Saturday 30 July 2022


LUKE 12 Verses 13/21


Parable of the rich fool

The passage for this week’s gospel is sometimes termed the Parable of the rich fool

Jesus was preaching to a group of people, when a man called from the crowed, asking Jesus to be on his side against his brother in a family dispute. In Jewish life an inheritance was a major issue, and it was the accepted practice that father would leave one part to the younger brother, and two parts to the elder.  We saw this played out in the  Parable of the Prodigal Son recently.

In the time of Jesus, land was a precious possession and the subject of inheritance.  There was obviously  a dispute in which the younger brother felt a loser, and he wanted Jesus to settle in his favour.  Whilst Jesus was in charge of the whole universe, He did not want to get involved in matters which did not pertain to His Ministry, and expected people to sort their own issues out.   The young man was displaying a sense of greed, and the answer of Jesus was in fact a mild rebuke as Jesus referred to greed, pointing out that life was not a question of how rich or poor you were.

It was however a common practise for Jews to take personal issues to the Rabbis, but Jesus refused to get involved in money matters.  He took the opportunity to speak out about what His followers attitudes should be, regarding material things.  God wants the values of heaven and His priorities, to his world.

Jesus custom is to illustrate His message and make it clearly understood.  He told a parable about a man who thought only for himself.  The man had an excess of goods, but instead of giving to the poor, and there was much poverty, he was more concerned and intent on amassing all he could, even to the extent of building in order to be able to store more. God warned him he would die that night and all would be lost.  We came into this world with nothing, and will leave in the same condition.  Jesus told the man he was a fool to store up riches, but have no relationship with God.

Now having looked at the story we need to consider how it relates to us, and what we can learn from it. 

The man in the crowd was using this spiritual teaching of Jesus to try and influence his business. There are of course, people still using religion and attending services with the intention of influencing their business. Being seen in Church and appearing holy, goes down well with locals and customers.  Such a practice is wrong and unworthy.

Some years ago there was a very senior Police Commander who attended a Methodist Church on a regular basis. It became noticed within the Force, and it was amazing how many policemen suddenly found they were Methodists

There is an awful lot of people in these hectic days suffering with anxiety and worry.  Inflation is striking almost worldwide, leaving people with bigger bills to pay, and it is becoming hard to meet the requirements.  There are families for whom life has become very hard, and when cars are a vital part in a person’s life/business. It is exasperating for them to see the cost of petrol rising constantly, and then hear how oil companies have made billions of pounds in profit.  It is nothing less than evil the way businesses are adding their own (unnecessary) costs on top of the food costs

In other ways. greed has taken its place as people have many personal items. They see others with more than they have, and by virtue of credit cards go for that they cannot afford, forgetting it has to be paid for with real money.

Jesus told the man in the crowd to guard against greed and getting more, life is not measured by how much you own. Gone are the days when men and women had the necessities of life, and when wanting to add, saved up until they could comfortably buy.  We may have advanced widely as a society with so many technological additions. But how much worry and health problems has it cost.  There is so much competition with other people, with ambition, and with covertness, things are not coming really that easy.

People have nice homes in good areas, where there are not the social problems poorer people have, often with a Church nearby to make it look ‘olde English ‘, but haven’t the gratitude to thank God for their good fortune.   

The message Jesus is passing, is to be content with the necessities of life, and attend to your spiritual responsibilities, praising and thanking God for His care of you.  Jesus wanted to help people avoid worry and anxiety, and He did not want people to live in poor conditions, and called them to pray to God, for Him to take care of them.

I appreciate the Church is not performing in the way God laid down, nor is it following the commands of Jesus to preach the gospel and make disciples. Consequently the teachings of Jesus do not impact on Church members as He wanted.  Paul the Apostle stated, ‘I have learned in whatever state I am in therewith, to be content’ Jesus spoke against worldliness, and the character of which Jesus speaks is very common today

We see in these verses, the wisdom of being rich towards God, providing for a time to come of treasure in heaven. Be rich in faith, in grace, and try to be helpful to others

May God bless you.  Attend a Church on Sunday (if it is a bible based Church)

Friday 22 July 2022


                 Luke 11 v. 1-13


     The Gospel reading contains the giving by Jesus of the Lord’s Prayer.

I am often in mind of a scene broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network in America, when I say or hear this prayer.  It is of the first English settlers who landed at Virginia Beach in April 1607,planting a Cross, and reciting this prayer. They had sailed the Atlantic to find the land they believed would allow them to worship God in freedom, and when placing the Cross they had brought from England, dedicated the land to God, and with full commitment sought His blessing.  They were the forerunners, who were joined by others, to make that such a great and powerfully Christian nation.

     We read that a disciple asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. This is a reasonable request, for praying is hard for a lot of people, and they wanted a special prayer for them, which would unite them together. At one time this prayer was known as the Apostles prayer 

     Before we turn to study the most powerful prayer ever made, there are certain necessities for praying which we need to understand accept. There is the essential need to be free of sins in our life, by confessing and repenting. For God will require us to approach him in humility and cleanliness.  When we pray we should expect an answer, God wants us to seek his help, but we must ask for worthy things, for God is to be treated as a Father who cares for his children, and like an earthly father will not let us have that which is harmful, or might interfere his plan for our life.

     The Bible tells of people who persevered and kept on asking  until answered; God may need time to ensure things fit in with other issues.  The Bible encourages us to pray with someone, and some people do have prayer partners, bearing in mind the words of Jesus, ‘when two people ask in my name…’  We make all our prayers to God in the name of Christ. Our prayers should be powerfully made; praying like the friends of Peter who prayed ‘fervently’, and enabled him to get out of prison.

     The Apostles asked Jesus to teach them how to pray and he gave His disciples, and by extension us, a model prayer simple in its composition, but profound in its teaching.  The prayer begins with us thinking about God and our relationship to Him, and then moves on to our own concerns.

     We have to remember that prayer is talking to God, who we are encouraged by Jesus to call Father, so we begin by recognising God as ‘our’ Father who cares for and loves us, just as an earthly father cares for his sons/daughters.  The Jews would not recognise such intimacy, and thought God could not be approached in too personal a manner, and not until Jesus spoke to us had anyone ever done so. 

     We recognise His holiness and that He reigns in heaven, and approach Him in reverence.  We also acknowledge that in being holy, God is above and beyond us.  In Jewish thought a name reflected the character of the person, so we recognise God’s holiness and seek to display it in our lives. We cannot see God, but He is present in heaven and all authority is His.  If we trust in Him He is always ready to hear us in time of need.

     In saying ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ we are praying that God’s rule be established more and more. We want God to be fully present in life, and not just an invisible hope. We want to see more and more people converted and obey His will, and that those who disobey and hate His commands will decrease.  We are praying that all God’s plans and purposes will be fulfilled.

     We pray that God will provide for our daily needs, bread being the basic food which sustains our physical life, so we are asking God to supply for us as He did for the people of Israel when in the wilderness and He sent manna from heaven.  This reminds us of our dependence on God, and approach each day as a separate entity in our life.

     We recognise God’s grace as we seek forgiveness for the debt we owe to God for sinning, and lay our sins on Jesus Christ. The Bible states ‘there is no one righteous, no not one, we all fall short of the glory of God’, so here we confess we are in fact sinners. There is the need to forgive those who offend us, forgiving the person not the sin, for only God can do that.  This is a hard call for many people, and even harder to put into practice. It is important to remember that the word ‘sin’ has a far greater meaning than just sexual matters, which people usually have solely in mind.

     Finally, we plead with God to so order our lives that we do not face temptation beyond our ability to resist.  God will never lead us into temptation, but we face this every day of our lives, and will do so as long as we live on this earth. At this point we also want Him to protect us from evil which abounds so much all around us, and so order our lives that we may not be faced with anything we cannot bear.

     The words of this prayer have passed over our lips many times.  How many who recite it, sometimes automatically, really desire is petitions to be granted.  Do we really see God as our Father, and truly care for His will and name, and wish for the kingdom to come.

     This prayer is read at almost every funeral service, and said by people who have little if any religious faith and do not appreciate its wonder or meaning.  The prayer is factually for believers who are entitled to call God ‘Father’, for Jesus stated no one can come to the father except through me.

     Jesus went on to give a parable.  In Palestine travellers often travelled late in the day to avoid the heat.  Jesus tells of one traveller who arrived at his friend’s home at midnight, and put his friend at an embarrassment.   In the East hospitality was a sacred duty, it was not sufficient to give a basic meal; the guest had to be given a full spread.  Bread was baked at home, because if it was kept it would go stale and be uneatable.

     The late arrival meant the householder had an empty larder, and could not therefore fulfil his obligation of hospitality.  He went out and asked a neighbour to help, but no one would normally knock on a door which was shut, for that was an indication that the householder did not want to be disturbed.

     The home would have been one room, with two thirds on ground level and the other third raised.  It was also the custom to bring their animals into the house at night, so when there was persistent knocking on the door, the whole family would be disturbed.  The neighbour gave what was asked of him.

     Jesus said the lesson of the parable was, that we must persist in prayer and knock on God’s door until we can persuade God to answer.  Jesus was pointing out that if a rather unwilling man can eventually give what was asked of him, how much more can a loving God give to supply His children’s needs.

     This does not mean we can treat God as something like a heavenly beneficiary, and make a list of things we want.  We often pray for things to happen, and sometimes God will not answer directly because He thinks they are not for our own good, just as an earthly father will deny his children because they make come to harm or not be for their good.  We must pray with intensity and passion, knowing we are asking the One who knows all our needs and will act for our best interests.

     In Church intercessions, some people think it necessary to pray for every conceivable person and thing, or to use flowery phrases, whereas Jesus in this prayer He gave us a model of simplicity.  We share this prayer with millions worldwide.

     Our Lord’s prayers were short when offered in public, but when alone with God mean a whole night in prayer. Long prayers in public can weary listeners.  The publican’s prayer was, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner’.   The Syrophoenician woman was shorter still, ‘Lord help me’ and her prayer was answered.  Let our prayers be to the point, just telling God what is on our mind.   Some people try extemporary prayer, and then find it hard to terminate.  The secret is to keep it short and get to the point of the prayer. 

     There was a lady in my Church, who was quite superb in her prayers; concise, relevant to the intercession, simple and brief.  I don’t think she had theological training, and in fact I don’t think she realises how good she is.

     This passage shows how wide and encouraging, are the promises which the Lord holds out to prayer.  Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.

     Be at Church on Sunday and may God bless you

Saturday 16 July 2022

                   Mark 8 v31/38


Jesus is with his Apostles making his way to Jerusalem and the Cross. He shocks them by saying he must suffer, be killed and rise again.  He meant this was necessary to fulfil the purpose for which God sent him into the world; it was necessary for him to make atonement for man’s sin, for without his blood being shed there could not be any remission.  Without the Cross God’s holy law could not be satisfied.  Jesus must die that we might live. This is at the heart of Christian faith and we must always be aware of the truth. This was the message Jesus taught his Apostles and they Jesus took it to the world as the foundation of our faith.

Peter had shortly before made the famous confession of Jesus as Lord, for which Jesus blessed him, but now he faces the wrath of Jesus.  Peter did not mean to offend Jesus, he was just shocked that Jesus had to suffer so much and die, but Jesus suggested Peter had been influenced by the devil. in one of the greatest recorded rebukes.

Jesus then spelled out what being one of his followers would mean. He always made clear that there would be a cost involved, and never offered cheap grace.  Salvation is all of grace, offered to sinners who repent freely; by grace we are saved through faith, but all who want salvation must demonstrate the sincerity of their faith by carrying a cross.

There will inevitably be suffering when you decide to follow Jesus.  You will lose friends, be mocked, frozen from groups, treated as going through some strange illness. You could indulge the world’s pleasures and be thought a grand person, get involved in any form of immorality, but if you are seen as religious or read the bible, you become a person no one wants to be with.  Yet bizarrely such perverse attitude does not apply to followers of the ethnic faiths.

 All Christians need to realise the challenge we face.  We must see we are engaged on a battlefield, not a playground as we meet an evil world which wants to force us into a private sect, and wants to silence our message.

Jesus called the crowd to Him, and told them whoever loved his life would lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus’ and the gospel’s sake would save it.  He meant that the one who lives a self centred life focused on this world, will not find eternal life with God, but if you give up worldly pleasures and a life of self rebellion against God for the sake of Jesus and the gospel, will find everlasting communion with God.

Our bodies have a soul or spirit within, and the soul is the image of God, which in turn means eternal life, for when we  die it is the body becomes detached from the soul, which lives on in either heaven or hell.  So many people go to great length to protect their body, take all sorts of measures to make sure it is cared for, but ignore the soul.  They never look at the bible for guidance, and ignore God, who has no place in their hearts or minds.

We all have souls for which we will have to give account to God; it is an awful thought when we consider how little attention is given to anything except this world.

We can all lose it in many ways, by loving sin and cleaving to the world; it is poison to choose a religion of lies; believing man made superstitions; neglecting all means of grace and refusing to believe the gospel.  Whichever way is chosen, the responsibility falls to each person. Of all foolish and unprofitable bargains one can make, it is to give up the soul for the present world.

People are claiming to be Christians, attending Church, even preaching within them, but living unworthy lives in complete defiance of what God has laid down in His Word.

Jesus taught there were two roads in life and each of us must travel on one; one is broad and most people are inclined to follow that road with all worldly goods and thrills, whilst the other road is narrow and fewer take that one, for it means living a godly way of life with restrictions on how you journey.

There is now much reluctance to accepting belief in a hell, although most everyone accepts there is a heaven, to which all believe they are heading irrespective of how they lived their lives. There is going to be such disappointment one day.  Jesus in his parables made clear two roads, two destinies, sheep and goats, tares and wheat.  All Christians should make sure those nearest and dearest to them are aware of this.  Whenever Jesus spoke of heaven, He also referred to the alternative as hell.

I have stated so many times, I think it shameful as well as cruel, for the Churches to let people live under such a delusion and create liturgy which virtually assures people that a person can separate themselves from God, have no association with Him, and yet still receive salvation. To say such is to flagrantly teach false doctrine, for the bible is quite unequivocal and patently clear, it means accepting Jesus death on the Cross was the price He paid for their sins.  The Bible states, salvation is found under no other name under heaven than Jesus.

Jesus pictured a field with the good seed representing his gospel, and the tares were the seeds of the devil, and a lot of people are prepared to sell their souls to follow a hedonistic lifestyle.  But God is long suffering and wants all people to be saved, which is why He calls on all to repent and turn to Jesus.  Everyone has to make a decisive decision, hell  is total separation from God.  The alternative is to spend eternity with Jesus, who makes the final judgement on death when we will be called to account for our life before him.

Let these words of our Lord sink deep into our hearts, yet words are inadequate to express their importance;  remember them when temptation present itself and the matter of the soul seems of no importance.

The final call of Paul in our passage is for people never to be ashamed of the gospel. We have however, come to a difficult period when we need to be specific.  We can be ashamed of the path the Churches are taking, accepting ways and practices which are unequivocally wrong against Scripture.  But the Christian faith is exactly the same to-day as it was when the Apostles passed it on to the Church.  God did not give His Word for just the first century, it was given once for all  time. (Matthew 28 v18/20; Judev3/4.)                                                                                    

 How many Church members are embarrassed when asked if they believe?  Indeed how many are ready to acknowledge they attend Church?  How reluctant to answer if asked to give our opinion on moral questions?   If you are not ashamed, you are ready to speak out about your faith. 

Remember the words of Jesus, ‘for whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed when He comes in the glory of the Father’.

The gospel is the story of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to be crucified for our sins in order to reconcile us to God.  Why should anyone be ashamed to tell that story?  We all no doubt are ashamed of things we have done in our lives, and the things we have said but wished we hadn’t, and that is understandable.  But we allow ourselves to become ashamed of something for which there is no need to be ashamed of.  The reason not to be ashamed is,-- because the gospel is the power of God leading to salvation for all who believe.

Always bear in mind that only Christianity has a Cross at the centre of its faith. Only Jesus suffered an horrific death on the Cross as a Saviour.

We see here the difference of opinions about who Jesus was.  In short every opinion except the proper one.  We see the same today, with far too many people seeing the name Jesus as nothing more than a swear word. Christ and the gospel are unknown quantities for the majority of the population. A lot of people see the Church as a place of worship, but not all  realize Christ is very God, their own shepherd, the source of their salvation.

We read of the confession of Peter who clearly knew who Jesus was, the Christ, and was welcomed by Jesus who at that that time had not been glorified, without honor or worthy of majesty.  He faced the wrath of the Jewish nation and church, who refused to acknowledge him as the Messiah. 

Peter was not affected by the opposition and knew Jesus was the Promised Savior.  What an example he set for followers of Jesus through the ages, yet there are still plenty of people who are not prepared to even admit to be attenders at Church.  Jesus will one day be aware of such people, and will confess them as His servants,  and who will reject those who reject Him now.

It is frustrating to hear bishops and others in Christian ministry minimizing and even denying the physical resurrection of our Lord, for that is the very central truth of Scripture.  This is the message, the foundational truth, that we should as a Church be proclaiming.

This is a gift of God who prove they truly are Christians by carrying the Cross of Christ.  Conflict and loss of some friends may happen as our faith is mocked and seen to be unreal, but as Christ gave up His life for all, we must make some sacrifice in return to show our allegiance to Him.  Christ will support us.

are called in the last verses the great danger of being ashamed of the gospel.  Jesus stated whosoever is ashamed of me and my words in this sinful and adulterous generation, of him shall I be ashamed when he appears before God.  As stated earlier, we who aim to be true followers of the Lord are now embarrassed, as Churches are being led by those holding high Office within the Churches, are now flagrantly and openly acting in direct contrast to the teaching of God in the Bible.  The cry that they are showing the love which God extends to all is baseless.

 God laid down His demands, and Scripture in its closing words states, ‘I warn anyone who hears the words of Prophecy of this book, if anyone adds to them God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book’

Let us all pray for faith and courage to confess Christ before the world and never be ashamed of Him who died for us on the Cross.



Friday 8 July 2022


Luke 10 verses 25/37

We are looking at a  story which has become part of biblical folklore, the story of the Good Samaritan, a story which the word ‘ love’ features.


We are told a lawyer asked Jesus, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’


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


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


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


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


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


The road from Jericho to Jerusalem dipped 1000 feet, so over a distance of 20 miles. It was narrow and rocky, enabling robbers to hide in valleys and hills, ready to pounce on travellers


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


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


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


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


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


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


This is calling on us to make the Bible the basis for Christianity; let the Bible and nothing but the Bible, be our practice.  Our faith may be tried, but this is the only way out of the wilderness.  If any problem arises and if it cannot b answered by the Bible, we should not believe it to be too much of a concern. 


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


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


All people should remember the Bible states we are all sinners and we will be judged one day, so we should be thinking how will God respond. Few people bother to think of that question. They are more interested in how to prosper in the present. This is why Jesus said the road to destruction is wide, and many will be on it.


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


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


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


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


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


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

We are called to think of practical things in our life. We will not, and are not expected to have such a dramatic experience as the Samaritan, but may be, there is someone in our family circle, or a friend who has been neglected and would benefit from our attention.

May be within a church membership there is a tense relationship that needs to be healed. Whatever it is, it should be faced up to, and in the word of Jesus, go and do likewise. 

Tuesday 5 July 2022

ACTS 2 v 42/47

During the past years of Christian ministry I have met many people and made friends from Churches in the Chester Diocese, and numerous Churches around Bedford.


For 17 years I edited a Church magazine in which I included a Bible study.   Now that the opportunity for preaching has largely ceased, I am taking advantage of modern technology, and using this blog with the hope I can maintain some contact with those friends and perhaps make some new ones.


I watched a programme on the BBC News channel, which talked about the ‘exodus from the Church’.  Comment was made that the Roman Catholic Church had lost half of its membership, and was still falling and Churches right across Europe were losing thousands of people.  People were said to have little belief in God, and there was no place in their lives for the Church.


It is true of course that many people have left the Roman Church ,but it could have pointed out many thousands still attend, and now that Billy Graham has died, there is no other man or woman on the planet who can attract such crowds as the Pope.


People are also falling away from the Churches, and one can understand in many cases why this is so.  But let us be fair there are many Churches which are full of people.  Near my home, a Church has had to include an extra service on Sundays because they could not accommodate the numbers attending. This inevitably suggests that in some Churches something is being done which is not in others.  I have to confess I have been to services and come away wondering why would anyone want to attend.


Turn with me to Acts Chapter 2 and verses 42/47

These are dark days for the Church in this country.  We live in a post-Christian age, an age where there is no common Christian consensus.   At one time there was a more common understanding of Christian teaching. Today, there is a condition that might be described as rank ignorance, and are biblically illiterate.

We live in a society which largely rejects God, and regards Church and Christianity as totally irrelevant to their lives.  The world sees the Church standing for values it no longer considers acceptable.


So let us look at the model of a Christian Church, as seen in Scripture in that first Christian Church, which was able to attract so many followers, and see how it differs from the Church of the present time, and see also if we can learn from that Church how to make our message more acceptable in a hostile climate.


First it was a Bible based Church. 

They were devoted to the Apostles teaching, it captivated them.  Those early Christians listened to the Apostles, who in turn had been taught by our Lord.  They heard all that the Lord had given and laid down, as the faith should be lived out.  It was about Jesus, who He was, what He came to do, how to obey Him and about His second coming  to judge the world. In other words, the whole Christian faith. 


Notice when it says ‘devoted’ themselves, this means they were committed, no half- heartedness. The wonderful thing is that we too can follow that same Apostolic teaching, it is written down for us in the New Testament, and it is God’s way of providing for His people to be trained. 


They met for fellowship.

Secondly they were devoted to each other in church, or, as verse 42 puts it, they were devoted to the fellowship.  They knew that when they committed themselves to Jesus, they also committed themselves to Jesus’ people. We share a relationship to God and to each other, based on a common spiritual life. God put us with a variety of people we may not ordinarily like, but God expects us to grow together.   We are to care for one another, and when others need encouragement and support, we are to give it. 


This is why we need to come, to learn the Bible from readings and sermons; praying together for our needs and the world; praising God as we sing together.   Sharing the bread and wine in Holy Communion, as we remember what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. 


Thirdly, they were a committed Church. 

They met regularly.  There are those for whom the Church is a second choice.  There are times in all our lives, when personal situations arise which call for our attention, but for some Church will take second place in their list of priorities, something which Jesus Himself condemned. The church is not optional. Jesus established the church. He did not merely establish individual Christian living, he established corporate faith.


The New Testament assumes that people who are believers are connected to a local church, where they live out that faith. Individual and independent Christianity is nowhere to be found on the pages of Scripture. So the church is not man’s invention, but God’s. Because Christ instituted the church, we should know what it is and how we should function in it.


It can be so easy to go with the flow and give up, which is why the Bible urges Christians to be together. Each year hundreds of people give up worship.  There many reasons, pressures of the world ridicule from friends, family trouble, a bad experience at a church, all of which are expressly good reasons for going to church.


Then in verse 47. “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” They were an evangelising Church.

Having seen how that early Church responded under apostolic teaching, we need to consider how the Church now in this critical time responds with its teaching of the Scriptures.


It is a matter of concern that some preachers are ready to stray from Biblical teaching, and consider we should re-interpret the Bible to meet modern ideas of morality.  This suggests that God has got it wrong, and He should be prepared to adjust to the age.  They are spreading a false gospel, and send out a wrong message. God set out in Scripture in clear terms what is expected of us,  and all should be proclaiming the same message


For years, first the Labour party and then the Conservatives, spent years in the political wilderness because they sent out mixed messages, and no one knew for certain what they really stood for.  The Church by not adhering to Scripture is doing the same, leaving people confused as to what we really believe and offer.   


There is a reluctance by clergy to speak out for fear of being labelled as a bigot or being discriminatory. Can you imagine Jesus, Paul or Peter, being afraid to speak out?  There would be no Church if they had. 


It is  true to say Christian preachers tend to modify teaching of traditional values to appeal to contemporary thinking, and for fear of offending one of the many discrimination laws, promoted equally vigorously by vociferous minorities, so falling foul of the law, which is not enforced against other faiths with the same enthusiasm as against Christian preachers.


All this causes a problem for parish priests, and especially for visiting preachers.  We face a problem, and none more so than those of us who want to be true to Scripture, when not everyone is prepared to accept what is written.  I heard one Vicar preach that she didn’t think the Bible should be taken too literally.  Have you ever heard a Muslim cleric deny or challenge any words in the Koran? Is it any wonder people fail to respond?


It is hard to quote the Bible without someone saying ‘Oh you shouldn’t say that.’  The Bible states, ‘salvation is found in no other name under heaven except Jesus Christ’. The Bible states’ Jesus said no one can come to the Father except through me’, yet many preachers are dodging quoting this.  If we avoid telling these verses, how are people ever to come to know the gospel?


This tells us our faith is not like other faiths which someone has made up, but rather comes from God.  Furthermore, it was given with the understanding that nothing needs to be added, amended or subtracted from.  Anyone who does so is a false teacher.   God will not ignore false teaching, and will pass judgement on such people


Whilst I have always admired Charles Wesley, I have recently had to study the life of Charles extensively in order to conduct a service in his honour, and that admiration has grown.  If he were alive today he would have much to say at the way the Church has failed to proclaim the message he left,

that salvation was through Christ alone,

  the value of a person’s life was measured by their faith,  

     and the doctrine of heaven and hell. 

How often have you heard a sermon on those subjects?


Today, no less than in any other age, it is intense biblical integrity that is needed. Fearless courage and conviction, to stand for the truth --that Jesus Christ is the only name that saves.


In effect there are three options open to preachers

    One is to avoid all contentious issues.

        2 To go with the flow.

          3 To be true to Scripture.

We all want to please and satisfy our audience, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to cause offence.  But if preachers are to be true to their calling, and preach with integrity and honour, there are times when I suppose some people may be upset. If, sadly, that happens, there must be doubt in the mind about the way they are living. 


We now have, for instance, changed our outlook on morals and ethics to adopt that of society. We have gone along with the incredulous acceptance that marriage, (that is between man and woman) is no longer the bedrock of society, but is no more acceptable than any other relationships. 


If ever the Word of God was needed it is never more so than now.  It calls for people to turn back to God who is ready and able to meet the needs of everyone who turns to Him.  The message we have for the world is centred upon the person of Jesus Christ, and provides for a stable and well balanced society.


May God bless the Word He gave to us.  Be at Church on Sunday.

Friday 1 July 2022

LUKE 10 V 1 /20

This Chapter is a story of Jesus sending out some of His followers on an evangelistic mission, ahead of His visiting the towns He intended to visit.

     Jesus sent out seventy two disciples in two’s, into Gentile territory where He Himself was planning to go. Two people working together can be most useful as they can complement each other, and this is in fact a practice from the Old Testament.

     Jesus calls for prayer for those He is sending out. Like to-day there was much to do, and few to do it.  The Bible states the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective, and whilst a lot of people are not able to perform much physical work because of age and infirmity, they can pray for those physically able.

     The Bible tells how Moses and Aaron were physically restricted at one time so engaged in prayer, and when they did so the Israelites were successful.

     Jesus warned the men He was sending forth of the dangers they faced, saying they were like lambs going amongst wolves, meaning wolves eat lambs Jesus never called on anyone to act under false pretenses, but rather pointed out the possible cost.  He knew they faced danger, and so many in Christian ministries do today.  Churches in Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, and even Canada, suffer attacks, and in numerous Eastern hemisphere nations are imprisoned, arrested and charged with offences, and murders too take place.  Not a lot of people want to hear of these brave men and women who face such ordeals in the service of teaching about Jesus.  They are often brilliant minded people, fully able to earn lucrative salaries in other occupations, but commit themselves willingly to serve the Lord.

     Jesus further stressed the need of devotion to their mission. This message is applicable to the Church at large, and whilst primarily to Ministers, applies to all Christians.  Jesus wanted them to concentrate on the purpose for which He was sending them, that is to preach the gospel.

     In modern times it has become fashionable to engage in profound theological debate, sometime questioning the veracity of Bible teaching, which is unlikely to win one soul for Christ.  All that is needed is simple and plain statements clearly and convincingly made, by people who truly believe in what they are teaching.  Simple gospel truths, leaving the Holy Spirit to complete the work.

     There next follows three things for the disciples to avoid. They are to travel light, must not be cluttered up with material natters.  It appears there is now a temptation for preachers to get involved with political and social issues, a craze to talk about climate change, or government schemes, especially by bishops who criticize without offering any alternative. These have no place in pulpits, especially as they tend to divide Christian worship.  The issues of the world should not transcend spiritual matters.

     The disciples are not to be over concerned for comfort, but place their trust in God to provide. We are all entitled to enjoy the luxuries of life, but not to become predominant. Since their business was urgent, they were mot to waste times in greetings, but concentrate on the task they were sent on.

     In eastern countries, the custom was to have long conversations on greeting someone, resulting in lost opportunity for what they were sent out for. This did not mean they were to be discourteous, nor seek attention, but that they should not linger when there was so much to be accomplished.

     Thirdly, the preacher should not seek personal gain from his Ministry, or other benefit. At that time it was ruled if a prophet stayed in one place without working for three days, he was a false prophet.  The labourer was worthy of his hire, but cannot be seeker of gain. It has to be faced, there are those in Christian ministry today more interested in enhancing their c.v. and promoting themselves, than promoting the gospel.

     I remember a wedding shown on television, where the Vicar after performing the ceremony, saying to the congregation, ‘let’s dance’, and then she led in what more resembled rather wild body shaking than dancing, with some of the congregation  standing on the pews to do so.  Whether intended or not, it enabled the Vicar to start on a television career, gathering her a collection of fans,- or the alternative. (N.b. The service is called, the Solemnization of Matrimony’)

     Jesus stated stay faithful, even in the face of rejection, warning His workers they would be rejected, something most Ministers have experienced. Since Jesus was Himself rejected, we should not be surprised. It has become more a badge of honour to be criticized or rejected, but experience has shown me the people who do complain are usually bullies who shy away when confronted and challenged. I remember one Vicar saying in frustrated tones to me after having had a hard time,’ well at least they can’t crucify me’

     Jesus makes clear in verse 16, what it means when His messages are rejected. He said, ‘he who rejects me, rejects the One who sent me’. He is warning those who do so, will be in great trouble. A person will be judged by what they had a chance to know. It is a terrible thing to reject God’s invitation, for it can lead to eternal condemnation.  God will not force Himself on anyone, We all have the freedom to respond or reject Him, and judgement will one day be meted out accordingly.  This is why coming to Church is a serious business, for every time we hear God’s Word we face the choice to heed or ignore.

     Jesus told His disciples to wipe the dust off their feet if they faced rejection, a symbolic action to signify the place is standing before God.  This becomes hard when those rejecting God’s Word are those closest to us personally. We long for them to accept Jesus as their Saviour, and shed tears at the thought of their eternal destiny.

     The Bible clearly states, as indeed Jesus clearly expresses here, that we have the chance and should take it before it is too late. We should therefore do all we can to make sure they hear the message, but we cannot believe for them.

     When the seventy two returned, Jesus told them to stay humble. Some were so excited with triumphs in winning people for Jesus. He warned them against pride and realised things fall away constantly.  When Billy Graham, conducted his Crusades in the years he was in England, many people attended and offered themselves to Christ, inspired by  glorious singing by massed choirs, and hearing the greatest and most successful preacher in Christian history. But when they returned to their local parishes, they often found indifference from Vicars who probably disliked Billy, and they showed little interest. People were so disillusioned they fell away,

     The Bible sees a world in open defiance against God, and those who stand for God

will be mocked and harassed.  The Bible calls for a different society, one which responds to the cry of a loving Saviour who wants people to turn to Him in repentance and faith.

The world is divided between those who choose the Kingdom of God and the light of Christ, and the other world of darkness led by evil, which will seek to destroy all that is good and holy. We each have to decide which side we are on.

     Some years past, one of the finest liners ever built, the Queen Mary, was taken out of active service, and was taken to Long Beach in California as a tourist attraction. She was as luxuriously made as could be, but during the 1939 war was converted into a troopship. She is now a museum. 

     Today, it seems that the Church is following a similar course; it sees itself in peacetime conditions, when in fact it is under sustained attack on all sides.  We expect the Christian life to be painless and easy, whereas the Bible teaches us that we are called upon to expect wartime conditions. The prospect is that the Church will become a museum as attendances are falling, and writers are already forecasting its demise within ten years.

     Jesus always made it clear that following Him would never be easy.  Indeed, He taught it would be very hard.  Jesus warned that we need to count the cost, before committing oneself as it meant carrying a cross and placing Him first in all considerations, above all else.

     We are in fact engaged in a war, and called upon to be soldiers of Christ.  Regrettably there are many within the Church, both lay and ordained, who wish to avoid all militaristic references and terms. We have the word soldier removed, and Onward Christian soldiers, one of the greatest hymns written, has now become in some Churches as  the ridiculous Onward Christian pilgrims, so vandalising such a beautiful hymn. Anyone so weak-minded, should avoid the hymn altogether if cannot accept the writer’s words.

     The fact is that the Bible often uses the term soldiers, and we sing Soldiers of Christ arise, and Stand up, stand up for Jesus ye soldiers of the Cross, the Apostle Paul used the term as an analogy, but it all seems to be an irrelevance to those who eulogise the word ‘love.’  We have to face reality, there is so much unlovely things and people, in this world. Turn to your Bible, you will see it speaks of God’s wrath, and you have to go into many Chapters before we start talking about love. We are engaged in a bitter war, with the world being a battlefield with aggressive activists, not a playground. 

     Our opponents do not believe Jesus is the only way to God; the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross; the definition of marriage; God’s Order of Creation, to mention just a sample of doctrine, which they challenge at every opportunity, and have campaigners within the Church aiding them.

     Jesus called for decisiveness and radical self-discipline and commitment.  This is in contrast to the readiness on some Christians part, to accept all that is hurled against them. 

In the previous chapter, Jesus had sent out His Apostles with specific instructions.  Here Jesus sends out 72, widening the net to indicate He is sending out His followers to all parts of the earth.  We can see what He expects from us. 

     All Christians should try and spread the gospel, and often this can be done in an easy manner by bringing your local Church to people’s notice. For many people, as we know to our own experiences, God is an irrelevance until they have a personal problem, there is no such human being who is a true atheist.

     We are called to be steadfast in our faith, and be assured God has given us all an individual gift that we can use for His purpose, it just takes time to realise what that gift is. The Bible spells out clearly there are so many gifts we can use in serving Him. One lady in my Church took  on the task of arranging the flowers which are placed in position each week, and her work was cherished by members who got so much pleasure and comfort as the meditated prior to and during the service. (probably a relief during some sermons) There are other similar tasks, think about yourself, may make Church more important to you personally and inspire others


May God bless His Word to us and guide us in service to Him.