One word could just about sum up many of the news stories this week. Whether it’s to do with the Home Secretary’s driving ability, Boris Johnson’s integrity, Brexit’s waning popularity, global warming’s intensity, EV battery sustainability, or Apple’s security. The word is ‘revelation’. We are fascinated with exclusives, when secrets are revealed in the media – except it seems when they are, our own. Those deeply personal things that matter to us the most – our children, our family, our bodies, our emails, our text messages, our age, our photos, our income, our bank accounts, we keep these private, and in many cases wisely so. The more important, the more personal, the more sensitive the information, the more likely, we will want to keep them private, confidential, or concealed. And many people feel the same way about their religious faith. Its personal. Its private. And it remains concealed. How ironic then that Jesus commanded us to do the very opposite.
On Easter Sunday we celebrated the birth of the Church. At Pentecost we celebrate the baptism of the Church. Let us explore acts 2 under three headings: the context, the message and the experience of Pentecost.
“I am glad to commend Stephen Sizer’s ground-breaking critique of Christian Zionism. His comprehensive overview of its roots, its theological basis and its political consequences is very timely. I myself believe that Zionism, both political and Christian, is incompatible with biblical faith. Stephen’s book has helped to reinforce this conviction.”
To make John’s views on the Place of Israel more widely known I am reproducing his sermon here: Continue reading →
Are you old enough to remember life before Sat Nav? Remember when you relied on using a road map lying precariously on the passenger seat beside you. If you were like me, you got lost frequently. Now you simply type in a postcode or a road name on your phone or sat nav and you’ll be guided all the way to your destination. But do you know how GPS works? You turn it on and type in the post code. No, that is not what I mean.
TheGlobal Positioning System(GPS) is a constellation of 30+ Earth-orbiting satellites. Weighing around 3,000 to 4,000 pound each solar-powered satellite circles the globe at about 12,000 miles (19,300 km), making two complete rotations every day. The orbits are arranged so that at anytime, anywhere on earth, there are at least four satellites “visible” in the sky. Your GPS receiver in your sat nav locates four or more of these satellites, figure out the distance to each, and uses this information to deduce its own location. This operation is based on a simple mathematical principle called trilateration. In order to make this simple calculation, then, the Sat Nav or GPS receiver has to know two things: The location of at least three satellites above you and the distance between you and each of those satellites.
If you went in search of the village of Emmaus today, you would not find it. This Sunday, literally hundreds of millions of Christians around the world will hear the Easter story of the encounter between two disciples and the risen Lord Jesus on the Road to Emmaus. Few however, will hear mention of Emmaus today, or what has happened there in our lifetime. In an article published by If Americans Knew, Sacred Christian Site Emmaus Destroyed by Israel, Alison Weir writes,
“In 1967, after Israel launched its Six Day War, Israel expelled the inhabitants of Emmaus and obliterated almost all traces of the village, along with two other Palestinian villages nearby. This was part of the Israeli strategy, in the words of an Israeli historian, “to take over as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians as possible” Israeli journalist Amira Hass describes Emmaus before it was levelled:
“Schools, mosques, an ancient church, olive presses, paths to fields and orchards, bubbling streams, mountain air, sabra bushes, carob and olive and deciduous trees, harvested fields, graves, water cisterns.” Israel then “brought in the bulldozers and destroyed and detonated and trampled. Not for the first time, not for the last. And the owners of all that beauty – the elderly, the children, the infants – heard and watched the explosions from a kilometre or two away.”
John Wesley preached outdoors because the Church of England denied him a pulpit over his evangelical theology. He could have left the Anglican Church but didn’t. They didn’t want him. His theology was too evangelical. His love was too extravagant. His methods too unorthodox. So they shut him out of churches and pulpits. They could not silence Wesley. Instead he preached in the open air – in fields, markets, and cemeteries and the crowds loved him.
Today it was my privilege to read and expound the scriptures in the open air in Whitehall outside Downing Street before an estimated 15,000+ Jews, Muslims, Christians and those of no faith, all with police protection. It was truly one of the highlights of my ministry. (click on the photo above to watch my presentation). The text of my presentation together with photos and more short videos may be found below.
Its confession time. I didn’t mean to do it. I know I should not have done it. Every week I carefully avoid looking but this Friday I did. I don’t know what possessed me. I put it down to mid-life crisis. My eyes just wandered and there it was, the most enticing, the most tantalizing, the most tempting job offer I have ever read in the Church of England Newspaper.
“It’s True Adelaide is a great place… No doubt you’ve read about Adelaide’s fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine. Its all true! South Australia wants people who see their future in its progressive climate. The archbishop of Adelaide welcomes enquiries from clergy wishing to minister in parishes and schools. Find out more about South Australia at www.southaustralia.com. Send your expressions of interest to…” and then it gave the address.
When the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, how large was the remnant of Israel?
God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17-18). Through the history of God’s people recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures we see the Lord blessing and cursing his people according to their faithfulness (Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 2 Kings 17). Sent into exile first into Assyria and then into Babylon, on each occasion only a remnant returned.
So when Christ died on the cross, how large was the remnant? Where were the remnant who had acclaimed Jesus the Messiah just a week earlier on Palm Sunday? Where were the disciples? Where was Peter and the other Apostles? Who were present at the cross when Jesus died? Mary Magdalene, Mary his mother and the Apostle John. Did they understand what was happening? Were they singing ‘When I survey the wondrous cross”? No, they were weeping. They did not understand.
When Jesus died on the cross he was the sole remnant, the sole faithful remnant of Israel. This is crystal clear from Isaiah 53.
“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Read verse 6 again. “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
When Jesus hung on the cross he was Israel. The remnant was reduced to one man, who died and three days later was raised to new life. In the resurrection narratives we read how Jesus forgives, restores and recommissions his remnant. First, of his apostles (John 20-21), and then after his ascension and bestowing of the Holy Spirit, on the Day of Pentecost, three thousand people of many nationalities were added (Acts 2:41). By Acts 4:4, the remnant had grown to more than five thousand men.
The promises God made to Abraham have and are being fulfilled in and through the Church of Jesus Christ. The Book of Revelation provides a vision of there ultimate fulfilment.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Was the coming of Jesus the fulfilment or the postponement of the promises God made to Abraham? The Scriptures are clear:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
The remnant of God’s chosen people are saved by grace through faith and faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, not race, not law, not works, but grace through faith.
Beat the clock. Around the clock. Against the clock. Clock in. Carry the day. Once in a blue moon. From now on. In the long run Come of age. A day in the sun. The crack of dawn. Year in, year out. A month of Sundays. Hour of need. Full of the joys of spring. Now or never. The moment of truth. Better late than never. Make my day. Here today and gone tomorrow. A blink of the eye. Days are numbered. What do they all have in common? Time. We say, long time no see. Killing time. Wasting time. Behind the times. On time. Just in time. As time goes by. The nick of time. Do time. Serve time. A whale of a time. Save time. Good time. Ahead of time. No time to lose. The big time. High time. Time is money. Times flies. Crunch time. Out of time. Time for a change. Times up. I counted over 100 expressions for time. They all refer to chronological or sequential time.
I am sure like me you have been shocked at the eruption of violence in Palestine this week. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz invariably goes for the jugular with its headlines where Western media normally fear to tread. On Tuesday, for example, Haaretz ran the headline, “Israeli Settlers’ Hawara Pogrom was a Preview of Sabra and Chatila 2” In case you were born after 1982, in September that year, after invading Southern Lebanon, the Israeli military allowed the Lebanese Phalangist Militia to enter the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and massacre over 3,500 Palestinian men, women and children. Haaretz drew the comparison, “This week in the West Bank, no one stopped the extremist settlers from running amok in Hawara.”