Monday 29 April 2024

1 Corinthians 1 v18/25.
This morning I want to speak about the Cross, and have chosen a passage from Paul’s 1st Letter to the Church at Corinth.

 Paul wrote to give advice and admonishment to the people there because of the way they were acting. He is showing us in this passage, how the Cross is so important for us as Christians, and how it is involved in human affairs and thinking.

Each religious faith has its own symbol. Muslims have the crescent moon; the Jews have the Star of David, but for Christians we have the Cross.   Some Churches have a Cross outside, and most also display the Cross inside. It is embossed upon our Bibles and prayer books, and ladies particularly wear a gold cross.

Paul said he gloried in the Cross. He said, we preach Christ crucified, and when writing to the Galatian Church Paul stated, ‘God forbid that I should boast about anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’, to indicate how much he prioritised the Cross. He could have boasted about his own intellect, his mastery of languages; he could have boasted about the unique birth of Christ or the miracles performed, even the resurrection, but he didn’t, only the Cross.

The bible tells that God loves all people and wants then to be saved, and the whole bible from cover to cover is about salvation. The Cross has always been the standard for God’s people and the Church.

Let me now turn to Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians Christians.

The Church at Corinth was having problems, which caused Paul to write to them.  Corinth was a cosmopolitan city, which has been described as the Soho of its day, full of corruption and immorality. It was a trading centre, and there was much wealth and a style of living, which did not match up to Christian standards. The Church, which had started with much power, was allowing some of the culture to invade the Church, and some members were influenced by the rhetoric of some preachers who were deviating from gospel, and this caused division and dissension within the Church.

We have a similar situation here, where there are men/women occupying the most prominent position in the Church, openly accepting, and even encouraging Christians to adopt the morality of society, despite the fact that the Bible expressly condemns.
Paul begins this passage by saying Christ sent him to preach the gospel, not with profound words and high-sounding ideas, for there is mighty power in the simple message of the Cross of Christ. I think sometimes that a more social message is preferred.

If you see a restaurant advertising good class food, and you enter, only to find you are served ‘junk’ food, you are not likely to visit again. People are now visiting churches expecting to hear spiritual messages, hearing what the bible states about the moral and spiritual issues of the day, but in too many places hear poor messages which are in direct contradiction of the bible, leaving them confused and dejected. We must tell the true meaning of Scripture, so they can understand that which God wants them to know.

In verse 18,for the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, which means not saved, and no hope of getting to heaven for they have rejected Jesus, but to those of us who are saved and have accepted Jesus as Saviour, the gospel is the power of God.

 Paul always taught there are two distinct points of view, two black or white absolutes, that can never be reconciled, because they produce two different responses to the gospel. We all have to decide now which we believe.

We have a choice to make for our future when this life is over. Many people don’t want to think of that, and dismiss it from their minds.  Many more believe there is no need to worry, as long as one leads a ‘good’ life we are all going to heaven. Apart from the fact ‘good’ has not been defined, how would we know when he had done enough?

 Every Pastor can tell you, that irrespective that the deceased never read a bible, attended church, and being totally unaware of belief, it was always thought the relatives of the deceased, the person was heaven bound.

Unless you accept the Cross and its meaning, you are not able to make an assessment of the future. The Cross is the pivotal point of Christianity.  If you tell people that all their efforts and achievements will not put them right with God, and the only way is to believe the death of Christ on the Cross, and we can do nothing to earn our salvation, they will think it ridiculous.

The Cross strikes at the heart of human pride. Just as the Jews could never accept that a man hanging on a Cross could save the world, so today people mock the idea. Those who are blind to the truth of the gospel are said to be ‘perishing’, which means unsaved and are eternally lost. To them however, it is absurd, and they refuse to believe the Biblical teaching that states to achieve eternal salvation you have to believe that a man died on a Cross 2000 years ago, in a little country on the far side of the world, and did so that our sins may be forgiven.

The other reaction is, that the Cross is the power of God to those of us who have accepted Christ’s death on the Cross as our means of salvation.

Why take a risk on your eternal future? If you were due to fly to America, and as you were boarding the plane you were told there was a 1% chance the plane would not make it across the Atlantic, would you still fly?

Paul said he understood, how foolish it sounds to those who are lost when they heard that Jesus died to save them, but God had said He would destroy all human plans of salvation, no matter how wise they seem to be to men, even the most brilliant of them. He said ‘you come to me my way, or you do not come at all’.

If you wear a Cross, you should ask yourself, why you are wearing it, what does it mean to me? Most people just see it as an item of jewellery, such an idea would have been horrifying, bearing in mind the tortuous death it carried; it would be like wearing a model of the gallows around the neck. It was so crude a death it was never mentioned in polite company.

 Paul asks where is the wise man, where is the scholar, where is the philosopher of this age, has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world.  Challenging them, who think they can solve life’s problems.

Paul is speaking to those in the Church who claimed to be wise and proud of their wisdom, which they were using to divide the Church and to promote themselves by changing the message of the Cross to make it more acceptable. Paul is telling them it is worthless in the sight of God, and will only destroy the Church.

The Jews demand miraculous signs, and Greeks look to wisdom. This was a stumbling block which could not be overcome by Jews or Gentiles, but to those who do believe, it is a message of power.

The Jews demanded that what Paul was teaching should be proved by some miraculous sign. Jews could not ever accept that the Messiah would be crucified; it was totally contradictory to their belief. The Greeks placed so much influence on human wisdom and intellectual ability to be the means of salvation.

God chose a way which ordinary people could understand. Abraham Lincoln once stated, God must have loved ordinary people, because He made so many of them. Paul gave them an ordinary and simple message, believe in Jesus Christ who gave His life to be crucified on the Cross, and you will have eternal life. If we had to be very wise and academic, millions of people would never have come to know the Lord. Heaven would be only for the clever people.The gospel message is the opposite of worldly wisdom, and is hard for some to believe, but we do believe. But there are still people who want to see some proof for what we prea

ch. The Bible states, by grace you shall be saved through faith’. If you have to see signs or other proof to believe, you don’t need faith. True faith means believing in what you cannot see.

God said, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’.

The message of the world sees us as self-sufficient beings; there is no need of God. We have the ability to think and reason which will prove sufficient to eventually solve all of our problems.  Obviously, God doesn’t think so much of it.

Just where has all the wisdom of the so-called wise brought us? How well have we done in solving the world’s problems? Have we eradicated poverty? Has all our research and expertise in the fields of science and medicine rid our world of disease? Have we found a cure for cancer? There is more suffering now than history records.

With all the highly educated professional educators, how can we still have ignorant people wandering our streets, graduating from our schools and colleges, not knowing basic maths or English?

Look at the enormous amount of hatred in the world, with many of the Arab countries wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the map; the barbarity of Islamic militants. Paradoxically, hatred has been introduced into our society by legislation. The (inequitable) Equality and Diversity Bill has caused considerable distress.

Consider the hate mail and persecution, experienced Christians who do not wish to surrender their beliefs to society’s morality. The unfortunate reality is, that for all our so-called sophistication, we have not been able to solve the basic problems of society–– problems that have been around since the beginning. Certainly, we have been able to see great advances technologically. We have great new gadgets. But on the really important issues of life, we don’t even have temporary solutions.

But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The Cross upon which Jesus died was not only a place where he bore the sins of humanity and paid the penalty for those sins, it is also a way for our lives by his power. It is saying that God became weak, in order to save us. It says that when we surrender our lives, we truly find them. It is the very power of God, concealed from the so-called wise and sophisticated, and revealed to those who come as a child, in simple faith and trust.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength

Today the cross of Christ is still a cause of offence. The message of the cross of Christ is still foolishness to those who are perishing. To them the cross is the weakest link. In the Cross, we see the power of God displayed. God was powerful enough to become weak. And it will take the power of God in our lives, to humble ourselves in complete surrender to him. The good news is that God has given us his power. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Church to boldly proclaim this.

There is one underlying message running right through this passage. ‘There is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ’. God gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. We do not earn our right to heaven by all the good things we do, being saved is a gift from God, if we could earn, it would not be free. God accepts us when we believe in Christ.

May the Cross always remind you of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for the salvation that can be yours. May God be glorified.

Thursday 25 April 2024


                                                 JOHN 14

I have chosen this passage of Scripture for Sunday service rather than the Lectionary I am the vine as that parable was so recently .posted here. 

I am the way, the truth, the life

The passage I have chosen to speak to you about this morning, is one of the best known passages in the New Testament, even to non- Church people, and contains words which are so relevant to Christian living and belief.         

Jesus, was spending His last night with the Apostles in what is known as the Upper Room, for the Last Supper. Judas was about to betray Him, and when Judas had left, Jesus told the remaining Apostles that the time for Him to be glorified had come. 

What Jesus meant was, this was the last time He would speak to them before He was to die.  His glory is that He is on His way to the Cross, His work on this earth is over, and the crucifixion will also bring glory to the Father.

 It is the end of a close relationship of three years and time to say goodbye, and He was teaching and giving guidance, and that same teaching is passed down for the benefit of all Christians throughout the ages.

Jesus had told them He was going to leave them, for He was going on a journey He had to take alone. The Apostles were devastated at the thought.  Perhaps you can imagine their feelings, if you reflect on how people feel when a Minister they are happy with, suddenly tells them that he is moving to another Church.  This invariably causes sadness, unless there is a poor relationship.  I have experienced this on three occasions in ministry, and it is hard to disassociate oneself.

Jesus said, ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’.  The heart is the seat of all our emotions, and when that is upset, it affects thoughts and actions and causes personal disturbance. Jesus wanted to reassure them, He was not forsaking them. 

He told them they were to believe in Him, as well as God. Most people believe in God, but have less thought for Jesus.  He was putting Himself alongside God, and wanted them to trust Him and maintain a personal relationship.

He said there were many rooms in His Father’s house, meaning heaven, and He was going to prepare a place for them.  This meant there was the prospect of living for ever with Him there.

When Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for them, this was referring to the fact H e was going to the Cross, to die for the forgiveness of sins for all people, and by that death He was making it possible for them to go there.

If you want to go to stay at a hotel in some foreign country, you invariably go to a travel agent who arranges everything for you, and when you arrive at the hotel, they have a reservation waiting. You cannot just turn up because you think you are entitled to stay there, without some preparation.

When Jesus said they knew the place where He was going, Thomas asked Him how they could know, when they didn’t know the way.  This brought forth from Jesus that profound immortal statement, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’

What exactly does Jesus mean when he says, ‘we can only come to the Father through Him alone?.  Some time ago I went to Birmingham, a major city in England, and had to find an address.  I asked a man walking on a road if he could tell me the way, and he answered, ‘it is pretty difficult for you to get there on your own, but I am going that way and could take you’.  He got into my car and we went directly there. 

That is what Jesus does for us.  He says you can’t get there on your own, but I will direct you, guide you, and take you myself.  He is saying there is no other way.  This is an exclusive offer.

This is not generally liked, as it is seen as being too restrictive, too bigoted and intolerant, and to be judgmental is not liked.  Consequently, some clergy will not quote it, whilst others just will not accept it.  Frankly, I think if any man/woman does not accept this verse, then they should not be allowed to preach, for they are betraying the Lord who said it, and the Church which they serve.

Jesus said He was the truth. This fulfils the teaching of the Old Testament and reveals the true God.  A person is to teach moral truth, that person must have an impeccable reputation and have no hidden misdoings.  Only Jesus can claim moral perfection, which is why He can say ‘I am the truth’.

Thirdly Jesus says ‘I am the life’, meaning the opposite of death.  He is the source of life and gives life to His own.  Just as death means separation ,God gave Jesus life, and He Having life, can confer eternal life to all who believe in Him.

This passage is widely quoted in funeral services, when people assume that everyone is automatically going to heaven.  I have taken hundreds of funerals over the years, and there has never been doubt in anyone’s mind that the deceased is going to heaven, irrespective of the life led.  Nowhere in the Bible is this view upheld.  Jesus was very clear in His teaching, that it was not so.

In parable after parable, He spoke of two roads, of sheep and goats, of tares and wheat, of heaven and hell.

Whilst it may be comforting to believe that we can all get to heaven, regardless of one’s beliefs, and we like to please our fellow men and women, it is quite cruel to mislead if it is not true.  It is like telling a blind person standing on the foot walk of a major road, it is safe for him to cross when ready.  If we say to someone who has no Church commitment, has only a tenuous belief in Jesus Christ, never reads a Bible or prays, that they are going to heaven, we are leading them astray.

Others say if you just follow your conscience you’ll be fine, but consciences become dulled and hardened.  Taking the lead from politicians, people can look you in the eye and lie without any qualm of conscience.

In this passage before us, Jesus is talking to His followers, people who have made a personal commitment to accept Him as Saviour.  This is why it is so important for each person to make his/her own decision, whether to follow Jesus in His teaching, commands and demands He makes on us.

The Bible is all about commitment. We are reminded of the superficiality of commitment in our own time.  Less than 10% of people think God worthy of one hour per week to visit a Church.  Yet if you were to ask people their religion, the vast majority would reply C of E (meaning Church of England)and seriously consider they were Christians.  They would be mortally offended if you suggested otherwise. Very few people seem bothered to think of Jesus, or do anything about it. Jesus speaks firmly and rather profoundly, when He says not all who think they are to enter the Kingdom of heaven will in fact do so.

It is easy to say I am a Christian, 95% of the population today believe, as long as you are honest, kind and helpful to others and do no harm, you are a fully-fledged Christian. People of other faiths and none, have all those qualities, but would object to be called Christians.

In every action of life we are confronted with a choice, where we must make a decision to do one thing or another.  Jesus confronted us with a hard or an easy way.  He makes uncompromising and tough demands of commitment, which many people cannot take, and are not prepared to commit.     Then as now, some are ready to listen and walk with Him, learning to depend on Him, whilst others are just occasional supporters. 

The Church in general, in its desire to be nice and friendly to all, with a craving to please society in general, has not always given sound teaching on this; there is no blank promise. and if we do not follow Him our end will not be in the rooms of His Father’s house.

It can be hard to be a Christian in this country at the present time, and many find the going too hard and strenuous, and the opposition oppressive.  We have come to a state in this country now, where a Christian person may not express a personal view based on sincere religious belief, if it might offend someone    Any open expression of our faith is likely to lead to suspension or dismissal from work, and even the most innocuous adverse comment upon human behaviour, will raise hysterical shouts of phobia or bigotry. There is so much harassment of Christians which is not reported here, and you have to listen to the American news channels to discover what is going on in this country.  This does not apply to other faith speakers. 

In Scotland, an oppressive government has passed a law which virtually rules out any adverse comment, and if a parent prevents their child from transitioning into an opposite gender to its biological gender, there can be a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment. The irony is, we are in the United ,Kingdom, supposed to support free speech and free belief. 

I cannot understand how we can share in multi-faith worship and maintain Biblical integrity.     Whilst I believe we should respect other faiths and try to live amicably with them, in view of the unique teaching of our Lord that He alone is the way to God, we cannot justify sharing in multi faith services when our beliefs are so different, and it is matter of recognising the unique authority of Jesus.  Only Christianity maintains that Jesus Christ as divine, and salvation was earned by Jesus on the Cross.  Jesus is quite unequivocal.

It is widely claimed, erroneously, that we all worship the same God and all religions have the same way to heaven.  Islam worship ‘Allah’, and see Jesus as a good man in the social sense, or a prophet at best.   Indeed, the Islamic faith states, ‘God has no son’, which is in direct contravention of Jesus’ nature.    We should each respect the right of the other in their belief, and try to live peacefully together.

I do admire the devotion and loyalty of Islam. Muslims are Muslims in the full sense of the word, and they find difficulty in understanding how  Christians reject their faith so completely.  Why, on the Lord’s birthday so many get drunk and engage in orgies. They will fight and defend their faith, and the men will not feel embarrassed or ashamed to be seen going to worship. Put many Englishmen in a Church and they feel lost and disorientated.

It is a common perception these days that religious thoughts should not be expressed in public arena.  Christians have gone along with this, and divided their lives into two spheres, spiritual and secular.

No other group would accept such a deal.  Try telling a Socialist they should keep their thoughts to themselves; or telling an LGBT activist he shouldn’t call for same sex marriage, then wait for the howls of outrage.  BUT, let a Christian state he believes in marriage as only being between a man and a woman. I was prevented from taking a funeral because a member of the deceased family knew that was my belief, even though it had nothing at all to do with the funeral. No one had the courage to support me.

We are accused of being narrow minded and improper, for bringing up our children as believers, and if we should commit the ultimate crime of suggesting our faith influences how and what we teach them, and object to them being asked if they thinking they are of the right gender, we are of course a multiple of phobias.

We are allowed to visit the sick and care for the poor, as long as don’t mention praying for them.

We are told by activists, that we must allow people to make their own decision, but what they mean in effect is, as long as that fits in within what activists decide.    This is the new definition of the word ‘tolerance’.

 Jesus warns us that there must be a clear acceptance of His teaching. and total obedience to it.  Just to recite a creed and attend Church, is not enough. We honour Jesus by calling Him Lord, and sing hymns expressive of our devotion to Him.  The lips that sing His praise should never be the lips that challenge Holy Scripture. 

The temptation for us, as Christians, is to say what makes us popular.  Too many preachers have forgotten about being authentic; about being true to the Gospel we have been entrusted with by our Lord; to be true to our values, and to proclaim them without fear. 

The Bible tells us we must contend for the faith once given to  Christians.  The faith once given means the faith that which was given by the Apostles, who had been taught by Jesus, and which was blessed by God when the Church was first established. 

Let this be the faith we adopt and believe, and not that now being re-interpreted to suit modern culture.  Our faith is not something someone made up, it is historical and spiritual fact.


 May God bless His Word to us and may His Holy \name be glorified 

Monday 22 April 2024



John 5:1-17                   

Jesus was attending a major feast in the Jewish calendar, one of which all male Jews were expected to attend in Jerusalem. Near to the sheep market, there was a pool around which all kinds of men gathered hoping for a miracle to happen.  There were five porches situated around the pool where the weak and infirm would shelter. The name of the pool was Bethesda.  There are many Independent chapels with that name today.

It was believed that on occasions an angel would visit and disturb the water, and when this happened the first person into the water would be healed  This is similar to what happens at the Catholic shrine Lourdes, where spas are thought to have healing powers, and to which many desperate for healing visit hopefully.  What actually occurred, was not the work of an angel, but due to there being an intermittent spring, this happened when a surge from the waters from a hill reservoir caused the spring to rise and fall.

The facts, of course, are that the pool of Bethesda, like many similar pools in the Jerusalem area, is an intermittent spring. At times, water is released in surges from hidden reservoirs in the hills around the city, causing these springs to rise and fall suddenly. Some healings did occur there. Even today, healings take place in these special areas where people go, believing they can be healed. But most of these healings can be explained psychologically. When people believe they are going to be healed, and they are in a place where healings supposedly occur, and they do the expected thing, many of them are healed. Thus the pool at Bethesda had established a reputation as a place where people could be healed.

Some Churches have healing services, where dramatic healings do take place, and they go there expecting a healing, they subsequently feel healed.

We are told of this man who had been ill for 38years and was unable to stand; this is like someone suffering since 1986.  But although there were plenty of others, with all kinds of infirmities, when Jesus went there He chose this man.  But although there were plenty of others, with all kinds of infirmities, when Jesus went there He chose this man.We do not know why. He is weak, feeble, and unable to stand, probably because of some wasting disease .

So here was a great crowd of people -- paralyzed, blind, lame, sick -- all waiting for the water to be troubled. Out of that crowd Jesus picked one lone man. He did not empty the five porches, healing everybody. He did not invite them all to come down so that he might lay hands on them; nothing of that sort. He went to only one man.

The value of a story like this, and the reason it is in the gospels, is not only to reveal to us who Jesus was -- truth about the Lord himself -- but also to show us how God proposes to deal with human helplessness and weakness. Undoubtedly it was the helplessness of this man that drew Jesus to him.

We all can see ourselves, in a sense, helpless, weak, lying at the pool of Bethesda this morning. We all need help. We all find ourselves paralyzed at times, unable to do the thing we want or ought to do. This story is included in the gospels in order that we might understand how God proposes to help us through the ministry of Jesus.

When Jesus saw him and knew he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?"   This may seem a strange question to ask a man who had been ill for so long, but Jesus would not have asked this without cause, He wanted the man to answer. Obviously it was important for this man to answer (at least to himself) the question, "Do I want to be healed?"

I had a man in one of my congregations who loved to tell how ill he was.  One lady said about him, I never ask Mr X how he is in fear he may tell me.  The man would walk jauntily down the street, until he saw someone he knew and then start limping. A lot of people want to feel ill just to get attention.

 There are people who like to be or feel unwell. We have heard plenty of stories of people who are falsely claiming disability benefits, and so cheating the government when in fact they are perfectly able to work; some have been found taking part in  sporting activities.

I know many people today who do not want to be healed. They do not want to receive divine help in their problems. They do not want to be helped out of their weakness. They love their weakness, their helplessness. They are always craving the attention of others through their helplessness. They sometimes flee assuming responsibility for their own lives. I have even seen people turn their backs on a way of deliverance ; they knew would have to work, and did not want to be healed.

I am sure if this man had answered Jesus along these lines, our Lord would have gone his way and not done a thing for him. You cannot help somebody who does not want to be helped.  Some, are not ready to admit they cannot make it on their own.. Jesus can do nothing for them.

This man really did want to be healed, but was always beaten in the rush to get into the water and had given up hope.  In such situations people are tempted to give up, and feel they must just accept things.  Often people suffer from alcohol addiction, which seems to get the better of a lot, they try but the pull is too strong. 

Jesus responded to the man by saying ‘get up’.  At once the man did so. feeling he had better do what Jesus had said, and was told to throw away his bed as he would not need it any more.  The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.  In other words, "Yes, I want to be healed, but I cannot. I've tried, I've done everything I know how. I want to get into that water, I want to be healed, but I lack the ability; I've no one to help me. I've given up. I have no hope."

Many people here are like that. They have given up on their situation, refusing to believe there is any hope it can change. They see no way, from a human viewpoint, so they have resigned themselves to being weak, failing and faltering Christians for the rest of their lives.

I know there are some who thought they had it under control. You tried to stop, but you discovered you could not. It is amazing to me, how many people casually feel they are in control of something that really has control of them. You have heard of the person who said, "It's easy to stop smoking. I've done it hundreds of times!" That is a revelation, of course, of how much it controls him.  

Jesus then said, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk." And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.  Notice, that the first thing Jesus says to do is what the man could not do, what he had tried for 38 years to do. The man must have reasoned  "If this man is going to help me then I have got to do what he tells me to do."

In those words he is saying something very important to people who need to be healed: do not make any provision to go back on what you have done.. Cut off any possibility of going back. Let somebody know the new stand you have taken so that he will help hold you to it.

The third thing: "walk." Do not expect to be carried -- walk. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going -- a common area of failure. But if Jesus gives you the power to rise, Jesus is the One who can give you the power to walk every day, to keep going. That is an important thing to see.

John now traces the immediate reaction of others to this event, for that day was the sabbath. Now the man is in trouble over the Sabbath restrictions.  The Law of Moses did say that the Jews were to keep the Sabbath, and not do any work on that day.  The rabbis had carefully studied that regulation, and, probably innocently and with good intentions, had spelled out 39 different ways by which the Sabbath could be violated by certain types of work. But the real motive of their hearts is instantly revealed when the man says to them, "The man who healed me said to me, 'Take up your pallet, and walk.'" Their reaction, was instead, "Who is the guy who told you to disobey one of our regulations?" This reveals them for the religious bigots they are.   The man is in trouble.

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you." The man had gone to the temple because the Law required that one who had been healed had to make a thanksgiving offering. Jesus knew where to find him.

He calls the man's attention to the fact that not only had he been physically healed, he had been spiritually healed. His sins had been forgiven; he had been washed, he had been cleansed; he was a new man -- physically, spiritually. It is not always sin that makes people sick. There are other accounts in the Word of God, that indicate sometimes it is the corporate sin of the whole lost race that produces sickness in an individual. We must remember, from the book of Job, that we are not to always blame the individual for his sickness. But sometimes -- and I think the individual always knows -- sickness is caused by sin he is involved .

The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. He had to explain who it was had healed him, and he told them. And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath.

They had heaped all these regulations on the Sabbath law, but Jesus ignored them frequently because the regulations were the tradition of men. Jesus explains why he breaks the tradition. Jesus is saying, "You go back to Moses and to all that the rabbis have added to his Law. But I want to go back further than that: God is at work; God is doing this. The merciful and compassionate God has found this man. He is working and I am his instrument. That is why I am doing this."

What Jesus said is true for us today: God is working in this twentieth century. He is working in  the pressures and problems that come to each one of us; Only God's work will last. All that men do will fall away to nothing. Even though it be religious work it will be nothing.

Jesus was giving a message so vital to those who feel like giving up, don’t accept failure, and don’t feel you are helpless and need assistance all the time. Some people do expect a lot of attention, and want everybody to give them help.

But care has to be taken in receiving advice also.  I had a lady who felt she had healing powers, and told an elderly lady who suffered with arthritis badly, that she would lay hands on her and pray for healing, so that medication could be thrown away as she would be healed.  The elderly lady did so in great faith, and became quite ill.

John tells that Jesus went on to face the wrath of the Jews, because the man who He had healed was seen carrying his mat, and the priests told him he should not do so for it was the Sabbath day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Wednesday 17 April 2024

 John 10      v 11/18

There is no more loved image than the picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd; this is woven into the imagery of the Bible.

In the Old Testament, the leaders of the people were called shepherd, and God was seen as the great Shepherd

  In the  New Testament, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd, for He sees the people like sheep without any other shepherd. This one of the ‘I am’ sayings, and brings to mind David, who literally laid down his life for his sheep, but Jesus gave his life on the Cross for his sheep.

 We accept sheep as providing food and clothing, but in Palestine they were seen as not only providing wool, but also seen as rather like pets, and were kept alive, and some shepherds gave them names.   In the evenings, the shepherds  would lead their flocks to a sheepfold, which was central pen with a door, where several families kept their sheep, which would be watched over by a gatekeeper, who would be hired, and he would lock the door and stand guard. Some shepherds would watch themselves. Any other person entering would be considered a thief, or a robber who would use violence.

 The hired hand, not being the owner of sheep, would leave the sheep if a wolf appeared which would scatter the sheep and snatch them.

 The next day the sheep would be collected. Each sheep would know its own shepherd and would only go with him. Jesus states the sheep who truly know and believe in God, hear his voice and they know his voice.

 Some sheep were left roaming, and they would be gathered into an open field surrounded by walls, where the sheep could go in and pass out, and someone hired would lie across the opening so the sheep would have to pass him.

 Jesus said he had sheep not of this fold and would bring them into this fold so all would be in one flock with one shepherd. He was referring to Gentiles, and they would be united with Jews in one Messianic community

In the last two verses, Jesus is telling he saw his own life as an act of obedience to God, who had given him a task to do, and he was going to do that to the end, even to death. He always blended glory and the Cross together. He knew he would die and raise again.     

 I know this is totally unacceptable to an increasing number of people these days, but this is what the Bible states, so we should be prepared to accept Jesus’ words.  The whole purpose of His life was to lead people to God, and made that possible by giving His life to do so.  The only way into any enclosure is through a door, and Jesus is the only way to heaven.

 Jesus claimed to be the Good Shepherd, and as a good shepherd knew his sheep by name, Jesus knows us by name.  Every time Jesus called someone in the Bible, he did so by naming them.  He was constantly teaching in His lifetime, and we would do well to listen and act upon His words.  All who have accepted Jesus as their Lord, will have Him in their life, to be a guard and a helper who will care for them.

 Of course, there are now so many people who feel they can control their own destiny, fully able to stand on their own two feet, but they will take insurance out to provide cover for life after death.  They will wait years for these policies to mature, but Jesus is offering maturity for eternity with immediate effect.

 We all need security for peace of mind.  I have met people whose homes were burgled, and were not covered because they just didn’t get round to getting insurance.  Despite the massaging of figures by the police and government, crime is still rampant.  If someone breaks in to your house and ties you up, it is more likely the burglar will be stronger and more ruthless than you.  In theory, you will send for the police, and again in theory they will come and assist you.  (In practice these days it is more likely they will find some excuse not to attend)  When you accept Christ, you have the assurance of His help.

 These verses show us the reason Jesus came into our world. He came that we might have life in abundance.  The world has a totally false idea, to be a teacher of morality or to create new ceremonies, his life was only for thirty=three years. He came to die on a Cross to enable us all to  be forgiven of any sins we may have committed, and to enable us to have eternal life, He brought spiritual life for all people. Moses came with rules, law, and ceremonies, Christ came with grace, truth, and eternal life. Life and immortality were fully were made clear by the gospel.

 Jesus said I am the good shepherd, and like a good shepherd, knows all his true believing flock, and cares tenderly for all believing people. He provides for all their needs in the wilderness of this world. He will guard and protect them from enemies.

 Like a good shepherd he laid down his life for his sheep. Hw did it for all time when he  was crucified for them. Christ died of his own voluntary will. He said he had the power to do so, and to be raised again. Hi enemies may have cried he had no choice, nothing could be more wrong, but they are still showing their ignorance and stupidity.

 Let us lay our souls on these mighty truths, and be thankful a loving Saviour came specially to bring life into the world and if we listen for his voice, repent and believe, he is our own

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



Monday 15 April 2024


Matthew 15 v 21 /28


Jesus has completed a very hectic ministry in the region of Galilee in the area of Capernaum. He knew He was nearing the end of His earthly ministry, and wanted to rest and teach His Apostles for the future work they would have to do. Jesus has left the area of Galilee completely, and withdrawn into the area of Tyre and Sidon, two places on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in what is now Lebanon. Tyre is about fifty miles south of modern Beirut, and Sidon was halfway between the two. He had gone there for peace and quiet whilst He taught His Apostles.


The cities were outside the boundaries of Israel, and the people were largely Gentiles, but there was a Jewish community. This was the only occasion when Jesus left Jewish territory, and had on His present journey crossed geographical, ethnic, gender and theological boundaries. Later it would mean removing barriers, to enable the gospel to be taken to the whole world.


I have found that quite a number of people found this story hard to understand, as Jesus appeared to be doing something which seems contrary to the image they have of Him, especially in the way He spoke to the woman.


Today many people are anti-Israel and wish to separate from the Jews, but forget the specialness of Israel in the purposes of God. Jesus never implied anything different, but Paul was specially commissioned to bring Gentile and Jews on equal terms.  Many of the wonders of technology, which we all enjoy so much, were first discovered and developed in Israel, and given to the wider world in medicine, wireless communication, agriculture and more.


Never overlook the fact that we worship a Jewish Saviour, born into a Jewish family, and our God is the God Israel. We teach, (or are meant to) from a Holy Book written by 40 men, 39 of whom were Jews, under the divine inspiration of God. Our faith is not man-made, and is recorded in history by witnesses, which negates any justifiable call for joint worship with other faiths.  We respect their right to hold their own beliefs, but they do not acknowledge the divinity of Jesus.


he story revolves around a "Canaanite" woman, turning from her idols to seek the help and mercy of Jesus to cure her daughter’s illness.

This is a woman of Canaanite heritage, who were ancestral enemies of Israel, and thereby of Jesus. She has no understanding, or even knowing of the Old Testament. She is not even in a place where she would be in regular contact with those who did. It is likely that she had heard of Jesus as miracle worker in the land of Israel, from those who were now passing through her land, and now she finds that Jesus is in her area.


She went to to Him and pleaded for His mercy, which is further evidence that she does understand something of who Jesus is, for by definition, a person who asks for mercy, asks for something that they know that they do not deserve. She turns her back on the idols of her own culture and turned to Jesus.


She pleaded with Jesus to help her crying out, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." . Jesus turned His back on her, refusing to answer and His Apostles urged Jesus to chase her away.  He then said to her, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel’.


Whilst this was in contrast to Jesus’ last commission to His Apostles to go into the world and make disciples, at the time of this incident it was in the plan of  God for Jesus to focus on the Jews, and their spiritual needs.


She then knelt before Jesus, and begged Him to help her. His reply was that it would not be right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs. She seems to accept the insult and Jesus’ judgement on her, but still pleaded and said even dogs eat the crumbs from the table  In Palestine dogs were wild scavengers, and Canaanites were referred to as such by the Jews who were ancestral enemies of each other.

The woman responded, that extended blessings were mentioned by Abraham to the promised Gentiles, that God’s plan was to bring salvation to His chosen people Israel, and then to Gentiles. The woman was showing an attitude of humble faith, which allowed Jesus to answer, for God responds to all who call on Him in true faith.

Jesus was testing her faith, for it was His way to help all people.  The woman was displaying greater faith in Jesus than many of His own people, and Jesus responded by telling her faith  was so great and granted her request with the result her daughter was healed.

She was persistent, and such perseverance should be the mark of every Christian, but sadly it is not. Too often we give up when we do not receive a quick reply to our requests. We may even get discouraged, thinking the Lord is no longer listening to us or is ignoring us as He was this woman.


What a beautiful example of the humility and faith, and what a contrast she was to the pride and unbelief of those Jesus had been with in Galilee. She responded in complete humility, which is the way each of us should respond.


What can we learn from this story?

 This passage encourages us to keep praying, even when the temptation is to give up. Be specific in your prayers, and when praying for others name them before the Lord

 An important element in prayer is faith, which unlocks the door to heaven.  New life begins with faith, and then we must build on that foundation.  Often when we cry to God, it is more in hope than faith.  It is like a child who cries for something to eat, but then goes on playing and you know it is not hungry.  If he puts his play thing away and pulls at his mother’s clothes, you know he is in earnest.  God knows when we are in earnest.

 The Bible states, if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God and it shall be given him, but let him ask in faith, not wavering. Faith is the key that unlocks the treasures of heaven.

 I read once a story, about a boy brought up in an Institutional home, and was never taught how to read or write, but he did know the letters of the alphabet. One day, the local Vicar talked to the children and told them, if they prayed to God real hard, He would hear and answer them.  The boy grew up and was given a hard time by his employer. So decided to do what the Vicar had said.

 One day, a man was passing a hedge when he heard the a voice from behind the hedge saying ABCD, and he saw the boy on his knees.  He asked the boy what he was doing, and the boy replied  that he was praying.  The man said that is not praying, you are just saying letters.  The boy answered,  that a Vicar told him if he asked God in prayer he would get help, but as he didn’t know how to pray he thought if he just said the letters, God would take them and make them into a prayer. and give him what he wanted. That is faith personified,.

 Dwight Moody, an American evangelist, second only to Billy Graham in the history of great preachers, asked at one of his meetings for all who wished to pray to become Christians to step forward.  Amongst those who went forward was a woman, and Dwight felt by her demeanour she was already a Christian.  He challenged her, and asked why she went forward, and she said it was for her son who had gone far away, so she thought she would take his place and see if God would bless him.

 We have to thank God for mothers like that.  The tragedy of our time is that there are few mothers, and certainly fathers, who are interested enough in the spiritual welfare of their children.  A Jewish father will devote much time teaching his sons the Commandments, just as a Muslim will teach his children the Koran, but too many men  in this country feel it beneath their masculinity to be religious.

 When my two sons were growing up, I had to spend many hours away from home in my previous occupation, and my wife was forced to care, largely on her own; to her eternal credit, both became youth leaders at our local Church, and subsequently have become very successful Vicars.

 The woman in this tory remains unknown, we are not told who she was, but she will remain in history for all time.  We do know she was not Jewish of course, but she went to Jesus, desperate for her daughter’s life was at stake for there was no medical cure. The mother persevered begging for help from Jesus to cast out the devil in the girl.  Another praying mother, which again reveals how God gave women that loveliness that distinguishes and enables them to be such wonderful carers, and a worthy contrast to men.

 The Bible has many instances of such answered prayer, but how many mothers today (or fathers) would seek the help of Jesus in the present age?  Parents can give children many goods, but can also give that which fewer parents do give, the teaching about Jesus.

 A lot of parents will be worried as they see their sons, and more so daughters, going away from home to Universities and Colleges in other places of learning and who will face much temptation.  If they are ever taught about religion it is more likely to be that of other nations rather than Christianity.

 All parents should be turning to God, and praying for their children who are facing alone an evil world. Pray for their protection and guidance, as there is such temptation produced on televised programmes to lead them to follow a course of life which will be disastrous for them.  Young people are not prone to speak or think religion, but parents can speak to God.

 This Gospel passage wants us to have faith.  Our hearts can so easily be turned off, and we may feel discouraged and that speaking to God is a waste of time, especially if we don’t get an immediate response that we expect. Remember that God is a Father to all His family, and just at times we earthly parents do not give what our family expect, because we know it is not in their best interest to do so.  God is responding in the same way, foreseeing what lies ahead.

 Remember this unknown woman who never gave in, and was rewarded. Resolve to follow her example, and trust God in His grace to answer you, even if not in the way you would have liked.


May God impress His Word on our hearts and may his Holy Name be glorified