Category Archives: Sermons

How to Become a Wise Investor

307518If you have ever bought a hi-fi or digital TV, the chances are you bought it from Richer Sounds, the UK’s biggest hi-fi retailer. Ever wonder how the company achieved the No.1 slot?
“High fidelity: Julian Richer rewards staff loyalty with holiday homes and trips on the company jet. Next? He’s planning their inheritance…” That was the eye catching headline in the Independent recently. The article went on to ask, “Why can’t all bosses be like Julian Richer? I’m not going to beat about the bush here: I think Julian is great. If I had to hold up someone as a role model for other wannabe tycoons to follow, the founder of the Richer Sounds hi-fi chain would be that person… So what earns him this accolade? The way he treats his staff, the fact that in surveys 95 per cent of them say they love working for him. And then the way his approach translates into tangible results: 52 stores that produced profits of £6.9m from sales of £144.3m last year in an austerity-hit economy, and helped him to build a personal fortune estimated at £115m. Based in what property agents refer to as the “secondary” shopping streets – the tattier end – his shops, full of in-your-face Day-Glo posters, have won awards galore for their levels of service, and achieved sales unheard-of in the electronics industry. For years, his first store, opened at the age of 18, near London Bridge could claim to have the highest sales density per square foot of any store, anywhere in the world.

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666: Interpreting the Apocalyptic in the Book of Revelation

sanctuary-lambGeorge Orwell’s book, 1984, a dark vision about a Britain taken over by a totalitarian regime that uses “doublethink” and “Newspeak” to mislead and control its citizens, was published in 1949, but has apparently returned to the best-seller list. And you probably know why.

In the 1990’s as the new Millennium approached, there was a similar spike in interest among Christians in Bible prophecy.  Some commentators called it ‘PMT’ or ‘pre-millennial tension’. Revelation 13 is one of those passages of scripture that continues to arouse considerable speculation and a disproportionate amount of ink if not blood spilt. How are we to make sense of this passage and its enigmatic signs and symbols? How are we to decode them? Do they refer to history? To the present? Or to the future? We are not going to answer these questions today. And I am not going to give you a verse by verse analysis. Not because of a lack of time or because they passage is too difficult.  The fact is godly men and women who hold a high view of scripture, disagree on the meaning and application of the passage before us today.

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John the Baptist: A Prophet, Martyr and Example

470740-Martin-Luther-Quote-To-do-so-no-more-is-the-truest-repentance“Since then your sere Majesty and your Lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” [i]

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saint’s Church, Wittenberg, 500 years ago in 1517, he sparked the Protestant Reformation right across Europe. Ahead of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement.

“The Reformation was a process of both renewal and division amongst Christians in Europe. In this Reformation Anniversary year, many Christians will want to give thanks for the great blessings they have received to which the Reformation directly contributed. Amongst much else these would include clear proclamation of the gospel of grace, the availability of the Bible to all in their own language and the recognition of the calling of lay people to serve God in the world and in the church. Many will also remember the lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love.”

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How to Read the Bible Diligently

Bible-copyDo you remember your very first Bible? Mine was a gift from my grandfather. I must have been six or seven years old. It was a hard back. It had a red cover. It was small. It had thin pages and tiny script. But that didn’t matter because it was unreadable anyway. On the occasions, I tried, I had absolutely no idea what I was reading. It was a closed book. King James could keep his Bible. Without the Holy Spirit illuminating the text, it was like reading a sundial by moonlight. It was dull and gave the wrong time. At senior school, I encountered the Revised Standard Version (RSV) in RE lessons. This was marginally better but I was more interested in the line drawings and maps than the text itself.

At University, when I became a Christian, the Bible came to life. And I wanted a copy just like the guy who led me to Christ. It didn’t do much for my spelling because it was the New American Standard Bible (NASB) but at least it had a readable font, the sentences went right across the page like a real book and it had cross references that kept me occupied for hours. The fashion was to cut off the hard cover of your Bible and glue on a piece of off-cut leather, or denim from a pair of old jeans. With long hair we walked around campus, bear foot, carrying the kind of Bible John the Baptist must have had.  I thought it would be cool to underline passages that spoke to me and so I used a highlight pen. The only problem was it bled through to the other side and pretty soon I was underlining most of the text. Then I discovered my pastor had a wide margin, loose leaf Bible, so he could add his notes and make it look like he was preaching straight from the Bible. So I wanted one like him too. I bought a loose-leaf Bible and began adding his sermon notes in the margins and on extra pages. But I gave up because my writing wasn’t that good and there wasn’t enough room in some passages anyway. Eventually I upgraded to a black leather New International Version Study Bible (NIV) and I decided not to write anything in it. And that’s been my companion through three editions for the last 25 years. Continue reading

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Five Spiritual Disciplines for Turbulent Times

u1yjbmmze6zm8gpis-aotc3ohtx3xtqz-largeNext Friday, January 20th 2017, will be an auspicious day in the history of the world. The inauguration will take place of Donald Trump,  the 45th President of the United States. Mr Trump will become the leader of the most powerful country in the world. The schedule commences on Thursday with a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. A concert titled “Make America Great! Welcome Celebration” will then be held at the Lincoln Memorial. On Friday the inauguration ceremony will take place at the US Capitol, followed by a parade along Pennsylvania Avenue and an inaugural ball in the evening. Next Sunday, 22nd  January, a National Prayer Service will be held at the Washington National Cathedral.[i]  Opinion is, as you well know, deeply divided on whether the next four years will be marked by peace or war. The stakes are high.

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How to develop a personal prayer life

dailyprayerWhat kind of week have you had? As you may know  are renovating a small retirement property in Southampton. It needs a lot of work doing to it before we can move in and the deadline to complete before Easter is tight. The builders were due to begin tomorrow but we discovered last week the work will now start in February. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

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Marmalade or Marmite? What does it mean to follow the example of Christ?

I wonder whether you identify yourself as a Marmite Christian or Marmalade Christian? Let me elaborate. Earlier last year, OFSTED warned the government that hundreds and hundreds of children have gone missing from state registered schools in cities like Birmingham. The children are being taught in illegal religious schools and susceptible to radical extremism.[1] What is the church doing about it? Birmingham Cathedral is celebrating its 300th anniversary by offering people the chance to turn their emotions into a referendum-style art project based on votes about feelings. They are invited to answer a different question each day about “how they are feeling” at this point in the year. Questions include: “Have you laughed today?” and “Are you looking forward to next year?” And the answers are displayed as eight-foot tall interactive boards.[2]

David Virtue observes, “Niceness” with a capital ‘N’ is it seems the premier product the Church of England is selling to its non-customers. Sociologists have put a label on this product. It is called ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’. I call it ‘Marmalade’ for short.

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Where do you long to be?

moana-november-2016“There’s a line where the sky meets the sea
And it calls me
But no one knows how far it goes
All the time wondering where I need to be
Is behind me
I’m on my own
To worlds unknown”

I wonder if you can identify with Moana singing “How Far I’ll Go” in the lavish new Disney film?

“Every turn I take
Every trail I track
Is a choice I make
Now I can’t turn back
From the great unknown
Where I go alone
Where I long to be”

When you look at the beauty of the world around you, does it fill you with a sense of wonder? Does its abundance inspire you to praise God?  Are you thankful just to be alive? Are you frustrated with the world the way it is? Does the presence of evil and suffering impel you to want to help those in need? Are you restless? Are you longing to fulfil your destiny?  I encourage you to see the film Moana.

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Who do you think you are?

whodoyouthinkyouareHow far back can you trace your family?  Genealogy is undoubtedly very popular today.  Amazingly, the BBC is currently running a 13th series of “Who do you think you are? this autumn, helping well known personalities trace their roots.  Given the popularity of websites such as Genes Reunited, Genealogy.com and ancestry.co.uk or software programmes like Family Tree Maker, most people believe genealogies are important – at least their own. If I were to read in the newspaper that a wealthy man named Sizer had died, with no known heir to his fortune, I could get very interested in genealogy. Apparently, “progonoplexia” describes those obsessed with ancestry. The earliest member of my family tree, I can find, is one Matthew Sizer born in 1750 in Orby, in Lincolnshire. But I know for certain that my roots actually go all the way back to Abraham. This evening we are going to answer the question “who do you think you are?” Please turn with me to Hebrews 11. We are going to discover that if Jesus is your Lord and Saviour, this chapter lists your family tree. This is one of the most familiar chapters of the Bible.

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Jesus: The Perfect Sacrifice

eac0ec1511021e1c61a887d9e779aa41The Pilgrim Way is one of my favourite places to walk. It follows one of the ancient footpaths from Winchester to Canterbury across the North Downs. Now there are many public footpaths in England but this one is unique. As the name suggests, for hundreds of years it has been used by pilgrims. For some it was a way to do penance and earn merit with God. For others it was a special time to deepen their spiritual walk. The trail ends at Canterbury Cathedral where pilgrims kneel at the spot where Thomas Becket was killed by the knights of Henry II. There is a simple memorial which marks the place of Becket’s martyrdom. For nearly a thousand years, Christians have knelt there to ask God that they, like Becket, might live courageously for him in spite of the powers of the world. When the position of Archbishop of Canterbury fell vacant, Henry appointed his friend Thomas Becket in the position thinking he would do his bidding. But something happened to Becket after he was appointed as spiritual leader of England. He stopped being complacent about his faith. He put politics and luxury behind him. He gave up his former wealth and life style. And he began to challenge the king over differences between the church and government. He paid the ultimate sacrifice. But Becket’s martyrdom did not earn him a place in heaven. And neither does a pilgrimage to Canterbury.  There is only one way to find forgiveness for the past and peace of mind for the future.

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