Saturday 30 September 2023

R O M A N S   10  

 There is so much reluctance to believe and accept that a man who died on a Cross 2,000 years ago in a land on the other side of the world was raised from the dead.  More so, that people actually believe he lives on by His Spirit in their lives today and influences their way of life. Even some clergy fail to accept the facts of both His birth and physical resurrection.

    Belief demands commitment and faith and trust, which is not given by the majority, and it is that lack of faith that Paul writes about in his Letter to the Romans.

    Paul was specially and uniquely called by God to be an Apostle to the Gentiles, but he never forgot his own Jewish people.  This Letter was directed to the Jews who were carrying a mistaken belief, but its teaching is equally applicable to us, as all Paul’s Letters are. When Paul speaks, God is speaking through him, and the wonderful thing is we have those very words spoken all those many years ago in our Bibles these days.

         Turn with me to the 10th Chapter of Romans.

Paul states he prays for them to be saved.  The word ‘saved’ is one that upsets people, carrying with it the image of being assailed with the question ‘are you saved brother/sister?’.

 I read of one man’s experience in a theatre when another man pointed to an empty seat and asked if it was saved.  The first man replied, ‘no, but I am’, and the person asking quickly moved away.

 Paul speaks of people who have a zeal for God, but such does not lead them to salvation.  The problem is so many people do not believe they need Jesus’ sacrificial death to make them right with God, they can earn that by their own efforts.  Just be honest, be a good citizen, etc.

 Verses 6/8 show the contrast between the righteousness based on faith and that which comes from the law, now fulfilled in Christ. At one time there was just a written set of Law,  but God caused his Son to go through a cruel death, before bringing Him from the realm of the dead.

 The Jews believed all they had to do was obey the Jewish Law which God had given them, and that made them righteous in God’s sight.  The Law however was given to the Jews to show them that is not enough, for no one can keep all the Commandments, and just as with a chain if you break one link the chain is totally broken, so as no one can keep every commandment perfectly, the lot are broken.  The Mosaic Law was given anticipating the coming of Christ, and when Paul states Christ is the end, it means the law is no longer binding,c and is replaced by Christ Himself as the means of salvation.

 Verse 9 states, ’if you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved’. The whole Christian message is close to hand, on the lips and in the heart.

 We are in fact at the doctrine of justification by faith; ‘by grace you have been saved through faith, it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God and not by your own works.’  God in great mercy, is ready to pardon all who accept that Jesus died on the Cross, as a penalty payment for all our individual sins, and God raised Him from the dead.  If we confess that we believe this, God grants us His righteousness.

   Why do we need God’s grace?; because all men and all women are by nature spiritually dead, and separated from God.  Grace is the unmerited favour of God.    Grace saves us through faith; nothing more, nothing less. than salvation is by grace.” Something in us always wants to add to God’s free grace. It’s humbling to admit that we can do nothing to earn our deliverance from sin. Grace must be free,  or else it is not grace at all. Three words; grace, saved, and faith.

Grace is the source, Faith is the means, and Salvation freely given and received by faith alone is the result. We are saved by grace through faith:

Think what heaven would be like if you had to earn your way there. People would be trying to outbid each other, and probably boasting how important they had been in the world.

When I was being inducted the Rural Dean, who was a real traditional English gentleman (and there’s not many of us about), introduced me to a man, and mentioned some of the positions he had held in his Church, and the man was really indignant because some obscure committee was omitted.  There really are people who join the Church for egotistic reasons.     Heaven would be just like that, if you had to earn your way there. But it won’t be like that, when Jesus died on the cross, he paid the full price for your salvation. God alone gets the glory in your salvation. Jesus did all the work when He died on the cross.

Grace also means that some people think they are too good to be saved. That is, they may have such a high opinion of themselves, that they think they don’t need God’s grace. They may admit they are sinners, but they don’t admit they are spiritually dead. They may think they’re sick because of sin, but not truly dead. God’s grace cannot help you until you are desperate to receive it.

We have admit to the fundamental fact that we live in an evil world, and we all become tainted and lost, but by the grace of God, He gives us an opportunity to come to Christ and be saved. The majority of people do not consider they need saving, as they think their lives are already safe.  The thought they are sinners is mortally wounding, as one Vicar discovered when he put a notice outside his church saying this Church is here for sinners; half his congregation were absent the next week.  Sin is not just murder, theft and immorality; it includes pride, jealousy, envy, anger and hatred.

Salvation is never gained by earning it, or by trying to be good, or by the good outweighing the bad, but simply by acknowledging that Jesus Christ has done it all on your behalf.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." The important thing, therefore, is to bring people to that place. It is not just a routine matter, it involves our whole being. The heart must be involved, that is, the inner consciousness, the deep conviction of the will. Then the mouth must acknowledge it. There must be a willingness to consciously confess that Jesus is Lord

    That sounds simple enough, believe and be saved, but it is evident from reading the New Testament, that not everyone who claims to believe has the faith which saves. Jesus himself warned that on the Day of Judgment many will claim to have been His followers, but He will say to them, ‘depart from me. I never knew you.’

    What then does it mean to believe?  The answer may determine our eternal future.   Millions have not the slightest idea of what it really meant to be a Christian.  People have been attending church years, listening to the Bible being read, singing praise to the Lord, and have been very religious, yet have never come to the time when they have acknowledged Jesus as Lord, yet the Bible calls on us to do so.

Look at God’s promise in verse 11. “As the Scripture says, anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame. You may be disappointed in your friends and loved ones. Husbands and wives are disappointed with each other from time to time. Children are disappointed in parents, and parents are sometimes disappointed with their children. Friends leave us, family members forget us, and business partners double cross us. But no one who trusts in Jesus will ever be disappointed.

Paul draws out a further implication in verse 12: “For there is no difference between Jew nor Gentile.” The Bible states, ‘God has no favourites’. No group, or race, or culture, has a special claim on God’s grace.

Paul  asks, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?" So there has to be belief. That means the mind has to be engaged.  Behind the belief, Paul says, is a message, something heard. "How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?"  This is why it is so vitally necessary for preachers to stop prevaricating, and dodging the only reason for their presence, which is to preaching the message God gave us.

The glory of Christianity is that it has a message that is grounded in history. It is objective truth, not just something that someone has made up.  . It is not some feeling that you are following that you hope will work out; it is the story of historic events. One of these events, is the coming of Jesus as a baby in the manger of Bethlehem, the coming of the wise men from the east and the uproar and unrest that it caused in the kingdom of Judea, beginning with Herod the king himself. That is all part of history. 

Then there was the resurrection. and the events that followed in the church. These are all historic events -- objective truth. The great thing of the Christian faith is not that we are presenting some philosophy, but a faith that is grounded in events that cannot be explained away. That is our message.

Over the years since the birth of the Church, men and women have travelled the world to tell others of the gospel; they invariably were men and women with brilliant minds, ready to risk their lives in the cause, at the same time making great financial sacrifices to do so.  Likewise there are those who gave up careers and position to serve Christ in His Church in every country, something very special must have made them do so. 

Behind the message, of course, is the messenger.   The message has to be communicated. and the way that God chooses is through the preaching of the Word and the praying of Christians, the yearning of their hearts over those who are not yet saved. People are touched by God by various mans, perhaps through a poster, a friend, an occurrence in one’s life, but the principal way is through the preaching of the Bible.

The Bible states that it is God, who adds to the number of people attending a Church.  In the book of Acts, He did so because the people were devoted to the teaching of the Apostles.  Therefore, if we seek to have God add to the Church today, we should be sure that all preaching and teaching will be that given by the Apostles, and left for our learning in the New Testament.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.  The Lord has promised good, His Word is our hope secure.


Tuesday 26 September 2023

Matthew 21 v 33/46

Before we look at Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard, we need to understand the setting in which it occurs in the Gospel.

Jesus had finished his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem and had made his triumphal entry into the Holy City. The entry provoked those who were inclined to deny his spiritual authority. The stage was now set for the telling of the parable.

Jesus was being interrogated by the chief priests and the teachers of the law as He arrived in Jerusalem on the stage of His journey to the Cross.  He had caused a sensation when He threw the money changers out of the Temple, and was defeating His interrogators when He told them this parable.  The Jews knowing the Old Testament, would have clearly understood what Jesus saying was based on a passage from Isaiah.

Planting vineyard has to be a long-term investment. Initially there would be considerable outlay and expense. It took four or five years to begin to show a profit. It was rather like setting up a windmill farm on your land. You borrow a great deal of money from the bank, to buy and erect the vast windmill towers. Your farm becomes the collateral for the loan. All the money that you receive from the sale of the electricity for the first ten or twenty years, will disappear in paying back what you’ve borrowed.

It was a common practice for wealthy Jews or foreigners to own farms, and then rent them out to tenant farmers. The land would be fenced in to set boundaries, and to keep out intruders. 

Jesus spoke about a master who rented out his vineyard, in which there would be a winepress and a watch tower.  The grapes would be crushed, and the juice would run through a pipe into a deep compartment and then put into jars.  The watchtower was for a man to keep watch for impending animals or thieves.

At harvest time, the owner sent his servants to collect his share of the yield, which the tenant was expected to have ready.

The tenants proved to be wicked men, dishonest and cruel, and when they arrived to collect the fruit they were refused, and one servant was severely beaten, another was killed outright, and a third was stoned to death.

It may be thought the master would have acted equally as violent in response to the death of his servants, but he did not, rather giving the tenants another chance.  He sent further servants, and they were similarly treated.

In desperation, he finally sent his son believing they would not kill him, but they did.  The chief priests listening knew that Jesus was getting at them.

The vineyard in the story represents Israel, and the master to be God. The servants are the Old Testament prophets. who God sent to guide Israel into lives of righteousness and obedience to God,.  The Son of course was Jesus.

On the occasion before us, the Lord Christ explained to the people what was going to happen in Jerusalem. He had previously spoken to them in brief plain language about why he’d come into the world. It was to give his life a ransom for many. He had come to seek, and to save that which was lost. He had come to be lifted up, in order to draw men to himself, and what we have before us is the ultimate explanation of Jesus’ death. The event was about to take place in Jerusalem, just a few days after these words were spoken. God the Son, lovingly sent into the world by God the Father, was going to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin.

This parable is a portrait of the loving God, who had taken the initiative in choosing these people, preparing for them a land flowing with milk and honey, and sending his prophets to speak his word to them. The Lord Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus is here telling them that they – the people he’s speaking to – are going to treat him as wickedly as their fathers treated the prophets before him. The kingdom of salvation, will then be taken from them and given to the Gentiles. Jesus is the chosen, but rejected stone of God’s building. In other words, this parable told the people how God viewed them, as his defiant and rebellious people, who had taken for granted all the privileges he’d given them, the covenants and promises and his shepherding care. The parable told them of their responsibilities which they’d dismissed. Finally it told them of the consequences facing them of killing God’s Son.

The Bible throughout, reveals that God chose Israel out of nations to be His specially chosen one, and this can be understood by the way Israel has prospered down the ages.  Just in our lifetime, we saw how the combined military might of all the surrounding Arab nations attacked Israel, a country only the size of Wales, yet within seven days Israel triumphed and defeated her attackers.  Military experts have agreed, that it is beyond human experience and understanding that this could have happened, without divine involvement.

     In addition, most technological, medical, and agricultural discoveries and inventions have originated in Israel, and been made available for the benefit of people across the world.  More Nobel prizes for science  and arts, have been awarded to Jews than any other nation.  But still, they have abandoned God and often suffered the consequences.

     God has also given advantages and blessings to other nations, which Jesus indicated would happen in the parable.  He said the hand of God which was first intended for the Jew, would be extended and given to both Jews and Gentiles.

     Jesus said the answer is simple; the tenants were not satisfied with being tenants, they wanted to be owners.  A tenant is someone who is accountable to someone else, and pays rent.  Jesus is pointing out, the same is true of human beings generally, we are accountable also to God.  We owe Him a debt of moral obedience, who gave us such a beautiful world to live in, and we have to pay the debt.

     Jesus pointed out that responsibility involves two people.  Our moral nature demands, that as we were put on this earth as tenants, we owe God our creator. We are often not content to be just tenants in the vineyard, and to give some fruit back to God

     Jesus said the corner stone was the most important stone for the building, and is central to the building, now Jesus himself; the builders are the leaders of Israel, and they are about to crucify him, and they assume that they can get away with that. Jesus says the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. He is actually talking about his resurrection when He overcomes the death they thought they had accomplished.

     Finally, Jesus shows us the patience of God, who has given rebel human beings the opportunity one after another to repent, only to be treated with neglect.  But God is full of grace and mercy, and is always ready to offer, but His patience is not infinite.

     The passage ends, with the chief priests wanting to arrest Jesus so as to silence Him, and this is what is happening in this and other Western countries; an attempt to silence Jesus.   All Christians must unite to make sure they don’t succeed.

     Whilst the parable was told many years ago to Israel, it would be a mistake to think it has no meaning or lesson for us.  The words of Jesus are everlasting, and apply to our lives equally. We learn how the generosity that God shows can be rejected and not appreciated, and the response that He expects be avoided.

     The United Kingdom has had experience of God’s concern, with many blessings. We have however, allowed the secularists to exercise their agenda, which is to drive Christianity right out of the public arena, and create an atmosphere where any criticism of the most minor kind, or to an alternative opinion, of the oppressive political correctness, is to be labelled bigotry or one of the many kinds of phobia which now exist. The Bible is so little known by people under the age of 40 years, that we are no better than a pagan nation.

     This is why so many things have gone wrong, and will continue to do so, and dreams of a better society are just a fantasy. What the country will be like in twenty years, is just too horrific to imagine, unless there is a spiritual and moral revival. 

     Clergy in all times and places, are put on notice by the Parable of the Vineyard.     Jesus is the owner of the vineyard, the Lord of the Church.  All clergy are appointed to be faithful servants, but we see instances where the leaders are acting more like the chief priests, and failing to fulfil their responsibilities to the owner of the vineyard.

     A most relevant problem to the Church, and one of the reasons for such low attendances I believe, is the lack of credibility of the current Church.  If you studied the report of the last General Synod of the Church of England, you could reasonably ask if it was truly doing its task of preaching the Christian gospel; there is no accord on what it believes and it is certainly not fulfilling our Lord’s last commission to preach the gospel to all people; but it is not confined just to the Church of England.

     We have the opportunity through the ministry of the Bible to be close to God, but the Church, with the exception of the (black) Pentecostal Churches, has largely turned from the original writing of the Bible, to follow an adapted version which caters for the culture of society.  This has happened with the approval of some bishops. .  The Bible seems to have become a rough guide, to be applied when it is convenient. God has the right to expect a less rebellious attitude, and more obedience to His given Word.

     Ministers in the Church must accept, their first duty is to teach God’s Word, as it is written in Scripture, not as they might like it to be written. But even more; by their life and action to live the Bible.

     It is a sad fact, that there are those in ministry whose priority is to further their own careers, and consequently steer away from giving answers and guidance on moral and social issues.

     Lay people have an essential part to play .In daily living, to remember the responsibility of acting worthily of the Lord, and not succumbing to the inevitable pressures faced by the majority, who will be unbelievers.

     This basic and fundamental rejection of God, tells you what is wrong with human nature. Whilst we accept there are those who are sinful and blind to their sinfulness, there are far too many people who claim  to be religious, without there being very much credibility to their claim.  They attend Church, profess to be holy and good people, sing enthusiastically and listen to the Bible being read, but it means so little to them because they have their own ideas and desires as to how much they will accept.

     We see how human irresponsibility can get out of control, when activists in the political scene, call for widespread civil disobedience to bring down a democratically elected government, just because it doesn’t please them or satisfy their personal ambitions, which is very wrong, even if the government is lacking somewhat.

     The moral bid for autonomy, has led to us throwing off our debt to God, doing what we like with His creation, causing ecological problems, which the Green Party are fond of telling us about.  The greed of humans, the selfishness and the concern without responsibility, and the resentment against authority has led to political rebellion, combined with the obsession for so called equality, without realising we can be perfectly equal without all being robotically the same.

     Remember the words of God, ‘if my people, who are called by my name, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will heal their land.’

You are invited to make a comment if you wish

Friday 22 September 2023

M A T T H E W  20 v 1-16


The Gospel service on Sunday contains the parable of the laborers in the Vineyard.

 Jesus used to teach people spiritual lessons based on practices of Jewish  life, which would be familiar to His listeners. In this parable it related to workers who were laborers, the lowest class of workers, and for them life was very hard and unsure, often them and their families facing starvation. They were at the mercy of employers, and if not employed all would go hungry, to not being employed was a disaster. Every morning at first time, the men would gather in the market square, which was like our employment exchange and employers would go and select men to hire. The men would wait anxiously to be picked, and even wait all day.

 The parable may seem to describe an imaginary situation, but that is not so. There is an accurate description of life in Palestine. The harvest occurs in September, and then comes the rain.  If the harvest is not gathered in before the rain it is ruined, so there is a mad rush to collect it.  Men would go first thing in the morning with tools and hope to be enrolled to help, and some would wait all day such was the desperation for them .

 The Jewish day started at 6.0am ending at 6.0pm.  The third hour was 9,0am then 12,noon and the eleventh hour was 5.0pm. It  was at this late hour that one employer went into the town and saw some men still there. He asked them what they were doing and was told they were still hoping for work.  The man told them to go to his vineyard, and he would pay whatever he thought. When the day’s work  was finished the employer paid the men, and all were paid the samem which did not please those who had been working most of the day.

 Jesus spoke to His disciples He spoke to them in a way that it seemed to say, you had a great privilege coming into the Christian Church at the very beginning, and a time will come when others will join you, and you cannot claim a special place, all equal. There are people in the Church to-day who have been attending for a long time, and some see newcomers as an intrusion.

 Jesus is also warning the Jews. that whilst they are  a special people, but Gentiles were hoping for their destination, and if coming into the Church, must come as equals.  In God’s sight there is no such thing as a most favored clause.

 In this parable, we are taught the history of God’s dealing with the world.  The people of Israel were  called and chosen by God to be His people, and later the Gentiles were called, having heard the preaching of the Apostles.  God always accepts people in the same way, and would not allow the older people to see the young as being inferior.  His gospel holds out pardon and peace to God, through Jesus Christ.  The old war between the Jews, and the Gentiles converted at the eleventh hour, shall be taken  equally to the Jews, and shall join in the Kingdom.  The last shall be as the first.

 This follows in the Church of Christ, as Timothy worked in the Lord’s vineyard for fifty years, yet we see the thief on the ross with Jesus was in paradise later that afternoon.  The gospel lads us to believe they were equally forgiven by God. Both were justified by Christ shedding His blood on the Cross

 This doctrine is contrary to human nature, and confounds Christians as a levelling doctrine, but to reject means the gospel is rejected. True faith in Christ justifies a man after one day, as completely as the man o fifty years. Both are saved by grace.

 The parable is teaching that salvation is not earned by works, for that would be disregarding the Bible. What we as believers receive in the next world, would be solely a matter of grace.

 In the meeting  between Jews and Gentiles, there is no distinction, but Israel is still a special people God has purposes, that all saved souls  will have the same amount of glory and believers will have the righteousness of Christ, but all shall not have the same place in heaven.

 May be the older Christians may learn  from the younger ones. These were the original lessons from the parable, but now centuries later has much to add.  It means no matter when a man or woman comes to the Church, he/she are fully equal to God.  The Rabbis had  saying, some are in the Kingdom an hour,  the others hardly entered in a lifetime.

 In the holy city in the book of Revelation (in the Bible), there are twelve gates. Those in the East, which  is the direction of dawn, and can be entered in the morning of his/her days  In the West, they are facing the evening sun by which may be entered by age.  No matter when a man/woman come to Christ, they are equally drawn to Him.

 Looking wider, sometimes a person dies in an advanced age after a full life of labor, but at other times a young person is taken away before life got very far.  God gives both the same welcome, and for both Jesus is waiting to receive.

 We see the compassion of God, for there is a tenderness in this parable. In the Palestine market place there were men still waiting at the eleventh hour, for no one had hired them, but in an act of compassion, a master gave them something to do. He told them to go and work in his vineyard. When a man worked for only a few hours the less he should be paid, and this man hired so late, only completed oneour  But the master knew one hour, was of little use, so the master gave him the same as the others. The parable is telling there is the right of a man to work, and also has a right of receiving a living wage.

 So is the generosity of God. All service is seen as the same with God.  It is not the amount of service given, but the manner in which the service was made. A man may receive  a gift of one hundred pounds as a gift, but his children may have saved just enough money to buy him a few sweets . Any man with a heart would be saved by the bag of sweets. God gives to us with the fulness of His heart.  He gives not money, but the greatest gift of grace.  This is the supreme point of the parable, the whole point of work is the spirit in which it is done.

 The servants are in two classes. The first came with an agreement with the employer, we work you pay. But for those who came later, there was no contract or agreement, they just wanted to work and ready to leave the payment to the master.  There is the difference. As man is portrayed as not a Christian if his first concern is payment.  Such is what Peter asked, what shall we get out of it.  The Christian, for the joy of serving God, that is why the first will be last, and the last will be first. Many a man who earned much money ,have a low place in the Kingdom. a poor man will have a high one.

 Care must be taken that we do not take an attitude of going our own way in life, and make a death-bed eleventh hour confession.  To suppose that is a dangerous act.  The longer people refuse to listen to Christ, the less likely to be saved.  The Bible states clearly, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. Few are saved from death-beds, there is a false confidence in doing so.

May God bless His Word to us, and may His Holy Name be praised







Tuesday 19 September 2023

  ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’.                             

                       (Joshua 24 v.15)


Just for a change, I am turning to the Old Testament. There is a reluctance to read this part of the Bible as it is seen as history of Israel. There is a content of that, but we must bear in mind the Jews were God’s chosen people, who indeed have made a colossal contribution to the world with its brilliance of technology, finance, entertainment world, and shared such contribution to all nations. Jesus often referred back to that part of the Bible.

      Joshua was a great military leader who had served under Moses for forty years, and after Moses death became leader for twenty five years. Israel was standing at the crossroads of its history.  The people had then settled in the land God gave, and had under God’s guidance, conquered the land of Canaan, but there were still problems to overcome.

     Joshua is near the end of his life, so one day calls the leaders of the people together at Shechem to deliver his last message.   This was a most important place in Jewish history. 

It was where Abraham first settled;   where Jacob bought his first piece of land; where Joseph was buried .

      Joshua laid down the choice facing the Israelites.  As peoples over time have behaved, once the hard times were over, they began to fall away from God.  They began to mix with other races and followed a lifestyle which betrayed God, as they were tempted to worship local gods. 

      Joshua warned of idolatry, and how the wrath of God would fall upon them, so they had a critical choice to make.  He had made a clear decision. He said, ‘if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ 

     God had rescued them from Egyptian tyranny under Pharaoh, and gave them a good land flowing with milk and honey, and continually blessed them.  They were now being asked to reflect on their history, and Joshua was calling upon them to think of all the things God had done for them and make a choice.

     The principle of choice Joshua referred to, is still applicable in our day and age.  God gives us free choice.  We are allowed to say either yes or no. Everyone has to make their own choice, whether to serve God, or other gods.

     Life is all about choices, and bad decisions have their consequences.   Choices affect life here and for eternity.  Many people do not wish to consider, but will one day regret not doing so.  Serve the Lord, or serve the devil.  Joshua chose the deity. God had given firm command when He said, ‘I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods but me’ 

       We may not have the same idols as gods as did the Jews, but we have our own modern day gods. An idol is in fact anything which acts as a substitute above God, so we have to decide which to serve. People believe they can do without God.  They live as if there was no tomorrow. We see gluttony, alcohol and drug abuse, and unrestricted sex everywhere.    

      Paul said when tempted run,  Joseph did when tempted by Pharaoh’s wife, and God was with him and made him a great ruler over Egypt. Following God is a personal decision you must make for yourself, there is no such thing as proxy faith. Jesus said ‘you cannot serve God and mammon’.  It may mean denying ambition. Moses had the chance to be brought up in the luxury of an Egyptian princess’ home, but chose to serve God with suffering Israelites, not knowing he would have such a great future.

       So we must consider our priorities. Do we put the Church before all other calls for our presence?   There can be no compromise, no trying to accommodate society’s ways. In every Church there are Christians whose relationship is only formal and outward, a case of being associated with Jesus without being united.

     Sometimes the faith goes cold.  There is only one way to remain on course and that is to be close to your Church, not to have a periodic attachment. We are facing a time of ungodliness. If we are to faithfully serve Him, we must seek Him, which means we call on Him, remain faithful to Him, and give up doing things which are wrong in His sight..

     In our schools and universities there is an anti-God bias, and in intellectual circles the Bible is seen as some form of hate literature. Discord and discouragement is being sown in the lives of Christian people..  We have to resist on every front so as to maintain a Christian faith and presence.   

     The BBC has appointed people of other faiths to be directors of Christian programmes, and the Church accepted it.  You can be assured they would never appoint a Christian to direct Islamic or Hindu programmes. But that is just the BBC anti Christian bias.

       We need to let God know we serve Him, which I believe, is what God wants to hear. Choosing whom to serve affects not only ourselves, but our children.  Our families and homes are in constant danger. Parents must realise that having children means bearing responsibility for how they behave. 

      Young people today are facing many problems.  Many are uncertain. They are under peer pressure to do many things they would not normally consider.  Taking drugs, indulging in sexual activity, which accounts for the highest number of teenage pregnancies in Europe.  All are tempted, and the hardest word to use is ‘no’.  

     It is reported that one in five children under fourteen years of age regularly watch pornography on the internet. God provides a way out, but so many children know little about God, no one tells them about Him.

Our children need to be taught to be people of integrity and know of their Christian heritage, just as much as children of all other faiths are taught about theirs.   Jewish parents teach the history of their faith from a very early age.

      The Church will have to look and consider its position.  We are constantly being reminded by the press as to how people are turning away from the Church, with the blame being placed firmly on the Church.  Whilst to some degree this may be true, the true responsibility rests upon those who fail to attend and encourage children not to attend..  Society was more stable and balanced when people did attend.

     The average person sees the Church as out of date and the Christian message as irrelevant, even though they never go near a Church to establish that, which is why they live as they do without reference to God or eternity. This is just sardonic self justification. Our message then needs to be positive with no uncertain sound.

      Does the same fire which burned in the lives of the outstanding men of God in the past still burn in today’s preachers?    

     Many ministers are afraid of speaking out lest they be accused of some kind of phobia by minority factions. 

Ministers are however faced with a dilemma in faithfully teaching Biblical morality in these times as    many of their congregations would find a strain on their consciences in view of their lifestyles.   How heartening to hear the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster saying ‘I am not here to be popular. I’m here to be successful.’ 

      Joshua was not convinced the people were sincere when they promised to serve the Lord, and challenged them several times before accepting their word.  He knew that commitment and obedience were required.  He told them they were dealing with a God who would not be trifled with.  Eventually he believed them and erected a stone under an oak tree to commemorate the binding of people to serve the Lord their God.

     They did not however follow their commitment and a whole new generation grew up who had no knowledge of the Lord.  We see how history can repeat itself.  As Christians, we have a commitment to serve God. Just as Joshua reminded the Jews of all God had done for them, so must we reflect on all that which God has done for us, and respond accordingly.

      God speaks to us from the past, to show us the sins His people committed in order to help us decide.  God is still speaking.  We can either listen or ignore. 

        Making a promise to God is a serious matter. Each year a Covenant is re-made by Methodists, which many other Churches have adopted. In this covenant members pledge to yield themselves freely and wholeheartedly to God and declare themselves not their own, but His. How faithfully is it kept?  It means obeying, fearing and faithfully following His Word.  God is a jealous God who wants a complete loyalty.  We have to take away from our lives all that is unworthy and against His teaching.  He gave us guidance in Holy Scripture. 

     So many people in the present economic climate are worried and uncertain.  If they seek help from the Church we must see they get it.  We must realise our ways and actions are observed and can influence a person who is seeking a spiritual renewal.    

     We all have to ask, ‘am I ready to serve the Lord?’   There is no room for neutrality. Every person needs a God and every person must serve the God they choose. You cannot choose the true God by default or by inheritance.  


 Joshua made his choice, let us make ours, and say, ‘we will serve the Lord.’


Friday 15 September 2023

Matthew 18 v21/35


The Gospel message for Sunday, is the parable of the unforgiving servant.

 The Apostle Peter features often in the Gospels, and gives the impression of being of an impetuous man.  Here he has a quick tongue, rushing into speaking, so moving Jesus to teach.

 Peter thought he was being considerate, even generous, in forgiving a sinning brother, and sought the opinion of Jesus, as to how often he should do so, and suggested seven times.  It was the custom of Rabbis, that three times was sufficient and not four.  This procedure was based on the prophet Amos.  who had declared three times God would not punish, but after that God would punish the sinner, and  man could not be more generous than God.  Peter thought he had done well in doubling three and adding one on for good measure.

 Jesus told him the story of a servant, who had incurred a huge debt to his master, amounting to hundreds of dollars, and  when asked to pay back, was unable to do so . The master ordered him to

Pay or he and his wife and children would be sold until he did pay.(This was a practice common in the ancient world). The servant pleaded with his master to have patience and he would pay everything owing.  The master took pity for the man, released him, and forgave him the debt.  

 The servant went out and met a fellow servant who owed him a small amount of a hundred denarii, and without any mercy, seized the man and tried to choke him. He was told to pay, the man plead he couldn’t and asked for mercy, promising to pay back, but he was refused and was sent to  prison until he could pay.

 When the other servants saw what had happened they went and told the master what had happened.  The master reminded the man how he was set free, only to penalize someone else, the master sent the cruel servant to prison until he paid the debt that  he had been forgiven of.

 This parable, is to teach lessons which Jesus often taught, and is repeated in the New bring people to forgive in order to be forgiven, and if forgiveness is not offered, God will not forgive the man for failing to do so.  This is the message of the Beatitude, blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy.  Forgiveness is a Christian virtue; it is not an optionable part of Christian life.

 No sooner had Jesus taught this man his own prayer, He went on to say ‘if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you, and He will have judgment without mercy to those that hath not shown mercy.’  Divine and human forgiveness go hand in hand.

 One of the great points of this parable, is the contrasts between the two debtors.  The first servant owed his master the equivalent of ten thousand pounds, and his own debt was less than five pounds.  The contrast is vast, but the point is, nothing men can do, can compare in what has been to God, and if God is ready to forgive us the debt we owe to Him, we must forgive our fellow men the debt they owe us. 

 Remembering the debts  that Jesus gave His life for on the Cross, for all the sins of people whom He never met, we see the enormity of real forgiveness, which should be a help for all others to  be generous. The crowds who were present at the last Passover, and following events mocked Jesus and call for His crucifixion, and His reply was, ‘Father forgive them. When God forgives it should make it easier for you to forgive.

.I have noticed a version of the Lord’s  Prayer in the English Standard Version of the Bible, has become recognized as the version most used in churches, especially in the United States, replacing the traditional verses of ‘forgive us our trespasses’ to ‘ forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’

 We live in an evil world, so we can  depend on problems arising, however we may try to avoid. Peter was told to forgive more times than he felt necessary.  Jesus did not mean to allow people immunity easily, He meant to show a spirit of mercy and forgiveness.  We are to put up with much rather than quarrel. We are to lay aside malice, strife and retaliation. However, I think it is necessary to let these aggressive and often arrogant people to know in a firm but quiet manner that their rudeness will not be tolerated.

 I was once in a Welsh village and in a shop window there was a small item with words on, which said, ’don’t get even, smile at your adversary, it will make him more annoyed.

 What a happier world it would be, if mercy was displayed rather than ill-feeling.  Think of the law suits avoidable, the bitterness, the trivial personal rights of so many, which could be changed if forgiveness and a desire for peace shown. Jesus is calling for good as opposed to bad, blessing not cursing, friends not foes.

 In the Christian way of living, there is need to fulfil certain duties, and one which is not recognized as it should be, is forgiveness.  There is no point in thinking all is moonlight and roses in all our churches.  I have seen what is more like open warfare, too often by people with enlarged opinion of themselves.  Indeed, I have been personally attacked by men with liberal minds, who have expected me to accept verbal abuse and tender an act of penance. Fortunately I have led a full and varied life, so have become immune to such bad manners, but I have seen the misery they caused to pastors of lesser experience. There are people who think they can exercise whatever feelings they have, and let loose their opinions on clergymen. This has to be stopped.

 There people who are trouble makers by choice, and seem to get some weird pleasure at ,making other people upset, and this is cruel and causes misery, especially when those who are victims of such abuse are normally of gentle nature. If you are abused in any way, think of the abuser as a lesser person than yourself.  Don’t let it upset or annoy you, especially of older age, as it could cause your blood pressure to rise unnecessarily, which could be dangerous.  

 It is sad to see such bitterness and unkindness, even to see the satisfaction displayed when they have upset someone. Yet the Bible tells clearly how we should live our lives. A problem is such people have never known much from the Bible, and have not been taught it properly.

 May this parable give us the means to act with peace to God, strengthened by the spirit of Christ, and as by adoption, children of a heavenly Father by grace. If we feel injured, may we have the strength to influence others, and cause them to see the benefits of a true Christian.

 Remember this passage and grow in grace and become holy in all your ways.

Monday 11 September 2023

Matthew 7 v 1-5


This passage contains the parable of the speck and the log.

 It begins with Jesus warning us not to judge others, for we will be judged according how we act in similar circumstances. Often there are people criticizing others when they are behaving in the same   way.  Jesus said it was like seeing a speck in someone’s eye when there was a much bigger one in your own eye.    

 This parable is often misinterpreted, and can be used to spread poison, not medicine. Jesus would not want us to be afraid of taking judgement when something sinful has been found, for such would be contrary to other passages of Scripture, but we should be sure that our conduct is above reproach. At present, we are finding false doctrine being adopted in the Church, which definitely needs condemning. But because there are powerful voices, who wish to force their cause, it is hypocritically overlooked

 There is however, usually someone in a congregation, who is a storm waiting to cause dissension,  and rejoicing in doing so, and we might see the unpleasant ones being given a chance to cause upset.    

 Certainly He would want  us to stop being censorious and fault-finding, causing what might be hypocrisy. We all see small faults in others, but when they are trifling points which do not have any damage intention, they are best overlooked.  None of us are perfect in every conversation. Jesus had to suffer much at the hands of the Pharisees, who were so anxious to find fault over any little things He did.

Christian charity encourages us to watch against being too fastidious, and rather listen to all things, and hope all things, and be careful not to look for faults

 Another lesson, we find here is the importance of exercising discretion to the person with whom we speak about religion. People have their own feelings about things which are controversial, and some passages or phrases are often misused to support one’s own viewpoint. It is not everybody to whom it is wise to express our mind. This is a situation when people take a serious opinion on what the Bible means, especially in cases of sexuality, for to-day many people, far too many, try to justify that which is clearly wrong, when looked at with an impartial manner.  Some preachers even make        matters worse, by their misrepresenting Bible teaching to support that which should not be so treated.

 I have seen men fly into a passion, and act quite contrary to Scripture, when a view against theirs is  tendered.  In fact, I have received abuse from a fellow Minister when I preached on a certain subject, directly from the Bible.  When I challenged him to prove his view according to the Bible, there was no reply. It was simply because there was no other view. but he was not willing to admit.

 Jesus often spoke as He does here. He was using words and ideas which were quite familiar to Jews in their highest thoughts.  Many times a Rabbi warned people against judging others.  He who judges his neighbor  favorably would be favorably judged by God.  They laid it down there were six great works which brought a man credit in this world and the world to come; study; visiting the sick; hospitality; devotion in prayer; the education of children in the Law; and thinking the best of other people. The jews knew too, that kindliness in judgement was a sacred duty.

It may be thought all that would be an easy kind to obey, for history is filled with the records of misjudgments, that it would be a warning to men not to make judgment at all.  Again and again men and women became famous, but were misjudge as nonentities.

 There are reasons why no one should judge another person. We may never know the whole  person .  A wise Rabbi named Hillel, stated we should never judge until we have been in the same situation. No one knows the strength of another one. The man with a placid temperament, does not understand the man with a fiery temper, whose passions are on a trigger.  The man brought up in a good Christian home, knows nothing of the temptations of a man who grew up in a slum area, or where evil abounds.  The man brought up with good parents, has a different outlook to a man brought up without a father present, which is so common these days. The reality is, that if those who have been well brought up knew what the alternative of others was, would be amazed they have succeeded as much as they have.

 A second reason is, it is sometimes impossible to be strictly impartial in judgment. We are often swayed by our own instinctive reactions to people.  Our judgments then are illogical reaction. It is not in human nature to be strictly impartial, only God has that quality.

 Thirdly, It was Jesus who said the supreme reason why we should not judge others. Jesus drew a picture of a man with a plank in his eye, trying to remove a speck of dust in his eye. This is to drive a lesson home. Only the faultless can look for faults in others. There are people who criticize those who hold positions of responsibility, who could not do so themselves; or of people who have very liberal ideas, and will not tolerate anyone with a more conservative and responsible view.

 We have to recognize and accept that there are in life organizations, which demand to have men  and women holding Offices of command, and authority to enforce rules and regulations. Such are military and semi-military forces, and indeed in lesser ways business. Some people holding such authority do get carried away by their own sense of importance, but it should also be accepted if someone having responsibility fails or makes mistakes, the penalty can be severe.

 In conclusion, life provides us with enough to do to rectify  own lives without trying to rectify the lives of others. Leave the rest to God