Tag Archives: bible exposition

Great Expectations: Jesus on High Demand Religion (Mark 8)

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 in Egham or… Magna Carta.  And at the time it didn’t have the excellent reputation it has now. Our daughter Louise was leaving Charters school in Sunningdale that Summer so we could not benefit from the sibling rule. We decided to apply for Magna Carta, Charters and Ranelagh in Bracknell. Not surprisingly we were turned down for Charters and Ranelagh as we lived outside their 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 also appealing. 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. We were stunned. What had happened?

Continue reading

How to Become a Contagious Christian (1 Peter 3)

I got a surprise call from the BBC recently. “Did I have a spirit of adventure? Could I think on my feet and cope without home comforts? Did I like a challenge? Was I willing to appear on their programme ‘Bare Necessities’? Two teams compete against each other to see who can survive in a remote location somewhere in the world for a week with only the bare essentials provided. Was I willing to join a team of three vicars competing against three bookmakers? Naturally. With God on our side it would be no contest. Could I participate at short notice? Did I have a passport? Could I go anywhere in the world? For an audience of 2 million, when do we start? Did I have any phobias? Real men don’t have phobias – at least we don’t admit them to strangers. Would I be prepared to eat anything? Yes with my eyes closed. Could I work in a team made up of strangers? Try me. The last question – Did I have one wish? ‘To see heaven on earth’ I heard myself say. The interview lasted half an hour. It felt a cert. I was in. They loved me. The delightful programme co-ordinator assured me she would come back to me in a few days. I put the phone down and began to prepare myself. 

Continue reading

Jesus Mean and Wild: Three Mission Priorities (Mark 1:29-39)

The last time I was in China, I visited the grave of one of my hero’s. Robert Morrison’s mortal remains lie in a small churchyard in Macau, just across the Pearl River from Hong Kong. Robert grew up in an austere Scottish Presbyterian home. When he told his parents he wanted to become a missionary, they were distraught. His mother insisted young Robert promise that he would not go abroad while she was still alive. Robert obeyed and waited till she had died before beginning theological studies at the Gosport Academy. The London Missionary Society accepted Robert in 1805. He then continued his studies in medicine, astronomy, and Chinese. When his father fell seriously ill, his brother and sisters pleaded with him to return. He loved his father, but wrote this letter,

“Honoured father, brother, and sisters… the account of my father’s leg growing worse and worse concerns me; but what can I do? I look to my God and my father’s God… You advise me to return home. I thank you for your good intentions; may the Lord bless you for them. But I have no inclination to do so; having set my hand to the plough, I would not look back. It hath pleased the Lord to prosper me so far, and grant me favour in the eyes of this people”. 

Continue reading

Palestine Moments of Truth: Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok

A presentation entitled “A Christian Critique of Israeli Apartheid” delivered at the ‘Palestine: Moments of Truth‘ international conference on Palestine arranged by the Muslim Study Center, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand, together with the Council for Humanitarian Network of Sheikhul Islam Office of Thailand on 30 January 2024.

A Christian Critique of Israeli Apartheid in Palestine

On 28 August 1963 Martin Luther King, co-led a civil-rights march of 250,000 people in Washington DC against racism and segregation. In what has become probably the most well-known and widely quoted speech in history, 

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by their character. When we let freedom ring, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”[1]

Continue reading

Holy War in Palestine (Mark 1:21-28)

On June 6th, 1944, a huge amphibious and airborne force landed on the coast of Northern France intent on reversing the tide of the Second World War. The meticulously planned operation included waves of beach assaults, naval bombardments, air strikes and parachute drops – all on a scale never seen before. Code-named “D-Day,” the invasion saw the beginning of the end of the Nazi occupation of Europe. D-Day has been re-enacted in at least five major films.  I am sure you will have seen at least one of them.

Where Eagles Dare focuses on a group of commandos sent high into the Alps on a daring mission to rescue a captured American officer before he divulges D-Day plans. The Big Red One is a more factual account. The film title refers to the US Army 1st Infantry Division, who wore the insignia of a red ‘one’ as they landed on Omaha Beach on June 6th. Director, Samuel Fuller actually served with the Big Red One in real life, earning the Silver Star on D-Day. Perhaps the definitive film about D-Day, shot in black & white, was appropriately entitled, The Longest Day. The film encompasses the American, British, French as well as the German perspective, as D-Day unfolds. The ten-part Band of Brothers is a more recent visually stunning and accurate portrayal of the 101st Airborne Division’s role in WW2. These US paratroopers were one of the first Allied units to go into battle on D-Day, and the series captures their war with gritty realism. But probably the most iconic portrayal of D-Day takes centre-stage in the gripping war film, Saving Private Ryan.  The film is considered one of the greatest as well as most controversial war films of all time. Its half hour depiction of the bloody fighting on Omaha Beach is both vivid and terrifying. Apparently psychiatrists treating veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Vietnam and Iraq wars, advised them not to watch the film.[1] If you have seen it you will understand why. It’s the kind of film you probably won’t want to watch twice.

However terrifying, the reality of D Day June 6th, 1944 was, by comparison with our subject today, only a minor skirmish in a global war against evil that has raged since before the creation of the world. 

Continue reading

Seven Biblical Answers Refuting Popular Zionist Assumptions

A simple four page demolition of Christian Zionism based on my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers. Now available in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, Chinese Simplified, Dutch, English, German & Korean. Also available as Seven Bible Studies for personal and group discussion.

In this seminar we will refute seven of the most common assumptions made by Christian Zionists about the relationship between Israel and the Church. We will examine each in the light of what the Bible actually says. These common assumptions are like a balloon of hot air. How many pins do you need to burst a balloon? I will give you seven. Any one is enough to burst the balloon.

The Radical Call of Jesus (Mark 1:16-20)

Imagine. Imagine a church that is a welcoming and safe place where everyone feels loved, accepted and cared for. Imagine a church where doubters, seekers and believers feel welcome. Imagine a church of every age, race and colour, becoming one in Christ. Imagine a church of fully devoted, spiritual, Christ followers, passionate for an ever-deeper relationship with God. Imagine a church where the praise, worship and teaching are truly pleasing to God. Imagine uplifting services where the Bible teaching builds up the church family and equips members to live for Christ. Imagine a church impacting the lives of children, youth and students from all areas of the local community to become fully devoted followers of Christ. Imagine a church where everyone is fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, exercising their God-given gifts in joyful and fulfilling service. Imagine a church family informed, inspired and eager to meet the needs of local, national and international mission. Imagine a church in which members are regularly being called into ministry, locally, nationally and internationally. Imagine being part of such a church. Imagine helping to build, to create such a church. Imagine. 

In my former parish of Virginia Water, our Vision was built on three words that summed up our purpose – Win – Build – Send. Evangelism, Discipleship and Mission. In our Bible reading from Mark 1, at the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus said, “Come, follow me … and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mark 1:17). Here the order is Build – Send – Win. That is because this is a cyclical mission strategy and so it doesn’t matter where we begin. And similarly where you are on your spiritual journey, there is a message here for you. Today we will discover the origins of the Christian ministry strategy. Evaluate your church or mission agency against that of Jesus.

Continue reading

Christ in the Rubble: A Liturgy of Lament

The Revd Dr Munther Isaac, is the vicar of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. Munther delivered a prophetic message during the Christ in the Rubble Liturgy of Lament service today. It was a powerful message challenging Western Churches to demonstrate solidarity with the suffering church in Palestine and repudiate the genocide occurring in Gaza, because silence is complicity.

View the video here
Read Munther’s text below:

Christ in the Rubble
A Liturgy of Lament

“We are angry…
We are broken…
This should have been a time of joy; instead, we are mourning. We are fearful.

20,000 killed. Thousands under the rubble still. Close to 9,000 children killed in the most brutal ways. Day after day after day. 1.9 million displaced! Hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed. Gaza as we know it no longer exists. This is an annihilation. A genocide.

The world is watching; Churches are watching. Gazans are sending live images of their own execution. Maybe the world cares? But it goes on…

Continue reading

I am the Lord’s Servant: Luke 1

Remember the last time you filled out a job application? You listed your education, your skills, your work experience. Then you hit the final question: “What is it that makes you uniquely qualified for this position?” How do you answer without appearing arrogant? And when I am asked to give a reference for someone, the question I stumble over is “What are the applicant’s weaknesses? Employers assume your availability, but what they really want to know about is your liabilities. Most employers hire on the basis of competence. They look at your skill set and maybe your personality type. Only the enlightened ones care much about your character.  But God doesn’t operate this way. In today’s reading from Luke, we learn what it means to say “I am the Lord’s servant comma”

1. No matter who you are, the Lord can use you 

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26-27)

Mary teaches us God is not as interested as your abilities as He is in your availability. No matter who you are, God can use you. Luke describes an ordinary girl with some serious liabilities: 

Continue reading

Jesus of Palestine: Gulf Cultural Club Christmas Seminar

Jesus of Palestine: A Christmas presentation given at the Gulf Cultural Club, Abrar House, London

The Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem are commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ differently this year. They have created a nativity scene resembling the situation in Gaza amid Israel’s brutal onslaught. The nativity scene shows a baby wrapped in the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh and placed in debris and rubble. While the keffiyeh symbolises Palestinian identity, history, and struggle, the debris represents destruction in Gaza, where at least 20,000 people have already been killed by Israel’s indiscriminate war, and thousands more are missing under the rubble, most of them children and women. The baby Jesus represents the thousands of children buried beneath the rubble in Gaza. The vicar of the Nativity Church, the Revd Dr Munther Isaac, said: “If Jesus were born today, he would be born in Gaza under the rubble.” The municipalities and churches in Bethlehem and Ramallah have announced that Christmas celebrations have been cancelled in the occupied West Bank in solidarity with Gaza, calling on parishes instead to collect donations to help the victims.[1]

As we reflect on Christmas at the Gulf Cultural Club, we have been asked to consider two questions this evening.  First, how would Jesus deal with the current situation in Palestine? Second, how can peace be promoted today? The hope is that this seminar will contribute to the promotion of justice and peace as we mark the festive season linked to Jesus and Mary. Let’s consider these two questions one at a time. 

Continue reading