Thursday 29 December 2022

                     John 2 v.1/11

The Gospel passage for Sunday is the story of the first miracle of Jesus at a wedding, and we see God’s intention for mankind.

When we study a Bible passage, we should view it in two stages; first, what is the story telling us, and secondly what lesson and meaning is it giving to us as followers of Jesus.

This story takes place in a village Cana, which is situated near Nazareth, and is the story of a wedding.  An Eastern wedding was a very special occasion, different from a Western one where the bride is the main figure. Here, she enters a Church in all her glory to the playing of organ music, and the congregation standing to greet and admire her. In the East the groom is the main one and he pays for it, the bride just turns up.

It was Jewish law that a virgin got married on a Wednesday, with the ceremony in the late evening after a feast, and the festivities would go on for days, often with relatives of both families joining in the celebrations. After the ceremony, the bridal couple would be conducted to their new home, through the village streets by the light of flaming torches with a canopy over their heads. They were taken by as long a route as possible so as many people as possible could wish them well.

In a land where there was so much poverty and constant hard work, this week of festivity and joy was a significant occasion, and it was this that Jesus came to share in. An added problem was he brought with him five Apostles, which meant more people to wine and dine.

For a Jewish wedding wine was an essential, but there would be no drunkenness for that would be seen as a disgrace, and the wine would be two or even three parts water.  In the East hospitality was a sacred duty, so failure to provide would have meant humiliation.

Mary heard of the problem and told her Son, and Jesus answered her by what seems rudeness, ‘woman what have you to do with me, my hour has not yet come.’ Jesus was kindly stressing that she must not see him only as her son, for when he will suffer, the more she will suffer. She must the see him as her Lord.

Standing there were six large jars each holding about two or three measures, that is about twenty gallons of water, making a total of over a hundred gallons of water intended for purifying or cleansing. The roads were dusty, and as the men wore sandals the men’s feet needed washing, but Jews also washed hands before each course of food.

Jesus sorted out what normally would take hours in preparation, by cutting out the normal procedure of crushing and fermenting, and turned the water into wine. This is included in the story to emphasize the greatness of the Lord’s gift. The head waiter then praised the quality of the wine produced.  

We see Mary’s faith in Jesus. She turned to him when a problem arose and even when he answered her sharply, she told the waiter to do what he asked, giving us a message to trust Jesus even when we do not understand is happening.  In every life there comes period of  darkness when we despair and wonder what the outcome, happy are those who still trust.

Every Bible story has a meaning and a lesson for all the Lord’s followers, including this story. We see Jesus ready to share in all our celebrations. This was the first of the Lord’s miracles, and it took place at a marriage of a man and a woman, which has a significant meaning, and it tells us how honorable and important marriage was in the eyes of Jesus, it having been ordained by God for society’s benefit when he made a man and a woman.

There is no more wonderful and beautiful union than a man and a woman, and that it is why God created us so. God told us He gave woman to be an essential part of a man’s life, and men have found what a great blessing He gave.

God created marriage as the first institution before all others, with two distinct people of different bodies to have children and create a human family. Two people of the same sex cannot produce children and so extend the human race. God knew what He was doing, giving them different personalities and bodies, with different genes and chromosomes, which cannot be medically changed, to fulfil His purpose for the world.

Since the creation of the world, thousands of years past, marriage has taken place in every country in the world, being recognized as a stabling factor in society, In the last twenty years, it has been attacked by secular activists, liberal politicians seeking votes, and shamefully by bishops and other Church leaders, who have actually called for the Bible teaching to be abandoned. We have reached a stage where marriage has no significance in public life, and now can even be ended without stated reason.

This has caused much distress and poverty principally to women, and social study has established that children’s lives greatly affected. How ironic that Western nations where there are more material benefits, there is less marriage success than poorer Eastern nations where marriage is more honored.

What any two people decide they wish to do, is a matter for themselves to pursue without interference; God is capable of forming His judgement and any action He sees necessary. For the Church to formally give approval is to violate God’s teaching and our Lord’s commands.

For Jesus a home was special, no family abuse such as we see in so many homes.  A great loss in our time is that Jesus has no place in the majority of homes in this country. The bedrock of our society was once a family home of a man and woman in a happy marriage, raising children with a Christian faith. Now such a situation is mocked as old fashioned, but we never had so many teenage pregnancies, child abuse, and a divorce rate of more than 1 in 3 marriages. So many children do not know love, security and fellowship of a loving home. A lot of children don’t even know who their father is, and have brothers and sisters of different parents.

Jesus showed his glorious powers, and bestowed his blessing on marriage at a village girl’s wedding, and his Apostles accepted him as God’s Son.

This wedding took place probably in a village hall, no need for fancy mansions and plush hotels with large number of guests; Jesus is ready to take part in the ordinary things of our lives. 

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

Don’t be discouraged. When we let God and Jesus into our lives all ordinary activities receive new power, so don’t close the door of your life on the Lord, for if you do you reveal your lack of faith and trust. Give God a chance to do want you cannot do.

Jesus said I have come that you may have life in all abundance; be prepared to accept and believe him.

One day a great marriage feast will be held, at which Jesus will be the bridegroom and his believers will be the bride.


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


Friday 16 December 2022

 Romans 1 v 1-7

The Epistle for Sunday this week, comes from the first Chapter of Romans, which has widely been acclaimed to be the finest of Paul’s thirteen New Testament Letters of Christian teaching. He was writing to the greatest city of the world in his time, so he used his words carefully.

He described himself as a slave of Jesus Christ, which meant a devoted follower, who was honored by being called an Apostle. This placed him in the highest of  all Offices of the Church, who were especially chosen by Jesus, and so with the other Apostles whose position was restricted to that time.  He heard the call of God, and with other great men  like Moses, Abraham,  Isaiah, all took part in the preparation for the coming of Jesus.

Paul refers to us as saints, which was the biblical way of describing Christians, and such is how we are to be seen, and not in the way of the Roman Catholic Church, as designated people selected by the Church.

In this passage Paul sets out the outline of the Gospel, and in particular  pointing out Jesus was fully man who became so  like all men; he was not someone made up. The Gospel is essential to all Christians, and Paul reminds us that Jesus was promised through the Old Testament. Jesus respected the Old Testament, and spoke from it from the time of Moses right through the Scriptures. There are many prophetic messages from the  Prophets all relating to the coming of Jesus.

We are presented with Jesus as having human descent from David, Israel’s greatest king.  The Bible is to have us accept he came as we do, to come as a man filled with God, and we are to live as he did and follow his example.  We see he had the power of God, which will enable him to perform miracles and be filled with holiness.  The outstanding part of  Jesus was his resurrection, which is a part of history. He links Christmas with Easter

Where the New Testament takes over from the Old in our Bible, the first story is of the preparation for Jesus arrival.   We see Jesus revealed, yet misunderstood. An enormous amount of people see Jesus as only a well-known  beautiful baby, for whom we sing carols at Christmas time, and then put him away afterwards.

It is generally seen that Christmas as a period when people have time off work, and associate it with presents, postcards, an excess of eating and drinking, and general merriment. Such is something all can enjoy, but we should also add, which the wide majority of people do not, that God sent his Son (Jesus) to bring joy to the world as part of his plan when God though the time was right. Christmas means Jesus Christ as born.

  Jesus came to be born of woman, and showed he was born in humanity, and was also the Son of God, born by the Holy Spirit to be divine also.

 In sending Jesus to earth, God had in fact sent him to eventually die, and do so cruelly.  He lived as man to live like any human being, to witness in this way the sins of mankind being committed, without him ever committing sin.  He came here as a substitute, to take all sin committed by peoples of the world, taking upon himself the paying of penalty for those sins, he was a ransom on our behalf.

He was crucified after a beating of 39 times, with s leather belt  with steel studs. By his death, all must accept that his death was made on their behalf  to avoid being perished, but instead made righteous in God’s sight. But if we are wishing to go to heaven, it means more than just saying, I believe in God, more than saying I help other people, more than saying I am a good person and honest. We have to repent of our wrongdoings, confess our selves to accepting Christ as Savior, and have a determination to follow the teaching of Jesus in the way we live our lives, so that we can do so in a practical and moral way.

People have so confidently told me I don’t need to go to Church, don’t need to read the Bible, I can enjoy  myself as I wish and God will forgive me for that he is here for. Actually it is being preached in Church you can behave immorally, despite the Bible reaching otherwise, and some bishops are campaigning so,  Yes you can do all the things you want, and boast in an arrogant manner, but a time of reckoning will come, and you will shamefully say, if only I had listened.

 Every true Christian will remember the time when they first became followers of Christ. We don’t just say I am a Christian, we realize God has called us to follow Christ, so it is then as we accept Him as Savior, we become part of the great family of God, as sons and daughters, and we praise God for his grace in choosing us. Now, wherever we go to in this world, we can share with peoples of any nation, color, sex, age. In a way no other organization or collection of people can do,

Paul is always telling that we are loved by God, and may be corrected  from time to time, just as any father wants his children to be well-behaved and cared for. This is the essential love and personal help God gives us, and helps us often without being appreciated.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Matthew 1.  V 18/25

The birth of a baby is a major event in the lives of a mother and father. The anticipation of the birth is exciting, and together they look forward joyously to the arrival of their union. There is of course always the possibility something may go wrong, adding to the stress and pain the mother will endure. I regret many men do not fully realize how a woman has emotional as well as physical pain when giving birth to a child.


The story we are looking at this morning is one of the greatest ever told, the birth of the Saviour. It is a most controversial story, for it is telling of an extraordinary event, unique and once in all history. 


Our passage opens at verse 18, where it is stated, ` now the birth of Jesus Christ took place this way.’ Such is the positive announcement, before it goes on to describe the betrothal of Mary and Joseph.


Betrothal of the Jews was something equivalent to our engagement in theory if not in practice.  The bridegroom and bride made a pledge in the presence of two witnesses, which was really the first step in marriage; the man and woman became husband and wife. The couple were then separated from each other for a period up to a year, and if during that time either became unfaithful, they were under Old Testament law, adulterers liable to be stoned to death. ,


If the marriage broke down, the couple were divorced, or if death occurred widower or widow. The marriage was consummated when they met again.  Often the parents caused the marriage by making arrangements, and same people think they do a better job.


This was in the New Testament,  where the true marriage was heterosexual as ordained by God, one man one woman.


Before the couple lived together, it was found that Mary was pregnant yet still a virgin. She knew she was pregnant, as an angel had foretold, she would be by the gift of the Holy Spirit. At first she challenged this as she had not been with a man, but was told she, a young Jewish village girl had found favour with God.


Joseph may have come to the natural conclusion that she had been unfaithful with another man, being unaware of the angel’s message.  He realized he could not live with her in such a case, but being a righteous man, he did not want to offend God, but was faced with the impression Mary had broken her pledge. He was however a compassionate man who loved Mary, and did not want to expose her to public humiliation, so decided to divorce her or send her away quietly, which he did not really want to do because of his feelings for her. In addition, his place would be a stain in the line of David down to Jesus.


Whilst he wrestled on what he should do, he fell asleep and began to dream. During his sleep he had a vision in which he was told that it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Mary was with child, and he should not hesitate to accept Mary as his wife.


Joseph was rewarded as he had turned to God in faith and his concern was ended.  The Bible states, ‘In all thy ways acknowledge God and he shall direct thy paths. This show us that Joseph obeyed. He not only trusted God, he obeyed. As the hymn states, trust and obey.


As so often happens when you honestly seek God's guidance, and you plan to do things that seem right to you but are, in fact, wrong, God providentially corrects you.

The baby would be called Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins.  Jesus is a name which helped many, by giving inward peace and a rest for heavy heart; people have found Jesus has known their thoughts and hearts.


.At that time the Roman governor had ordered a census, requiring all people to register for taxation purposes. David being from Bethlehem had to go there to register, and take Mary with him. Whilst they were there the time came for Jesus to be born.  There were many people in that city, and all places were filled, and there was no room at an Inn they visited, so Mary was forced to bear Jesus in a manger The birth of this baby. who would one day become Lord and King of the earth, was one of the lowest kind, no palace, no royal robes.


God sent an angel to shepherds, watching their flocks at night time, and they were told of the birth at Bethlehem, so they went with haste. They praised God for having let them see the child.


The whole purpose of Jesus coming to the earth was to save us, acting as a ransom to pay the price of our sins. We must thank God for his goodness.  The angel returned to heaven, and the shepherds went back glorifying God. He had made shepherds as evangelists, and like the Apostles of Jesus, there was not one who held a degree. As a cynic once stated, the Church is sinking by degrees.  


The poorest man or woman who listens and understands the Bible, is wiser than many so called intellectuals and academics. We shall be judged one day by the way we have responded to God.


This means we should read the Bible honestly and reverently, and having done so, practice all it commands and pray the Holy Spirit will apply to our hearts.


These verses tell us of the entrance into our world by Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour, and the doctrine of the Virgin Birth has been the doctrine of all denominations for centuries, and only in these liberal times has it been the subject of controversy. True, there were a few heretics like some modern bishops and clergy, who deny these accounts in pulpits; don't be seduced by them, but  treat such talk with the contempt they deserve.


It is talk like that which does so much harm to the Church. Some of us are trying to follow our Lord’s commission and make disciples, bringing people to church, then we have clergy at all levels, challenging of all things, God’s Word. and we wonder why people are not attending.


Matthew and Luke are trustworthy. The evidence that they are giving you are facts - not myths. That brings us to Mary.


There are depths which are too deep for us to fully comprehend; be content to believe with reverent minds, and not speculate that which we do not understand.  There are many things we do not understand, but fully accept without hesitation, by faith..


How is it by holding a small plastic box without any outer connection, but by pressing a combination of numbers you can speak within seconds to someone on the other side of the world. Or by turning a switch on a television set in a room,you can watch an event in any part of the world as it happens..How can a brown cow eat green grass and produce white milk? We cannot understand such things, but we still accept them without further thought. Yet we don't accept God does wonderful things; member the words of Mary, with God, all things are possible.

It is by faith that, what we cannot see or words which cannot prove, we become true followers of our Lord, and millions of very clever men and women who have truly believed, have been prepared to go to the uttermost parts of the world and live hard lives, in order to take the gospel to those who have not heard


People will sing carols, and over eat and drink and spend more money than they can afford; pop groups will sing of ‘chris.-ee-mus’,without ever giving a thought as to why it is-- Christmas. 


All very well Harry Belafonte telling us we shall live for ever more because of Christmas Day, when in fact we shall live for evermore because of what this baby Jesus went on to do on the Cross.

Above all trust in God and let this Christmas be one in which we remember the person it is all about—

The Lord Jesus Christ.


May you all have a happy and blessed Christmas 

Sunday 4 December 2022

Sunday  is the 2nd Sunday of Advent, and the theme is on John the Baptist.  We do in fact honour John on the 24th June and on that day in Spain, which is still largely a Catholic country, they do so in style with ceremonial processions through the streets. John was a very special character in the Bible, being described by Jesus as ‘one of whom there being none greater.’


A period of 400 years elapsed between the Old and New Testaments and John acted as a bridge between the prophecies of the Old Testament and the coming of the Messiah.  God chose John to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus.

John attracted huge crowds to see and hear him; they came from all directions, North and South, East and West. They came from all levels of society


He was a fearless preacher giving a message of confession and repentance, and did so in the most direct way accusing them of being a brood of vipers, and told them there was a wrath to come.  Most preachers would rejoice in being able to emulate his appeal, although they would hesitate the language he used in today’s atmosphere where the least criticism raises accusations of phobia or bigotry.


Because of his successful appeal to people a delegation of priests was sent out to find out if he was acting in an orthodox manner.  The Jews believed, and were proud of the fact, that they were God’s chosen people and He would one day send a Messiah who would be a great national leader who would lead them to world conquest.  It was also believed that prior to the Messiah coming Elijah the great Old Testament prophet would come back to herald the Messiah’s coming. 


The priests wanted to see who John actually was. When John spoke of baptism it was not the meaningless kind that is sometimes practised in churches today and I will explain in detail subsequently what I mean by that.  Baptism was a symbol of admittance into the Christian faith, taken by someone who had come to need a personal Saviour in the person of Jesus Christ, who they would take into their hearts and lives and live according to His teaching. 


John wasn’t concerned with numbers or adding to some Church roll, he wanted genuine commitments.  The Bible is clear in all four gospels that the Christian life involved repentance and the following of a new way of life.  If we analyse our lives we will find there are things we have said and done and sincerely wish we hadn’t, but there is nothing we can now do except pray that God will forgive us, and that others will accept our flaws.


The place where John ministered was way out in the wilderness a bleak and desolate place, living off the land, getting his clothing from wild camel and food from whatever grew there. There is a wilderness in many people’s hearts. 


These verses describe the ministry of John the Baptist, and deserve our attention; he was the forerunner for Jesus Christ. Few preachers could ever produce greater effects.  People from a wide area of Judea, and all the places around Jordan gathered to hear him.  Jesus heaped praise upon him calling him a burning shining light. Jesus added that among men them that are born of woman there hath not one risen greater than John.

John spoke of sin and the absolute necessity of  repentance which had to be proved by the fruits of such. This is the teaching we all need,  but few will find it preached in to-day’s Church, as it might offend people who feel they are immune to sin. Many people feel content with a formal religion. And believe if we attend Church we are automatically saved. They should be taught if they don’t repent, they will perish.

He told people of who was coming to them, who was far more mightier than himself, for whom he was just a servant, the coming one was King who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and judge the world, taking away sin. We all need to be directed to Christ, who is a fountain of mercy and grace. He explained that the Holy Spirit was a special Office of Jesus to give to men, (and that would of course include women)

Forgiveness of sin is only part of salvation, and needs added the baptizing of the Holy Spirit.

John spoke plainly about those who did not repent or believe, for which there was a wrath to come in which the chaff would be separated and burned.  This again is something few preachers would speak of in the established denominations, but may well be proclaimed in evangelical Churches. But we must remember that Jesus spoke about heaven, but when he did so he also spoke of hell, which I was once told by a clerical colleague was now outdated When I stated I regularly tell of hell, I was suddenly relieved of his company.

This teaching is important in reaching the unconverted, people who sincerely believe there is a God who expects them to be ‘good’, and in believing that is  sufficient to get the to heaven. Let us be honest, such is being taught in Churches. and in addition by senior members of the clergy.  We have to point out there is a hell for those who live unrepentant lives.

John  spoke lastly of the safety of believers, and when  the Lord Jesus returns he will gather all the faithful.  Believers need to be reassured God is watching over them, and need to be reminded that Jesus stated he would never leave nor forsake them, and would be with them when facing temptation from the devil.

May these things sink it our hearts for we live in a day of false teaching, much of which is coming from what is euphemistically called leadership. Imagine how the Church could appear if there were many Ministers of the Church like John the Baptist.