Thursday 29 April 2021

 

John 15 v1/8

It is the last night before His death and Jesus is giving instructions to stress the absolute necessity of a close relationship between Him and us. To do this He uses the illustration of a vine and its branches.

Jesus often used scenes which were from Jewish heritage. Israel is portrayed as the vineyard, and one of the glories of the Temple was the great golden vine with clusters of grapes placed in front of the Holy place. This is taken from the story of Moses, receiving clusters of grapes from spies he had sent out to view the land of Canaan. 

In the words, "I am the true vine," Jesus is saying that he is the true vine of which the nation was a symbol,

"My Father," Jesus declares, "is the gardener." the gardener who takes care of the vineyard. Jesus states that believers are the branches of the vine: "I am the vine, you are the branches There are two kinds of branches -- fruitless branches and fruitful branches, teaching there is a clear indication that there are two kinds of believers. The difference between them is whether they produce fruit or not

Jesus said He was the true vine and the Jews could not claim that just because they were Jews, they were a branch of the vine. It had to be understood He was the vine, not the land of Israel, for only He could offer salvation, and the only means of having that was to have a belief in Him. Only a personal relationship with Jesus can make a person right with God. 

The vine grew wildly but needed much attention. The vine needed much pruning, and so was cut drastically for without that the vine would not produce good fruit. Jesus knew His followers were like that. Some were fruit bearing, but others were like the dead branches. In His teaching Jesus saw the Jews as the branches of the vine as did all the prophets, but the people would not accept Jesus. He also knew that one day people claiming to be Christians would hear His teaching, profess to follow Him, but in practice would not. 

  The vine gets its strength and fertility from the stem, and apart from that the branch has no life of its own. Sap flows from the stem to the leaves and blossoms the fruit, and if cut off would die. 

When we link that with what we have in the New Testament, it is clear that the fruit which Jesus is referring to here is Christlikeness -- his character reproduced in us.

In Verse 4, Jesus takes up the first requirement, "Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.".

 He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." That does not mean you are unable to function. You can do many things without a dependence on Christ. You can raise a family without him. You can run a business without him. You can be very active, even as a Christian. You can fill your days with tremendous activity and busyness, but without dependence

Some Christians emphasize dependence. They don't bother themselves with discipline. They never read the Bible. They expect God to speak to them, and go into what I have sometimes described as "automatic pilot." They float around expecting God to do all the directing, open all the doors, and they seldom bother to deny themselves. That kind of dependence without discipline results in frothiness, in empty spirituality, a fraudulent piety that sounds good, but is very distasteful when you get close to it.

Then Verse 8:

Here is a life of glorifying witness. I am sure there are a hundred or more people here who could testily that they became Christians because they saw a dramatic change in the life of someone else. That is the impact of a fruitful life.

The relationship between Jesus and the believer has to be just as close and real for we have no spiritual life, all the power comes from Him; we draw our strength from the Lord. We are assured of our salvation and our place in heaven when we remained joined to Him. The non-believer may scorn and mock us for resting our faith from stories in an old Jewish book written many years ago, but will one day regret such ridicule and envy our place.

It has to be accepted as fact, that there are many men and women professing to be Christians who are not what they claim to be. They are like branches of the vine which bear no fruit. In every Church there are people whose relationship is more make believe than real. They have been baptised, confirmed and even hold office within the Church, even are clergy ranging from the highest clerical positions to people in the pews. They may make much profession, and as we are regularly reading and hearing, do not accept the authority of Scripture. 

We even find Bishops increasingly tolerant of immoral behaviour which contradicts the Bible, and who prefer to adopt the philosophy of society and say things have changed now we are in the 21st century. God was not just a God of the first century, His Word endures for all times. Well has it been said that the spirit of the age has invaded the Church, and infected it. If people wish to reject the contents of the Bible that is their choice, but will one day regret such decision. 

To have a casual relationship with Jesus is like being a non- fruit bearing branch of the vine, you produce nothing and give nothing. There are many instances of a young person who leaves home and falls into bad ways, because he/she has separated from the family. As long as they are with the family, they are strong and cared for, but when they break away they fall. Having a relationship with Jesus provides the strength to meet the problems of life and prevents one from falling into the ways of the unjust. And you need constant attachment just like the branches of the vine.

This passage shows the offer Jesus makes to help them become more worthy and better Christians. If we abide in Him and His teaching we can ask and seek

Saturday 24 April 2021

 

John 10 v1/10 (ESV)

There is no more loved picture of Jesus than that of him as a shepherd. A shepherd is deeply woven into the imagery of the Bible.

No part of Scripture is better known than the 23rd Psalm. Many Christians have read it in times of pressure and of danger, but I have found that people with little connection with the Church, know and ask for the Psalm for a funeral service. Of the many funeral services I have taken, it has either been read or sung at almost all.

The Lord is indeed our Shepherd. He leads us in paths of righteousness; he makes us lie down in green pastures; he leads us beside still waters; he takes us through places of danger and darkness. What a comforting thing it is to know we have such a Shepherd.

The main part of Judea is a large plateau of 35 miles long, of rough stony ground, and the most familiar picture is of a shepherd with his sheep. Life for him would be hard, for sheep always grazed in the presence of a shepherd, who would guard them from wolves and sheep stealers.  On either side, the ground dipped steeply, which meant that any animal could fall to the ground below.

 In the Old Testament, God is depicted as the shepherd, and Israel as his sheep.  The Psalmist wrote, ‘we are his people and the sheep of his pasture’.  The picture carries on into the New Testament, where Jesus says, ‘I am the good shepherd.’  He had pity upon the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd.

 In Britain sheep are animals kept for meat, but in Palestine they were kept for wool, and were with the shepherd for years and often had names.  The shepherd would go ahead and the sheep would follow him, they would know his voice and only follow him.

In the evening shepherds would bring their flocks to a central sheepfold guarded by a gatekeeper. There would be a patch of ground with stone walls around and a sturdy door, no overhead cover, and entrance was only through the door.  If anyone tried to get in they could only do so by climbing over the wall and were listed as thieves or robbers. Although the flocks had all been put  together, each flock knew its own shepherd's voice, and each would follow its own shepherd and no other.

Jesus applied all this to himself. The Old Testament prophets Micah and Isaiah had foretold the coming of Jesus as one who would care for his people.  They told of his birth, where and how, and all he would do. Jesus could claim he came in the expected but unique way.

 When Jesus said, ‘I am the door’, he was saying in effect not only I care for my sheep, but I am the only way into the fold.’ , and Jesus was indicating He was the only way to God, and later in the gospel would again say,  ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’.  I know this is totally unacceptable to an increasing number of people these days, but this is what the Bible states, so we should be prepared to accept Jesus’ words.  The whole purpose of His life was to lead people to God, and made that possible by giving His life on the Cross to do so.  The only way into any enclosure is through a door, and Jesus is the only way to heaven.

But other sheep were out on the hills, and when they did not return at night, they were rounded up and placed in a sheepfold there.  There was no door, just an opening through which the sheep went in and came out.  The shepherd would lay across the opening, and he was in the literal sense the door and no access to the sheep except through him.

 Jesus told this parable to counter the influence of the Jewish Church leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees. He said false teachers were like thieves and robbers in the parable, and the false teacher is like the one who climbs over the wall of the sheepfold to get where he is not suitable. There is only one way into God and the Christian life. Jesus is the door.

 Jesus condemns so-called Christian Ministers as much as condemned the Jewish leaders. True Christian teachers are those who hear and know the voice of Jesus

 A false teacher enters Ministry for worldly motives and status, anxious about their c.v.. no earnest desire to teach salvation as taught by Jesus. God will surely rate those who are extending improper teaching, and distorting the Holy Scriptures to make personal styles of living acceptable.

 Whilst the Jewish leaders traced their line back to Aaron, ordination is no proof of the person being fit for Ministry and so be leaders of others.

Men and women may be set apart in the Christian Church to lead, but may not be true shepherds. Being true means having entered Ministry desiring to serve Jesus, having of course already accepted Jesus as Lord oneself, and being ready in all power to preach faithful doctrine as laid out by both God and Jesus, labouring to bring men and women to Christ.

 Our only access to God is through Jesus Christ, and our only salvation. He would say unequivocally, no one comes to the Father except through me. In these crazy modern days, some say it is unacceptable to say that, but I see no credible reason to challenge our Lord.  He came to tell us and show us what God was like, and the way to him. It was an introduction which by ourselves we would never have obtained.

Jesus used a well know Jewish phrase. He said through him we can go out and come in.  To go out and come in was the Jewish way of saying our life is absolutely safe and sound. The only safe way in was through a door, and the only way secure way to God is by Jesus.

 Jesus also said he the Good Shepherd. Just as those Jewish shepherds knew the names of their sheep, so Jesus knows us by name.  If you study the Bible, you will see that every time Jesus spoke to anyone, he called them by name. So he knows you as Lynn, Melissa, Leanna Olive, Tom, James, Harry or whatever. God knows you, has followed you through life and has a plan for you.

 Jesus said listen to my voice. In the Bible we find him constantly teaching, and if people listened to his voice, things would be much better. We need to follow that teaching not only on Sunday in Church, but in the rest of the week at home, office, shop, factory.

 Jesus said, ‘I know my sheep, and I am with them every step of the way’, and if you have accepted Jesus as Lord, he will remain with you to guard and guide you.  The brash person says he/she doesn’t want to be propped up, I am quite adequately can stand on my own two feet. Yet the same person will seek insurance for life.  People look forward to maturity of policies at 65 or so.  The Bible is offering maturity for eternity, with the joy of living for Jesus now.

 How many people who have been burgled say, I was just going to get insurance cover. We all need security.  How many were just going to start going to Church, read their bibles and pray, and now face eternity outside of heaven.

 The modern understanding of life is to live to the full, have a fantastic time, the love me culture.  Being a Christian is good for you spiritually and research in America proved older people whose life was  faithfully lived in Christian living, were more fit and well.

 People, especially the young, face so many temptations these days and get all tied up.  If someone breaks into your house and ties you up, you may not fight the burglar as he will be more powerful and ruthless than you.  In theory you send for the police, it probably won’t do much good these days, they will be fully engaged investigating hate speech, but in theory should be the answer.  (it would have been at one time)When you accept Christ, he takes the cords, you can never be loose otherwise.

 Such is the picture of a Christian which the Bible gives. Eat, drink and be merry, may well be the popular way, but it is a false theory which can only lead to disaster.

 Jesus said,’ follow me and you will find peace and contentment whatever the circumstances’.  The ups and downs, the hills and valleys of life will be met, but not disturb you. A Christian can live in all situations and be the same.

 The Bible states he came to give life in all abundance.  Before Jesus, no one loved God, they just feared him, and if Jesus had not come no one would have been able to love God. God is love and loves the whole world.

 There would have been no forgiveness if no Jesus. He healed the sick, raised the dead and gave sight to the blind.  Jesus is God in human form and gives life a purpose and meaning.

 Jesus said, ‘follow me and you will find pasture and contentment whatever the circumstances.  We can trust His  Word

Wednesday 21 April 2021

 

            1 Timothy 3

In the previous chapter, Paul has stated his guidance for women in the Church and now in this chapter he turns to speak to men.

He begins by referring to the accepted understanding that whoever wants to hold ministerial office within the Church is seeking to perform a noble cause, but also an important and responsible one, and indeed a holy one.

This passage refers to ‘overseer’ , and elsewhere the term bishop is used which suggests that the Office refers to those who oversee what we call dioceses. But such Office would not equate to what we know as a bishop, with sitting in a palace wearing robes.   

Paul did not want a recent convert to be appointed as he might become conceited and be influenced by the devil. Such is wise and care taken. Recently an advertisement was placed on Facebook asking for people to offer themselves  to lead worship and become local preachers in the Methodist Church, a Church which has a history of profound evangelical preaching.  Apart from the fact the Ministry is not like a secular post, it demands a pre=held belief and faith in Christ, and most people who offer themselves because they believe God calls them, not Facebook.

You did not choose me, I chose you’  John 15 (16)

Many are called, few are chosen  (Matthew 22 (14)    

To make a Facebook offer is opening up the opportunity for people to offer who are totally unsuitable, and may be doing so for self-     aggrandizement, or even some mischievous reason.

I appreciate any person offering would be interviewed and assessed, but whilst some people are nervous at interviews, others are adept at deluding. 

Even interviewers can look to the wrong points.  When I was first interviewed the main interest was to know at which University I went to, and the interviewer appeared to lose interest when I said I was just a grammar school student. If the Apostles had to appear before a modern selection board, I doubt if any would have been accepted.

This passage calls for a man of honor and integrity, and whilst I believe standards have fallen from what the position was in past years, many people still largely expect a clergyman to be of the highest character, and look the part. I have memories of the times when the local Vicar was an important person in the community who would be recognized with respect; the manner in which they dressed and conducted themselves was a huge contributory factor.

I am sure we would all concur with Paul’s demand for a man above reproach, having no unworthy habits such as drunkenness, presiding over a happy united family of his own, courteous and able to exercise self-control, and of a patient temperament.

People do take extra notice of how a Minister acts in a community, indeed some take particular notice.  It does not help when people see a Vicar engaging in a sexual relationship which is condemned in Scripture.  I have known and heard uncomplimentary remarks, about clergy being hypocrites for not practicing what they are supposed to  preach.

The Church has had a bad press with sexual abuse charges being made, which brings the whole Church into disrepute and causes massive embarrassment to those who conduct themselves honorably

An essential ability is being able to teach the gospel in a way that people can fully appreciate the meaning.   There was an Archbishop, who I readily accept was a very clever man, but when he preached his words were so convuluted few people could understand  him or what he was talking about.

Paul states he must be the husband of one wife, and whilst most men would shudder at having more than one, what seriously he means is not divorced.  Jesus did however make provision for divorce when he said if it was on the grounds of infidelity by the wife.  In addition, if a man’s wife died he would be justified in marrying again

This exposes a weakness in the Catholic Church.  It is sometimes claimed that Peter was the first Pope, (a dubious) one as James became leader of the Church subsequently, but Peter was a married man. Irrespective of such, the ability of being able to have a wife is a great advantage, as it may also help to avoid the indiscretions which are endemic in the Church and cost a lot in reparations. The reason for not allowing marriage was due simply to cause the priest to give all time and energy to the Church.

God made a woman because he thought man should not be on his own and be lonely, and needed a suitable companion, so making a woman. God therefore we are told created woman from the rib of the man, but it was more likely to be his side, as the bible tells us she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, and in the image of God as the man. She is equal to live side by side, not subservient or lesser, and together they would form a beautiful and perfect friendship, as God had given different natures so as to fully complement the partnership.

From personal experience I think a wife makes the man’s ministry so much more effective, as she helps him by moral and loving support, and essentially providing some of the caring gifts God has given to women which are not so evident in man.  

A leader in the Church should not use his Office to earn money for himself.  A list of men in the Church and their earnings, reveals how this order has been massively ignored. Granted a person who has the gift to write helpful books is entitled to benefit from his talents, but I doubt they can earn the amounts held on writing books.  I know one American Church offers a package of cd;s, videos and books on a subject as well as advertising the same on its television programme.

I am also opposed to the practice of having sabbaticals for Ministers, which members of the congregations indirectly contribute to.  There are many stressful careers outside the Church, one of which I personally had, which make a Church position look comfortable.

Before closing I want to consider verse 9 ‘they must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience’. I would suggest that any clergyman who knowingly contradicts the teaching of the bible, must not have a conscience, for we all vow at ordination to keep the teaching of Scripture.

The Church depends on the blessing of God and Jesus, and we will never have that blessing whilst those holding prominent position of authority in the Church, persist in making pubic utterances telling people to ignore what the bible states, and colluding with secular organizations, which are in opposition to the Church.

We can sum up by accepting that anyone seeking any role of leadership in the Church should so order his life in a manner that never brings an adverse comment against the Church, but on the contrary seeks to bring worthiness.    

Sunday 18 April 2021

Luke 24 v. 36/48

The gospel  passage for this Sunday morning concerning the resurrection of Jesus is one which has been the subject of controversy, more so in recent times as the liberal factions within the Church have been challenging the account in Scripture, and then pushing their own beliefs.

When this passage begins it is Easter Sunday and two followers of Jesus were walking along a road when they were joined by Jesus. They did not know who He was but they got into conversation, telling Jesus of events that had happened. Eventually they realised who He was, but Jesus suddenly disappeared. The two men made their way to Jerusalem and heard the Lord had arisen and they were able to tell of their experience.

The disciples were met behind locked doors for fear of being attacked and were talking about the news they had just heard that Jesus was alive again when Jesus came in amongst them Jesus just materialising out of nowhere,it makes them think they are seeing a ghost.

They had just mourned his death for the situation seemed hopeless, yet now he is amongst them, and it seemed too good to be true.

The fact that he was able to enter through locked doors suggests that his body was of a different kind, the glorified body of the resurrection.

The hardest part of the Easter story, and indeed the whole Christian story, is what kind of body did the resurrected Jesus have.  How could it be solid with flesh and bones, able to eat fish, and yet able to appear through closed doors?

Jesus have them the traditional Jewish greeting, so let us see to whom he is giving it. The eleven men there were those who had shamelessly denied and fled from Him, denying they knew Him, yet Jesus was prepared to forgive them. This shows us that no one is too bad to be forgiven and offered salvation.

Jesus showed them His hands and feet to convince them of His real presence,  and told them to look at his hands and feet, showing the corporeal nature of a body  not a disembodied spirit, but the risen Christ and the Jesus of Nazareth were one and the same person. This is why he allowed them to touch him,  he wanted to satisfy them.

We are told that Jesus ate fish with them and instructed them in the Scriptures. He promises to send the Holy Spirit, but they are to stay in Jerusalem until they are filled with power. He then ascended back to His Father in heaven.

The fact that Jesus entered through locked doors indicates that His body must have been of a different kind to His earthly body. Paul in his Letter to the Corinthian Church explained this when he drew the analogy of a seed being planted to grow into a plant, and likens it to our one day being changed to a spiritual body. Paul went in to great detail to try and make this understood that our new bodies will be totally different to our old one.

We know from St John’s gospel that Thomas was not at this meeting and refused to believe what he was told and would not believe without proof. There are many people who just cannot accept that Jesus was physically resurrected, even some holding high office in the Church.

Here we have testimony from men who lived with Jesus, and gave us statements that Jesus was real, objective and physical, and we must be prepared to believe them over some academic sitting in a study somewhere, looking for some objection and probably the chance to make a (dubious) name for himself.

Those disciples were hard men, not likely to be deluded or kidded by an impostor. The Apostles Creed doesn’t say I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the resurrection of Jesus, it states  ‘I believe in the resurrection of the body’. No one should recite the Creed if they cannot accept the physical resurrection.

The Bible wants us to know about this corporal, solid, tangible, bodily resurrection, which liberal Christianity denies. When this is denied it is not on the basis of evidence, but in face of it

An Anglican priest has no justification for doubting this. All ordained clergy swear to accept the Articles of the Church of England, one of which states’ Christ did surely rise again from the dead and took again his body with flesh bones and all things appertaining to the perfection of man‘s nature’. We are bound to honour this for the Bible expects us to believe in the solid, tangible resurrection. If we are going to be faithful to Jesus, we must be prepared to believe He conquered death, and as Lord of heaven and earth is One who can give life to the dead. It was long part of the plan of God that all that took place should have done so.

Thirty five years ago there was a very controversial and extrovert bishop who had denied this story, and made a derogatory remark about the resurrection prior to actually having been instituted as a bishop, and the time came when he was at York Minster. After the service was over, a freak lightning stroke struck the Minster causing two millions of pounds worth of damage caused by fire which destroyed a glorious decorated rose window.

The Bible believing Christians spoke of God’s wrath, that such an unworthy man had been so appointed, but the then Archbishop of York, who I found it hard to credit was an  actual Christian believer, of course mocked the idea, stating God did not do such things now. However, a group of meteorologists discussed the incident, and having ascertained that the Minster was the only place in the county of Yorkshire so affected, concluded unanimously that the only explanation they could come to was it was an act of God.

If we are going to be of service to Christ, we must be persuaded that he is the victor over sin and death and the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who gives life.  We are the only religion which believes a man died for us, that he was the Son of God and by His Holy Spirit is alive now, all other faiths follow men who died.

Jesus told from the Scriptures, that it was God’s plan of salvation that he should die and rise again. The Apostles had six weeks of bible study from the finest of teachers. If Jesus had not died, sin could not be pardoned and God would not have been able to show mercy, and we could not be justified.

Before Jesus left them he gave a farewell commission to go in his name.  ‘As the Father sent me, I send you, to proclaim the gospel of repentance and forgiveness’.  In consequence of the Apostles obeying that command, we have the Acts of the Apostles and the rest of the New Testament.  Others have continued to follow the command of our |Lord so that we have that teaching today.

When the world hears the Church preaching those words, it is hearing Jesus speaking. An awesome duty has been placed on the Church to continue the mission Jesus gave to those first Apostles, that they were to take the gospel to all people. Jesus wanted us to tell that forgiveness is real and available to those who will accept Him as Saviour.

Every times the gospel is faithfully preached we are holding out the hope we can live with God for ever.  If people will not believe, they should tremble for they face a fearful future

Most people of course will never confess to being a sinner they are confident in the misplaced belief that as long as they help others, and are honest and kind, they have a ready-made passport to heaven.

A hospital chaplain was visiting a lady who was very ill and knew she would soon die. She said she knew she would be soon dead in heaven.  She said she never went to church, read the bible, but had been a good person and her hands had helped so many they will see her to heaven. She did not realise the only hands to see her in heaven, were those which hung from the Cross.

The Church in many places has not lived up to our Lord’s expectations, with the doctrine of heaven and hell being widely rejected, despite the fact that whenever Jesus spoke of heaven, he quoted hell as being the alternative. Claims are actually being made that all will be in heaven when they die. It is accepted that men like Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein etc, may not, but it cannot be told what will happen to them or where they will end up.

The purpose of the Church is to proclaim the teachings of Jesus Christ, this is given in all four gospels, and if the Church does not rest on Scripture it has no function in life The Church must rest upon Scripture and be active in preaching it.  Jesus promised we would be given power to do so. 

Monday 12 April 2021

 

1 Timothy 2.

In the first chapter Paul stressed the danger of false teachers, and the danger of straying from sound doctrine. In this chapter he wants to help Timothy control public worship, and to give guidance on praying care for all, and relating to women in the Church.

Regularly people leaving the Church, some through death or illness, or other necessities, but it is an irrefutable fact that the Church is forcing them to leave.

Only in this morning’s news it is announced that the Archbishop of Canterbury compared the Church of England to the Nazis in Germany in their attitude to minorities and in future ethnic representatives will be able to vote on senior appointments. Cathedrals are to remove any statue which may offend.  This is in response to Black lives matter representation (How did we get this man, does he not know BLM is a left wing political force.)  There is no comparison to those wonderful Christians in the black Pentecostal Churches.

Where the Church does fail mightily is in its response to losing a member.  So often the lost person is not contacted, and a reason sought, and then rectified.  Ministers spend far too much time wasting in committees and meetings.

The Church consists of a worshipping people in words taken from the Ten Commandments, and should be a force for evangelism, leading more people to follow Jesus. The Church must reach out across the world to offer salvation to all, for God wants all people to be saved, for no one is beyond redemption.  This means we must pray for people.

Paul mentions prayers, intercessions, requests, which in fact mean the same, but then there is thanksgiving.  It is so easy to find God, but so often people do not look to thank God for answering.

Paul states we must pray for Kings, Queens and all in authority. I find this a hard task to ask when I see even members of the royal family and Prime Ministers following a course of life which leads people astray. I think also there should be a caveat that evil men like Hitler, Stalin, etc, can order and carry out such brutality as they did. Clement of Rome added, regarding prayer, ‘grant them O Lord health peace and stability that they may cause no offence in administering the gift you have given’.  This enables us to pray for those in authority to  be able to maintain peace and stability and protect the citizens.

God wants all to be saved and Jesus went to the Cross to support this, he gave his life for this to be achieved. John 3, v16, ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son in order to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him’.  Jesus  acted as a ransom for us, that is purchasing our release, a substitution dying for sinners.

Paul wants men to pray in the biblical manner, which is lifting arms up to God begging for an answer to that which is being prayed for.

Women are asked to dress with modesty, but that does not mean as if in mourning or dowdy style. I have seen women being criticized for their dress, (usually by other women) for wearing bright dresses in church. 

What Paul is trying to convey, is that women should not dress ostentatiously or seductively, as some ladies know they are physically attractive and are often anxious to reveal the gifts they have been blessed with,  in order to draw attention to themselves. Jewelry is acceptable but not to excess

Paul refers to the one true God. The God of the Bible and one mediator Jesus Christ.  There is no need to have a priest to whom you must confess and receive absolution; Jesus does this.

Other faiths may have their own gods, but it shows lack of knowledge when people say we all worship the one God, we certainly od not. In fairness, Islam would never accept worship of a God of Israel, with a Jewish Savior and 12 Jewish Apostles. They do not believe any God had a Son. Hindus and Buddhists do not accept the Cross and what it  means. People must accept their id a difference and respect the right of people to worship as they believe without friction between faiths.

False teachers were speaking genealogies which was a waste of time which should have been given to preaching doctrine in accordance with the teaching of the Apostles which would produce a pure heart rather than one filled with sin, and a good conscience rather than one filled with guilt, and a sincere faith and not hypocrisy.

Paul talks of himself as an herald, one who goes out and proclaims to the people that which his King has told him to do, and not to add his own opinion or comment. Paul is a witness, one who was present at an event and can give a first-hand account of what took place. He is also an envoy, one who represents his King in another country, and finally he is a teacher, one who explains facts and explains meaning.

We come to a controversial verse which is not a popular one for preachers anxious to avoid trouble. I have notice commentators do not give much space to an explanation, but here I go.

A favorite answer is, it was written under the influence of a Jewish culture and referred  specifically to women in churches. I am not sure it is as simple as that, for Paul knew his Letters would be seen long after he was with his Lord in heaven. He states  ‘I do not permit women to teach or exercise authority over a man’.   Here he is speaking as an Apostle not as just giving an opinion.

Paul goes on to refer to the order of creation to support his statement, but I fear that if women were barred from holding any Office in the Church, it would collapse..

There are some cults within the Church who go to excess, such as a Brethren meeting I attended as a guest years ago and I noticed a lady was present and never spoke a word when I knew she was a very intelligent woman.  When I asked why this was, I was told a woman must not speak when a man is present. Such is pure discourtesy and discrimination.

Four explanations have been offered to suggest what Paul might have meant. One the time of the culture; only women who were wives were meant; could not challenge a man’s decision; and a woman could hold office if under leadership of a man.

Humanity of people means this question will never be resolved this side of heaven, for neither opinion will be able to give way. In the Church of England and the Roman Church, there are bishops leading dioceses, surely if a woman is holding Office in the Church she will be as qualified as a man for she is, like the male Minister, under the leadership of the bishop.

When the big campaign to ordinate women took place in the 1980s all women wanted it was said, was to become priests, they were not seeking to be bishops.  Some people actually believed that. Of course within weeks that was on its way out and some fierce competition began, and we have had women instituted as bishops.  From remarks some have made on appointment (oh dear).

If we turn to the most appropriate source for guidance, our Lord himself, it will be seen he never appointed a woman Apostle, yet he was not one to be influenced by culture of the day.  As a man and rabbi, he did the unthinkable in helping a woman by a well.  He cleansed another woman who was devoted to him. Yet although he could have done, he never took the opportunity of making a woman Apostle.

We should not overlook other factors regarding women, especially the indirect support given. The cleaning, after service refreshments, flower arrangements.  Ministers wives often make an impact. My wife was very popular with each congregation and was invaluable to the people who wanted me to know something which they didn’t want to tell me themselves. She was also an ear for those looking to tell their troubles.

Let me quote a more relevant example. Some few years ago I met a lady who originally came from Africa to live in this country.  In over 40 years in the Church ministry, I never met any man or woman with such a capacity for praying. In addition, she has been most supportive and inspirational for me personally, my regret is that I have not known her longer. Is she less worthy of holding Church Office than a man who is living in a way which Scripture condemns, or even a bishop who wants the Bible teaching on marriage to be abandoned, or an Archbishop who told a clergyman that if he wished to teach sexuality in accordance with the Bible, there was no place for him in the Church.  I think not.

I think the greatest need we have in the Church is for our leaders to be just that, leading. An ideal leader is one wo does so by example and by exercising discipline over themselves. If one is to lead in the Church, such discipline will be to follow the commands of the supreme commander who told his Apostles to go out into the world and make disciples by following and keeping to the words of the King

Friday 9 April 2021

 JOHN 20 V 19/25


The Gospel passage for this Sunday comes from John’s gospel in Chapter 20, and is the story of Jesus appearance to His Apostles in the Upper Room on the evening of the first Easter Sunday.

The Apostles were in the Upper Room terrified, in fear for their lives. This was because rumours had been spread around Jerusalem that they must have stolen the body and they feared the authorities might take action against them.

The doors were firmly shut yet Jesus appeared in the room to their amazement, but also joy. This suggests that His body was a supernatural body, and so if we are to be like Him in heaven, our future bodies will also be supernatural. Jesus was giving a demonstration in confirmation He was alive. This was no animation of a corpse; it was Jesus in a new form of being which could pass through doors.

You can imagine the reaction of the Apostles who must have thought they were hallucinating, for most people do at some time have visions, especially if you are longing for someone whom you never expected to see. The Apostles were delighted to see the Lord however.

Jesus greeted them with the traditional Jewish greeting Shalom, words which mean not only ‘peace be with you’, but every kind of blessing. He then showed them His hands and side to prove that it was the same Jesus they had known when they were with Him, but by showing His wounds it verified that this was the Jesus who had been on the Cross and was now an alive person.

At this first meeting of Jesus with the Apostles, Thomas was not present but he was told by the other Apostles what had taken place, and Thomas being known for his scepticism refused to believe them. He stated he would never believe they had seen Jesus unless he placed his hand and finger in the wounds.

Thomas was just and ordinary bloke who didn’t know the full story and wanted proof. A week later however he is back with them in the Upper Room when Jesus again appears and Thomas realises his lack of faith and makes the confession with the deeply committed words, ‘my Lord and my God’. AND he never did put his hand or finger near Jesus’ wounds.

Jesus then said words which resonate powerfully today. ‘Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.’

We must not criticise Thomas, it must have been hard to believe that someone so cruelly put to death should appear alive, it was a unique act in all history and people do have imaginary visions.

Jesus wanted to show the Apostles, and by extension to Christians through the ages, that His was a tangible bodily resurrection, and there was much evidence to prove so. The resurrection has been attested to by witnesses both inside and out of the Church. It has never been doubted there was an empty tomb, so where did the body go. Would men risk their lives without confidence and personal experience?

We are so lucky in having such wonderful technology which few of us can explain how it works, but we believe because we see it. Why challenge the God who made the earth as being incapable of anything just because you don’t understand how he did it. This is what separates true believers from fake; faith means believing what you can’t see or explain.

Our Lord then commissioned them to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything he had commanded, and gave them the power to proclaim absolution to those worthy and to refuse those who were not. There is nowhere in the Bible however where priestly absolution is authorised.

This is what the church of Jesus Christ is fundamentally and essentially here for; preaching the gospel Jesus left us, abandoning all fancy ideas of pleasing society. We don’t go saying the Bible states, but I have a better idea, we say exactly what Jesus said, so that indirectly what we say is Jesus speaking.

In the absence of any charismatic person at the head of the Church nationally, each Church has to have its own agenda for carrying out our Lord’s command.

The first essential is to recognise we are in a war against the combined forces of secularism, humanism and the LGBT lobby, all of which seek to restrict, eradicate or amend the gospel we are charged with preaching. We have in fact to be on a war footing, and be equally aggressive in spreading our message.

God wants us to be the hands feet and voice of Jesus. I believe one essential practice for the Church is to emulate business. Firms spend millions of pounds advertising, so it must pay off or they wouldn’t do so. Much of what little advertising the Church does is banal and unappealing, except perhaps to its own people.

In today’s world there are wonderful opportunities through the internet. Many Churches have their own website but often don’t use to advantage, omitting any attempts at evangelising, but including only what has happened since the previous issue and mentioning different people who like to see their efforts recorded.

We have to realise we can’t make a Church grow by just being here, it is just not going to happen. Whereas people will not pick up a magazine and read it, they will look at the internet; so we need to tell them what WE believe, letting them know what they can expect if they attend.

For 16 years I published my Church’s magazine before we were all on computers I have confidence a
Church site to which people can relate to and understand what their message is, can and will do very well within its own area, and stimulate people to respond if it has the right content, and challenges them.

We are on the Lord’s business and have a unique product which no one else can offer, and we have to make sure people hear about it; there is an excellent opportunity to do this via the internet.

Churches can do this by telling in detail about their services,

what the theme is for each service and who will preach ;

have bible studies;

have transcripts of sermons included

tell how Christians are being harassed and suffering in this country because of their beliefs;
inform on general Christian news

remind them of the blessings they enjoy living in picturesque places with lovely homes, free from the anti social behaviour of the towns, and how a little appreciation to the Almighty would be appropriate.

There is a limerick, Next time you pass the parish church. Please pay a little visit, So when at last you’re carried in , The Lord won’t ask who is it?

Jesus told Peter, ‘feed my sheep’. He meant teach the Word of God. Open their minds to the thoughts of God. People are not thinking the thoughts of God, not looking at life the way God sees it, but following blindly after the fantasies and the illusions of the world. What is necessary is the unfolding of the mind of God in obedience to the word of Jesus: "Teach the word." The weakness of the church flows from a famine of the Word of God.

Most village residents cherish their parish church, seen as so quintessentially English (so long as they are not required to attend), and we indicate to them the danger if it is to close. Can point out churches have been closed only to re-open as a place of entertainment or a mosque.

You may well ask, ‘how can we a small suburban church with not a huge congregation, many of whom are perhaps older in years, do very much?’ Hudson Taylor who founded the China Inland Mission was once asked why God had chosen him. Taylor replied `because God wanted someone small.' When God acts it is not in big cathedrals.

An American Christian programme following the September 11th attack on its country asked all its listeners to pray for fifteen minutes a day for fifty days for a revival and to phone in and say where they were from. A coloured pin was then placed on a wall map of the United States at their location. Within days the map was covered as people responded. Most of them were small churches, perhaps even smaller than this, but they reported new life and new people.

God acted when a Minister came to the small island of Lewis in the Hebrides when people prayed that God would bless them. Evan Roberts a Minister in South Wales prayed and started the Welsh Revival. There are many examples of answered prayer for revival.

Neither is age relevant. When the Israelites were attacked by the Amalekites, Moses and Aaron were too old to fight, but as the younger men fought they prayed and every time they did so the Israelites advanced. Older people can play a vital role in revival as one elderly lady discovered. She prayed constantly for a revival to start in her area. Subsequently it was announced that Billy Graham was to hold a Crusade in a nearby town.

let us all do what we can to make it known we are still open for worship.

Wednesday 7 April 2021

       1 Timothy Chapter 1

The Letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus, known as the Pastoral Letters, give the finest guidance and sound doctrine, sketching out what the priorities of the Christian Church need to be, and showing how we should respond. We are living in times similar to that in which the Church in Paul’s time faced.

I hope you will be able and willing to stay and follow with me as we go through these three wonderful pieces of Christian teaching, which help us to enjoy our faith, and all it believes and stands for. I will try and keep them in the mid-week time.

The passage to begin with is in the 1st Letter to Timothy. Firstly, let us study what Paul is saying in this passage, and then consider how it relates to us in our time.

The three Pastoral Letters were written to help the Church live our lives worthy of God and in the conduct of worship. We get an image of the early Church.  God is speaking to us through Paul, who lays out sound doctrine and calls for the spread of.

Paul had been arrested and was in a Roman prison when he wrote these Letters, which are not just a friendly chat, rather they are documents of guidance, advice and encouragement to two young pastors, and are of vital relevance for the Church now.

He begins this Letter setting out he is an Apostle specially chosen by God and commissioned by Jesus in a unique way when he was actually on his way to persecute Christians.

Timothy would know Paul was an Apostle, but Paul was preparing for his Letters to be sent to many people and he rejoiced in the grace of God for having this appointment.  He saw himself as an ambassador for his King, and faithfully carried out that role.

He calls Timothy a genuine child which meant Timothy was dear to him. Paul knew his mother and grandmother who had guided Timothy in the Scriptures, and marked him out as an assistant who would travel widely with Paul on his missions, and ultimately the one most able to take over Paul’s ministry when his work was done.

Paul knew Timothy was of mild disposition and would have to face strong opposition from people outside the Church, but also from within the Church.  He knew Timothy was of mixed race as his mother was a Jew and father a Greek, and as such he would face resistance from the Jewish members, so he circumcised Timothy to make him acceptable.

Paul as in all his Letters he prays for grace and peace for those entrusted with the gospel, but here he adds mercy, for he knew Timothy faced a difficult task.

The emphasis in this Letter is to guard and defend the gospel, and how to contain men who had infiltrated the Church and were giving false teaching.  The teaching of the Apostles was being ignored. for the false teachers had no understanding of the gospel, and were indulging in vain discussions.

At this time Timothy was representing Paul in the Church at Ephesus, and had to stay there to disgrace false teachers, who were not qualified and were likely to lead people astray, by telling them they could act as they wished and God would forgive. They also wanted to teach Old Testament laws and heresy, so putting the Church at risk.

The Mosaic law was meant for the lawless, and Paul listed actions, which were in fact a summary of the Ten Commandments. Immorality, ungodliness, harming parents, unnatural sex, liars, and all which is contrary to sound doctrine. 

There was also too much time being wasted on genealogies looking back through the ages instead of turning to the gospel. A tendency developed to adopt the latest fashion or novelty idea, which led to arguments in the Church. Arrogance replaced humility, causing disputes as to what should be accepted.

True Christianity offers love which rejects power and policies, giving a pure heart, which motivates humility. leading to acceptance of God, and a fondness for truth, Christianity calls for a good conscience to enable faith, and a desire to live practising that faith.

Paul referred to myths which were fanciful and untrue beliefs, but the whole aim of teaching was that from the Apostles who were taught by Jesus.

Paul acknowledged the gift of Jesus to him, despite he had been such a persecutor of Christians, and such an unbeliever.  He says this was due to ignorance which God was ready to forgive, and show his forgiveness was an example of his mercy and grace.

Any person familiar with Church life will read this Letter of Paul and think they could aptly rename it as Paul’s Letter to the Church in the Western nations.  As I think of the Church in the United Kingdom I recognise the comments Paul makes are still relevant.

Paul was devoted to sound doctrine, as all Ministers of the Church should be, we vow to do so at our ordination made in the house of God.  How quickly and totally do many abandon their vow and appear in our Churches preaching some nonsense in complete rejection of Scripture. Such people often rise to high Office within the Church where they spread their poison, calling for the teaching of the Bible to be laid aside as it may offend modern thought. Then with straight face wonder why the Churches are emptying; can anyone seriously expect God to bless heresy?

The Church has many false teachers still who wander widely away from the teaching of the Apostles, which is in fact the New Testament. We have a woman who claims to be evangelical, with a serving Bishop, hosting national meetings preaching totally against the Bible, and campaigning for people to join them. If they had any honor or conscience, they would take the proper course and resign from the Church, and would be entitled to do what they wished, but that would need courage and cause them to lose some interest.

We still have fanciful ideas based on novelty.  It was once seriously proposed to have Sunday morning services held in a supermarket whilst normal trading was in progress. Imagine trying to buy some groceries when the Minister came to offer the bread and wine. May be a sketch for some irreverent play, but for serious action?

I went to a Church where I was, seriously expected to take what is called a ‘cafĂ© service’.  Tables were placed around the Church with coffee served during the course of the service.

In another incident people were being invited to get married in Church, and bring your children to be baptized at the same time. How contemporary the Church can be, if shops can offer two for one so can we sort of thing.

You  may think this is some 1st April story but I assure you it is not. It is however an example how we are failing the biblical call to worship God with reverence and awe.

Being honest, if you were asked to explain what the Church stands for, would you know what to say? You could well answer what it was supposed to say.  But what for example, is the view on the most important and stable bedrock of society, marriage.? The Archbishop isn’t sure, and many of his fellow leaders are confused and think the biblical teaching is out of date.

We are told bishops have a right to sit in the house of Lords to give moral guidance, an excellent idea, but why don’t they? Why does it need a group of mothers to protest when their children are being taught explicit sex at very tender ages in our schools, even within Church schools.  Such is a parents’ responsibility.

We are not here to give opinions.  If the Bible states something is wrong, then we must say it is wrong. If people don’t agree, then this is what free speech is for, but we do Bible speak.

 Let us all pray for the Church and call for a return to its true purpose of fulfilling our Lord’s command to take the gospel and make disciples. Let us fervently pray that our Church Officers at all levels fulfil their vows and preach only what Scripture commands.

May God bless all who try faithfully to serve Him and  honor His Word which he gave us in the Bible