Category Archives: Bible

What Life is Really All About

Slide1‘This is the place of my song-dream, the place the music played to me,’ whispered the Rat, as if in a trance. ‘Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him!’ Then suddenly the Mole felt a great Awe fall upon him, an awe that turned his muscles to water, bowed his head, and rooted his feet to the ground. It was no panic terror— indeed he felt wonderfully at peace and happy— but it was an awe that smote and held him and, without seeing, he knew it could only mean that some august Presence was very, very near. With difficulty he turned to look for his friend. and saw him at his side cowed, stricken, and trembling violently. And still there was utter silence in the populous bird-haunted branches around them; and still the light grew and grew.

Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows is one of my favourite children’s stories. Rat and Mole’s encounter with the Piper at the Gates of Dawn sums up what happens when we recognise the Almighty God as our Creator, as our Shepherd and Lord.

During the Summer we have been exploring Ecclesiastes together. Solomon has encouraged us to identify with those whose world view is secular, whether of an atheist or agnostic. Solomon describes their world view 27x as “under the sun.”

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Contentment and Where to Find it

lord-of-the-rings-ring-wallpaper-3Hugh Grosvenor, aged 25, became the most eligible bachelor in the country this week. That is because, on the death of his father, the Duke of Westminster, Hugh inherited a fortune estimated by Forbes to be worth £9 billion. This makes the young Hugh, the third wealthiest landowner in Britain and the 68th wealthiest person in the world. His estate includes 190 acres in Belgravia and thousands of acres in Scotland and Spain. Contented? Wouldn’t you be? 
What price contentment? A fraction of £9 billion you might think.

Well think again. Although the word doesn’t actually appear in our passage this morning, the theme of Ecclesiastes 5 is contentment. In verses 5:8-17, the Lord looks at the world and observes how we buy into a number of myths about money. In verse 17, we are reminded of the consequences: “All their days they eat in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.” (Ecclesiastes 5:17).

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Christ the Controversialist: Bringing Division Not Peace

img_FireForGodWhat is your image of Jesus? Where does it come from? Is it the Jesus ‘meek and mild’ of childhood Sunday school? If you read Luke’s gospels from beginning to end in one go, it will take you less than an hour. But you will discover something very profound. Following Jesus in the First Century, any more than now, was not for the faint hearted. It was an uncomfortable, unsettling and hazardous experience. Mark Galli, in his book, Jesus Mean and Wild, observes,

“Nearly everywhere we turn, in the gospel of Mark … we find a Jesus who storms in and out of people’s lives, making implicit or explicit demands and, in general, making people feel mighty uncomfortable.” For example, Jesus “sternly charges” or “strictly orders” people he heals (Mark 1:43; 3:12; 5:43; 8:30); he looks upon religious leaders with “anger” and “grief” (Mark 3:5). He destroys a herd of swine while showing no regret, providing no compensation to the owner (Mark 5:1-20); He overturns the money tables in the Temple in a moment of rage (Mark 11:15-17); He rebukes Peter as demonic (Mark 8:33). He is “indignant” with the disciples (Mark 10:13-14). He says the Sadducees are biblically and spiritually ignorant (Mark 12:24), He describes his entire generation as “faithless” (Mark 9:19). Jesus makes it clear that following him will entail suffering and death (Mark 9:35-37, 43-50). On one occasion, his ‘gospel appeal’ to the crowds included this promise, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8: 34-35).”

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Satisfaction and where to find it

landscape-1431447892-rollingstonessatisfaction“I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no

When I’m ridin’ in my car
And that man comes on the radio
And he’s tellin’ me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination

I can’t get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say
I can’t get no, I can’t get no
I can’t get no satisfaction
No satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction.”

There are other lyrics but I thought I’d spare you. I think you get the point. “Can’t get no satisfaction” became a hit, way back in 1965, for the Rolling Stones. Co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it makes a perfect title for the Book of Ecclesiastes. Aged 72, Mick Jagger appeared in the news again this week, still it seems, seeking satisfaction. He is not alone. I am sure we’ve all had plenty of first hand experience that confirms that satisfaction is temporary.

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Humility: The Prerequisite for Service

Humility-CS-Lewis1I have a confession to make. I am a junky. I have a serious addiction problem. I have had it since childhood.  I have not talked about it before. Today I am coming clean.  It has nothing to do with chemical dependency or substance abuse.

But there are no “twelve-step” therapy groups or treatment centres to help me fight it.  Many people are addicted and don’t even know they are. At least I do. And now you do too.

Do you feel any less of me? Because what you think matters to me. And that’s the problem.  Do you know what it is called? “Approval addiction”. It is living in bondage to what other people think about you. When your identity is wrapped up in whether you are perceived to be successful, likable, or acceptable, you are predisposed to this addiction also. Then you too are an approval addict.  John Ortberg says, “no matter how much of this drug you get, you can never have enough. Just like all other junkies, you need more and more.” Henri Nouwen put it like this, “Who am I? I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated or despised.” In other words, I am what other people think I am. If being busy is important , then I must be seen to be busy.  If having money is a sign of success, then I will invest my life in making as much as I can and flaunting it.

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Generosity: The Cost of Service

generosity-3One day, a rich dad took his son on a trip to a village. He wanted to show him how poor somebody could be. They spent the day on the farm of a poor family. At the end of the day, the dad asked, “Did you see how poor they are? What did you learn?”  The son replied, “We have a dog, they have four. We have a swimming pool, they have a river. We have lanterns at night, they have stars. We buy our food, they grow theirs. We have mobile phones, they have friends. We have computers, they have the Bible. As they headed back, the son said, “Thanks, dad, for showing me how poor we actually are.” In our sermon series on serving our theme is generosity. From 2 Corinthians 8, we are going to see that:

Christian giving is an expression of the grace of God (2 Cor. 8:1-7)
Christian giving is inspired by the cross of Christ. (2 Cor. 8:8-9)
Christian giving reflects our unity in the Spirit (2 Cor. 8:10-15) Continue reading

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The Redemption of Shaun the Sheep

27353142392_d90a94c736_kThis is the story of Shaun the sheep. Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost.  He lives with his friends and is a happy sheep. His master loves him and cares for him and provides everything he needs.  But Shaun is always wandering off and get lost. His master calls him, searches for him and eventually finds him. He brings him home rejoicing.

Shaun loves to play in the garden on the swings and slide. He loves climbing trees. But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. His master calls him and searches for him. He eventually finds Shaun and brings him home rejoicing.

Shaun loves to help out in the church. In the office and the kitchen. Making tea and coffee and washing up. He loves making music and playing with computers and distracting the staff.
But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. His master calls him and searches for him. He eventually finds Shaun and brings him home rejoicing.

27418107446_b3822b11a8_kShaun’s favourite place is the Sunday Clubs. He loves playing in the crèche with the toys and reading Bible stories. But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep. He is always wandering off and getting lost. His master calls him and searches for him. He eventually finds Shaun and brings him home rejoicing.

Shaun loves to be in the Church and help with the flowers and straighten the chairs. But Shaun is a short-sighted sheep.  He is always wandering off and getting lost. Then one day Shaun gets really lost and is put in the lost property box. Oh dear. His master calls him and searches for him but cannot find him. His master is very, very sad. So his master leaves his other 99 sheep and goes in search of Shaun. He searches very high and very low.

26842992114_f219d85182_k Eventually he finds Shaun, sitting in a charity shop window. He looks very sad and lonely. His master goes into the shop and gladly pays the price to buy Shaun back. His master is so happy to find Shaun. He brings him home rejoicing. And that’s the story of Shaun the sheep.

Shaun the short sighted sheep. He was lost and found. He was redeemed.  His master paid to get him back. That is what ‘redeem’ means – to pay for something you really want back. The Bible says we are like Shaun the sheep. Sooner or later we all get lost and lose our way because we are short-sighted.

The Bible says, “we all like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). God says, “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (Isaiah 59:2). We are all like lost sheep. Like King David, we need to admit, “I have strayed like a lost sheep” (Psalm 119:176). But we don’t have to stay lost for ever. The good news is Jesus came to rescue us.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

27418140486_492cd9c492_k We are all like Shaun. Whether you know you are lost or just not sure. Jesus promises today:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

If we listen to Jesus voice and follow him, we will never be lost again. Instead we will be able to say like King David, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23:1)

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Jesus speaks to us as we read the Bible and we respond to his leading in prayer. He wants us to stay close to him, so that we will never get lost again.  Can you say “The Lord is my shepherd”?

To remind you of this story, I have a book mark to help you memorise these verses and make them your own so you can help others who may be lost find a place in Jesus flock.

Let’s say a prayer to thank Jesus for being our Good Shepherd.

Thank you Lord Jesus for loving us and being our Good Shepherd. Thank you for coming to find us and rescue us because we were lost. Thank you for giving your life to redeem us, and buy us back. Help us to stay close to you in your flock. Help us to listen to you as we read the Bible. Please make us eager to follow you and do what is good and right. In Jesus name.

View the photos of the story here

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Glory – The Value of Service by the Revd Dr Simon Vibert

A sermon on 2 Corinthians 4 preached by the Revd Dr Simon Vibert, Vice Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford at Christ Church, Virginia Water.

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Lord, Teach us to Pray

TEACH-US-TO-PRAY-BANNER-2-REVLast week, Archbishop Justin Welby called upon every Anglican church to join in prayer for our country. Imagine if the call had instead come from our Prime Minister or Parliament? Imagine our government urging us to pray about membership of the European Union. Hard to imagine? In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma is officiating today at the National Day of Prayer at Absa Stadium in Durban. The prayers will be for, amongst other things, successful and peaceful 2016 Local Government Elections as well as for the further consolidation of democracy. Leaders of religious and civil society are joining the government in praying also for national unity, social cohesion as well as for rain and the promotion of water conservation under the persistent drought conditions. Lord teach us to pray like that.  Please turn with me to Luke 11 and let us learn from Jesus about the importance of prayer (11:1-2), the content of prayer (11:3-4), the practice of prayer (11:5-8) and the assurance of prayer (11:9-13). We are looking for answers to four questions – when we should pray, what we should pray, how we should pray and why.

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How to Pray:  Ephesians 1:3-23

121056_egypt-dahab-st-catherines-monastery-1024x685172 years ago this month, a young biblical scholar found himself in St Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai.  Constanin Von Tischendorf wrote in his diary,

“In visiting the library of the monastery, in the month of May, 1844, I perceived in the middle of the great hall a large and wide basket full of old parchments; and the librarian, who was a man of information, told me that two heaps of papers like these, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames. What was my surprise to find amid this heap of papers a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to me to be one of the most ancient that I had ever seen. The authorities of the convent allowed me to possess myself of a third of these parchments, or about forty-three sheets, all the more readily as they were destined for the fire. But I could not get them to yield up possession of the remainder. The too lively satisfaction which I had displayed had aroused their suspicions as to the value of this manuscript. I transcribed a page of the text of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and enjoined on the monks to take religious care of all such remains which might fall in their way. On my return to Saxony there were men of learning who at once appreciated the value of the treasure which I brought back with me. I did not divulge the name of the place where I had found it, in the hopes of returning and recovering the rest of the manuscript. I handed over to the Saxon Government my rich collection of Oriental manuscripts in return for the payment of all my travelling expenses. I deposited in the library of the University of Leipzig, in shape of a collection, which bears my name, fifty manuscripts, some of which are very rare and interesting. I did the same with the Sinaitic fragments, to which I gave the name of Codex Frederick Augustus, in acknowledgment of the patronage given to me by the King of Saxony.”

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