“Follow me, Vicar, into the red zone… Life is too short, and my time left too precious…This is why I shall not be going to church any more. I’ve never been a fan of the baby Jesus, but now, as the summer of middle age begins to fade, I can no longer tolerate the interminable hymns and the dreary psalms and the saccharine lectures on peace and imperialism and recycling from beardy in the pulpit. In the past I could sit on my hands and bite my tongue and count the seconds, knowing that soon I’d be released into the fresh air. But today I just don’t have the time to waste and I’m filled with a sometimes uncontrollable urge to throttle the vicar, goose the organist and make a break for freedom through the vestry….Me? Well, since I believe you should live life and not spend half of it in church, preparing for death, I’d take the Mazda, warts, beeps and all, every time.”
That’s how Jeremy Clarkson introduced the new Mazda CX-7 in the Sunday Times recently. Although I’m already a fan of Mazdas, Jesus was right, when he said “you cannot serve both God and money” or in the case of Jeremy, “You cannot serve both God and cars.” I would love to have a one-to-one with Jeremy and find out whether, like many other people, he has been turned off Jesus by the caricature of Christianity he may have encountered.
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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
Three questions: The Beaufort scale measures…. wind speed. The Richter scale measures…. earthquakes. The Engels scale measures… faith. That’s right – faith. The Engel scale was developed by James F. Engel, as a way of representing the journey from no knowledge of God, through to spiritual maturity as a Christian believer.
Everyone in the world, and everyone who has ever lived, is somewhere on the Engel’s scale.The Engel’s scale is helpful in identifying where people are in their spiritual journey and how best to help lead them to Jesus Christ. Continue reading →
Did you watch the crime drama Maigret recently on TV? They were adapted from the novels by Georges Simenon and portrayed the French detective Jules Maigret. What made the new series stand out from previous ones, however, was the main character. The role of Mairget was played by Rowan Atkinson. I think Rowan portrayed Maigret very well indeed, but I kept expecting him to turn to the camera, open his eyes wide and grin like Mr Bean. That is the challenge for an actor portraying a serious role when he is associated with a very funny one. Rowan is in fact a very good hypocrite.
Frank Sinatra’s song, “I did it my way”, would have made a good epitaph on my early life. I was brought up in a Christian home, believed in God and we went to church on Sundays. I thought Jesus was a good man sent from God but Easter didn’t make sense. If only Jesus had not died, he could have done so much more good in the world. I had a Bible but it had small print and was written in old English so I rarely attempted to read it. When I left home and went to work in London for the Civil Service, I never got round to finding a church. I tried to live by the Ten Commandments and hoped that when I died, in the scales, my good would outweigh my bad. I remember praying on the way to work thanking God for the beauty of creation but he always seemed distant, like a sepia photo of my great-grandparent, we were related but I didn’t know them. Then I had the opportunity to go to University at Sussex. I met two people, Trent and Ed, who talked about Jesus as a personal friend. They explained that God loved me and created me to know and enjoy him for ever. They told me what I already know – that I fell short of God’s standards and although I may not be as bad as I could be, I could never be as good as I should be. My sin cut me off from God and because the wages of sin is death. The good news is that God sent his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die in our place, to forgive our sins and give us the gift of eternal life. They showed me that the Bible promised, if I trusted in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour I would experience God’s love and forgiveness.
When you think of ‘membership’ what comes to mind? It probably depends on how exclusive or expensive the membership is, or how badly we want it. There are arts societies, sport associations, health clubs, university alumni and professional bodies. The list of ‘memberships’ is endless, and your wallet is probably full of plastic to prove it. Some memberships are open to anyone who can pay the fee while others are exclusive and by ‘invitation only’. For many people, their membership provides a rich social life in which friendships and common interests can be pursued and shared. What may surprise you, however, is to discover that ‘membership’ is a Christian word. It appears in the Bible to describe how we become members of God’s family. The apostle Paul writes,
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)
The Book of Isaiah, written around 700 years before the coming of Jesus Christ, is quoted more times in the New Testament than any other book of the Hebrew Scriptures. Why is that? 754 of Isaiah’s 1292 verses are predicting the future. That means 59% of Isaiah is prophecy. Isaiah contains 11 direct prophecies concerning Jesus and it is cited or alluded to in at least 50 NT passages. Why? Why? Lets find out. With the eyes of faith we see Isaiah 53 so explicitly refers to the Lord Jesus it doesn’t need much by way of explanation. Indeed it became so obvious that Isaiah was referring to Jesus after he was crucified and rose again from the dead, that, as the Church separated from the Synagogue, Isaiah 53 was no longer read as part of the Jewish lectionary. There are five paragraphs, each of three verses, and it begins in chapter 52:13.
The Predicted Saviour: The Servant’s Role (52:13-15)
The Rejected Saviour: The Servant’s Life (53:1-3)
The Representative Saviour: The Servant’s Suffering (53:4-6)
The Crucified Saviour: The Servant’s Death (53:7-9)
The Glorious Saviour: The Servant’s Resurrection (53:10-12)
The Predicted Saviour: The Servant’s Role
“See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness—so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.” (Isaiah 52:13-15)