“I was sitting in a barber chair when I became aware that a powerful personality had entered the room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me. Every word the man uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him. And before I got through with what was being done to me I was aware I had attended an evangelistic service, because Mr, D. L. Moody was in that chair. I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular affect that his visit had brought upon the barber shop. They talked in undertones. They did not know his name, but they knew something had elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship.” Who said that? Woodrow Wilson, the former President of the United States.Continue reading
There are two ways to learn a lesson: the hard way and the easy way. In this sermon we consider how Jonah had to learn his lesson the hard way – inside a great fish – so that we can learn our lesson the easy way.
We will explore where, what and why Jonah prayed.
To read the sermon see here
If you were the real Father Christmas and you happened to visit a few hundred thousand churches today on a pre-Christmas dry run, I suspect you would find a common theme running through many sermons preached this morning.
Marc Lawrence and Katie Ford wrote one of my all time favourite films Miss Congeniality. It’s about an FBI agent, played by Sandra Bullock, who must go undercover in the Miss United States beauty pageant to prevent a group of terrorists from bombing the event. It has some classic lines – like when Stan Fields asks Miss Rhode Island, “please describe your idea of a perfect date”. She replies, “That’s a tough one. I would have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket”. Or when Miss New Jersey is asked why it is called “The Garden State”? Gracie Hart replies, “Because “Oil and Petrochemical Refinery State” wouldn’t fit on a license plate?” Each of the contestants is asked the same final question “what is the one most important thing our society needs?” They all reply “world peace” and the crowd cheers ecstatically. But when Sandra Bullock the undercover FBI agent is asked she replies, “That would be… harsher punishment for parole violators.” And then after a long pause, she adds, “And world peace!” and the crowd cheers ecstatically. What does this world need most?
“World Peace” will be a common, predictable message we will hear on the TV and radio, in charity adverts and from pulpits over the next couple of weeks. The question is – how to achieve it? I believe the UN Declaration of Human Rights to be the finest and most important document devised by mankind. But human words will not bring about peace on earth. I support the humanitarian work of the United Nations wholeheartedly, but the UN will never achieve world peace through passing resolutions and by intervening with peace keeping forces.
This week the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Church leaders in the UK called for military intervention to stop the killing in the Congo. I support that call, and similar initiatives in Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Palestine, Iraq, Zimbabwe, Somalia and Columbia, and a hundred other places in our world where people are hurting one another, but the UN cannot resolve the underlining causes. That is because hunger, ignorance, poverty and disease are the symptoms not the causes.
Only one person can bring world peace and one day he will. Jesus Christ. Among his people, among those who recognise him, who own him, who submit to him, he serve him, we can experience a foretaste of that peace he will most surely bring one day soon. Please turn with me to Isaiah 9:1-7 and let us meet him, let us learn from his names and learn of his purposes for us, for our families, for our world and for the future.
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“Jacob came for a bride from his own people. He desired Rachel, but he did not get Rachel at first, but Leah. After he learned to love Leah as much as he did Rachel, he got Rachel as well. In the beginning Leah had all the babies, her womb was most fruitful. But then Rachel conceives. Israel shall be a fruitful vine. Jesus came for Israel. He wanted to marry Israel, but He did not get Israel. He ends up with the bride He did not desire at first, the Gentile church. After He learns to love the Gentile church, then He gets Israel. In the beginning, the church has all the babies. But in the end, Israel becomes a fruitful vine.” (Jacob Prasch).
What is the relationship between Israel and the Church? Does God have one ‘chosen people’ or two? What is the relationship between God and his people? Who is the fruitful vine?
These were the subjects addressed at a conference in Johannesburg, I attended earlier this month. It was sponsored by Messianic Good News, an organisation dedicated to take the good news of Jesus to Jewish people. It was a great encouragement to spend a week with Jews who love Jesus and who have a passion to make him known within the Jewish community. I hope we can build on this relationship and support their work in the future. Following our day with Chawkat Moucarry looking at Islam earlier in the year, and with Juge Ram on Hinduism and Sikhism yesterday, I hope that early next year we can arrange a teaching day on Judaism and learn how to share our faith with Jewish people.
Please turn with me to John 15 and let us examine the meaning of this image of the vine and the branches.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2)
Jesus makes three main assertions: God the Father is the Vineyard Owner. God the Son is the Vine. God’s People who remain and bear fruit are the Branches.