Zion’s Christian Soldiers in Arabic

photoThe Episcopal Publishing House in Cairo has just published my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers in Arabic. Copies will be available soon.

Call the EPH for more details (+20-20 5792018)

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Where does my help come from? Psalm 121

10325210_10152177845962893_7563485204009088956_nTwo weeks ago, I woke from a brief Sunday afternoon powernap to find a black spot on my arm. I thought it was a piece of mud, but it would not come off. When I looked closely I realised it had legs and was moving. Alone in the house and unable to remove the tick sucking my blood, I did what any man would do, I drove to St Peter’s A&E. As I was driving I kept watching the tick closely to see if it was burrowing its way into my arm. I imagined it disappearing into my bloodstream, like something from the film Alien.

Sitting for two hours in casualty did not improve my peace of mind. The nurse who saw me admitted having removed several from herself in the past, but only managed to pull the body off leaving the head inside my arm. She called a doctor who, with the aid of a magnifying glass and scalpel, performed microsurgery, removed the head, cleaned the wound, insisted in showing me there was nothing left in my arm and prescribed a heavy dose of antibiotics.

Back home, an Internet search for the symptoms of Lyme Disease did not improve my state of mind. Apparently these little creatures feed off foxes, deer, dogs and the disease they carry can attack your brain, heart and other vital organs.

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Micah and Jesus the King

This weekend our thoughts and prayers have been with the relatives of the passengers of the Malaysian Airline flight shot down over the Ukraine. A similar number of civilians have been killed by Israeli shelling in Gaza this week but they wont receive the same level of media coverage. We wont see their photos or learn their names. There wont be interviews with their grieving relatives because they are not Europeans.

Ten years ago Garth Hewitt and I were on a concert tour of churches in Israel and the Occupied Territories. While he stayed in Jerusalem on Sunday, I traveled to Gaza to preach at the Anglican church meeting in the home of a dentist. It was very tense even then, and on the Monday we decided a short break would be good. I offered to show Garth the beautiful scenery of the Golan Heights. It was February, and by mid afternoon the light was fading as I drove a borrowed church minibus up the winding road past Mount Hermon and into the snowy slopes of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Above the snow line we encountered a group of young Israeli army conscripts on a training exercise. They were cold, wet and tired and wanted a lift. We nervously ignored them and carried on driving up into the darkness.

Micah and Jesus from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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Jonah and Jesus

There are two ways to learn a lesson – the hard way and the easy way. The hard way is when we have to learn the lesson ourselves. Better to learn from someone else without having to repeat it. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)

That is the reason, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus gave the disciples the most amazing Bible study of all time: “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself… Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:25-27; 44-45)

That is why this summer we are concluding our sermon series – “Christ in all the Scriptures” in the Minor Prophets. Over the past year or so, we have been reading each book of the Old Testament to see “what is said in all the Scriptures” concerning the Lord Jesus.

Jonah and Jesus from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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David, Goliath and Jesus

Did you know that Jesus is mentioned in every book of the Bible? God’s rescue mission did not begin in Bethlehem or even at Calvary, but way back in the Garden of Eden. On Sunday mornings in July and August, the adults are going to discover that Jesus is mentioned by each of the Old Testament Prophets. They have already discovered the Lord Jesus in the story of Abraham and Isaac, in the Passover Lamb; in the Bronze Snake; When Joshua meets the Commander of the Lord’s army and many, many, more! Jesus is mentioned in every book of the Old Testament. Today we come to the story of David and Goliath. They were very different weren’t they?

Goliath was Tall but David was… [small]
Goliath was an adult but David was a….. [boy]
Goliath was a soldier but David was a…. [shepherd]
Goliath wore armour but David had [the Bible]
Goliath boasted but David… [trusted]
Goliath was rude but David was….. [honest]

Why was David able to defeat Goliath? Who trained David as a young boy to shepherd his people by practising on sheep? (17:14). Who gave David the courage to fight a bear and a lion to defend his sheep? (17:36). Who taught David to be an ace shot with a sling and a stone? (17:49). (Don’t try that at home children). Who prompted David to challenge his enemy when he defied God? (17:47). Who inspired David to write about a descendant who would become his Lord? (Psalm 110:1-2). From when he was a young boy David trusted in God.

“The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (17:37).

That is why David was confident God would protect him even though Goliath was much taller and bigger and stronger than he was (17:45-47).

Goliath had defied God. David would help everyone see that God cannot be mocked. David’s victory saved his entire people from slavery, even though:

His family disowned him
“Eliab, David’s oldest brother… burned with anger, “Why have you come down here? … I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.” (17:28)

The leaders used him
“Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armour on him and a bronze helmet on his head.” (17:38)

 His enemy tried to kill him
“The Philistine cursed David… Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” (17:43-44)

His God vindicated him
“So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.” (17:50)

His followers sang about him
“When the men were returning home, the women came out… danced and sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (18:6-7)

The people loved and followed him
“But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns.” (18:16)

What can we discover about Jesus from his great, great, great, great grandfather David? Jesus is called the Son of David 17 times in the New Testament.  Do you see the similarities between David and Jesus? Jesus was both the Son of David and the Lord of David. Like David, Jesus family disowned him. The leaders used him. His enemy did kill him. But God raised him. And today his followers sing about him. They love him and follow him. Like David, Jesus has rescued us from slavery to our enemy.  He defeated Satan on the cross.

You may be small. You may be young. You may feel afraid, but like David, you are never too young to trust Jesus.

He will be your friend and always love you.
He will be your Saviour and always protect you.
He will be your Lord and always be with you.

 

Image from the Brick Bible

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Beware False Teachers

Beware False Teachers (2 Peter 2:1-12) from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Twenty years ago this Summer, the Church in England was gripped with speculation about revival. John Arnott, the pastor of Toronto Vineyard church, was apparently searching for “a fresh spiritual anointing” and attended a meeting led by Benny Hinn, a neo-Pentecostal “Faith teacher”. Benny Hinn’s particular emphasis is upon a powerful “anointing” he is able to bestow simply by blowing on people. Arnott and Hinn had known each other for many years in Toronto and at that time Arnott had “longed for a similar kind of empowerment” as Hinn demonstrated. A year later, Arnott was also attracted to the “holy laughter” ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne. Randy Clark, another key figure in the Airport Vineyard Renewal apparently received his anointing through Rodney Howard-Browne at Kenneth Hagin’s “Rhema” church. The unusual manifestations which occurred in Toronto, occurred after a visit by Rodney Howard-Browne. Subsequently, the manifestations of hysterical laughter, growling, shaking, and falling associated with Howard-Browne and Hinn’s ministry were experienced by others who visited Toronto from around the world including the UK. Advocates of the Toronto Blessing implied, or explicitly stated at the time, that they believed this to be evidence of revival. Speaking at a Wembley meeting with Rodney Howard-Browne on 13th December 1994, Gerald Coates testified, “This is perhaps the greatest outpouring of God in our land ever.” Evangelicals Now, (February 1995, p.9).

Now it is important to note that the noun “revival” does not actually appear in the Bible. The verbs “revive” and “reviving” are used, in the Old Testament, to describe the action of God following his punishment, and His people’s repentance (Psalm 80:18; 85:6, Isaiah 57:15; Hosea 6:2). In Psalm 19:7 it is associated with the Law of God and in many verses in Psalm 119 with meditating on the Word of God.

As the manifestations of hysterical laughter, animal noises and uncontrollable shaking were causing a good deal of controversy and division, in December 1994, I was asked to debate with Sandy Millar and Nicky Gumbal before the Church of England Evangelical Council on the significance of the “Toronto Blessing”.

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Jesus on Children

Luke 18:15-17: Membership: To Care that Children are Nurtured in the Faith

Tom, aged 5, opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out. He picked up an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages. “Mum, look what I found,” he called out. “What have you got there, dear?” With astonishment he answered, “I think it’s Adam’s underwear!”

Mandy aged 5 was watching her parents dress for a party. When she saw her dad donning his tuxedo, she warned, “Daddy, you shouldn’t wear that suit.” “And why not, darling?” “You know that it always gives you a headache the next morning.”

Zachary, aged 4, came screaming out of the bathroom to tell his mother he’d dropped his toothbrush in the toilet. So she fished it out and threw it in the garbage. Zachary stood there thinking for a moment, then ran to the bathroom and came out with her toothbrushtoo. He held it up and smiled, “We better throw this one away too then, because it fell in the toilet a few days ago.”

We have come to the final and perhaps most important affirmation in our Church Membership statement, “To Care that Children are Nurtured in the Faith.” Written in the 1950’s, The Short Guide to the Duties of Church Membership was intended to provide a summary of what is expected of church members. Our Creeds tell us what we should believe. Our membership pledge describes how we should behave. Once a year at Easter, we individually and collectively renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and to one another for the year ahead by reaffirming these disciplines or pledges. Since Easter we have been considering them one by one in our sermon series. I invite you to keep a copy in your Bible, take them seriously, and review them periodically to help you grow to maturity. Please turn with me to Luke 18:15-17 and let us allow Jesus to teach us about the place of children in his church. Observe three things:

To parents, children are a precious gift
To the disciples, children were a pain in the neck
To Jesus, children are a perfect model

The Nurture of Children from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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Jesus on Marriage

marriagedifficultyThe secret to newlywed bliss? Irrational optimism about your spouse. If marriage is about compromise, as they say, then happy marriage is about self-delusion. So found scientists at the University of Buffalo, who followed 222 newlyweds through their first three years together. The ones who went into marriage idealizing their partners ended up happier together than those who went in with clearer eyes. …

The study is published in the April issue of Psychological Science, Dr. Sandra Murray, a professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York recruited 222 couples as they applied for their marriage licenses in Buffalo, N.Y. They were, on average, about 27 years old, with family incomes of about $40,000 to $70,000 a year. One hundred and ninety three couples “finished at least three of the seven waves of evaluation, she said. (Eleven separated or divorced.) Participants completed surveys about themselves, their partners and their marriages every six months for three years.”

“The couples who initially idealized their partner extremely, experienced no declines in satisfaction in their partner. As long as both spouses have a positive attitude about their partner, they have likely to have a successful marriage and be very happy together.” (Source: Contracept.org)

Is there an alternative to irrational optimism and rational cynicism in relationships? I believe there is. In our series on the privileges of church membership the last sentence reads:

“To uphold the standard of marriage entrusted by Christ to his Church and to care that children are brought up to love and serve the Lord.”

Jesus on Marriage from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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The Bible on the Bible

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2
“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

“With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” (Psalm 119:10)

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

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Richard Bewes on the Mission Shaped Church

The Mission Shaped Church from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

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