Sunday 31 January 2021

 Luke 2, v.21/40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 28 January 2021


The Conversion of Paul (Acts 9)

This week the Church honours the greatest name in the service of Christ, the Apostle Paul. The passage from Acts tells the story of his conversion. It is unique in the sense that Paul himself was unique.

The story of Paul is the one which reveals the enormous change that can take place in a person’s life.

Paul was a deeply religious man, a strict Pharisee, a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, who studied at Jerusalem University under the distinguished Rabbi Gamaliel. Prior to becoming a Rabbi he was by trade a tent maker. He fasted regularly and gave generously in his devotion to God, he was the type of man who would be of great worth in any Church.

He was a dedicated persecutor of Christians who he hunted with much determination. It was his sincere belief that in doing so he was pleasing God. He could not accept as a Jew that Jesus could possibly be the anticipated Messiah, for anyone executed by crucifixion was thought to be beyond God’s acceptance. He was not satisfied with hounding Christians in Jerusalem, but sought to go beyond that city.

One day he met Jesus and his life was permanently turned round but so bad was his reputation that no one thought it was genuine. Whilst on a journey to Damascus, without any warning, he was struck by a dazzling light and heard a voice asking him, ‘why do you persecute me?’ Paul said, ‘who are you Lord?’ Such a light caused blindness as a sign of divine revelation. The voice is accepted to have been of Jesus, enabling Paul always to claim to have heard from the risen Christ, so being called by Jesus in a very special way, and being given special authority and commission.

This teaches us that God  marks a person out some times in their life, and in his own time reaches out and calls into his service.  God had obviously been watching over Paul and touched him at the moment it would have such a dramatic effect.

You will hear people say they came to Christ at a particular time, but in reality God called them and they responded; God always makes the first move and we either respond or reject. Salvation comes from God in his mercy and grace.

God wants everyone to answer, and Jesus was sent to earth to bring people into God’s Kingdom.  Jesus calls us just as he called Paul, and waits for us to answer, he will not force us. We have to make the decision, and many people who reject later realise the gift he was offering.

.Jesus was demonstrating to Paul that his attack on Christians was in effect an attack on Jesus. This was God’s plan for a change in Paul’s life, in which he would offer such zeal and lead so many to know the Lord, creating Churches around the ancient world. Paul would become an Apostle to the Gentiles.

God wants us to see in this conversion the most unlikely people can be converted, and not only people from respectable families are called into God’s service. His conversion was a work of divine grace.

The Lord prepared for a prominent Christian, Ananias, to go to a house in the city where he would find Paul. This shook Ananias for Paul’s reputation as a persecutor of Christians was well known, but he did as God had told him, for the Lord had indicated that He was going to use Paul. Paul would later claim God had marked him out before he was born.

Paul would spend days of fasting and much suffering in the service of his Lord; beaten, stoned, chased out of cities, imprisoned, yet he never wavered in his devotion.

Following his conversion Paul travelled widely across the ancient world planting Churches and arranging financial aid to those in need. Finally he arrived back in Jerusalem with money collected, but against the advice of his friends.

Paul was told it would be dangerous for him to go to Jerusalem for Jewish Christians objected to him allowing Gentile Christians to worship in the Temple. They challenged him on being an Apostle and claimed his message was wrong and not to be trusted. The failed to accept that his message came from God and Paul was chosen to deliver it

Despite this he went, and a riot broke out which resulted in Paul being arrested and taken to a Roman fortress. When he claimed he was a Roman citizen the commander released him, and he appeared before the Jewish Sanhedrin. When there he spoke of the resurrection of the dead, and he further upset them and was taken back to the fortress.

It became known that forty Jews were dedicated to killing Paul, so he was taken under guard to the Roman procurator Felix in Caesarea, where he was kept for two years. A new procurator was appointed and Paul demanded to appear before the Roman Emperor so was sent to Rome, but if he had not so demanded he would probably have been freed.

Eventually he arrived in Rome where he was kept under house arrest for two years, and his ultimate fate is not really known. It is a legend that he was beheaded.

The experience of Paul has been mocked and ridiculed and all sorts of explanations offered to try and discredit the story, but Paul always insisted and testified for the rest of his life, as to what happened on the road to Damascus, when it would have been easier for him not to do so, and would have saved him much hardship.

One important message and lesson we get from this story is no one is too far gone than to be found by God, he takes the worst of sinners ,  as Paul claimed he was, and makes the best saints.( I use the word saints in the biblical understanding, that is anyone who is a committed follower of Christ, and not just some notable man in the Catholic Church)

It is factual that many faithful followers of Jesus were from Christian homes, but its is also true finds his servants from the lowest of places.  No one is too far from God’s reach to be saved.

The greatest fallacy we face to day is the onslaught from the press and the ignorant people who claim to be so knowledgeable, but in fact know so little about faith or religion. You find them on television or radio and press, stating in arrogant tones that all religions are the same, we have the same God and will go to the same place. Such is complete nonsense and stupidity.

Christians worship the God of Israel, which a Muslim would see as offensive to them, and the same with other faiths. Christianity is not something someone made up, it is based on historical facts surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, details of which were witnessed and recorded at the time.

God’s amazing grace reaches out to all who will listen.  Keep on believing, and make sure the Church you attend is a bible believing one, teaching only that which is God given in the Scriptures.  May God bless you on your Christian journey.

Tuesday 26 January 2021


               R E F L E C T I O N S

What a mixed-up crazy world we live in.

 In the United States of America, the country which sets the way which many other countries follow, the Press and television have been rejoicing in the defeat of President Trump, and being blissfully happy at the election of President Biden. Let us do some comparing of the two.

President Trump helped to set up peace agreements in the Middle East between Israel and neighbouring Arab nations whereby those countries communicate amicably.   He was the only President with the courage and initiative to engage in talks with North Korea, now less aggressive.

He made it possible for Christians to express their beliefs without threat of prosecution, and cancelled laws which were so banal as to force Nuns to provide free conceptions for women, and other objectional laws of the disastrous Obama Administration.

At home he did what was unprecedented for a politician by doing all he promised in his pre-election addresses, yet from the moment he was elected the Democrat Party never gave him a chance.

A member of the Senate (a democrat) on a few days after the 1916 election, was heard talking on his phone whilst on a train and calling for action against the President.  Rather than trying to work with him; the Speaker of the House of Representatives set out to unseat him. He had done the unthinkable in defeating Hilary Clinton.

President Biden has been welcomed with ecstatic praise and enthusiasm, which is always good to welcome a new Officeholder, but for the press there is the promise of support for their left wing bias.

But what in the midst of a world pandemic of great concern across the world and a resurgent China, and unsettled Europe, what is the first Executive Order President Biden make? He makes it legal for a man who wants to be a woman to self-declare, so making it possible for him to use female facilities, thereby endangering women of all ages, as incidents have occurred.

In an agonisingly long inaugural address President Biden promised repeatedly to unite the nation, so earning himself a lot of praise, which if done would have been well justified.  

However, what he did was the complete opposite. Having asked every American to support him in fighting anger and discrimination, he has promised to prioritise black, Latino, Asian, women owned businesses, even in the course of considering of the effects of covid .

Whilst he properly criticised the attack on the Senate and government Offices, there was no condemnation when people were rioting and looting in cities across the country, much of it for issues which did not directly them or the nation at large.

An Executive Order grants illegal immigrants full citizenship, with the other Order previously mentioned asserting that transgender students should be free to use changing rooms and participate in school sports in accordance with the gender they choose.

All such measures will, no doubt be given the publicity that President Trump was denied. Remember through the election he was virtually left out of the left wing dominated press.

 However, as Trump was vociferous in telling of his (successful)economic measures, Biden did not mention the more serious, but less publicity catching headlines, of trade, employment and health.


I love, favour and support America as much as any non American can do, so I have no basic dislike of the country, but the vengeance and unconcealed hatred by Democrat Politicians against President Trump are totally inconsistent with President Biden’s call for ‘tolerance if you disagree with policy for that is democracy’.

There is, and will continue to be, half the nation believing the election was ‘fixed’ in favour of the Democrats, and there is undoubtedly circumstantial evidence to give some credibility. This uncertainty and unsettled issue could have been, at least given a chance of being resolved or just a compromise reached, if the proposal of Senator Cruz to have a committee consisting of an equal number of representatives from the two Parties, plus the same number of Supreme Court Justices, had been taken up.

Law and Order are at risk if this drags on and impeachment imposed, and with Congress controlled by the Democrat Party which does not have a good record of condemnation or action, there is likelihood of much unnecessary disturbance.  God ‘help’ America may become the cry


President Trump has left Office so has no more authority and is not likely to return to any national Office, so why not leave it there; only vengeance can be the reason. He acted in what he considered to be the best for the nation, and to make it great again, and whilst there will be many who disagreed with him, there were many others who thought he did well. Surely no one could doubt he loved and was proud to serve his country.

God bless America.




Here in the United Kingdom, we have Universities which are supposed to be places of learning, with Oxford and Cambridge being world famous and sought after.  Now there is a strong left-wing group of people whose interest in being there is to cause disruption.

It enquiry could be made, it would be found the salaries of Chancellor and Vice Chancellor would be of eye watering amounts, so why are these not justified by the persons holding those positions, taking action against the rebels who have been granted the privilege of studying there.

It is beyond normal understanding that students can dictate who is allowed to speak and debate, when the whole purpose is to stimulate debate. Fortunately, an MP has proposed a law to defend free speech and protect the right to have nominated guest speakers, hopefully with severe penalties for those who offend against.

Democracy means respecting the fact other people may have an opinion, and also a right to be given the same hearing for such opinion, as any other.

A lot of people in both America and Britain need to accept such.

Wednesday 20 January 2021

                     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. Here.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, often 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 greatness 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. Some people will 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, and it took place at a marriage of a man and a woman, which has a significant meaning, it stresses the importance Jesus, places on marriage.  There is no more wonderful and beautiful union than a man and a woman, and that it is why God created us so.

Today people say of some event it was a miracle. 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.

Today the Church is almost performing a miracle in reverse, turning wine into water by diluting marriage into something having no greater significance than any other relationship.

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 be the bride.

Be at Church on Sunday; making sure it is a Bible believing Church. 

Friday 15 January 2021

 MATTHEW 11 V.28/30

I wonder if there is anyone in this congregation 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. The fear of marriage breakdown, Of 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. Now at this present time, will I get the virus if I go out?

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.

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. 

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’

It is said that these are the most wonderful words spoken by our Lord, the very heart of Christianity. They speak of the failure of men and women to solve the problems of the world.

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. Your problem may not be despair, it may be something quite different. All who are weighed down by sin or guilt. To all Jesus speaks.

The Bible says, ‘there is no distinction since all have fallen short of the glory of God’. It doesn’t matter what the past has been, if you repent and turn to Christ, God is ready to blot out your sins and give you a clean sheet. 

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 am here waiting for you. I’ve got help if you will only come’. 

You can change your job or house, find new friends, but if there is no inner peace, all the changes in the world will make no difference. On the other hand, if heart and mind are at rest, that is a priceless feeling.  It is constant peace that Jesus is offering. He says, ‘I can set you free for I am the Way, the truth, and the life.

How do I come? Just as you are. We rely on what He has done for us, and at His invitation in a spirit of simple trust. 

The Bible tells of men who went to Him. Jesus released them from restlessness enabling them to face the future.   Jesus said, ‘take my yoke upon you and learn from me’. A yoke was a wooden frame 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’.

But it is not just mouthing words. It is truly believing Jesus died on that Cross for your personal sins, and because of that alone, you can be forgiven totally by God and earn your place in heaven.

It means putting Him as a priority. If we give preference to some other activity we are putting God in second place, and in the Commandments He tells us He is a jealous God and will not be relegated.

Jesus will welcome you, pardon any failures, cleanse your heart and relieve your anxieties and cares, because of the promise He made in John’s gospel, that whoever comes to Him will never be turned away. 

You see, whilst necessary for a Christian, 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.

It may be someone’s life is in a 'me' .So many people these days have the main concern on asking what can 'me' get from lifeto make me happy, I don't want to do things any way but my own.  Such may enable Frank Sinatra to sing and make a lot of money and fame, but it doesn't fit in the ordinary person's life.  It may be God seems far away. It may be after long time searching you are still reluctant to commit.It makes no difference,, if we are humble enough to admit our need

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 will not force his way in, he wants you to give him an invitation.

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.

Sunday 10 January 2021


This week’s gospel reading come from the 1st Chapter of Mark

In verse 1, Mark focuses on the actual beginning of the gospel, showing the fulfilment of God’s promises to help his people, spoken by the prophet Isaiah (40.v3) and Malachi (3v1). 

"As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, 'Behold I send my messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."'

 John is preparing the way by telling the wonderful story about Jesus and him being the Son of God. Jesus would come and proclaim the gospel.

It will prove to be a wonderful story of him who would heal the sick of many illnesses, lead his people to find salvation, raise the dead, and finally end his life by dying on a wooden Cross, the most prolonged and cruel death devised by man, to earn salvation for all who accepted him as Saviour.

John lived in a wilderness calling on the people to repent of all sin and turn to God for forgiveness, for  God hates sin and will not have sinners in heaven. Repentance then could lead to baptism; this baptism was not the means by which our sins are forgiven, but a sign showing we have repented and accepted that when Jesus died on that Cross he was doing so to pay the debt we owed to God for the way we had acted against the teaching of both God and Jesus. We were claiming Jesus as our Saviour.

Here was a clear and unmistakably way of becoming a (true)Christian, bearing no resemblance to what has become a modern day charade, when people are asked to present themselves at Church at a given time and date, without them ever being told the meaning of baptism. It may help to add numbers, but it is an affront to God.


The Jews understood baptism well. They understood far better than many today the symbolic meaning of baptism. Baptism symbolized the washing away of the past and the beginning of a new life. It is the symbol of a totally new man coming forth. It was such a powerful symbol that under Jewish law, he was considered a Jew. He could, if he wanted, marry a Jewish wife. The first child born after his baptism was called the firstborn son, even though the couple might have had five other sons previously.

But John wasn't baptizing Gentiles. John was baptizing Jews. It says, in verse 4, that he was "preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." John's baptism indicated that the person had repented and received God's forgiveness, that he was now coming forth a new person in order to live a new life. It's all a part of repentance.

.John's message was also one of forgiveness. You see, when you repent, you are forgiven. This is a basic fundamental reality we Christians need to see clearly. Many of our problems would be solved if only we saw and lived by this truth.

People first acknowledged they were not living in a way acceptable to God, they then confessed so and repented, asking for forgiveness from God. By repent it is meant a genuine feeling of regret, coupled with a determination to change the way of living.  This makes a mockery of what is meant by baptism now, which most people think is the naming of a child, which is done when the child is registered at the Registry Office.

We ask people if they repent of their sins when we often know they do not and have no intention of doing so, and then pronounce the baby is ‘born again’.  How can a baby be born again? This term is one taken from the words of Jesus, and is cherished by evangelical believers as a sign of new spiritual faith. Here in this Chapter is spelled out in clear language; confess, repent, believe, and until a person has enough intelligence to understand so, baptism can have no meaning.

John was a powerful preacher, speaking with conviction and without any fear or favour. Many people walked miles from Jerusalem and all Judea into the wilderness to hear John, such was the power and reputation he had created and were baptized by him. How many times I have been told not to talk about sin and judgement, make people happy and well.  If people just want to feel happy and well they can go to a doctor or a comedian, but many people feel very happy singing hymns. (really)

There is no doubt that the people came to John because his message had a deep appeal to them. They willingly made the trek from the surrounding countryside to hear this strange preacher. . He did not live like other men. The Bible teaches us that he clothed himself in a garment of camel's hair and that he ate locusts and wild honey. No doubt, some came in curiosity.   They were moved for several reasons.

The Bible quotes Paul saying, ’woe unto you if men speak well of you. John spoke plainly of the judgement to come, of God’s wrath, and Jesus always spoke of two eternal destinies, heaven or hell, and people either listened and were saved, or departed from him.  We should take the example of John the Baptist and never be ashamed to speak the truth of Christ, remembering the words of Paul to Timothy, ‘do not have a spirit of timidity. A plain Bible speaking preacher I a friend to you, and is not trying to frighten you.

People were attracted to John's message because John spoke to of sin. While many like to deny the reality of sin, it is still there.  In their hearts they feel the burden of it, and it worries them. Who hasn't felt the sting of conscience at impure thoughts and wrong actions?

Our souls are equipped with conscience, but that conscience can become dim, and sin weighs heavily on us.  Concern is mounting at the number of suicides, exacerbated at this time by the pandemic. Some people are tempted to the psychiatrists' couch in an attempt to alleviate this terrible burden, something I have never understood for what I have seen of psychiatrists would make me feel worse.

. They will tell you the real problem is the "guilt feelings" you are must  not worry there are no absolutes, no right or wrong. What's right for you is right for you. What's right for me is right for me. you can quit feeling guilty. As a result, many in our day fix the blame on someone else for their behaviour. Even if there is a whisper of truth in that, the fact remains that you are still responsible for your behaviour before God. And the reason why you feel guilty, generally, is because you are guilty. But guilt is a heavy burden.

In the midst of all this, we desperately desire freedom  " Some have all they want and are not satisfied. They are full of sin and empty without God. That is why things do not satisfy. These people are described as "having everything they ever wanted but not wanting what they had." They are dissatisfied because they are empty. They live in  a spiritual wilderness.

Such were those of John's day. And that is why they came to John. They had a desire to be free. For that reward, no price would be too high. So they came, and came, and came. Out into the hot, dusty, parched desert, they came. John's message drew them because it spoke to this universal need. And they wanted to hear what he had to say. So they came to this desert place, hoping to hear something that would set them free.

Not only did John's message speak to a universal need, but John's message also offered hope. The word was out. People were finding relief. This wild man of the wilderness was preaching and baptizing and they were finding relief. So they came.

 Not only did John's message have certain appealing elements which attracted the people. But it also had a certain authority. He spoke as one who was telling the truth. He was telling it like it was.. And in a day when people soft-pedal the truth, it is exceedingly refreshing to find a man who stands for something and will tell you exactly what he believes. John was such a man.

John's message was one of repentance. He called them to turn from their sins. A change of heart and behaviour was required. You see, that is what repentance really is. This is why, on one occasion, he dressed down the Scribes and Pharisees for coming to him. He told them to show some evidence of their repentance because they had shown now sincerity in truly repenting from the heart. They had shown no "fruit" of repentance.

There is a great need for true biblical repentance in the church of Jesus Christ today. Repentance is necessary, not only to come to Christ; repentance is necessary for Christians to maintain a close relationship with Christ. Repentance, at its essence, means both a change of mind and a change of behaviour. It means that we turn from our ways because we have been convinced by God that they are wrong. It means that we confess our sins, that we humble ourselves before God, that we lay down our pride and bow before Him.

Our sins are put away from us by repentance. This is what it means to be forgiven by God. When He forgives, he puts our sins as far away from Him as east is from west.. We become free from sin and guilt. We are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. We are made righteous in God’s sight, we are justified, just as if we had never sinned.

John's message was one of new life in Christ. You see, John was only the forerunner to lead us to Christ. He knew that his ministry was one of pointing to the coming Messiah. That is why he said that he was unworthy to even untie the laces of Christ's sandals. This was a job reserved for the lowliest servant. John saw that his message was only a beginning. He was only baptizing with water, but there would come One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. He would complete what John had started. John would fade into the background as Christ came into the foreground. Only Jesus could take us into the Kingdom. . That is His desire. That is your destiny. This is what God intends for your life. And that is good news.  .

The passage ends with Jesus seeking baptism from John.  This was done for Jesus to show he identified with us in his human form, and was able to face all we do.  He got tired and weary, was hungry and even got angry at times when it was justified. This did not in any way diminish his divine role; he was God on earth, and would perform all that God his Father sent him to do

In the manner of John  the Church has a duty to teach the gospel as laid down in the Bible, and not vary in any way.  Not to be blown into every new spiritual wind of fashion wo that we drift from our moorings.  Hold fast to the anchor of the gospel, once and for all time given by the Apostles from the Lord himself,  You and I must contend to the truth, and never let anyone tell you do not count, you count tremendously, so glory in what God has called you to do and be faithful to His Word.


Friday 1 January 2021

Some thoughts for the new year of 2021

At this time of the year two of the saddest words of the English language are used; namely if only. We look back on some of the events and occasions of a past year, and in the gift of hind sight realise the opportunities we messed up on, and how things could have made such a difference,…if only we had etc. I wonder if our Church leaders feel that way when they look at the state of Christianity in the country today. 
The Church in this country, is losing members almost weekly, and is failing to be of any interest or relevance to the under 50 age ranges. This should give all sincere Christians real concern, and as we enter a new year reflect on the challenges facing the Churches, especially the Church of England.

As we begin a New Year, we are contending with a vicious virus which is restricting attendances at Church, and which will have deprived us of many of our Christian brothers and sisters.  There will be vacant seats to remind us of that fact:  this further aggravates the present falling attendances. In remembrance of lost friends, we must all make a supreme effort to bring others to learn the faith that they cherished.  

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

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

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

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

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

In addition, they have said God was wrong to suggest a man must only marry a woman, it was perfectly good for it to be another man. God got it wrong again it is said.

Read your Bibles you will find, God created man in his own image, male and female he created them.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. To the woman God said, you shall bear children.

In recent times the leaders of the Church have made one concession after another to meet the agenda of the LGBT activists, who will never be satisfied until everybody not only accepts their agenda, but approves of it.

How individual people live is a personal matter for each person to decide. God gave us free will and we place ourselves in His hands; we do not bear personal animosity, nor should we, but we do resent the provocative acts of the activists who have caused so much hurt in pursuit of their agenda, causing people to be deprived of their occupation, just for having a different belief. Tolerance and goodwill means allowing someone to have a different opinion.

The Bishop of Liverpool was reported in the Telegraph newspaper of calling fora wholesale reappraisal of traditional interpretations of the Bible relating to sex and marriage.

“Some reconsideration of how we should now understand the Genesis perspective on marriage is necessary, as well as exploration on how far that should affect the underlying principles,’ he added.

In contrast to Jesus who said,  ‘the Scriptures cannot be altered’, (John10 v 35)

Such comments therefore from a person holding Office in the Church, would to men of integrity and loyalty to the Lord, consider the Bishop should consider his position, remembering that every person ordained in the Church vows to banish false doctrine, and uphold the teaching of Holy Scripture.

Does anyone really think alternative doctrines will improve church attendance?  Since Paul Bayes became Bishop of Liverpool, published numbers those attending churches in the Liverpool Diocese have fallen from 21,200 to 17,600; and children’s weekly average attendance has fallen from 4,400 to 3,700. Even Christmas attendance has fallen from 37,800 to 35,100. As a native of that great city, where I worked in every district for many years, I am not surprised at the decrease.

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

Furthermore, as managers we must  offer just the product we are in business for, not what people in opposition to us would like others to have.

Whilst our branches should be clean and appealing, letting people know what is on offer week by week, and then having that offering carefully presented with enthusiasm and purpose to make the people want to come to us regularly to be served, is important. Business only spends millions of pounds on advertising because it gets results. The Church seems at to take the stance at times, that as long as the places are opened so people can please themselves when they come.

We should be assuring people we offer week by week on a regular basis, pure solid food of Scripture and not some junk food, and have that offered carefully presented, with enthusiasm and purpose to make the people want to come to us regularly; we are not just here for special offers, such as baptisms and weddings.

We have a message with an offer that only the Church can give, namely we worship a God who can give us eternal life because he sent a Son, who died a cruel death on a Cross and because of that sacrifice, all who accept his death and believe in him, and follow the way he taught, will be forgiven of all their sins

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

The foundation of the Church is built on the teaching of the apostles. However unpleasant it may be to accept, we are failing God, Jesus, the saints down the ages and the Church we called to serve and save, by failing to maintain that teaching. Jesus said, ‘if anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.’

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

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

The Bible is not the book of the month; it is the unchanging book of the ages, unlike modern technology, it doesn’t need regular updating. The early Church never questioned it, they just preached it. Can you imagine a Muslim cleric ever questioning the Koran?

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

Let us Christians be as proud of our faith as other faiths are of theirs. Jesus gave his life on the Cross so that all who believe in him will be forgiven all sin, and restored to a relationship with God. Remembering there is salvation in no one else than Jesus, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we can be saved. No one else in all history made such a sacrifice for all people, who are ready to accept him as Saviour.

The Bible calls on us to love God and serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

In conclusion, never be ashamed of the gospel. When Paul wrote to Timothy he told him not to have a spirit of timidity, but be ready to preach the word that God saved us by His grace which He has given us through Christ Jesus. 
I close with this prayer.
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit upon the Church in the burning fire of your love; grant that your people maybe fervent in the fellowship of the gospel that, always abiding in you they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service. Defend your Church from all false teaching and give to your people knowledge of your truth that we may enjoy eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.