Diamonds and Rats: For all we know!

Diamonds and Rats: For all we know!

Is there a connection between the biggest diamond ever, and the small Laotian rock rat?

Without wishing in any way to stereotype, is it true that most/many/some women would love to own a large diamond (is that really true?….help me out here!).  Anyway, part of the English Crown Jewels is made from a 530-carat Star of Africa, cut from a 3100-carat gem.  For a long time it was thought to be the biggest diamond ever.

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Then in February 2005, what happened?  News broke of a discovery of “the diamond of all diamonds”.  This dazzler was given the romantic name:  BPM 37093. Phwooaaar!

It was bigger than all the other known diamonds put together.  You won’t believe me if I tell you it is bigger than the moon (I hardly believe myself)!

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It measures 2500 miles across and weighs a staggering 10 billion, trillion, trillion carats (1 followed by 34 zeros).  The Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics said, “you would need a jewellers magnifying glass the size of the sun just to grade this diamond.”

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Understanding a Mystery

Understanding a Mystery

Israel or Palestine – where is it heading?

A sermon by Richard Matcham based on Romans 11:25-36

“Lord I pray that the raw nerves and thin shells this topic will likely touch upon, will enlarge the capacity of us all to engage truthfully with the text and the world, and challenge us to be contentedly discontent with mystery, that we may be more loving to one another, and truly worship you in all your unsearchable and inscrutable ways.  Amen”

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone, on a topic that really interests you, and at the crucial point of insight, understanding and genuine learning, you hear the comment, “Ah, we can’t ever know that, it’s a mystery!”

We often deploy the “mystery card” because it seems to be a way of protecting our own limited understanding on a subject.

Take for example, the Trinity (you know what I mean)!

I’ve faced this situation quite a few times over the years, especially as a young Christian man in my mid-20’s, hungry to learn and know God.

“The Trinity,” we shout, “it’s a mystery.”  And with that mystical phrase, the conversation is closed, and genuine biblical understanding is shoved into the cul-de-sac of frustrated, genuine enquirers, where they stay until they learn to stop asking awkward questions!

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Resurrection Changes Everything

“Resurrection Changes Everything”

A Sermon: First Sunday after Easter

Luke 23:50-56 & 24:1-12

Resurrection changes everything!
Resurrection grabs the attention like nothing else.
Resuscitation is possibly good news for a brief time;
Resurrection is Good News for eternity.
Resuscitation may bring us back to humanity temporarily;
Resurrection brings us to God for ever.
Resurrection is not resuscitation.
Resurrection is not renovation, regeneration or regurgitation.

Christians are recipients of resurrection:
We know the actual word, probably too well;
We read the Scriptures, probably too quicky;
And we benefit from resurrection, probably (mostly), too carelessly.

Resurrection changes everything!

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Easter Day Baptism, Naughty Kids and Motherwell FC

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

Romans 6:3-4

In baptism, we experience and partake in something extraordinary.
It is the belief and practise of a Church to baptise, to dunk, to plunge people into water, whilst promises are made.
Extraordinary yes! Weird? Certainly.
What makes rational adults choose to do such a brazenly embarrassing thing? In front of their friends and family too! In front of witnesses!

Not only is Easter Day the high point of the Christian calendar, but Baptism is the high point of human experience.
It is no accident that without water there can be no life.
It is not a qwerk of creation that water is the key to life.
It is not by accident that Jesus links Himself with Living Water (Jn 7:24).

So what does this all mean? We have all heard of baptism before, some have been done themselves; some have seen many baptisms and others have only seen and heard what the TV or the papers have said.

Christianity is about water; It is about Baptism. Most of our lives we try to order and control ourselves. We try to look good, stay dry; as our English proverb goes, we try to ‘keep our heads above water.’

BaptismThis wonderful painting is by Christina Ramos over at christinaramosart.com

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Bare Meetings

Below is a section of a Charles Spurgeon sermon from 1856 (he was only 22 years old)!!

The sermon is based on a text in Habakkuk 3:2 “O Lord, revive your work.”

I am putting on this blog because it sounds a little…..familiar don’t you think?

Once you’re done with laughing out loud, you may weep in silence……

Charles Spurgeon said,

“Look at our prayer meetings, with only an exception here and there, there are, possibly, six old women present;  scarcely ever do enough male members come to pray even four times a year.

chspurgeon_youngerPrayer meetings they are called; they ought to be called “bare meetings”, for they are barely attended…….

…. Let me ask you, instead of grumbling at your minister, instead of finding fault with the different parts of the Church, let me ask you to cry out, “O Lord, revive your work.”

“Oh!” one says, “Oh, that we had another minister!  Oh, that we had another kind of worhip!  Oh, that we had a different sort of preaching!”

Just as if that were the simple solution; but my prayer is, “Oh, that the Lord would come into the hearts of the men you have!  Oh, that he would make the forms you use to be full of power!”

You don’t need fresh ways or new structures; you need life in those that you have.

There is a locomotive on the railroad tracks; but the train will not move.  “Bring another locomotive,” one says, “and another, and another.”  The locomotives are brought, but the train still does not move.  Light the fire and get up more steam, that is what you need; not new engines.

We do not need new ministers, or new plans, or new ways, though many might be invented, to make the Church better; we only need life and fire in those we have.

with the very man who has emptied your Church, the very same person that weakened your prayer meetings, God can yet make the Church to be crowded to the doors, and give thousands of souls to that very man.

It is not a new man that is needed; it is the life of God in him.  Don’t be crying for something new; it will no more solve your problem than what you now have.

Cry out, “O Lord, revive your work.”

And he said all this and more in

1856Not much change there then!

Press on, brothers and sisters, and preach the Gospel as the singular urgent priority.

Killing the Pulpit

preaching-the-good-snoozePeter Taylor Forsyth refers to the Sacrament of the Word as the distinctly Protestant Sacrament that invests the pulpit with dignity.

In an 1885 sermon, he bemoaned the tendency of his age to depreciate the power of the spoken word.

He cites fellow preachers who bemoan their Sunday Sacramental duty, contemptuously attending to Sundays when they would rather be about their so-called “practical” work during the week!

And then he says this……

“And we are constantly pressed with the demand for short sermons.  I believe myself that short sermons are mostly themselves too long.  The man whose preaching is simply tolerated has no right to preach as long as ten minutes.  The man whose preaching is welcomed has no right to be as short as twenty.

We listen gladly to political speeches of an hour [and in our day we could add TV and cinema], and the reason is that we have an interest, amounting to a passion for the subject.  Let us have enough knowledge of the subject of religion [Christianity] as to choose only competent men for ministers, and let it be so real and passionate to us that we take pleasure in what our prophet or expositor has to say for an hour if he likes.

I don’t hint that all sermons should be an hour long.  But I do think short sermons are killing the pulpit and sending the people to the altar or platform.”

P.T.Forsyth, 1885 sermon entitled ‘The Pulpit and the Age’ in Jason Goroncy’s collection of Forsyth sermons entitled ‘Descending on Humanity and Intervening in History’ pg.134

The reason this caught my attention was the reference to the limited attention spans of (1885) Christians who hear preaching regularly.  Current educational methods espouse a whole range of styles that are designed to engage the weary listener and to keep them engaged [we genuinely do live in a short attention-span age and I think it is because of the celebrated fact of our information-saturation age].  Preaching has had a bad rap because it is now common parlance that preaching is nothing more than a monologue by a moron to mutes.  When preaching is the merely lame passing on of information, of facts, of “truths”, then we will reap a harvest of chaff and weed.

Bad preaching by a bad preacher to spiritual infants may make that crass statement true, but genuine biblical preaching, with a man or woman filled with the Spirit of God, after seriously engaging study and prayer, wrestling with the Word of the text for the people of God, a people who should come willing and expectant, is going to be alive with prophetic power enough to raise the dead.  Preaching is not about mere information, but confrontation and transformation; not information but wisdom.  Not good ideas for nice people, but God’s salvation plan for redeemed rebels.  Preaching is the sword that pierces our hearts too!

There is no place for boring sermons by boring preachers to bored people.  But there will always be a place for sermons preached by men and women called and equipped by God to preach the Word of God in a manner that is at once insightful, challenging, piercing and winsome, that the Church may be built up into the glorious likeness of Christ.

 

The Place of Israel – by John Stott

May 15th is the anniversary of what the Palestinian people (Muslim, Christian, Other), call ‘Al Nakba’ meaning ‘The Catastrophe’. The day in 1948 when Israelis declared independence before systematically and brutally removing indigenous people from their ancestral land, beginning what we know as today, sixty-six years later, as ‘The Israeli-Palestine Conflict’.

John-Stott1Below is a sermon preached by John Stott.  It’s a great example of doing careful Bible word study.

By John Stott 

Rector Emeritus, All Souls Church
London, England
Our topic has been announced as “The Place of Israel,” and the topic that has been set for us is an object lesson in biblical hermeneutics as it‟s usually called in the principles of interpreting the Bible. But I would like to remind you right at the beginning that there are at least four ways in which the word “Israel,” whose place we are to investigate, can be used.

One: Israel was that devious scoundrel, the second son of Isaac, whose first name was Jacob – meaning “he who deceived or he who struggles,” who amply lived up to his name – but whom God renames “Israel,” because having struggled with men all his life, he at last came to struggle with God for the blessing he needed (a blessing to which he was not entitled).

Two: Israel is the chosen people of the Old Testament days – the 12 tribes descended from the 12 sons of Jacob called the children of Israel, because Israel (or Jacob) was a common ancestor.
Three: Israel is the messianic community – the people of Jesus – the true descendents of Abraham because they share Abraham‟s faith. This includes Gentiles like most of us if we believe in Jesus, but excludes Jews who don‟t. When Paul ended his letter to the Galatians, “Peace and mercy upon the Israel of God,” he was referring to believers in Jesus, whatever their ethnic origin. So Israel is the messianic community.
Four: Israel today, for many people if you read the newspapers, is the Israeli nation, promised a national home by the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and given it in 1948.
So Israel has four meaning. It means Jacob. It means Jews. It means Christians. And it means Israelis. And that is just the problem when you are asked who you are talking about. Continue reading