When I was a child I attended Christian churches, which, although they preached the good news of the Gospel, nevertheless taught that we had to strive all of our lives to please God and conform to certain rules. So I was taught not to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, visit the cinema or to dance. We had turned Jesus into a religion.
Now we can drink as long as we don’t get drunk, and we can even dance in church. However there is still a risk of encouraging religion by expecting people to conform to our standards and rules.
For two thousand years, we have turned the good news into a religion. The process started with the early church when some were told they needed to be circumcised to really be saved. Others were told that they mustn’t eat meat which had been used as an offering to other religions. Others were side-lined into worshipping angels. Some tried to reconcile the Old Testament law with their new-found faith. Continue reading “What is wrong with Religion?”
The word “grace” has many meanings such as a prayer before a meal, courteousness, or the elegance of a dancer. But the word takes on a totally new meaning when we talk about grace in the context of God’s relationship with humanity. I respectfully submit my definition:
“Grace is the unconditional love of God extended to all men and women. Grace forgives us for the wrongs we commit towards our creator, his creation and one another. Grace includes us in the love relationship which God the Father shares with Jesus Christ his son.”
God is love: and the fact that he loves us is truly amazing, fantastic, mind-blowing, and whatever superlative you can think of. Continue reading “Amazing Grace”
For thousands of years humans of all cultures and all races have acknowledged the inevitability of physical death but have refused to accept that this event is the end of personal existence. Almost all religions and tribal mythologies have some concept of an afterlife. Only recently have atheists and humanists rejected the idea that there is any other form of existence for us. I suspect that the hardest problem with accepting an atheistic world view is giving up the hope of resurrection.
There is an old saying, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes”. In the natural world, life and death are fundamental to existence. Jesus said,
“I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds”.
Our physical bodies consist of about 7*1027 atoms (that’s a 7 followed by 27 zeros!) or seven billion billion billion atoms. These atoms do not really belong to us, they are constantly being replenished and eventually have to be given up to the ground, and then to produce other life.
But we are not just flesh and blood. The real you, and the real me, is the breath that God breathed into us; what we call our spirits. The hope and the certainty of resurrection is that even though our bodies die, our spirit can live on for ever. Death, mankind’s oldest enemy, was defeated when Jesus as the Son of God, died a terrible death on the cross but three days later was resurrected, bringing hope to us all. The Spirit of God, alive in Jesus, made it impossible for him to stay dead. That same Spirit of God, alive in us, means that we too have the hope of resurrection (see Romans 8:11). Continue reading “Resurrection”
This morning, at the meeting of our church, we sang an old hymn. “What’s so strange about that?” you may ask. Well, we normally sing more modern worship songs, and rarely sing what would normally be described as a hymn.
We sang these words in response to a moving account from one of our people about difficulties he had to face this past week. But through it all he had a conviction that God is faithful. Continue reading “Great is your faithfulness”
What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus in the 21st century? Is there a difference between being a Christian and a follower of Jesus? Do we have to reach a particular standard before we can be a disciple? How can we literally follow him when we can’t actually see him? Continue reading “Following Jesus in the 21st Century”
What we think God is like, affects not only our theology, but our relationship with him and the quality of our life. In the Middle Ages, he was pictured as an old man sitting on a cloud. According to how we interpret the Old Testament, we could see God as being jealous, angry and vengeful. Some picture God setting up the universe, creating the laws of morality and physics, and leaving us alone to face the consequences of our actions. None of us can fully grasp the nature of God, but if we are to have a more accurate view we must look at the life and teachings of Jesus. Continue reading “What is God actually like?”