Thursday 28 October 2021

JOHN 11. v 1-45
The Gospel passage is the story about Lazarus, and John’s gospel is the only one which tells it. The story begins with a desperate plea for help from his two sisters Martha and Mary to Jesus, with whom there was a close relationship.

These verses tell us Christians may become very ill as much as others for we live in a world full of disease. When Lazarus became so ill, his sisters first thought was to call on Jesus. When our loved ones become unwell we are encouraged to seek medical help, but at the same time to call on the Lord to be with us.

When Jesus heard their call He said this illness will not lead to death in the sense that it did not lead ultimately to death, but it did lead through death in order to being raised a few days later. This was so that God would show His glory, by working through Jesus to bring back to life. This would prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Son of God, and prepare for acceptance of our Lord’s own resurrection which would take place later.

Jesus then waited two days to allow His friends to go through the sorrow of the death, and to mourn because He loved them and wanted them to witness a spectacular demonstration of His power over death, thus seeing His glory as that of the only Son of God.

Jesus told His disciples that He was going to the family home in Bethany, a village two miles from Jerusalem, and they were shocked and concerned for His safety, for on a previous visit to the area where they lived, His life was threatened. Jesus answered their concern by saying, ‘are there not twelve hours in the day, anyone who walks in the day does not stumble because he sees the light of this world.’

The Jewish day was divided into twelve hours, and the day ran according to the sun, with the hours varying in length from 9minutes 48 seconds, to 14 minutes and 12 seconds. Jesus was meaning, anyone who walks during the daylight won’t stumble, and be able to do so before darkness comes. Therefore, Jesus being the light of the world, anyone who walks in the light Jesus gives, walks in fellowship with Him obeying, in contrast to anyone who does not follow Jesus.

Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus had fallen asleep, and that He would go and awaken him. The death of true Christians is sleep, from which one day they will be awakened, so when we lose someone dear, they will go to the grave just as Jesus did, and one day also rise again.

Thomas was particularly fearful when Jesus said He was going back to Judea, and anticipated they might all die. This shows all Christians are subject to doubt at some time and view things differently, and we must recognise varying characters as each serves the Lord. It has been said that anyone who has never had doubts has never had any thoughts.

Jesus made the journey of about 25 miles from wherever He was at that time, we are not told where He was, and by this time Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. Jewish belief was that though burial followed soon after death, the soul hovered over the body for three days hoping to re-enter it, then gave up and departed.

Funerals at that time could be very expensive for there were spices to be purchased at some expense, and the body clothed, which sometimes caused competition as to which was most judged to be the grandest. Eventually a Rabbi named Gamaliel. brought such practice to and end, and still today tribute is paid to his name when wine is drunk for ending such extravagance.


The funerals were mostly well attended with people processing from the home to the grave. Women led the walk as a woman was first to sin and offend God. When the body left the house. all the furniture was reversed and guests would sit on the floor. A meal of hard boiled eggs and lentils would be prepared for the mourners.

On arriving at their home, Martha and Mary were with friends who had come to comfort them. It was common for Jews when friends and neighbours died to gather at the home of the deceased to mourn and comfort the relatives.

Here again we see different temperaments of believers, when Martha rushed out to meet Jesus when she hears He has come, whilst Mary sat still; but the Church must be ready to receive all, we need the Marthas and Marys, Peters and Johns.

Martha revealed her feelings of love and faith when she told Jesus she wished He had been there sooner, for she was confident Jesus could have kept her brother alive, but she still believed even then in the power of the Lord to do something beyond what might be otherwise expected.

The first words of Jesus are the promise that Lazarus would come back to life. Martha believed Lazarus will rise, but misunderstood the full meaning of Jesus’ promise, thinking He was merely speaking of the final resurrection, whilst Jesus meant much more. Jesus was making the tremendous statement that He is the resurrection, and all who believe in Him will not die for ever, but will be raised to glory, their soul living on eternally. Belief in Him implies personal trust in Christ; lives refers to those who have spiritual life now.

Martha having confessed Jesus as the Christ the Son of God, went to tell Mary that Jesus was calling her. The friends, who did not have faith, thought Mary was going to the grave, but by following her were able to witness a great miracle. Mary fell at Jesus feet and expressed the same feeling that Martha had used.

The reaction of Jesus when He saw Martha and Mary crying, depicts the true human side of His nature. We are told Jesus was deeply moved, which means He felt deeply and strongly, with profound sorrow at the death of His friend, and at the grief that his other friends had suffered in addition, and also with a deep sense of awe at the power of God, which was about to flow through Him to triumph over death. The fact that Jesus wept, shows that deep feeling is something of which we should not try to hide. If the Son of God could feel such sorrow for His friends, we can turn to Him in our hour of need.

The final verses tell of one of Jesus’ great miracles and reveal His divinity. When Jesus told them to take away the stone, He was both involving people, who could then become witness to His greatness, and the same people would be able to verify there was indeed a dead man there.

Martha protested when Jesus ordered the stone away, fearing the consequences of a dead body being removed, so Jesus had to remind her that He had told her this was for the glory and power of God to be revealed. Like Martha we can all lose faith when placed under distress. When all is going well it is simple to be strong, but our faith inevitably is tested when things are not going as we hoped

Finally Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven and gave thanks and praise to His Father publicly, so that those standing around would hear and know that Jesus was sent by God. He then gave the command to Lazarus to come out, and he did so and was seen bound with linen strips.

The wonder of this raising needs faith in Jesus in order to believe. The non- believer cannot understand, and will not believe this story, because it is supernatural and beyond the minds. Those who are true Christians. should have no problem to believe that which has been revealed to us in this story.

There are people who may read this story and not treat seriously. In fact, it does not matter that much how little or how serious you accept. You may find problems in believing events of so long ago. What does matter is that you believe Jesus Christ died on a Cross, by that death can bring new life to those whose lives are troubled. I imagine there will be many such cases at this perilous time.


Saturday 23 October 2021


John’s gospel in Chapter 12,verses 20-33. Turn with me to this passage which John alone tells. 
Jesus had entered Jerusalem for the Passover festival having just raised Lazarus from the dead, and was receiving an enthusiastic welcome from crowds of people gathered for the event. This was the major festival held annually to remember how God saved Israel.
This was Jerusalem’s big annual religious festival: we might compare the Passover to our Christmas, when the Churches attract many people who attend not so much from a religious attitude, but see it as a social event.
At such a time as this, many non Jews would go to the city to join in the celebrations. Some Greeks were amongst the crowds who had heard of Jesus, and were determined to meet Him. They were from a settlement in the North of Galilee, and went to Philip who came from near their area and said to him, ‘Sir, we want to see Jesus’.  

Having heard the stories of what Jesus had done, they realised something was missing from their lives and wanted to receive from Him that something. So when they said they wanted to see Jesus, they were in fact seeking a meeting with Him.   These were sincere people, not sightseers anxious to see a celebrity figure; they didn’t want to see the temple or any other prominent figure.

The word see here, has the sense of ‘have a meeting with, being able to talk with Him’.  Like so many people today, these Greeks were not content with what they had in their own lives; they must have felt there was something missing. They thought there must be more to life than they had experienced, and were searching for the truth.      

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

I have witnessed slide shows, drama, and guessing games from the pulpit.   I believe such action from the pulpit lowers people’s respect and reverence for the Church, even if they feel amused at the time.


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

When He met those Greeks it was as the first sign that the gospel was to go to all the world, and part of God’s plan to bring salvation to the Gentiles, the symbol of the great harvest for which He came. If He had not died we probably would not know any more about Him, for He would have just been another figure of history, of no greater significance than any other great religious leader. Because of the cross, He was able to do something He could never have done otherwise.

Jesus was glorified as his hands and feet were nailed to a wooden cross, which was then lifted up causing him to bleed and suffocate to death.    Crucifixion was the most prolonged, painful and horrific form of execution ever invented by man. 

Jesus said this was His greatest hour.  The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified, Jesus who died in the place of His people, taking the punishment, so they could be forgiven.    This is what Christianity is all about. This is the centre of what it means to be a Christian. 

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

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

The Jews would not have understood what Jesus meant. For them the Son of Man conveyed an image of someone who would lead to world conquest and so attain glory, but Jesus meant it was time for Him to make the supreme sacrifice for the world by dying on the Cross so bringing glory to Him and to God. 
Jesus said the one loves their life will lose it. He was referring to those who live solely for themselves, and out to get as much as they can without thought for others. Christians generally are called to put service of the Lord first, and indeed there are many men and women who could have followed brilliant careers for rich rewards, but chose to go on mission fields far away from their homeland and work for very little.

We see the humanity of Jesus displayed when He expressed his fear at the thought of the Cross, but was ready to give obedience to God and suffer much pain, which would ultimately lead to triumph. God spoke to Jesus in His hour of torment, just as He did at His baptism and when on the Mount of Transfiguration. God is always ready to give strength when we seek it for the tasks we face in His name and cause.
As Jesus sits in the condemned cell contemplating his death, it’s hard.  Just because he knew it was God’s will, didn’t make it easy.    His heart was troubled.   

And if Jesus was that stressed out, why are we surprised when the Christian life seems tough and hard.  Jesus never promised it would be anything else.  We follow a crucified Lord who said:  follow me. 

Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." The crowd that was there heard it, and said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.   Jesus told them, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine’.  Jesus was meaning this showed the intimate and unbroken union He had with God the Father    

Let us think for a few moments how this relates to us in our time.  Maybe something has happened in your life to make you think things are not as you had hoped.  Perhaps the thought of drawing close to God seems attractive, and you would like to meet with Jesus.  Sometimes people can come to Church for years, and then they hear a word which makes them think there may be something more for them.  

We can never know what is in people’s minds, often more than we would expect.  We see here Jesus being sought by people from a distant land, when there many in his own land who wanted him dead.  I don’t know what was in the minds of the Greeks, but they were really seeking Jesus for honourable purposes, 

If and when we want to see Jesus, He is ready waiting to meet us in our Bibles; obviously not in the physical sense, but an equally powerful way, and we can meet Him whenever we want to without restriction.   


God still speaks directly to us to encourage us, and will always respond to the seeker.  If you have loved ones in your family or amongst your friends who are not saved, keep praying for them that they may come and see Jesus.    God is always ready to give strength when we seek it for the tasks we face in His name and cause
At the cross, Jesus underwent the judgement we deserve and paid our debt to God. His death gives us hope of everlasting life with Him one day. He wants to give us that hope in our life today. He alone can give you that new life that can never fade, and you can find that new life by meeting Jesus.

People in these high pressure days are so often weary and depressed and looking for that spiritual something. People are looking for something beyond themselves, looking for a way that gets the most out of life, yet carrying a load of guilt, fear and worry.

So many men and women these days are doing things and behaving in a way that once would never have been thought of, so carrying all sorts of moral problems.  Then they feel guilty and ashamed, become troubled in mind, and turn to drink and/or drugs.  Jesus said, ‘come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’   

Everyone today has to decide how to respond to Christ. People can be attracted to Christianity by its morals, but won’t commit themselves to Christ Himself.  For many the price is too high, for it would mean giving up some of the world’s standards and ways.  Nor is an emotional attachment to the Church is what our Lord is seeking. 

Our Lord said death was the way to spiritual life and glory.  This was meant to teach the purpose of the Messiah, which was not  like other kings of the world.  He didn’t come to seek a life of honour, ease and magnificence, but to have a painful death on a wooden Cross.  The crown he would wear was one for crucifixion, not coronation. His death would be a source of spiritual life for the world, and like a seed of corn would bring fruit to the praise of God, and redemption for many people.

When he said he who would hate his life would keep it,, for those who wanted to be saved, must be ready for salvation.  Those who love their life with all its pleasures, but will lose their souls; those who deny life here to serve Christ, will duly gain life.

Christians know when this life ends, a new life begins.  Without the death of Christ there would be no life for the world, but those who live by the Spirit reap everlasting life.

We learn that those who profess Christ must follow him, just as a soldier follows his Commander, and sheep follow a shepherd, a Christian must be true in following Jesus. Real Christian show faith and obedience.  To serve Christ in name and form is easy, but to follow in faith and life can be too demanding for others.

The Lord offers encouragement when he says, ’where I shall be so shall my servant be, and God will honour him. When the Father honours us on the last day, we shall find his praise makes up for all we gave and lost.


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

May we ever be like the Greeks in our passage today and want to see Jesus and seek Him with all our hearts.



Friday 22 October 2021




What a friend we have in Jesus.

In the past 18 months, the most common illness has been loneliness, which doctors would confirm has caused depression and mental health problems, much due to people isolating who have never been used to being on their own but due to the pandemic have been forced to be alone.

There are of course, other regular causes which lead to loneliness, such as ills, and sadness of grief for the loss of a loved one.  Women left alone in a house feel naturally unsafe, a partner of a husband/wife left after many years in marriage, who feel deprived of precious love and companionship.  We all know people like that and feel sorrow and sympathy for them, but we never fully understand until we personally experience it for ourselves.

I am sure there will be feelings of gratitude to those who give time and effort to help the lonely, but those we care for have feelings too, and they for personal reasons and feelings, do not always want what is offered. Such are intensely feelings, and we should not be offended if rejected.

On the other hand, I have been told and know of people who claim to be so fond of the deceased and partner when both are living, suddenly find themselves have something more worthy of their time when death occurs. I have Paul in mind when writing to Timothy stated, ‘ no one came to stand by me, all deserted me. May it not be charged against them, but the Lord stood by me and strengthened me

As a Vicar I have witnessed various attitudes, amazingly at first to me, that one partner has been so ill for a period, the husband/wife left feels glad for their partner’s death whether for the deceased or themselves.  Personally, I could never accept that, for true love transcends all else as an everlasting love. I know how sad it is when you see a loved one suffer, but I also know the person suffering wants to stay with you until God takes them into his care.

Young people, business people, are often forced to live in big cities and get lonely.  I have seen movies of people in New York, once described as the loneliest place on earth, and can imagine how true that may be. Young men and women unable to cope on their own after busy days at work, take to alcohol, drugs, excessive sexual relationships which don’t lead anywhere useful, yet those who live there are reluctant to move.

It comes down to, what can be done to ease the curse of modern living?

Joseph Scriven was a man due to be married to a lady, but she was killed in an accident immediately before the big day.  Sometime later he met another lady and fell in love with her and they were to be married, and she too died before the day arrived for the wedding. He wrote a poem to his mother which has been one of the world’s most famous and loved hymns, sung by many well-known artists; what a friend we have in Jesus.  The full version is at the end of this message.

The words of verses 3 and 4 are particularly relevant for those who are feeling lonely now.  If your friends do forsake you, then Jesus is the one you turn to for help and care to give you solace.

Jesus did say, ’come unto me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. He will know our every weakness and help you with his care. Call to him in prayer and you will be answered.

BUT, you cannot have Jesus as a friend unless you are prepared to accept him as Saviour, someone who died for you so you can be forgiven your sins.  We all sin in some way. Lots of people interpret sin as some form of sexual immorality but it is far more than sex; hate, malice, envy, jealousy, lying, adultery, theft, in fact anything which offends God’s Word in the Bible.

If we sin, we have to be forgiven so that God, who hates sin, will see us fit to be a member of his Kingdom.  The only way we can be forgiven is through the lonely death of Jesus on the Cross, who died to pay for our wrongdoings.

We will still feel lonely at times, but will not have the same sense of loneliness that many people have. All Christians who have called upon Jesus, can count n him as a friend.

There are many attitudes people take, Going to the burial ground, but your dear one is not really there; placing a photograph where you can talk to them; sitting on a chair they sat on; anything to bring them back to you. But there is nothing in this life will ever do that.

If you are not lonely, thank God daily. It can be a sure cause for depression, and whilst some find comfort in sedatives which are prescribed, they are a very temporary ease, if at all.  Think of true friends who may be kind enough to visit you.  If you are someone who visits a lonely person, remember the words of Jesus who said, ‘in as much as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it unto me.’

Everyone will find loneliness and grief at some time in life, and you will have to as well. Read your Bible, you will be surprised how God seems to reach out from the pages to you.

I pray for God’s blessing, and for the care and comfort of Jesus to be on all who are in any way suffering the loss of someone dear and feel the end of your world has come. If you are a true Christian and not a make believe one, you can just pray and look forward to finding that loved one in the heavenly place.


What A Friend We Have In Jesus

Joseph M. Scriven

What a blessing to be able to come to God each day and hand over our worries and fears. With our friend, Jesus, our burdens can be lifted and our souls cleansed. 

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Saviour, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

Wednesday 20 October 2021


                 2 Timothy 3 verses 16/17


Sunday next is the day many Churches will recognise as Bible Sunday. 

At one time, Bible Sunday was always the 2nd Sunday of Advent, when the whole Church joined in celebration of the giving of God’s Word. In recent years, Bible Sunday has been moved to the 4th Sunday in October when it is now only optional against the normal Lectionary readings. I see Racial Justice, One World, Peacekeeping and Education, and others, have been marked out for special attention, but apparently Bible Sunday does not warrant special mention, which says a lot about priorities.

 If we are to face the challenges of our time, the Church and all Christians have to be people of the Bible.  So let us look at verses 16/17.

 All Scripture is inspired by God. The important word is all. The Bible has become less relevant even to people within the Church, including those whose duty is to teach the Scriptures. Thereby, where as once people might have thought twice about their actions in consideration of what the Bible taught, there is less restraint, even if there was any knowledge.  There is such a total lack of restraint, rather like a car which has been parked on a hill and someone releases the handbrake, causing it to go out of control. 

 There are so many people within the Church, clerical and lay, who are prepared to settle for less.  Moral values clearly laid out in the Bible are set aside to cater for indulging in, or condoning in, behaviour and ways which are contradictory to Scriptural teaching. There is no pick and mix option.  Biblical integrity demands you accept what is written, and not choose just those parts that fit in with your own desires. 

 When you buy something which is under guarantee or warranty, you are given a manual which instructs how you are to look after and care for that article.  If you do not conform to the terms, the person who made the article is not obliged to do anything to help, and you have no rights about which to protest.

 The maker of the world has laid down the terms in His manual, and if people do not conform to those terms they can have no reason to complain when turmoil occurs.   

 We are told God inspired and guided forty men, using their different characters and occupations, to write the Scriptures which would be His message to the world.  We can reasonably presume that if God gave us these words, He would not have done so just to fill pages, but meant us to take note of all that was given.  God wants us to understand and know Him, and the only way we can do that is by Him telling us, which He does in this book. He tells, we listen and obey him.

 There are 66 books in the Bible, 39 of which are in the Old Testament and 27 in the New, written by 40 men, all but one being Jewish.  God used their individual personalities and occupations, to communicate His words, and none of them would claim it was any thoughts of their own. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, all state they did not feel worthy, but God laid a burden on them.  This was done over many years, without any collusion, they did not meet each other, yet there is no contradiction in writings.

 We should be ready to turn to it and study it more.  For most Christians, I fear Bible reading is confined to someone else reading it in the service. 

It is not a coincidence, it is fact that as the Bible has become so irrelevant to so many people, life has become so much more coarse and immoral, and we have a breakdown in society.  There seems to be no sense of shame on the part of many people, even those in the public eye. 

 We now see politicians rushing to condemn the moral condition of the nation, a condition which most of them legislated to create and encourage, and which they now realise is a moral monstrosity

 Timothy is called upon to reprove, rebuke and exhort, which in fact is the task of all preachers. In other words, we have to be concerned with mind, will and emotions by correcting wrong thinking, pointing out what is wrong in behaviour and attitudes, and encouraging those depressed.  This has to be done with caring, but positive words.

    Many people say they cannot understand much of the Bible.  We must first realise it does not solve every problem we have in life, nor answer all the questions we would like to ask.  Some things remain a mystery which God has chosen not to reveal this side of heaven.

 When Billy Graham, the most successful preacher of all time, was starting out in ministry, he was troubled as to whether the Bible really was God’s Word or man’s idea.  There were passages he could not understand.  He was so concerned he went up into the mountains near his North Carolina home, and read and re-read his King James Version of the Bible, then turned to God and said, ‘I have seen enough of your transforming ability in this Word, to know you are behind it.  I know there are many questions I do not understand, but I take it by faith that it is your Word and will preach it as your Word and trust you.’  The rest is history.  He always encouraged people to take their Bibles with them to his crusades and meetings.

 In my visits to preach in Churches, I have been amazed how few provide the Bibles.  I went to one Church where there was not one Bible, not even for the reading of the Lessons.

The Bible is in fact a collection of books with different styles, all written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  There is history, poetry, prophecy, as Paul here states, ‘to instruct unto salvation’.

The Bible is essentially a book of salvation, and there has never been any doubt that the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ.  He is the focus and climax of the Bible from start to finish.  The whole Bible focuses on the coming of Christ, after prophet after prophet in the Old Testament foretold His coming.  In the Old Testament Jesus is predicted.  In the Gospel Jesus is revealed.  In Acts Jesus is preached.  In the Epistles Jesus is explained.   In Revelation Jesus is anticipated.  

 The Bible is given to teach us and guide us in the way God wants us to live.  This is a very stressful world in which we live.  This is a post Christian age, when most people under the age of 40 have little if any knowledge of the Christian faith or Church. 

 The aim of many public officials is to erase Christianity from public life in which no mention or expression of the faith is allowed, and some Christians are swept away by the tide of opposition.   In some intellectual and academic circles, the Bible is seen as some form of hate literature, and this is being taught in schools, colleges and universities, simply because it doesn’t fit in with some modern thought.

Paul feared that Timothy, young and timid man, was in danger of yielding to the anti-Christian pressure facing him.  His message to Timothy, and which also applies to us, is to stand firm even if it means standing alone.  Don’t weaken under pressure.

Timothy was brought up in a Jewish background, and so was taught the Scriptures from an early age by his mother and grandmother.  It was customary for Jewish boys to be taught the Scriptures from age five. Whilst these would be the Old Testament, he had also been taught by Paul and Peter, who between them had written most of the New Testament, so he would in fact have virtually the whole Bible as we know it in his knowledge.

There is a great tragedy in the fact that children are growing up here without ever hearing the stories of Jesus or the main biblical characters, as parents do not have the time, inclination or knowledge to help them.  But it has not always been like that.

 Many of us here to-day grew up in a totally different culture.  We may not have had all the wonderful technological aids and comforts that now are available, but we benefited in other ways. Like Timothy we were taught about the Bible at home, and went to Sunday school as youngsters, learning the stories about Jesus, which gave us standards and values and a good foundation for life.  We had morning assemblies in all schools, now largely avoided in (state) schools. This may not have been widely followed up in life, but the basics had been laid, and our lives were directed by Christian values. Children are now denied these foundations, and are growing up without knowing the country’s religious faith and heritage.  

Compare the situation in other faiths’ homes.  Muslim children are faithfully taught the Koran, and will never allow their holy book to be abused in the way our Bible is; similarly in Jewish homes, where children again are taught about Judaism and the Ten Commandments from an early age.   

The argument that because the Bible was written so many years ago we can look at it with a different approach to the present day, doesn’t hold.  God was not just the God of the first century, but for all time.  The last words of Jesus were to his Apostles, whom he taught to go into the world, and make disciples in all nations, teaching all he had commanded.

The Bible gives us access to the mind of God.  The more we read, the more we will know God’s intention for us.  Just as you spend more time in a person’s company you get to know them better, so as you spend time  with God through His Word, the better you will know Him. For in the Bible God speaks His mind. 

The Bible also tells of the consequences for not following God’s will for us.  What then can the Church do?  Is there an answer?  

The Church has a wonderful opportunity to recover lost ground at the present time.  The nation has woken up to the moral collapse, and the Church should take the opportunity to remind the nation how far it has strayed from Christian influence.   Above all, we must defend the authority of Scripture.

Today the Church in the West is in decline, in stark contrast to Africa, Asia, South America, where the Churches have memberships of thousands.  The reason these Churches are so strong is because of the strong biblical foundation, and they have not been tearing the Bible away as we have in the West.  They still believe it and boldly proclaim it, and God is blessing them..

 Many Churches in the West have given up on Scriptural teaching, and have engaged in dismantling the Bible and re-interpreting to fit in with the morality (or lack of it) they wish to portray and avoid any suggestion of future judgement.  From the highest positions in the Church, leaders are calling on people to actually ignore Bible teaching on marriage and sexuality, and practically have created special services to enable this.

Can you imagine a Muslim cleric challenging the Koran?

May God bless you and be with you as you read your Bible.

Monday 18 October 2021


1 Thessalonians 1

This Letter of Paul which we are looking at is thought to be the first of his thirteen New Testament Letters, and one which is very relevant to us to-day.  We can learn from this Letter what the Bible teaches us is a successful Church, and what it means to be a Christian in the purest sense

In our modern age, success matters. One of the main aims of people is ‘success’.  The attainment of it is eagerly sought at work, in politics in sport, to the extent that it ceases to be sport and becomes a highly fought battle. But today we are concentrating on what success is in relation to the Church. We often speak enviously of a particular Church as being a successful one, but on a false premise. 

Most people consider a Church to be successful when it has a large congregation, is well financed, in a big building preferably with car park; but such is a misconception and reveals mankind’s ideals as compared with that of God.  This letter from Paul gives practical illustration of a successful Church.

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

1 Thessalonians is one of the oldest books in the New Testament, and I am coming to be quite fond of it. Scholars date it at approximately 50-51 A.D., meaning that it was written only 18 years after Jesus’ life and death. As such it is one of the earliest pictures we have of the Christian church in the very beginning.  This, together with other Scripture, tells us why Christianity spread so far and fast, without all the modern means of communication we have, and why the Church was so successful.

     Paul begins this Letter in a different manner from others in that he writes, to show he recognises they are truly Christians, who have fully accepted God and Jesus Christ. They had listened to Paul, their minds were engaged. They were the church in God. They knew the Lord Jesus Christ. They had experienced the grace and peace of God. Paul prayed for them. He thanked God for them always.

Most of the believers at Thessalonica had come to Christ from idol-worshiping.   Paul’s brief ministry resulted in a congregation made up mostly of converted Greeks, along with a few believing Jews and some leading women of the city.   These former idol-worshipers had a huge impact as brand-new Christ-followers.     

Here was a Church which started off with people new into the faith, but such was their commitment and enthusiasm, it made others want to join them, and that way it became to have a large attendance.

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

Research has shown that the most successful form of evangelism is that of ordinary men and women Christians, telling others of how Christianity has changed their lives, perhaps just mentioning they attend Church, and we are as proud of our faith, just as much as the other faiths are.

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

There is a story of a farming village which was desperate for rain to fall. They decided to have a prayer meeting to pray for rain, and one young woman went to the meeting carrying an umbrella.  That is faith. 

 So we may think of a successful Church as one where there is commitment, enthusiasm, and the teaching is that of that given by the Apostles, passed down to us in the New Testament, all of which leads to growth. 

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

God does not choose large Cathedrals to perform His plans, nor pick rich influential people.  Abraham Lincoln stated  that God must have loved ordinary people, he made so many of them.  He chose a humble Jewish village girl to bear the Saviour of the world.  None of the Apostles had a degree between them, they were ordinary working men.  They would never have passed a selection board here today, their strong Bible teaching would have disqualified them right off.

God acts when people respond to His Son.  It can be in the smallest of Churches; God acts when people turn to Him  

 For most people a Christian is someone who is not of another faith, or is an atheist; that is not the Bible’s definition. A Christian is someone who is a fully devoted follower of Jesus. You are not born a Christian, nor are you a Christian simply because you were born into a Christian family, or in a Christian country.  The heart itself must be changed so that you become a follower of the Lord.

Paul tells the believers they had been chosen by God.   The Bible tells us that God knows the secret working of our hearts, and when He knows we are ready to acknowledge Him through Christ, by whom alone we can come to God, He by His amazing grace chooses and calls us into His family.  God finds us before we find Him.

In order for a person to be converted two things must happen first—something from God’s side and then something from the human side; but God’s side must always come first.

Paul wrote, ‘our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction’. The Word was preached with the power of the Holy Spirit.

People come to know Jesus by various means when the Holy Spirit touches them.  The most effective way is through preaching, although there are other ways such as someone close telling them of their own faith, or by a message on a poster, the London City Mission touched many by their message posters on the London underground, but the majority come to know the Lord by preaching

This why preachers should always endeavour to preach a gospel message, for more people are converted through listening to preachers than any other way. The Billy Graham meetings were evidence of this, as so many millions over his forty years of preaching became committed Christians.  He spelled out plainly the consequences of rejecting Christ.  Sadly now, too many preachers are afraid of upsetting congregations, but if people are upset, perhaps they should search their conscience, for the Lord may be telling them something they need to hear.

Preaching should not be on human opinion, or be a re-interpretation of the gospel to suit the time. That’s why we ought to pray for the preaching of the Word, that it might be accompanied with the power of the Spirit. For without that power, even the best preaching is useless to change the human heart. 

I read in the ‘New Yorker’ magazine, that they carried out research in 50, 000 churches, with 6000 congregations, and  75% of people consulted stated the sermon was the core of worship, which should be based on the Scriptures.  I cannot imagine any British magazine carrying out such a survey, but how it inspires to read at least in the United States there are so many people devoted to the Bible

The survey showed in median churches a sermon lasted 37 mins; in Black Churches 54 mins; and in Roman Catholic 14 mins. This reminded me of a visit I made to lead a service here in the United Kingdom, and I asked how long I should preach for, and the Vicar replied, not more than 10minutes or they will get restless!   Those American pastors sure have it made.

When the Word is based on Bible preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit, it produces deep conviction in the hearts of the hearers and people become convicted of their sin and their need for a Saviour, and accept Jesus as that Saviour who died on the Cross that they be forgiven of all sin.

Have you ever wondered why two people can hear the same message yet respond in opposite ways? It happens because one man hears words, while the other man hears the message. It is the Holy Spirit who takes human words in preaching and makes them  alive inside the human heart. I never know in advance who my sermons will touch.  Sometimes I am told right away, but in other cases I have been told quite some time later of how I helped.

A sermon must be based on Scripture, the direct Word of God, and always be relevant, and whilst some preachers are dramatic in delivery, such is not essential. Much does depend on the pastor. I saw a Church in the United States 15 years back when it had a very large congregation, with a famous leader, now deceased, but although the same formula is followed, it is noticeably less well attended.

I had a lady who attended my Church infrequently and one day she said to me I always feel you are getting at me when I come.  I told her that as I could never foretell when she would come, and as I prepared my sermons in advance, it may be someone higher than me was getting to her.  God does use men to speak on his behalf.

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

Jesus always warned that following Him would be costly and involve suffering. Such may be the mild kind of mockery or losing friends.  It may lead to suspension from work or similar penalty when there is a government which does not want any opposition to its legislation, as we have seen in our own country. On the other had it may mean violence, imprisonment or even murder, in non Christian lands as we read of in Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt or other Middle Eastern lands.

These Thessalonian believers faced suffering having come to Christ from idol worship, in a culture which did not appreciate Christianity, but such was their faith and devotion that they triumphed and the Christian faith spread far and wide around them.

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

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

Remember Jesus told one man to go to his own town and tell what the Lord had done for him.  We just start living for Christ in our daily lives to show others what a difference he makes.  Having responded to Gods’ Word you live it on a daily basis and others will notice.  Robert Louis Stevenson once said he lived opposite two Salvation Army people and it changed his life.

A Christian is a person whose changed life changes others, because of a commitment to be like Jesus and to follow him wherever he heads. 

It is possible for people to come for Church for years, listening to the Bible being read, listening to preaching, singing devotional hymns, yet never opening hearts to God. You have to come with ears and mind open so God can enter your heart, and strive for the fruits of the Spirit, namely love, joy kindness peace and gentleness, faithfulness and self control.  I have seen too many who have the opposite characters and do not reflect any credit on the Church.

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

Friday 15 October 2021


Mark 10 v 32/45

This passage reveals our Lord’s foreknowledge of his own sufferings and death.  He tells his Apostles of his coming passion at Jerusalem, nothing is kept back. From the beginning of his ministry he knew he would end up on the Cross. When the appointed time  came, he kept his word, and died for us at Calvary. He who kept his task to suffer, will also save all who come to him.

Jesus is entering the last part of his life’s journey, the road to Jerusalem was the end.  He was walking along ahead of the Apostles on his own, and they were reluctant to speak to Jesus, even though they were struck at his bravery. They loved Jesus, but felt compelled by his magnetism, to accept what they could not understand.  Jesus had told them the ultimate way of things that belonged to God, and his whole life was submission to God. 

Each of  the predictions of Jesus for death and resurrection is followed by instructions to his Apostles, who were amazed by his determination in view of the detail he gave, in the light of what he said.  The Apostles were concerned as they followed Jesus that there would be fights, and thought they might suffer the same fate. 

 Jesus knew he would be handed over  to the Jewish leaders, who would hand him over to the Roman authorities.

They knew there was nothing they could do, Jesus would face what he felt he was there for, that which God had arranged. God had given him courage and strength, as God will do for all who truly serve him.  Sorrow is the price of love.

We see the improper action of James and John seeking special places beside Jesus, claiming to do the same as Jesus when they did not know the nature of the path before them. The other Apostles were indignant at their fellows, possibly through some own ambitions.

James and John belonged to the inner circle of Jesus, and on the way to Jerusalem may have thought that was the time to make their request for the future. They fully expected one to be each side of Jesus when he ruled in glory.

There would be a future in glory, but the path would be severe through divine judgement for Jesus.  The cup Jesus would drink would be the cup of God’s wrath in the place of mankind’s sinfulness.  Jesus asked if they would willing to drink the cup he drank, meaning to fight alongside him, and they answered they would. Only Jesus could face divine judgement for the way of mankind.

There are Christians who resemble James and John, apt to expect more present enjoyment from religion than what God wants us to expect, and think of the crown rather than the Cross.  We should see the importance of calm judgement in our religion. We are right in telling Jesus of our desires, but there is a cross to carry for all would be Christians. Do not be boastful in running the Christian course, lest you fall.

We see the praise Jesus bestows on lowlines and devotion to others.  When the others show their displeasure with James and \john, our Lord played the situation down, and tells of ideas of greatness built on a wrong foundation, and point out the need of being a servant.

Humility of service is by not lording it over those for whom one has responsibility.  Jesus does not deny human authority, but does not expect misuse.  We read as an example, he tells he came to serve by taking death on the Cross as a ransom for man.

Those who desire to be like Jesus should remember his teaching, how to act towards others, and not to act as pompous overlords.  Men and women in their positions within the Church are granted fancy titles, from a simple Reverend to Most Rev. to Very Rev. and are granted these as they occupy some administrative role, rather than to suggest different levels of being a Christian.  Indeed, some holding high Office in the Church do tend to get carried away, and feel they have a right to even tell people how not to vote for a Conservative.

Last year one of the leading evangelical preachers in the world, son of the generally accepted greatest preacher in Christian history (Billy Graham)came to hold meetings in this country. Bishops were actually (and shamefully) telling people NOT to attend his meetings in view of some of his inappropriate remarks, (such as marriage was only between a man and a woman.)

How necessary it is to study the Scriptures so we can see how relevant they are, to and for daily living. Thousands claim to follow the Lord, profess to have taken up the Cross and told of their belief in Jesus.  Despite all their hypocritical posturing, how fragile is their commitment to him.

The passage illustrates the various emotions of the kind most people go through. Many people seek recognition, just doing what is reasonably required with a quiet devotion is not an acceptable practice to a lot of people.  Of course, what is understandably galling, is for someone else to claim credit for the work of another person. This often happens when someone in authority wants to claim the praise for all under him/her.

The Bible tells us that as Christians we should give our best at all times, as if serving our heavenly Father, and to be happy doing so without personal glory. This command is not universally obeyed, even though we are encouraged to follow him who states that he came to serve, and not to ,be served. He did not avoid an horrendous death on the Cross in our place.

But not even all his closest followers in the Apostolic band, could be true to him. We see Apostles found there was a reluctance to be ready to serve without counting the cost.

James and John could see the way things were progressing and wanted to get their claim in before others. They had failed to completely to follow the teaching of Jesus, and were like little boys seeking teacher’s favour. As Christians we are called not to be above all, but alongside all.

Jesus calls us into a life of sharing, and serving with him. Sometimes that will mean that we are placed in positions of authority in order that we can fill some particular role.  Sometimes we may placed as if lower, and therewith feel able to adopt a condescending attitude.

Television encourages recognition seeking. People watch others and hear what is happening in the big wide world, and feel they too must be part, from men at football matches behaving like fanatics and overgrown schoolboys , to women anxious to follow the stars. The ‘me too’ movement was an example, for whilst some women were treated deplorably, and had reason to complain, others were anxious to join in.

Consider the stupid people blocking main arterial roads, causing serious problems for innocent people, and most if asked would be unable to explain what they were protesting for, it is just enjoying a bit of fun for them.

We still have egos within the Church, where men and women get appointed to positions, and lose all sense of reality. They forget they are appointed for purely administrative posts, and have illusions of grandeur, but are not more worthy Christians, indeed more likely the opposite. I think if research was made, it would be discovered that few had little (if any) time as an ordinary Minister in a parish. They have taken the course of Office posts, have held a high role in business, in fact anywhere but a parish.

People do like publicity, the idea of appearing on television is overwhelming for them.  Look at the next awards show, when some programme wins an award, rather than the producer going forward to collect a trophy, a collection of everyone who has ever done the smallest part has to go forward.

Jesus is here stressing there would be a cost in being a Christian. He never tried to bribe by promising things, he preferred quality instead of quantity. Not all who listened to him agreed to follow him, or even agree with him, he either saved or upset them. When you do follow him, people will look at you as if you are in a special organization, which in fact you are, but not one they want to be in.

The Church needs to learn from Jesus, and instead of offering games, food and drink, offer them some proper doctrinal teaching.  We could all fill our Church if we offered alcohol, but a different Spirit is what is needed, a holy one.  The anomaly is there is too great a willingness to abandon doctrine God provided, because it upsets minority factions, and is unpopular with modern culture.  If you allow impurity into anything, you corrupt the whole lot.

Jesus would be most condemning of the desire for status in today’s Church, where men and now women, are more interested in career advancement than proclaiming the gospel, for which they got appointed.

The Church has always believed in one baptism for the forgiveness of all sin, yet the Church has created a new baptism service for those who change sex .  The Creed is recited at every service of the Church, yet many do not believe all that is being pledged.

Jesus came to serve and give his life on the Cross to make his followers worthy of being received into heaven, and we are called to serve him with uncompromising devotion..  Many men and women have made great sacrifices by giving up lucrative careers to serve Jesus, and have not regretted having done so.  They have been men and women of much knowledge and learning, they are not liable to commit themselves to any worthless cause. It is the mindless people who get such entertainment at mocking Christianity, and the cowardice who like the broadcasting company who would never mock Islam, yet agree to let the silly men and women who mock the Bible.

To paraphrase a famous slogan, think not what God can do for me, but what I can do for God.  You may be the commendable man or woman who faithfully attends regular worship, and may feel you don’t count. You count very much, and most Ministers, Pastors, Vicars, will appreciate your attendance. Some may at times not notice your presence, but God will always notice, and he is the One you must care about.

May God bless his Holy Word to us.