If you have travelled abroad on holiday or for work, you will no doubt have observed a variety of places of worship. Synagogues, mosques, temples, shrines, churches, chapels, cathedrals. Some permanent, some temporary. Some very ancient, some modern. Some ornate and some very simple. And within them, if you have ventured inside, you might have seen Muslims prostrating, Shia’s lamenting, Buddhists meditating, Voodoos dancing, Shintos chanting, Hindus sacrificing, Zoroastrians lighting fires, Jews rocking, Sufis whirling, Shakers… shaking, Catholics kneeling, Mystics contemplating, Pentecostals slaying, and Anglicans doing everything, decently and in order. Colourful, vibrant, diverse. Worship is universal.
You are invited to discover what the Hebrew scriptures reveal concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Amazingly, every central character, every key event, every prophecy, every Feast and Festival reveals ever more brightly the person and work of the Messiah, God’s anointed Son. You will see conclusively that His coming was no accident but part of God’s redemptive plan, revealed from the very beginning and progressively through history and Scripture.
And if you would like to read the book that inspired the series, it is appropriately called Christ in All the Scriptures. Written by A. M. Hodgkin, and first published in 1909, it has rightly become a classic. You can also read the entire book digitally here.
Hodgkin observes, in his introduction “Abraham rejoiced to see My day.” ”Moses wrote of Me.” ”David called [Me] Lord.” (John 8:56; 5:46; Matthew 22:45). We have in these words of our Saviour abundant authority for seeking Him in the Old Testament … To those of us who believe in Christ as truly God, as well as truly Man, His word on these matters is authoritative.”
In the Gospels, Jesus refers to 20 Old Testament characters and quotes from 17 Old Testament books. In Genesis, for example, Jesus refers to creation, the institution of marriage, to Noah, Abraham, Lot, to Sodom and Gomorrah. From Exodus, Jesus speaks of Moses, the burning bush, the Mannah in the wilderness and the Ten Commandments. From Leviticus, the ceremonial and moral law. From Numbers, the bronze serpent. From Deuteronomy, the law of Moses. Then there are references to David, Solomon, Elijah and Zechariah. He confounds his critics not just by quoting Scripture but by identifying himself as the one the Scriptures are speaking about.
“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)
“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21).
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39).
Twelve years ago, when our son Michael was 11, we had a difficult decision to make. Which secondary school would we choose? We didn’t have a lot of choice. There was Magna Carta or… Magna Carta. And at the time it didn’t have the excellent reputation it has now. Louise was leaving Charters that Summer so we could not benefit from the sibling rule. We decided to apply for Magna Carta, Charters and Ranelagh. Not surprisingly we were turned down for Charters and Ranelagh as we lived outside the normal catchment area. Moving house was not an option. So we appealed – we had nothing to loose. We went to the appeals hearing at Ranelagh and discovered there were about 20-25 other families present. Having never done it before I didn’t know what to expect. Quite soon after the hearing began, the lady chairman asked the appeals panel, made up of several clergy, to retire to another room. I tried not to look at the other parents. I felt bad that we were competing with other families for a handful of places that might be granted on appeal. All would have good reasons for wanting to send their child to the school. After what seemed an age, the panel returned. The chairman made an announcement. The appeals had been upheld – all of them. The chairman closed the meeting.
I don’t know what your memories of school were like but I was bullied at school and as a consequence I have a low tolerance of bullying when I witness it – and intervening gets me into trouble sometimes. And having helped raise three lovely daughters, I have a low tolerance of discrimination against women as well. The Bible says we are created in the image and likeness of God. This means that it is sub-Christian to mistreat, abuse, or denigrate any person, irrespective of their race, colour, age, religion, or gender. When Christians are a minority, or society is volatile, there is great pressure on us to avoid offending other people. The temptation therefore is to soften or compromise the exclusive claims of the gospel. How can we avoid being offensive in witnessing for Jesus? How can we share our convictions with compassion? In our Gospel reading we observe Jesus doing so and showing us how.
Last week, in Luke 4, we learnt about Jesus’ manifesto.
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)
Today it seems uncertainty and agnosticism are more valuable than conviction and commitment. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. The suggestion that a particular faith is the only way to God is synonymous with narrow minded intolerance, fundamentalism or with religious extremism.
Sincerity and Truth
Many people think all religions lead to God because they assume that all religions are essentially the same when you reduce them to their core beliefs. They liken the religions to different paths up a mountain, believing that as we approach the summit we realise how much we have in common. But this just isn’t true and only shows they have not looked deeply enough at what the various religions teach. If you let each religion speak for itself, you find they differ greatly on the basic concepts-God, truth, reality, the basic human dilemma and the solution to that dilemma. They differ so much that many of their statements contradict one another. For example, God cannot be both personal, as Christians, Jews and Muslims believe, and impersonal, as Buddhists and Hindus believe. Jesus cannot be a false Messiah as Judaism teaches, a prophet as Islam teaches and the eternal Son of God as Christians believe. Those are contradictory statements. According to the rules of logic, contradictory statements cannot all be true. Therefore, all religions cannot possibly be true. It is a logical impossibility. And if they are not all true, and if they lead us in different directions, then not all of them can lead to God. The sincerity of followers is not in question. You can be sincere but sincerely wrong.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). What did he mean? I want to give a simple, personal reading of the teaching of Jesus the Christ and his Apostles on the Christian jihad and peacemaking. The most important point I will be making is that peacemaking is not primarily something we do, but rather something we are becoming. I have five headings.
1. The Nature of Christian Jihad.
2. The Extent of Christian Jihad.
3. The Strategy of Christian Jihad.
4. The Weapons of Christian Jihad.
5. The Purpose of Christian Jihad.
1. The Nature of Christian Jihad: “Against Spiritual Forces” Continue reading
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
As my body wears out and as I see more and more pain and suffering in our world, I long for that day. But how will God’s glorious vision of the future be realized? Our gospel reading tells us. Please turn with me to Luke 4. Observe:
The Messiah Preaching: God’s Spirit who leads
The Messiah Predicted: God’s Anointed has arrived
The Messiah Presented: God’s Timing is fulfilled Continue reading
Which ethnic community in the UK suffers the most abuse do you think? Nine out of 10 children from this community have suffered racial abuse, and two thirds have also been bullied or physically attacked and are scared to go to school. How do you feel about that? Which community are we talking about? Friday’s Guardian ran a report entitled, “It’s time to end ‘the last acceptable racism’ – against Gypsies and Travellers” How do you feel now you know? Shocked or not surprised?
Having been bullied at secondary school myself I have a low tolerance of bullying when I witness it – and intervening gets me into trouble sometimes. And having helped raise three lovely daughters, I have a low tolerance of discrimination against women as well. Our common imago dei – that is – that we are created in the image and likeness of God means that it is sub-Christian to mistreat, abuse, or denigrate any person, irrespective of their race, colour, age, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Let me repeat that.
That is why I am glad the final Communique of the Anglican Primates meeting in Canterbury last week, spoke compassionately about another group who suffer abuse.
“The Primates recognise that the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt. Where this has happened they express their profound sorrow and affirm again that God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression.”
Wheaton College is probably the best known Evangelical college in the USA. And last month, Larycia Hawkins who taught political science at Wheaton, became their best known professor. She had pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbours. But she was suspended after she wrote on Facebook, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.” “This statement is unbelievable,” tweeted Baptist blogger Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College in Louisville. “Really jaw-dropping.” Many others criticized Larycia. “A holy kiss to you who disavow the idea that Muslims & Christians worship the same God: I love you. Peace & respect,” Hawkins tweeted in response to her critics. She linked to her Facebook response, where she stated:
“Whether or not you find this position, one held for centuries by countless Christians (church fathers, saints, and regular Christian folk like me), to be valid, I trust that we can peacefully disagree on theological points and affirm others like the Triune God , the virgin birth and the Resurrection. Let there be unity in our diversity of views about all of the above.”
Wheaton have instituted dismissal proceedings against Larycia. Other Wheaton faculty have defended her.
The American Colony in East Jerusalem is probably my favourite hotel in the world even though I have yet to spend a night there. Built in the mid-19th Century, it has thick walls, cool stone floors and discrete, hospitable staff, who ensure it remains an oasis of calm and tranquility.
It began life as an orphanage. Horatio Spafford was a successful businessman in Chicago in the late 1860s, heavily invested in real estate along the shores of Lake Michigan. The disastrous Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out his assets. He helped rebuild the city and assisted many left homeless. In 1873 he arranged to take his family to Europe. Friends of D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey, they planned to attend their evangelistic meetings in England, then take a vacation. At the last minute, urgent business kept him home, so he sent his wife and four daughters ahead on the S.S. Ville du Havre, planning to soon follow. The night of November 22, 1873, the Ville du Havre, was struck by an iron sailing vessel, the Lochearn. The ship sank in 12 minutes. Of 273 people on board, only 47 survived. Mrs. Spafford was rescued, clinging to a piece of the wreckage. Their four daughters did not survive.
When she reached Cardiff, she cabled home, “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Grief-stricken, Horatio immediately started to Europe to join his wife. En route, the captain pointed out the place where he believed the Ville du Havre had gone down. Returning to his cabin, Horatio wrote in his diary, “It is well; the will of God be done.”
Today we return to our teaching series based on Mark’s Gospel. With the help of Mark Galli, we are discovering “Jesus, Mean and Wild”. John Ortberg says, “Mark writes of a Jesus that is unleashed, untamed, undomesticated, and unpredictable. I want to know this Jesus, though he scares me a little.” Please open your Bibles and turn with me to Mark 4:35-41. I’ve entitled this, “The sum of all fears”. First the context: Continue reading