George Robert Curry

103 posts

Can I Help?

IF THERE be for him an angel … Job 33.23 JOB lived a long time ago.  No one knows precisely when.  That he did both Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14.14-20) and James (James 5.11) testify.  He lost nearly everything – his wealth, his family and his health (Job 1 & 2).  He struggled to understand why?  So much anguish gripped him that he cursed the day of his birth (Job 3).  But he did not renounce God. Neither his wife or friends could help him answer the question that bugged him: Why?  Why did God take hi

Can I Avoid Sin

CAN I AVOID SIN? BUT I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5.16 How do I avoid sin? Sin is what we are inclined to do. Can I stop? The words of Paul above point to the answer. They set before us a rule for us to keep each day. We are to “walk by the Spirit.” What does that mean? To answer that question we should seek to grasp: (1) the source of sin – it is the desires, the lusts, of our flesh; (2) the source of life – it is the Holy Spirit w

If I Fall Will I be Restored

IF I Fall Will I Be Restored? Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, v2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. v3 And this we will do if God permits. v4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the

Do What You Can

DO WHAT YOU CAN WHAT do you need to go to heaven? “You must,” says Jesus, “be born again.” That is, God must make you new. You need to be changed from being a person who cannot love God into one who does. Only God can make you new (John 3.1-8). Does that mean you should wait to see if he will? No. Though you cannot make yourself what God wants you to be, your duty is to love God with the whole of your being. Faith comes by hearing; by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10.10). Hearing God’s Word

Turn and Live

TURN AND LIVE SOME 600 years before Jesus, GOD used Ezekiel to summon the people to “turn and live.” They were told to cast away their sins and make for themselves a new heart. “Why will you die?”, they were asked (Ezekiel 18.30-32). Two questions arise for us. (1) Does God ask you to do the impossible? And (2) What does God want you to know? The Impossible? The call shows that the people were not right with God. They had turned away from him. God wants them to turn to him. Those who do shall

Keep Yourself

KEEP YOURSELF DO YOU know your duty? Your duty, that is, as a Christian. Jude puts before us three related duties. We are (1) to build ourselves up in the faith; (2) to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit; and (3) to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 20-21). Each is important. Every child of God will benefit from thinking through the meaning of each. On this occasion I share with you some thoughts on the instruction to keep ourselves in the love of God. Here is the first point to note.

Communion with God

COMMUNION WITH GOD WHAT or who is a Christian?Aperson who has eternal life. Jesus tells us that God sent him to this world so that you and I may enjoy eternal life. That is what all who believe in him are promised (John 3.16). The promise does not just refer to life after death. Who are you? You are an enfleshed soul. Human beings have a body and a soul. What happens when you die. Your body and soul are separated until the day of judgment. Your body will be laid in a grave, if you or your lov

The Evil a Believer Would NOT Do - If he could

THE EVIL A BELIEVER WOULD NOT DO – IF HE COULD A letter from John Newton to Lord Dartmouth dated March 1772. My Lord, I think my last letter turned upon the apostle’s thought, Galatians 5:17, “You cannot do the things that you would.” In the parallel place, Romans 7:19, there is another clause subjoined, “The evil which I would not do, that I do.” This, added to the former, would complete the dark side of my experience. Permit me to tell your lordship a little part, (for some things must not,

What a believer would do- if he could

WHAT A BELIEVER WOULD DO – IF HE COULD A letter from John Newton to Lord Dartmouth dated February 1772. My Lord, I have been sitting, perhaps a quarter of an hour, with my pen in my hand, and my finger upon my upper lip, contriving how I should begin my letter. At length my suspense reminded me of the apostle’s words, Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. These are contrary the one to the other – so that you cannot do the things that you w

A Letter from John Newton to His Wife

A LETTER TO HIS WIFE written while she was in London and he in Olney, Bedfordshire I pray God to bless to you the ordinances and fellowship which you are favoured with in London, that you may go into Kent filled with the spirit of truth and love. When you are there, I hope you will make good use of the Bible, and throne of grace, to preserve you from being infected by the spirit of the world. Ah! what a poor vain thing is the world! We have both found it so at times, (though we once loved it

The Ten Commandments - Thomas Watson

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS If God spoke all the words of the moral law (the Ten Commandments), several duties are enjoined upon us. If God spoke all these words then: (1) We must HEAR all these words. The words which God speaks are too precious to be lost. As we would have God hear all our words when we pray, so we must hear all his words when he speaks. We must not be as the deaf adder, which stops her ears. He who stops his ears when God cries, shall cry himself and not be heard. (2) We must at

Who are we? Ten (unpopular) facts we ought to know

Who are we? Ten unpopular facts we ought to know 1. We are created by God God, who made all creation, created mankind. Then God said: Let us make man(kind) … So God created man(kind) … Genesis 1.26 and 28 We are not the product of chance. And we are distinct from all other living creatures. There may be some similarities but we are not the same. Other created beings may have a skeleton, internal organs and a circulation system but they are not human. Birds are birds, animals are animals and

Why Sing the Psalms?

Why sing thePsalms? WHY DO you sing psalms? It’s a question that is often asked. Especially by those who are not familiar with them. If you have ever attended a place of worship where psalms are chanted in old English, you may have found trying to sing them was not easy. In fact you may have even found yourself asking, ‘How is it done? How does one know when to vary the note and how many words should be sung in one phrase?’ Those are important questions. However our concern is not to answer t

A Happy What? Why bother with Christmas

A Happy What? Why bother with Christmas THE makers of cards cater for us all. They print them with different messages. Some say Seasons Greetings; some mention the New Year; others mention Peace and Joy; some are blank; and some include the more traditional greeting, Merry Christmas. The options, it seems, are numerous. WE do not hear people wish us a Happy Winter Festival. A few may say Happy Winter Solstice. And some, because they want to be politically correct, merely wish us a Happy Holi

All Are Welcome

AllAreWelcome WE USE the word universal in two ways. One, we use it to describe God’s purpose.  People from every nation, race and tribe are invited to seek and enter his kingdom.  The good news of Jesus Christ is for all people everywhere. Two, we use the word to describe a belief some people have.  We call those who think that every person will go to heaven universalists. No one questions the first use of the word.  All people are to be encouraged to seek God while there is time.  None s

A Different Way - lessons from John Knox

ADifferent Way – lessons from John Knox ON Monday 27 November the last Christian Institute Autumn lecture for 2017 was given by Iain Murray. His subject was John Knox, the one time priest whom God transformed into a powerful preacher of the gospel in Scotland, Berwick upon Tweed and Newcastle upon Tyne and other places in England and Europe. People seem either to love or hate Knox.  David Fleming, a distinguished Scottish historian (1849 -1931), called him ”the greatest person Scotland has

Valuing All God's Children

ValuingAll God’sChildren A NEW edition of Valuing All God’s Children has just been published. The first was issued in 2014.  It provided guidance to Church of England schools about how to stop same-sex life-style people from being bullied. The new edition gives guidance on how to deal with those who bully people who think it is a valid life-style choice to have sex with a person of the same sex (homo-sexuals), with both men and women (bi-sexuals), and those who want to change sex (trans-sexua

AN EARNEST PLEA

ANEARNESTPLEA THEY REFUSED TO LISTEN.As a result they were left to do as they thought best.  That is what happens to those who do not listen to God. Paul knew that.  Those who ignore God have futile thoughts and do not   understand.   But that is not all.  God gives them over to indulge the lusts of their own hearts (Romans 1.21-24).  Some 1000 years before Paul a singer discovered the same truth. Asaph lived in the days of King David.  With Ethan and Heman, he was put in charge of the sin

GO AND MAKE

GOANDMAKE WE DO not forgetthe last words of those we love.  On the contrary, we treasure them.  Why?  Because they remind us of them.  That is especially true if their last words are uttered as they take their last breath here on earth. Matthew wrote about the last words of Jesus.  He tells us that they included a call.  Just before he left this world he told his disciples to go. They were to go to the people of world.  They were to go to them with a specific aim in mind.  They were to teach

Being Happy

BEINGHAPPY It is not hard to see that people want to be happy. But happiness is not easy to find. The problem is we look in the wrong place.  And our search for it yields little real fruit.  But it does teach us a vital lesson.   When we try to make ourselves happy we often make others sad.  The reason why is not hard to find.  Misery always follows when our focus is on what we want. Some turn to drink or drugs, hoping they will make them cheerful.  But visit most courts or hospitals in th

A Godly Life

AGODLYLIFE They see us. They do not under-stand how God loves us.  But they see what we do.  And they judge our moods and speech. The peoples of the world have us in their sight.  What do they say about us?  Is it good or bad?  That is a reasonable question for us to ask. What should the peoples of the world see?  Let us begin with a saying of Jesus Christ.  He said that we are to let our light shine; people are to see our good works (Matthew 5.16). Jesus Christ is the Light of the world (

Should I Vote?

SHOULDIVOTE? WHY do we vote?  To choose our leaders.  We do so (at least) once every five years. Why?  Because we need to be kept safe.  Order is better than disorder.  Without it people feel insecure.  They feel safe where order exists. Does that mean mankind invented government?  Let us distinguish between the idea of government and types of government. The people may choose their leaders or those who lead may impose their rule upon them.  We talk of democracy when we have a choice.  An

What Is Faith?

WHATISFAITH? FAITH is a gift.  Some reject that idea.  Why?  Because we are told to repent and believe (Acts 2.38). Let me show you why faith must be a gift given by God. First, let me show you from where the notion that faith is a gift comes. Paul speaks of it.  He does so in Ephesians. There we read: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2.8) And in Philippians he writes: For it has been granted to you that fo

What Is His Worth?

WHATIS HISWORTH? WE USE the word yet struggle to describe it in just a few words. What is worship? Tom Wells helpfully calls it a response to greatness.  I say helpfully because his brief definition of worship points us in two directions. First, it directs us to the one who is great.  The sons of Korah begin a song with these words: Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised.  (Psalm 48.1) The same words can be found in Psalm 96. (verse 48)  David says the same in Psalm 145 (verse 3). 

Three Stepping Stones

THREESTEPPINGSTONES DO YOU ENJOY a ramble? The hills, streams, flora and fauna can excite us and fill us with awe.  But  rambles are not always easy. A stream or river may block the way.  Stepping stones could help.   They do on the Wallington estate in Northumberland. There you can find a set in the River Wansbeck.  They provide a safe route across when the water level is not too high. Many have found themselves in need of guidance.  Once made aware of their plight, questions flow.  Is the

Christ and the State

CHRISTAND THESTATE “RENDER TO CAESAR the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22.21). Christians turn to these words when they ask the question: How are we to live?  They provide vital teaching about living in the world. Three Spheres We all live in two spheres: a family and a state (a nation).  Most of us grow up with our parents and even with a brother or a sister.  We may have grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins.  The family is important. Th

God's Word and Trans-Gender

GOD’S WORDAND TRANS-GENDER an edited version of an article byDr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship YOU may think there are few things more self-evident than the fact that humans are of two distinct types, male and female. Females have XX chromosomes, female hormones and distinct sexual organs.  Males have XY chromosomes, male hormones, and very different sexual organs.  Don’t they? But now we are told that gender is simply a social construct, the product of a biased society;

Seek, Seek, Seek

SEEK,SEEK,SEEK To seek God is our chief work. Why?Because mankind was created by God for God. It may not be what all or most people think.  But it is what God tells us.  He does so at the beginning of the Bible (Genesis 1 & 2). However what we think and what we do may differ.  You can believe God exists, and that you should seek him, but you don’t.  Those who have faith believe that God exists.  They also believe he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11.6). The word seek is important.  It o

To Live or Die

LIVEORDIE The choice is simple. We either do what we want or what God wants. The result will not be the same.  Those who do what they want will die.  But those who do what God wants will live.  Put simply, it is a life or death choice. That is what Paul taught.  Inspired by God, he imparted that fact to people in Roman (Romans 8.13).  He did some-thing similar to people in Colossae.  I say similar because to them he gave an instruction (Colossians 3.5).  He calls them to put to death all that

What is Faith?

WHATISFAITH? Without faith it is impossible to please God. It is not just the author of Hebrews who says it is true  (Hebrews 11.6).   Leaders from the past, men like Abraham, Moses, Samuel and David, believed it.  So too did Paul, Peter and James in the days of the apostles.  And Christians affirm it is true today. Clearly, then, it is in your best interest to discover what it means to have faith.  For if you do not know what faith is, how can you begin to know whether God is pleased with yo

The Promises of God

THEPROMISESOF GOD THE PROMISES OF GOD are great and precious.  Why? Because, says the apostle Peter, those who believe them escape from the corruption of the world and are made partakers of the divine nature.  (see 2 Peter 1.4) What is a partaker of the divine nature?  Peter does not mean that believers become part of the being of God.  That idea is taught by mystics.  They have existed for a long time.  They were common in Peter’s day, and can be found today. Peter has in mind God’s original

What is the Bible?

WHATis theBIBLE? HOW CAN ANYONE know that the Bible really is the Word of God?  Is it a God-given book?  And if it is, what is the extent of its authority? We shall begin with a very important observation. God is.He exists.  He always has done.  He always will.  Therefore, if he is our Maker, and if he has made us able to speak with each other, it is not unreasonable to assume that he is able to speak to us.  There is no reason to say that such a possibility cannot  or does not exist.  And it

Head and Heart

HEADandHEART I CAN almost smile now to think you once classed me among the Stoics. If I dare speak with confidence of myself in anything, I think I may lay claim to a little of that pleasing, painful thing, sensibility.  I need not boast of it, for it has too often been my snare, my sin, and my punishment. Yet I would be thankful for a spice of it, as the Lord’s gift.  And, when it is rightly exercised, it is valuable. I think I should make but an awkward minister without it, especially here

A Question for a New Year

Dear Reader, You know that many people decide to make changes at New Year.Some choose to stop a bad habit.  Others opt to start something new. According to some historians it is possible that the practice of making new year resolutions began in Babylonian times – some four thousand years ago.  That, it seems, is the earliest record that has been found. What did they do?  They made promises to their idol gods.  The promises they made were about debts or possessions.  Those who had borrowed a

True Faith

It was probably in the year 1672 that Henry Scougal put pen to paper and wrote the book for which he is best known today. Although written to and for a friend, the book was seen and read by Gilbert Burnet.  He asked Scougal to allow it to be published.  Scougal agreed.  It was printed in 1677, but without the author’s name.  A year later, in 1678, Scougal died.  He was aged 27.The book deals with an important subject.  In fact it is no exaggeration to say that it is probably the most important

Our great hope

For what do you hope? I assume you hope for something.  Most, if not all of us, do. Some hope they will enjoy themselves.  Some want to succeed.  Others want to have a long life.  Christians understand such concerns.  In fact, they readily accept that there was a time when they had similar hopes!Now they have a new hope: a better hope (Hebrews vii.19), a blessed hope (Titus ii.13), a living hope (1 Peter i.3).  Because it is also a sure hope (Hebrews vi.11) it encourages Christians to be  b

Praying with others

How, when, and with whom should I pray? The Bible provides answers to those questions.  I would like to begin with the with whom question. Stated briefly, the answer to it may be given in two parts. First, there is a place for private prayer.  The Lord Jesus teaches us to pray in secret (Matthew vi.5-6).Secondly, there is a place for social prayer. I refer to prayer with others.  The people of God in ancient times prayed together.  They met for worship.  Note the call given at the beginning o

The inner witness

Can you know you will always be kept safe and secure? At some point in our lives it is probable that we all ask this question.  Sadly many quickly dismiss it.  They think the answer must be: No! John did not think that way.  He knew that Christians can know they will always be kept safe and secure.To show you how I shall take you to the First Letter of John.  In it the apostle says: Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself (1 John v.10). The testimony of which John sp

What I do and need

All Christians share the same gifts. Here are three. One, all true believers have the same map. Two, they have the same compass.  And three, they are on the same journey. Their map is the written Word of God, the Bible.  It is their guide and rule in all matters of belief and behaviour.Their compass is Jesus Christ.  As a sailor navigates using the sun and the polar star, so a believer knows Christ as the one who keeps him or her on course. Their journey is from where they are now to what

Who am I?

In his letter to Christians in Rome Paul states that he is not ashamed. To be more precise, he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans i.16). Put another way, he asserts that he is not embarrassed by the good news about Jesus Christ.  To see just why  he  does not shy awayfrom making it known we need to see what the good news is.  It concerns what God has provided for you and me. Before I tell you what God has done I have to tell you about yourself and all other people.  If I fail to st

Who is He?

“A great prophet has arisen among us.” And, “God has visited his people.”  So said the crowd. That was their reaction.  And it is not difficult to see why.  They had just seen a miracle.  A young man was brought back from the dead. The event took place in Nain.  As far as we know, 2000 years ago it was a town located not far from Nazareth, in Israel.  Today it is a village of less than 2000 people. Picture the scene.  Luke gives us the details (Luke vii.11-17).  A woman led the way to a gra

Did He or Didn’t He?

“I have never found any mention of sexuality in the records of our dear Lord’s teaching.” So says Joy Dawson in a letter in the Church Times on 9 September 2016. She goes on to assert that Justin Welby’s comment that a bishop’s “sexuality is completely irrelevant to his office,” should put an end to the unseemly discussions about the bishop’s claim to have a male partner. Is Joy Dawson right?  Is the Archbishop of Canterbury right? On the surface Joy Dawson is right in saying that we cannot f

A Most Precious Treasure

THAT is what the Reformers (of the 16th century) and the Puritans (of the 17th century) say.You can read those words in the Geneva Bible. The Geneva Bible was the main Bible used by Christians in England in the 16th century. During the reign of Queen Mary (1553-1558), some Protestant scholars fled to Geneva in Switzerland.  There they were safe from the persecutions for which Mary became known.  The group included William Cole, Myles Coverdale, Anthony Gilby, Christopher Goodman, Thomas Sampso

Who Am I?

THE QUESTION above is one we all ask. It is one of what are called the Big Questions of Life. Where have I come from?, Why do I exist?, and What happens when  I die? are similar. To answer the question, Who am I?, we need to  start near the beginning.  That is what our parents and grand parents did.  In fact that, it seems, is what all people in all cultures have always done.  But things change.  We live at  a time when much has and is changing.  And the pace of it is quite fast. Who am I? Mo

Does Going to Church Make You A Christian?

Does Going to Church Make You AChristian? THE FOLLOWERS of Jesus Christ were first called Christians in Antioch. That Luke tells us in Acts 11.26. The people of Syrian Antioch were known as lovers of pleasure.  They were also known for the concise and pointed or sarcastic sayings they invented and used. Christian was such a word.  It is possible that it was a word of derision.  But it is also possible that it was mainly a descriptive term.  Deciding between the two is difficult. We can quickl

An Iranian Woman's Testimony

AnIranian Woman’s Testimony AN IRANIAN WOMAN, who grew up in a Muslim home and attended an Islamic school, soaked up the religious texts of Islam.  Why?  Because she  wanted to learn about what she was taught to believe. What happened?  She left Islam.  Why?  Because, she says, she discovered teaching that completely obliterates any argument which claims that Islam is a religion of peace. In saying that she risks her life.  Why?  Because of what she discovered.  It explains why she wants to r

A Debate About Our Church Life

A debate about our life as a church by Julian Henderson Bishop of Blackburn from the Church of England Newspaper 1 July 2016 It is with reluctance and yet conviction that I sense the need to enter the current debate about human sexuality in a more public way, but from a personal point of view, rather than with a diocesan or Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) mandate.  The recent publication, Journeys in Grace and Truth, written in preparation for General Synod, gives an account

Sign and Seal

SIGNANDSEAL “THERE IS perhaps no subject … about which such differ-ence of opinion exists.” It is with those words that Bishop Ryle begins an essay on baptism.  The subject is associated with disputes, divisions and strife.  People disagree as to (1) what it is, (2) who should be baptised, and (3) the way that baptism is to be administered.  We shall focus mainly on the first: What is baptism?Let us begin with some basic facts. One, baptism is mentioned about eighty times in the New Testamen

He Shall Come

HESHALLCOME HAVE you ever asked: Why is Jesus Christ so precious? Much can be said about him.  We could talk about his person.  He is God in human form.  As John the apostle says: “the Word was made flesh” (John 1.14). Who is the Word?  John tells us that he has always been.  He was with God.  He is God (John 1.1).As well as writing about his person I could write about his teaching.  What did Christ teach?  He taught about the kingdom of God.  Mark tells us that he went into Galilee (in nort

Five Guiding Principles

FiveGuidingPrinciples J C Ryle (1816-1900) was convinced that not all principles are of enormous value. But some are. The question to ask, then, is: Which?  Which principles should we see as being exceedingly good and useful? Some shy away from talk about principles.  They think it is just for deep thinkers, academics or philosophers.  But that is to miss something very important. We all have ideas.  We all have views about how things ought to be done.  We think we know how to distinguish be

How Do You Know? - 22 May 2016

How Do You Know? Do you know right from wrong?Or truth from error?  Are you sure what you think is right is right?  Is what you think wrong actually wrong? Is every thing up for debate every day?  Are there no fixed points?  Are some actions moral whilst others are immoral? These are important questions.  They arise every day. Confusion would reign if no one told the truth.  You could never trust your neighbour.  And each one would do what we think right in our own eyes. There was a time – n

Let Us Discuss - 15 May 2016

Let Us Discuss Let us discuss holiness.  What is it?  It is a subject of first importance. How do I know?  Because: (1) God calls you to be holy as he is holy (Leviticus 11.44, 19.2, 20.7, 26 and 1 Peter 1.16);and (2) without holiness you shall not see the Lord (Hebrews 12.14).Let us define the word.  What do you understand the word holy to mean.  It may be only four letters long, but many books have been written about it.  And even more sermons have been preached on the theme. The words pe

First Things First - 5 June 2016

First Things First Many matters are important.To hear God’s Word, to keep the Lord’s Day holy, and to worship God should be listed amongst your priorities.  But the one that should come first is prayer. Communion with God is what we are made to enjoy.  It is a necessity.  Do I exaggerate?  Not at all. Why did Jesus tell a story of a persistent widow?  Because we are to pray and never lose heart (Luke 18.1).  What did Paul teach Timothy?  That in every place we are to pray (1 Timothy 2.8).  An

What is Needed? 8 May 2016

WhatIsNeeded? Different but the same. Those four words apply to all of us. We are either male or female.  We come from different parts of the country or world.  Some have blue eyes, others green or brown.  Some are tall, others are short.  We could add to the list of differences.  Instead, we want to focus on the two facts that unite us. First, we do not do what we are meant to do.  We are created to love God.  To love him with all our heart all of the time.  Yet not one of us does. Secondly

Why Is He So Special? (1 May 2016)

WhyIs He So Special? What matters most? For some it is who you are.  For others it is what you have. Are you from the north or the south?  From Newcastle or Sunderland?  From the the east or the west end of the city?  The answer you give may affect the way you are treated.  It may decide whether you are liked or disliked, rejected or made welcome. This is not new.  Such questions were important 2,000 years ago in Paul’s day.  Dip into his letters and you find he talks about Greeks and Jews, s

Helpless and Needy (24 April 2016)

HelplessandNeedy Let us talk about sin. You would prefer not to do that.  I know why.  You do not want to be troubled with guilt! Guilt-ridden people have one main need.  The need to be forgiven.Let us remind ourselves why sin is never trivial but always very serious.  Three reasons come to mind. (1) A person who commits a sin defies God. (2) A person who commits a sin stands guilty before God.  And, (3) a person who commits a sin, if not forgiven by God, is separated from him for ever. Th

Is Sin Really Serious? (17 April 2016)

Is SinReallySerious? What happened in 1837? J C Ryle came to see that sin is serious – very serious. That truth seemed to flash before his mind.  It came into “strong, clear, and distinct relief.”  As a result, his understanding of sin changed.  It changed radically.  He also saw that the only way to be forgiven is through faith in Jesus Christ.Ryle realised that in the past his thoughts about sin had been defective.  They had been for the first 21 years of his life.  That all changed in late

Principles and Practice (10 April 2016)

PrinciplesandPractice What we do reflects what we believe. What we do reflects what we think.  J C Ryle wisely said: “Guard your thoughts, and there will be little fear about your actions”. Ryle was born in 1816.  He died in 1900.  He was heir to an estate, valued today, of over £40m.The business he was due to inherit would yield him today an annual income of £15m! Ryle got neither the estate nor income from his father’s business.  Why not?  When Ryle was but 25 years old his father lost ever

A Special Book

The Bible is a special book. Although it is one book it is made up of 66 books.  Some are long (e.g. Isaiah); others are short (e.g. 3 John).  Together they form a unique book. What makes the Bible special?  Something of its uniqueness is hinted at in the longer title that we see used.  Often the word holy is added to form the title Holy Bible.  The word holy is important.  It helps us to appreciate that the Bible is different to any other book ever published. In what does its holiness consist

A Special Day

That a special day existed before Jesus Christ was born to Mary is not disputed. The first full day for Adam and Eve was the one on which God rested from his creative work (Genesis 2 verse 2).  It was a day set apart by God.  It was to be different from the other six. When God spoke to his people at Sinai he gave them ten words or commands.  They are a restatement of what mankind knew from the beginning.  Hence word four teaches us to remember the weekly day of rest.  It is to be kept holy. T

A Special People

Jesus told parables.A parable is an earthly story that teaches heavenly truth. The parables vary in length.  The parable of the lost son and the parable of the sower are two of the longest.  But the parables of the hidden treasure, a precious pearl, and a net are short.  All three are told in the space of just seven verses (Matthew 13.44-50)! What truths are to be learned from them? I suggest that the three parables of the hidden treasure, precious pearl and net are told to teach us two ver

Speak Lord

Speak Lord How does God speak to us?  Samuel heard God speak.  In the place of worship the Lord spoke to him three times. He did not realise it was God.  He thought it was Eli, a priest.  Eli knew it was not him.  He realised it must be the Lord.  So Eli told Samuel that if he heard his name called again he was to reply, saying, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3.8). Was Samuel’s experience the norm?  Or was it something special?  We can find examples of similar encounters wit

When Terror Strikes

WhenTerrorstrikes The pictures cause you to jolt.  The shock etched on the faces of those led to safety from a Parisian supermarket shocks us. Add to that what happened a day earlier in the offices of a newspaper and on the streets of Paris.  Questions arise.  Many probably begin with the word Why; others with the word What. Why, on 8 January 2015, did Said and Cherif Kouachi shoot dead 12 cartoonists, journalists, police officers and visitors?  And why, the next day, did Coulibaly, a former

20/20 vision

20/20vision In the 1860s Hermann Snellen, a Dutch eye doctor, developed a chart. Many variations have been created since.  His remains the classic example of an eye chart. Usually a chart consists of 11 rows of capital letters.  The top row has one large letter, often an E.  The remaining ten rows below gain a letter in turn until you have row 11 with 11 capital letters. The chart is designed in such a way that those who can read the letters on the row fourth from the bottom are said to have

Pray without ceasing

Jonathan Edwards was a leading figure of the Evangelical Awakening in the 1740s.  Among his many writings we find one piece with the following title: An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth.It is frequently shortened to An Humble Attempt. Although the title is long, Edward’s aim is simple. It is to encourage Christians to pray.  He wanted to see God’s pe

Called

Why are we here? Who are we? And what are we to do? We all ask such questions – sooner or later. They are simple yet vital questions. Those who cannot answer one or more of them are likely to struggle. That is certainly true if you do not know what to do! Serve Why does the Church exist? Our question does not concern buildings. It is about the people of God. There is one word we expect to see included in an answer, namely the word serve. In fact we can say the Church is here to serve God, Chr

Alone

Words matter. Rude words offend. Kind words encourage. Carefully used words aid clarity of thought and action. Purpose Why do we use words? The usual answer is because they help us communicate. They have that function in every language. The letters may differ. The pronunciation may also be very different. The purpose is similar. We use words to convey ideas and thoughts. We use words to distinguish objects (a cat is not a dog). Language Mankind is different. Although there are similarities wit

Who are we?

Paul uses three words to describe God’s people: chosen, holy and beloved (Colossians 3.12).Each is a source of great comfort. Chosen To know you are chosen helps you see that your eternal well-being is grounded in God’s purposes. It is not dependent upon you, your desires or your efforts. God’s plan is to have a people who are his own. Paul says this plan was devised by God ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Ephesians 1.4). What God purposes he brings to pass. His people then are secure. H

We expect

In time of war we are expected to do our duty for Queen and country.  It does not matter if you are not on the front line. All are called to serve. To support those facing the heat of battle is vital. Christians expect much.  We often find them described as those who hope. That does not surprise us for God is the God of hope (Romans 15.13). The words used in the Bible help us see what hope is. Take for example two used by Job. In Job 6 verse 8 he speaks of his request for help as his hope. The

The Gospel

The word gospel is used 97 times in the Bible.  Paul uses it most – some 64 times in his letters. The most frequent occurrences are in Galatians (13 times) and Romans and First Corinthians (11 times each). More important than the number of occurrences is the meaning of the term. The gospel writers Matthew and Mark both speak of Jesus Christ proclaiming the gospel.  This he began to do in Galilee (Matthew 4.23; Mark 1.14). But he also preached in Judah, most notably in the temple in Jerusalem (

Being a Christian - Faith

Words mean different things to different people. The word faith is frequently used in different ways? It can refer to the confidence a person has in a friend or colleague (John is trustworthy). It may be used to describe a set of beliefs (Judaism, Islam etc). Or an individual may say he is a person who has faith (I believe in …). Christians recognize that in the Bible the word faith is used in a specific way. The words content and commitment come to mind. As do the terms belief and behaviour.

Being a Christian

What does it mean to be a Christian? We shall focus upon the basics. A good place to start is the Bible. Christians call the word of God. All Christian groups make this claim. Why? First, and very importantly, because of the claims made by Jesus Christ. See (1) what he did when he was tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4); (2) how he used the Bible in debates (e.g. Matthew 19.1ff, 21.42, 22.29); and (3) his claim that specific events were predicted in Scripture (Matthew 26.54-56; Luke 24.27). The wa

Courage

Courage The Christian of all people needs courage and resolution. There is nothing he does as a Christian, or can do, which is not an act of valour. A cowardly spirit is beneath the lowest duty of a Christian. Is he to ‘be strong and very courageous\’ that he may stand in battle against warlike nations? No, but that he may ‘observe and do\’ all the law which Moses God\’s servant commanded (see Joshua 1:7). It requires more prowess and greatness of spirit to obey God faithfully than to comma

God's love for us

A righteous God abhors the very thought of sin. We had no strength to keep his laws, no hope his love to win. We had no righteousness with which to approach his throne. The stench of sin, our guiltiness, the fault is all our own. We had no grace to boast, yet in eternity the Father, Son and Holy Ghost conspired to set us free. Our Christ came from above; he saw our plight and woe. To mortal man he pledged his love; he conquered sin, our foe. He did it in his life. He did

Under Satan's Rule

Under the rule of Satan Every soul in a state of sin is under the rule of Satan; under which point these two things must be inquired. First: the reason sin is described as darkness. Second: how every one in such a state appears to be under the devil\’s rule. First: The reason sin is described as darkness. 1. Sin may be called darkness, because the spring and common cause of sin in man is darkness. The external cause [is] Satan, who is the great promoter of it; he is a cursed spirit, held

Much Power

Much Power We all want to see the Church grow. It saddens us to see evidence of decline. Tragically it is not just a loss of numbers that causes concern. The problem goes far deeper. There is little respect for the Bible. And many struggle to accept there is a way of life that all people should adopt. Instead personal choice reigns. Therefore it does not surprise us the church no longer enjoys the influence it once did. But there is something more concerning. The church of today lacks

Glory

An eternal weight For what are we being prepared? Our question, of course, assumes we recognise something lies ahead? Or, to put it another way, this life is not everything. There are people who see this life as all there is. We come into existence by chance. We get out of life what we strive to get out of it. And then we die. And when we die we cease to exist. For such people the only thing that matters is how they use their time now. It is spent with the focus on themselves, their aims,

Two Questions

Two Questions History and experience teach the same lesson. There are two questions that need to be faced and answered. The first is: What is the Church? And the second is: What is a Christian? It can be safely said that failure to arrive at a correct answer to these questions results in confusion and decay. Some see such a claim as extreme. Is it? What is the Church? Some provide an all-inclusive answer to this question. They say that Jesus died to repair mankind\’s broken relationshi

All New

Made New “For many years I thought I was a Christian when in fact I was not. It was only later I came to see that I had never been a Christian and became one. But I was a member of a church and attended my church and its services regularly.” Such is the testimony of a young doctor. Why did he speak as he did? For two reasons: (1) his personal experience, and (2) the teaching found in the Bible. Experience Although brought up in a respectable family he became increasingly aware his life

Choice

Choice We make decisions every day. Most are not life-changing. For example, those to do with clothing or food are usually everyday matters. Occasionally, though, an important issue arises. That happened with Ruth. Ruth was from Moab, a country which once existed to the east of Judah. It occupied a mountainous plateau broken by grassy valleys, many of which ran into the Dead Sea. Two nations The Israelite and Moabite peoples shared a common ancestor, Terah the father of Abraham. Howeve

Loved

Loved Some claims amaze us.  John Lennon declared The Beatles to be more popular than Jesus Christ.   He also said the followers of Jesus were thick and ordinary, and that Christianity will disappear. Cassius Clay asserted he was the greatest boxer. Some 2,400 years ago the Jews were told they were loved.  They faced misery.  Their country and Jerusalem were left in a mess by the invading armies of Nebuchadnezzar.  Many people were taken away to Babylon.  When they returned, decade

Ideas Matter

Ideas matter We are born to think. It is not the only thing we do. We eat and sleep; and we walk and talk. But, as we do so, we use our minds. The mind matters. And how we use it matters. We can use it to focus on right things. And we can use it to think about wrong things. We can grow in our understanding of people and events; but we can also be led astray by misunderstandings. A failure to think things through can lead to disaster. One crucial topic in our thoughts concerns God. Do

Power

Power The term ‘power of God’, when used to describe a person or an object, is used three times in the Bible. It is used once of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1.24); and twice of the gospel (Romans 1.16; 1 Corinthians 1.18). Clearly the power of God is alluded to or spoken of in many other places. The term ‘LORD of hosts’ points us to the mighty power of God. God is said to prolong life by his power (Job 24.22). He gives power and strength to his people (Psalm 68.35; Ecclesiastes 5.19).

Sarah

Sarah She made mistakes. Some were big mistakes. Yet she is commended as an example to follow. We are not taught to make the mistakes Sarah made. Rather we are to learn from what she did. In particular, we to see that Sarah’s unbelief was replaced by belief. Promise It is her faith which is commended in Hebrews 11 verse 11. What did she come to believe? That God is faithful. He gave a promise. Sarah reckoned he would keep it. We shall take a closer look at her faith in a moment. Fir

Abraham

Abraham WHAT do we need to know about Abraham. There is much that could be said about him. The Bible shows him to be a key figure in the history of God’s dealings with mankind. And he is a central person in the history of the Jews. The writer of the book Hebrews wants us to focus on three facts. Abraham was (1) a man of faith; he (2) obeyed God; and (3) he knew what God will do. All three are stated in Hebrews 11 verses 8-10. We shall focus on points two and three. But we shall do so not

Did He?

Did he? It is an important question. Why? Because if he was not raised our faith is futile. And so too is all preaching. So says Paul (1Corinthians 15.14). What evidence is there? There must be some, for it is not unreasonable to believe. In fact the evidence is so compelling it demands a verdict. Predictions Three strands may be identified. Individually each is strong. Intertwined they provide a convincing foundation upon which we may safely and securely build. First there are the

Noah

Noah Like Enoch, he ‘walked with God’ (Genesis 6.9). Noah, who is also known as a ‘herald of righteousness’ (2 Peter 2.5), lived a blameless life. He was different. Around him there was great wickedness. ‘Every intention of the thoughts of’ each person’s ‘heart was only evil continually’ (Genesis 6.5). By contrast Noah was a man of faith. The comparison is stark. The word faith is found twice in Hebrews 11.7 – once at the beginning and once at the end of the verse. The author is keen to

Enoch

Enoch The details given intrigue us. We refer not so much to his family nor the length of his life. Four other facts about him provoke questions. Walked with God First, Enoch walked with God. We are told this twice (see Genesis 5.22 & 24). Clearly it is something important. It indicates Enoch was different. Just how different becomes apparent the more we discover about him. What does it mean to walk with God? The term speaks of intimacy. Enoch, the son of Jared and father of Methuse

Motherhood

Motherhood It is universally accepted that the mother – child relationship is special. The reasons are not difficult to find. The child is very much part of her. Able to conceive and give space for baby to grow in safety within her body for up to nine months, a mother is also uniquely equipped to continue the necessary nurture process immediately after birth. This does not mean that a father cannot enjoy a special relationship with his child. He can. But there is something different abou

Abel

Abel Though dead, he speaks. This, the last of four facts, is found in verse 4 of Hebrews 11. All are about Abel. The others are: (1) he was commended by God; (2) he offered a more acceptable sacrifice than his brother; and (3) he was a man of faith. The latter is repeated. Clearly the author seeks to underline the reason why Abel behaved as he did. Abel: Who was he? He was the second son of Adam and Eve. Cain was the first. As adults the boys were farmers. Cain grew crops. Abel looked

Faith

Faith: confidence and conviction What is faith?  The question is important for three reasons. First, Christians are men and women of faith.  Secondly, Christians seek to see others come to faith.  Thirdly, those who say they have faith need to check whether their claim is true or false. Concern The author of the book Hebrews is keen to see his readers persevere.  He does not want them to turn back.  To help them keep going he instructs them not to throw away their confidence.  Instea

Cursed

Cursed How strange. That is what many think. They just cannot see why anyone wants to read words that speak of damnation. They also think a person odd if he thinks he will be damned. We can turn to the opening section of John Bunyan\’s famous book, Pilgrim\’s Progress, to illustrate the point. It begins with a man dressed in rags in distress. He cries out, €˜What shall I do?\’ What troubled him? Why was he in anguish? Because he was burdened. Burdened by what? The fear of ruin and torment. Wh

State of the Nation

The State of the Nation No one should rejoice – yet some are.  All should express concern – yet some do not. The vote in Parliament on Tuesday 5 February 2013 is alarming.  Why?  Because it shows that no less than 400 of our elected representatives do not know the difference between right and wrong. In the 1990s Prime Minister John Major wanted the nation to get back to basics.  In effect he argued for traditional morals to hold sway.  Yet in private he cheated on his wife. Now, in

Seeking God

Seeking God Actions and motives differ.  What we do and the reason for our action vary from person to person.  Let us explore this theme further.  And let us do so with a single focus.  We could look at how we behave with our loved ones, or with friends, or strangers.  Instead we shall limit our inquiry to church.  Why do we go to church? Habit Some attend out of habit.  They were taken to church as a child.  They kept up the practice.  They continue in it. Some go because their fri

Does it matter?

Does it matter? Who was Junia?  Or should the question be: Who was Junias?  Does it matter? Male or female Junia is a name.  It is the female form of the name.  When given to a boy it becomes Junias.  Some claim the male form of the name is virtually unknown.  For that reason they insist the person mentioned with Andronicus in Romans 16.7 is a woman and definitely not a man.  They may be right.  We cannot put it more strongly than may be. Andronicus and Junia, it is suggested, may ha

Providence

Providence Words and deeds reveal.  They are a window on our soul.  In other words people discover something about us from what we do and say.  As the Lord Jesus taught, it is “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12.34). Oliver Cromwell is a misunderstood man.  People hate or love him.  Rarely do you find someone  neutral in their attitude toward him.  Sadly few bother to discover what made him ‘tick’.  Why did he do what he did?  Was he a man who sought greatness?

Thorns and Thistles

Thorns and Thistles Did they suddenly appear or were they already there?  Are they a consequence of the fall of mankind into sin?  Were they created and given by God as an element of his judgment on mankind after the Fall?  Or were they pre-existent   and given a specific role or function after the Fall? These are reasonable questions.  We say that for two reasons.  One, this is the first time thorns and thistles are mentioned specifically in Scripture.  And two, they are linked directly w

Taking Stock

Taking Stock What is done by businesses at the end of a tax year we may do for ourselves at the end of a calendar year.  For there is much to be gained when we get a measure of what we are like.  The person who knows himself is in a better position to deal with faults as well as challenges that come his way. Oliver Cromwell is “one of the best known and least easily understood of all great men of history” (John Morrill).  He is usually remembered for his ‘mistakes’ rather than for who he was

Wiser

Wiser Some people make great claims.  Cassius Clay (known as Mohammed Ali) said he was the greatest heavyweight boxer.  The writer of Psalm 119 told God he had more understanding than all his teachers (verse 99).  Though young, he was sure.  He knew why.  He knew God\’s Word. Important issues We face many questions.  For example, When does life begin?  Is it at birth?  Is it at some point in the womb?  Or is it at the moment of conception?  Why do we exist?  Is to live as we want or to gl

Why bother?

Why bother? “I do not like them,” say some.  “I love them,” say others.  That is how people react to the letters included with cards at Christmas.  It seems they are like marmite.  They are either loved or hated. Some enjoy catching up with what their extended family and friends have done in the last year.  Others, like the writer Lynne Truss, find the updates on high-achieving children and exotic holidays annoying. And then there are those who get irritated by the references to Jesus. 

A Testimony and Law

A Testimony and Law It is tempting to leave tasks to others, or at least hope someone else will do them.  That is especially the case when boring routine chores need to be done.  It is also the case when we do not like a job or feel ill-equipped to do it. Neglect There was a time, not that long ago, when it was popular to send children to Sunday School.  The parents or carers, however, did not attend church themselves.  Some did this so they could have time to themselves.  Others did it b

Assumptions

Assumptions If women can lead a church why are they not allowed to be bishops?  That question is often asked.  Many think the Church of England inconsistent.  How should we react? Agree First, we should agree.  Yes, the church did act oddly both in the 1980s (when it allowed deaconesses to be made deacons) and in 1992 (when it approved the ordination of women to the presbyterate).  Many, at the time, pointed out that things were wrong.  They correctly argued that decisions about the ordinatio

The Programme

The Programme Now we know.  There is a programme to be followed.  Any lingering doubts about its existence have been removed.  Church members, politicians and journalists speak of it.  They have done so especially since the defeat of a measure to make women bishops in the General Synod of the Church of England on 20 November 2012. Reactions The comments are stark.  George Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, says the church rule book should been torn up.  Rowan Williams, the out-going ar


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