also the requirement to banish doctrines contrary to God’s Word.   So why do some not conform to Scripture and their affirmation?’
Hell is referred to 48 times in the Bible to my knowledge, and was frequently taught by our Lord Himself. 

The passage in Matthew 13 is a parable about a farmer who sows good seed in the ground but someone sows bad seed when he is not looking.  The bad seed is so like the good it is only discernible when fully grown.  At harvest the reapers sought the good from the bad and burn the bad.

This is not a farming discourse our Lord is giving but a warning of separation and judgement.  The good seed represents those who have chosen to accept and follow Christ, the bad seed that of the evil one (devil, Satan, or call her whatever you will).  Sometime a person may appear to be a good Christian when in fact he/she is not, but on the day of judgement will be sought out and separated. Conversely, a person not thought much of may be a very sincere and good person. We learn therefore not to exercise judgement.

This parable gives many preachers problems as they are unable to face the reality taught in the Bible.  One Vicar said it brought out the worst in some preachers and irreverently referred to those of us who accept our Lord’s strict teaching as ‘tub thumpers’.  This only goes to show there is no one as illiberal as a liberal.

Some people think that Jesus was just trying to frighten us, which raises the question is there something to be frightened of? 

One often finds speed warning signs along a stretch of road telling of speed camera being in operation, which infers there is a penalty for exceeding the limit.  Sometimes this is accompanied by signs telling of the numbers of people killed. Yes they are trying to frighten us, but also reminding us how close to death we can be, and any sensible person will heed the warnings. 

Jesus is here warning us of the consequences of what we face if we reject Him, at the same time showing His love and concern for us. 

Jesus always made it plain that this life is a preparation for eternity, and we face a choice now.  He taught there were two roads in life, a broad one on which there will be many people, and probably causing congestion, and which leads to destruction, and a narrow one where there will be far less travelling on, leading to eternal life.  In other words, two destinies, heaven or hell.  To suggest this to many people, including clergy, is an anathema and fewer preachers are now willing to proclaim it so. 

There are various view held on what finally happens to us when we die. Some believe that is all there is to life everything is finished; others believe everyone goes to heaven for a loving God would never send anyone to hell; ands that is true, the point is many choose to go by their manner of living. 

There is only one authoritative source, the Bible, all else is pure speculation.  There we find Jesus telling, as He does in this parable, of a literal hell.  In fact whenever He spoke of heaven He spoke of the alternative (hell)   Read the story of Lazarus in Luke 16; or. the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25.

 Heaven must exist so that those who have served the Lord may have their eternal reward for the sufferings they have endured and to fulfil the promise God has made.  Hell must exist for those who have rejected the warnings and lived unworthy and evil lives.  It has been said for the unbeliever this life is the only heaven they will, know and for the believer this is the only hell they will know  It has also been said the road to hell is paved with good intentions whilst the road to heaven is paved with the blood of Christ  We each must choose the road we travel on.

Saturday 14 September 2019

                                         Marriage  (Not redefined)

In my last post I wrote about the importance of the home and family, and today I want to speak to you about what makes for a happy home and contented family, a marriage as defined by GOD. Marriage has become a controversial subject, an anethema to the political correct zealots, ultra-leftists, social reformers, and LGBT activists.

Christians, (true believers in our Lord’s Word) are now finding their Churches are abandoning the traditional teaching of the Bible to placate and appeal to society, sogiving precedence to a worldly view over God.
This week the Methodist Church at its annual Conference voted by 247 votes to 48 to recommend endorsement of the report which calls on Methodists to ‘celebrate that the love of God is present’ among all who ‘enter freely into some form of life-enhancing committed relationship with each other.’ 
This is the sequel to the vote carried out previously when church members generally opposed approving same sex marriage, but as happens when activists in an organisation can’t get their own way, they will organise voting until they do. Imagine how Charles and John Wesley would react at the prospect of the Church likely to approve and so dishonour the great revival which they motivated. If anyone doubts their reaction, read John Wesley’s sermon on Romans 1.
The Church of England has already capitulated to the activist’s agenda with its widespread support for so-called ‘gay pride’ marches, bishops supporting same sex marriage, and special created liturgy for welcoming trans-gender people to be baptised.
As churches change their teaching, the pressure increases on Christians – and all of us – to go along with the new ideas or keep quiet.  But nothing can change the truth about marriage. That’s why we stand up for it together.
Marriage is the bedrock of society yet now long held beliefs are being challenged.   Marriage lends stability to society and builds a framework which is held in high esteem.  It is one of the most important aspects of our culture.   Jesus highly valued marriage and performed His first miracle at a wedding.    

When God created the world He ordained marriage, He set out in His Word how we can have the best in that relationship. Marriage was intended as a sacred religious ceremony to be celebrated before God in Church, men and women giving a promise to live faithfully together until death parted them. 

Marriage was first mentioned in Genesis when God created man and then said it was not good for man to be alone so God made a woman to be man’s companion, and God said they should be united.  Therefore, marriage is a divine ordinance.  Our Lord constantly referred to the Old Testament particularly when referring to marriage.

God made two people, man and woman, Adam and Eve. We must accept that God knows best and when he wanted man to have a companion, He made a woman as the perfect answer, someone who could complement man in every way, physically and mentally in a way other men could not, and men throughout the ages have appreciated and recognised this. God wanted to supply what was lacking in man’s life and together they could have children and create the ideal family.  He made men and women to have a natural attraction, opposites attracting.  God planned the human heart to love, marry and have children. Most men if honest would concede how their wife has been of much help.

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

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, precious and for longevity.  This is what God intended.

Having become one they were not to look for sexual pleasure elsewhere.  Marriage was meant to be for life but now 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.
God intended men and women should have children, which means having a father and mother.  Children need both for a balanced upbringing and to receive the benefit of both characters in their lives.  Family meant husband, wife and children.  This is the ideal which cannot be attained by two people of the same sex.

Politicians have caused untold hardship to many abandoned children by their stubborn insistence not only on giving two same sex people the right to adopt children, but making it illegal for Adoption bodies to refuse adoption by same sex couples.  Such action resulted in Catholic Adoption agencies, which did such fine work, being forced to close down because they found it unable to reconcile such servile policy contrary to their Christian belief. Such is the government’s idea of democracy and freedom of conscience.

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.

Casual sex, ‘partnerships’, and recognised homosexual relationships as ‘marriage’, are contrary to God creation.  Marriage was heterosexual, and co-habitation causes so many problems in society as many children do not know their biological father.

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.

David Cameron, in collusion with another political disaster Barack Obama, created the present chaos with his typical off the cuff action without thinking the issue through.  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. 

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.

I close with the words used by the more distinguished Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster in a pastoral letter, ‘‘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

Friday 6 September 2019

      Thus saith the Lord, 'set your house in rder. (2Kings 20 v 1.)    Perhaps the greatest tragedy for the welfare and good of this nation is the fact that marriage has been downgraded and the need for a stable family virtually ridiculed.  The well established principle of a family being a man (father) and woman (mother) being joined in holy matrimony and bring up children together has been cavalierly dismissed as old-fashioned.  We see so clearly the consequences.
      When I refer to holy matrimony, I am of course doing so in the Bible manner, that is a man and a woman. I know this definition is not favoured by too many within the Church, but there are still some of us faithful Scripture, (and our ordination vows)
     We constantly read and hear reports of young people
between the ages of 7 and teenage years terrifying whole neighbourhoods.  They abuse, assault, vandalise and rob at will, and if anyone should remonstrate with them that person runs the risk of stabbing or serious injury. On several occasions men with families have been killed whilst defending their property.  Whole gangs roam the streets seeking confrontation with other gangs and their members, which have cost the lives of substantial number of young men, sometimes innocent victims. 
     On so many occasions, broken homes have been a cause of such behaviour, with a mother unable to control or showing an utterly irresponsible line.  One 12 years old boy terrified an estate and his mother said he was ‘her little Satan, but wasn’t really evil’. An unwitting contradiction in terms, but added he just needs understanding.  He certainly needs something, but more severe than understanding. Yet again an absent father.
      In the Old Testament, Joshua a great leader of the Jewish people, addressed the nation and said, ‘as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’
     ‘A nation is only as strong as its homes’, said Abraham Lincoln, and today our homes are reflecting the state of the our nation, which is in the deteriorating state of moral and social decay, which should make us fear for the future of our children and grandchildren.
       The first home was instituted by God before Church, schools, or government. God made man, and then woman to be his wife, to live together and have children. It was meant to be where father, mother and children lived as a family. It was a place where children first heard about God as parents told them about Jesus
     The home now doesn’t mean as much today as it used to do, and to so many people the idea of two people being married as the ideal is old fashioned and rather stupid.  .  Marriage was built on the foundations of the Bible.  It has been said that in 100 years from now, marriage will have ceased to exist, and if some poitcians had their way it would be in a lot less time.
     There are indeed powerful forces within the government and liberal establishment who are determined to destroy the traditional and biblical image of the home, marriage, and family.  One senior politician is waging a one woman war against it, and is quoted as having said categorically that there is no such thing as the ideal family.  The same silly woman who campaigns vigorously for equality, stating that there should be a woman wherever a man has a place.     Is it not ironic that the same woman who stated two men cannot be trusted to run anything and need a woman, yet she considers two men are capable of bringing up children through adoption.
     God has laid down clearly what He expects, and we ignore to our peril. Homes are the foundation and bedrock of society, and they are being destroyed.  If evil forces win the battle for the home there is nothing left worth fighting for.  We have to restore the home as the basic unit of society.
     An indication of how our judiciary thinks and views the Christian faith was displayed in the High Court when it was said, ‘marriage is not generally regarded as a sacrament and divorce is a statistical commonplace’.
      The Bible teaches that marriage is holy and sacred in the sight of God. I'm afraid that some enter into it like it's all a big joke. Others go into marriage for luck and they break up and there's trouble and there's disappointment.  That is wrong. Marriage should be preceded by the most careful thought.
      One of the nations’ favourite television programmes has been featuring two people, who are neighbours, conniving at having an affair as a major story line  People are so captivated by television stories they think they have to emulate them in real life.  I dread seeing weddings or funerals on television as I know some of the ridiculous actions will be asked for in the following weeks.
      You can’t have a relationship with God and be in an adulterous relationship. In the Old Testament it was considered so serious it was a capital offence punishable by death.  God wanted to show the world how serious was the marriage vow
     We have so much unhappiness and trouble in the home today because we've got away from God's laws, rules, and regulations governing marriage, When God performed the first marriage, He laid down the rules, and He said if you want to have a happy home, obey these rules. If you want to have trouble, disobey them.
     Having children means more than conceiving and bearing them. Raising children is a vitally responsible and important task.  It is more than being a novelty for some celebrity or as a passport to the top of the housing list for a young woman.  A whole future life is in the hands of parents, yet we hear of multiple children of a woman from multiple fathers who have no interest in the poor children.
     It is reckoned that in the majority of homes no biblical knowledge or teaching is being given to children, probably as much due to the fact the parents have none.
     Each generation claims things are worse than in their time, but I can never recall a time when children were allowed to terrorise whole neighbourhoods and cause such fear vandalising, abusing and stealing knowing they are virtually immune from any punishment.  They are fully aware of the law which protects them, and little help is offered in most cases by police.  It is hard to comprehend how the police allow such behaviour to develop, they certainly wouldn’t when it was known as ‘the Police Force’ rather than what is now little more than a social service.   Society must decide what sort of a future we want as far as children are concerned.
     The Bible says listen to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.   We can learn so much from Jewish parenthood.  Father’s teaching to his children of the Ten Commandments, one for each of the ten fingers, and the history of the Jewish people from the Old Testament, and the mother controlling behaviour.  I have never known nor heard of a Jewish child being involved in violent disorder or crime.  When I have sought an answer, I have been told it is because of the Jewish Mama in the home.
     Mothers can indeed have a great effect on children.  I was often required to be away from the home for long hours, and it is a great tribute to my wife that two of my sons became ordained, and have proved to be very wonderful and successful Ministers.
     Far too many children are left to their own devices.  How can teenagers roam the streets drunk and threatening people, stabbing other teenagers, and forming life threatening other gangs, without the parents knowing of it?  So why don’t they do something about it.  Yet again, in the days of an interested and efficient Police Force, action would have been taken under the Children’s Act for failing to control their children.
      Some feminist thinkers have said that motherhood will have to go in a new social order and find a new way of raising children.  You may have seen women being asked on television what their occupation was, and sometimes you hear the reply, ‘just a housewife’   No apology is needed.  A housewife and mother is as great a calling as any in the world.  Like God they are a very present help in times of trouble.  My sons have all held their mother in the highest esteem and my son who died called Mum as his last word.
     Christian standards have gone from many homes. Everywhere people search for happiness from the wrong things and wrong places.  Many criminals have come from homes where there has been no peace, no discipline nor Christian values or teaching. The biggest cause of young criminals is due to marital breakdown and separation
     Children take up home values. When a father dodges working, a son will invariably copy.  God ordered us to work and there would be less poverty if more people were working.
     It is a matter of great regret that government is forcing councils, some of which don’t need that much encouragement, to foster and send for adoption children to two people of the same sex.  A child needs a father and a mother, both of whom are essential to a child’s moral and social development and welfare.  It is therefore irresponsible to make such enactment and reveals contempt for God’s decree.
     The Bible says we have to have discipline in the home. It is a sign of the times that discipline has become non existent in many homes, schools, and society in general and has become a word considered vulgar. Children have a natural bias to do wrong; you never have to teach a child to say no.
     If Britain is to defend its values successfully, it must rediscover the Christian faith in which those values are ultimately rooted.  Marriage and the home are firmly part of those roots. When the founding principles are eroded, and the morality and biblical fundamentals are taken away, there is no foundation for society, which is a dangerous thing and we are seeing some of the consequences developing