Water into Wine

I want to bring out three ways Jesus brought blessing to a couple on their special day, three ways in which I believe he longs to bless each of us today also.

The Blessing Of Jesus’ Presence : (John 2:1-2)

Jesus and his disciples had been invited to a wedding. In Israel they do things properly.  The wedding reception lasts a week. Everything stops in the community and everyone joins in. When you think of Jesus what do you imagine His schedule looked like?    Can you imagine Jesus relaxed, laughing and enjoying himself at a wedding reception surrounded by people in festive mood, for a whole week?  No watch, no mobile phone, no emails, no post, no distractions, just a week of eating and drinking good food and wine celebrating the shared joy of a new marriage in the community. Can you? Continue reading

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What is Love?

Our reading today is from 1 Corinthians 13, the famous “love” chapter. This is probably the most widely read passage at weddings. True, it’s the most beautiful description there is in Scripture about love – yet the context of the passage is not about marriage. It is about serving one another and when you think about it, that is what marriage is really all about.
I’d like us to examine this passage under three headings:

The motive is Love (12:31-13:3)
The quality is Divine (13:4-8)
The purpose is maturity (13:9-13). Continue reading

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Who will help me?

A while back, 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. Continue reading

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Anger Encouragement

In preparing a recent sermon on Ephesians 4, I have been reflecting on the instruction, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,  and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Invariably ‘anger’ is seen as an unhealthy and destructive behaviour. I agree that anger can indeed be very destructive, especially if fuelled by alcohol or bitterness or malice. However, the implicit assumption of this verse is that followers of Jesus will get angry and that this is not necessarily wrong. John Stott, in his commentary on Ephesians, argues that we should actually get angry more often than we do. Continue reading

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Five Steps to Resolving Conflict

You either love it or hate it but The Office is one of the most successful TV comedy series of the 21stCentury. Called a ‘mockumentary’, it was filmed as a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary and set in the offices of Wernham Hogg, a paper merchant in Slough. Written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, The Office catapulted Gervais to stardom in 2001, winning two Golden Globes, one for his acting and one for the show itself. “The humour is very simple. It comes from observations about mundane office life, humour basically at the expense of all the different types of people working in the office.” (Jago Wynne). The characters are clearly stereotypes but if you have ever watched the programme I am sure you will have seen similarities with colleagues in real life. In fiction, it has all the ingredients necessary for an entertaining comedy series. In real life, it has all the ingredients for a perfect storm in your office, in your home, or indeed your church too.

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Feeling God’s Pleasure

In 1943, Li Airui found himself  imprisoned by the Japanese in the Weihsien internment camp in Shandong, Northern China. Li quickly emerged as a leader among the 1800 internees.
Life in the camp was hard, under a brutal regime. Some oil company executives, managed to bribe the guards into receiving extra rations and luxuries. Li shamed them into sharing these with the other prisoners.  Without the benefit of equipment or supplies, Li taught science to the children in a makeshift school. He led Bible studies, taught Sunday school and cared for the sick and elderly. Li organized games to promote fitness and boost morale. That is perhaps not surprising because Li was the first Chinese person ever to win a gold medal in the Olympics.

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The Final Frontier

I’ve been thinking a lot about my future recently. Maybe its because I ‘celebrated’ (if that is the right word) my 65th birthday at the weekend. I’ve come to the conclusion that the biggest divide  in the world in not between life and death but between our perceptions of life and death. The apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica writes, 

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

What is the simplest way of distinguishing those who have hope and those who do not? I believe it has to do with how we view death and loved one who have died. Do we refer to them in the past tense or in the present tense? Continue reading

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Jesus is the New Moses

Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, the feeding of the 5,000 is the only other miracle recorded by all four gospels. This suggests it has some significance. Not least because of the numbers who witnessed and, indeed, participated in it. Perhaps this is why the story is so well known today. Or is it? Lets test you. How many were fed that day? We are told by Mark that the number of men who had eaten was 5,000. What about the women and children?  A conservative estimate would actually put the figure closer to 10,000 or more. But there is more to this miracle than numbers. What was the context? What is the conundrum? What were the consequences? Lets begin with the context.

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Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories by Ahron Bregman: a Summary by Colin Chapman

‘This is the story of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula since its sweeping victory over the combined forces of its Jordanian, Syrian and Egyptian neighbours in the Six Day War of 1967… The story that follows is about the politics and practice of the Israeli occupation …’

 This summary of the main themes – with extended quotations – answers questions like these:

– Is Israel justified in arguing that it is not an ‘occupation’?

– How has Israel managed the occupation? What has it meant in practice for ordinary people?

– Why did Israel withdraw from Sinai (after Camp David 1999) and from Gaza (2005), but not from the West Bank or the Golan Heights?

– Is there any hope of the occupation coming to an end? Continue reading

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Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of US Arab Relations 1820-2001 by Ussama Makdisi. A Summary by Colin Chapman

A Summary by Colin Chapman

It’s impossible to understand the present American policies regarding Israel and the Middle East without understanding the previous history of US – Arab relations. Here is a book which explains what Americans (and especially American Christians) need to know about this history.It has three major themes:

  1. The attitude of Arabs towards the US in the 19thcentury was overwhelmingly positive

‘Christian and Muslim Arabs were able to draw a picture of the US as a benevolent great power that was neither imperialist nor covetous of the resources or lands of the Ottoman Empire.’ (3)

‘American missionaries, not soldiers, constituted the first face of America to Arabs …’ and they built up a ‘reservoir of good will.’ (3) Continue reading

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