Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 – 7 is commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a description of the personal character as well as the public commitment required of every believer if we are to see the Kingdom of God expressed through the church.
Given our human tendency to rank, list or otherwise take sideways glances at other people, Jesus reminds us that it is not our place to judge the spiritual condition of anyone else apart from ourselves. Whilst it is important to be able to recognise the difference between right and wrong and to act accordingly, that doesn’t mean that we should inflict our perspective onto or into the lives of others.
It’s a matter of being wise, sensitive and realistic – and of being able to deal with our own “issues” before we presume to address the more minor concerns of everyone else.
Things have come to a pretty pass when a man's religion begins to interfere with his private life(*).
Is it really possible to claim to believe in God yet behave in such a way as to suggest that your goals are really only set at meeting your own needs? Is God really concerned at what we bring into doing “church” as well as what we take away from it?
Contemporary concerns mirror OT history. In settled times it’s easy to drift if you are not one of the pioneers of a new life. The drift doesn’t have to be a quantum leap but is as easy as ABC – abandoning, blending, confusing. The big question is how this move might be addressed. and who will lead us through it.
(* Lord Melbourne, UK Prime Minister the time of Victoria’s accession as Queen of England)
Does it matter what we do? Can those things we put real effort and substantial resources into save our souls? What should be top of the priorities – who we believe or how we express our faith?
Without dismissing the nature or the importance of the law, Paul makes it clear that only faith saves but a holy life (works) is the fruit of a life committed to God. In other words, works represent faith being the fruit of our belief, they do not produce it.
The evidence Paul presents is indisputable: he has history on his side (Abraham and God’s Covenant), as well the immediacy of the readers’ own experiences and faith stories. Above all, it is Christ’s work on the cross which frees us from the condemning of the law, whilst at the same time bringing us total freedom to live as God’s children.
The walls may be built and the doors in place but the work doesn’t finish when one job is complete. A rebuilt city is little use without a reconstructed nation.
Here, as elsewhere, the example has to begin at the top if God’s vision is to be fully realised. Nehemiah’s choice for two key posts isn’t simply a matter of administration – it reflects the ability of the individuals concerned as well as their character. It’s an approach we’d to well to follow in contemporary public life: what kind of people do we trust to lead us?
Churches are places of harmony, acceptance and unity.
That may be God’s intention but it isn’t always what we find in real life. The smallest of issues can generate the widest of divisions , where “discussion” brings more heat than light to the table. It’s very easy to draw lines and erect barricades when that happens, rather than finding common ground on the things that really matter (there’s a big clue there).
The early church was far from immune to such problems. Human nature being what it is, some people found it hard to accept that they had to change (Acts 14); others thought that any practical changes to expected behaviour would be watering down the faith (Galatians 1).
It was serious stuff – did God want the gospel to go to all nations and was circumcision so important? Tune in today to two messages which develop the theme of freedom in Christ bringing harmony to the church.
You can throw seeds down on any old patch or earth but you can’t expect them to grow unless the conditions are absolutely right.
In my day, we spent a long time in O Level Biology, studying the growth of seeds: it was an all Boys’ school, after all. I seem to recall that seeds wouldn’t grow correctly without light, water or gravity (the last being very tough to prove). Above all, nothing would happen unless there was an effective growing medium even if it was simply cotton wool or paper, on which we sowed cress seeds.
I won’t grow unless I have the right conditions … and I’m not talking quality pies here either. You and I need nourishment and light as well as the right growing medium. God feeds us through His Word (the Bible) and brings light into darkness in Christ but how ready am I to grow?
For Hosea and the people of His time the real stumbling block was an inadequate seed bed. Nothing could take root in the kind of hard heart that had closed itself off from God, however persuasive the message might be. How might the church today need to change to break down our tough ground that faith may be rekindled and the fire of mission might burn?
Six Mile Bottom. Grunty Fen. Nasty. Ugley.
You can’t make it up: every single one of these names is the real life location of someone’s home. Like it or not – whether it’s a wry smile or notoriety you’re after – if you live here you are stuck with the name of your hometown or village.
To everyone else these names really mean little if nothing at all. The same goes for pretty much every village or place in the UK and further afield. Unless you’ve been there or read about them, most places simply don’t figure on our radar even if they appear fleetingly on a road sign, as a reference point on a map or in an atlas.
Iconium, Lystra and Derbe are a world away from 21st century Britain. Acts is written about the 1st century church and its spread from the very first believers in Jerusalem. All the same, the church then has so much in common with us today – it faced its challenges head on and grew through the Grace of God and the faithful witness of ordinary people. As today, power came from and through the Holy Spirit – an event we celebrate today at Pentecost.
There isn’t really a good day to bury bad news. It always gets out sooner or later
Hosea has a responsibility that few of us would welcome or would wish to share. Bad news is one thing, outlining the negative consequences of people’s behaviour is quite another. Relaying God’s judgement to a self obsessed and self righteous nation is neither commonplace nor likely to boost you in the popularity stakes.
The positive outcome – and it’s a real message not political spin – is that there is still hope. Circumstances outcomes and people can change. Even though we reject God, he is willing us to sort it and ready to welcome us when we turn round to rejoin him.
Ever wanted to be part of something special? Now here’s your chance.
From voting in elections to volunteering in community groups, there’s always something you can do to be part of something much bigger. It may not feel like it at the time but your contribution is always vital, even if it might not always be appreciated.
“If not me, who? If not now, when?” On the 4th June 1989, these words appeared on a banner in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. They represented the commitment of those who were rebelling against the repressions of communist regime that had been in power since 1947. Many of those who took this on board lost their lives in the battles that followed, others were imprisoned but, their legacy remains.
Conversion is not just an intellectual assent to welcome ideas. It is a commitment to a new way of living and to rolling our sleeves up, getting involved when the need arises. If you want to be part of something really special, get deeply involved with God and His church today.
As dysfunctional families go, Hosea’s takes the biscuit.
His new wife has a very insalubrious past and will have a racy future. God tells him to name his children in such a way that they reflect the state of the nation: imagine being called “God scatters;” “not loved;” not my people. It puts some of today’s celebrity choices like “Bear” well into the shade.
There’s a real point to all of this. Poor leadership and selfish personal choices have left the nation divided and on the brink of ruin. How can it ever recover?