Keeping it Simple

A simple message: God gives simply and gives simplicity, based on 2 Kings 5.

Scripture

Weve just heard a great story of the Old Testament.  The purpose of the story is to hear a powerful and feared man, a “godless foreigner”, say: there is a real prophet in Israel.

It is also a comedy, a folktale, for poor folk, that pokes fun at the rich and powerful.  There are two Kings and a great general, Naaman, but they don’t achieve much and look foolish.  Even God’s prophet doesn’t do much.  It’s the three servants, unnamed, simple people, one a child, who make things happen.

This story contains so much but we will focus on only one idea.

A Simple Task

The formula, or presciption, was simple. A child could understand it. “Go wash yourself seven times in the Jordan and you will be made clean.” But the person given this simple task was not a simple man.  His power and reputation mean nothing, and his great riches are useless.  He drives off in a huff, like an angry teenager!

Yet when he does as he is told he is completely healed physically, and he realises the truth about God.  Verse 15: “Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel’.”  

Application

Today, we are rich and powerful, like Naaman.  Also, like him, we got our wealth and power by conquering and taking from others.  God will punish the rich for their sins and exalt the poor.

We can all be saved by confessing our sins to Jesus Christ and surrendering to him.  Many people will be too clever, too rich or too proud to do this.  This should not be a surprise to us – it has always been this way!

We however, can give thanks that we are not clever or sophisticated, we have few possessions and we have to depend on others to look after us.  In our simple lives we have few things to get in the way of accepting God’s simple grace.

Conclusion

We can take pride in the cross of Christ – we don’t have to be clever or great to be healed (saved) from sin/mortality, in fact in helps if we are not!

In Desperate Need

A story of endurance and faith in desperate times, based on 1 Kings 17:8-24.

The Story

Elijah the prophet has told Ahab the wicked King that there will be no rain or dew in Israel, because “Ahab … did more to arouse the anger of the Lord … than did all the kings of Israel before him.”  That’s quite an achievement, if you look at the four chapters of murder, idol worship, etc., that his predecessors had been guilty of!

God tells Elijah to go to a foreign (godless) land to lodge with a widow, i.e. a woman with no means of support!  Does Elijah need to learn some humility? or to depend on God?  Elijah finds her and begs (with a stunning lack of sensitivity) for water and bread from her – she replies that she is in a desperate state (v12).

Note that God does not promise a miraculous end to the drought, or even a miraculous but isolated plenty in the place where Elijah is going.  God promises only enough for today, and then the next day, and so on; Elijah and his adopted family can see no way out, they have no security other than God’s promise in the midst of catastrophe.  

However, the situation grows even worse.  The widow’s only son dies and, with him, her only hope of survival after Elijah has gone and into her old age dies too.  Naturally, she is heartbroken and angry with the man of God.  Tragically, she assumes that she is to blame, and that the presence of the man of God has only brought God’s attention to her sins, and divine retribution for them.  Elijah cries out to God in genuine need – at last he has learned to identify and empathize with the plight of the ordinary people, rather than just himself.

Application

The rich, the powerful, the leaders who should be doing God’s will, have led the whole nation into sin.  Big issues are being worked out here, with big consequences. Unfortunately, even God’s prophet, and the innocent, must suffer the consequences. 

Today, we understand natural cause and effect (as opposed to early Old Testament (mis)understanding that God does everything directly).

A Christian Perspective

Jesus’ approach is to draw people to him, not to condemn their sin, but to bring them healing and to know the presence of God.  In Jesus presence we are saved from our sins, no matter how desperate the situation around us. We will be liberated from the consequences of sin in the world around us, as we look ahead, eagerly, to God’s Kingdom on Earth and the next life in heaven, whichever comes first for us.

Lord over All

Message:  To remind us that God is Lord over all things, time & space – based on Psalm 148 & Revelation 21:1-6.

Introduction 

Blizzards, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes – we have recently been reminded how powerful nature is and how we are subject to that power.  As the song says, “We’re not as smart as we’d like to think we are!”

Exegesis:What is the Bible saying to us today?

Psalm 148.  We hear a hymn of praise.  All of creation, heaven and earth, is to join in.  Nothing and no one is left out: angels; sun, moon and stars; the sea and its creatures; the weather; the land; all plants and trees; wild and domestic animals, birds and insects; and all people – royalty and commoners, men and women, young and old.

Revelation 21:1-6.  These last chapters of the last book of the Bible, we see the final vision of the last things, the end of history.  In this passage, the seer invites us to share a vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” (v1). The old familiar things – and their limitations – are swept away by God and replaced by a heaven and earth, the like of which has never been seen before!  Think about that…scientists tell us that in the Big Bang, not only was the physical universe created, but time and space itself came into being.  At the end God will repeat and renew this creation (v5).  “It is done” (v6) God’s plan is completed.  God is “the Alpha and the Omega” (explain Greek alphabet). There is nothing outside of, or beyond, Him.

In these passages we could draw many lessons, but one that strikes me is God’s power is universal.  He is God over all creation, over earth and heaven, over all time and space.

Application: Lord over All?

What should be our response to these visions?

  • Some people want to exclude God from public life, because they don’t understand faith, for example, the desire to avoid ‘Christmas’ for fear of offending Muslims, when, in fact, they revere Jesus.
  • Some want to say that there is a conflict between science and religion – I don’t accept that.  I believed in evolution and the big bang theory before I believed in God.  Whatever the scientists discover about God’s creation, it doesn’t stop us having a relationship with Him.
  • We need to remember that we can pray for everyone everywhere – no one can stop us!  Praying for people is a great way to avoid the temptation of judging them, which – sadly – what many people expect from us. 
  • Just as we should not judge, no one can judge us.  We can wear our religious symbols and talk about God: let’s stop asking permission to do this and just get on with it. 
  • Perhaps most threatening of all though is that God wants to be Lord over every part of our lives.  Dare we surrender everything to Him?  Can we submit all to His scrutiny, for His approval and blessing? 
  • Do we have integrity? Are we consistent in our private thoughts and public words?

Conclusion

When those without faith look at natural disasters around the world they look at so many deaths and see only tragedy.  However, the faithful know that there is more to creation than this physical world. There is heaven, and death is not the end for those who accept Jesus as Lord.  For us this physical life is only part of the story, indeed there is no part of our outer or inner world where God doesn’t belong.  Without God life is incomplete and our individual lives and community life lack meaning.

The Holy Spirit, Jesus’s Legacy

A sermon on Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Birthday of the Church. (Scripture for the day: Genesis 11:1-9; John 14:8-17, (25-27); and Romans 8:14-17).

Jesus’ Legacy: the Holy Spirit.

  • Not just a Birthday, but Our anniversary – a time for reflection and thinking ahead.
  • When we reflect we often think of our legacy – what have we achieved, what have we left behind us?
  • The Holy Spirit is Jesus ‘legacy’ (legacy = bequest, inheritance, gift, donation).

The Holy Spirit is… 

Who is this person we’ve inherited?  What are they like?  What do they do?

  • Holy – set aside for God’s purpose or work.
  • Of Truth – leads people to the truth about God and who Jesus is.
  • Reminder – of Jesus (person), actions, teaching and message.
  • Peaceful – allows us to rest in intimacy with God, rather than fear.
  • Counsellor – helps and advises us, especially to obey God because we love Jesus.
  • Advocate – our defender when accused (Satan = ‘accuser’).
  • Comforter – someone we can turn to for reassurance in trouble.
  • Adopter – lets us know that we are adopted, and receive God’s inheritance (legacy).
  • Has personality – not a characterless, distant force, but a person we can know.
  • Dynamic – changing and responsive to our situation; active in God’s plans.
  • Guide – leads us to do new things, meet new people and see new places.

Our Legacy 

In around 25 years’ time I will be retiring (I hope) and looking back upon a life of…What will I have achieved?  Where will I have fallen short?  [“because …”]

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  Teddy Roosevelt, 23rd Apr 1910.

In 25 years’, what will our Church look like?  Many congregations will have died our entirely; their buildings will no longer be holy.  Yate and Staple Hill are larger and have families with children, so they should still be here.  We will endure; but, given what we know about the Holy Spirit, is that enough? 

We Chose to Celebrate

A sermon about chosing, based on Jeremiah 31:7-14 and several New Testament passages.

Introduction

People who don’t know God sometimes say that they can’t believe in Him because of all the bad things in the world (e.g. David Attenborough and the eyeball-burrowing worm; he choses not to consider the logical opposite, which is that good things in the world suggest that there is a God.)

Jeremiah 31 – Meaning at the Time

But God never promised us a perfect world, a world free from suffering and the effects of sin.  Notice what Jeremiah says:

“For the Lord will ransom Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they.”  (Jer 31:11)

God promises to ransom/redeem Jacob, His people in exile, from a stronger people, either the Assyrians or Babylonians; note that this is a concrete promise referring to real events, not some vague nicety.  However, God does not promise to make ‘us’ stronger than ‘them’, but merely to rescue us.  The stronger peoples, who do not know God, will remain.  We should not, therefore, expect a perfect world.  John points out that many Jews failed to recognise Jesus as Messiah, and Jesus himself tells us that poverty[1] and war[2] will always be with us.   Not everyone will know God.  Life is not fair. 

Meaning for Today

This unfairness also raises questions amongst people.  Some ask what have Christians done to deserve this favour?  Why, in this age, which worships individual choice and equality[3], is this salvation not equally available to all?  John’s Gospel tells us that it does not depend on inherited rights, but on recognising Jesus: “… his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him … he gave the right to become children of God …” (John 1:11b-12).  Anyone can be saved if they receive Jesus. 

Some Christians want to make the world perfect in their own strength, in their own understanding.  Perhaps the evangelical want to see everyone accept Jesus as Lord.  Perhaps the legalists want to see all Christians obey God’s will perfectly.  Perhaps the liberals want to see all social ills and injustices wiped out.  Perhaps the ‘Universalists’ would like all to be saved regardless of their belief in Jesus.  All of these groups will be disappointed – none of them will be able to celebrate victory.  As nice as these ideas sound, they are not real, and they are not part of God’s plan.

The response that is required of us at Christmas is to celebrate being part of God’s chosen people.  We recognised God in Jesus and believe in who He is.  For that reason alone we are saved, we have bought in to God’s plan to save humanity, which he formulated before he formed the universe itself.  With a free ticket we have won the lottery, a prize of undeserved holiness and blamelessness, adoption and inheritance, lavish grace, redemption and forgiveness.  We have even been briefed on God’s secret plan to eliminate poverty, war, sin and unbelief by bringing all things under Christ at the end of time[4]

Conclusion

Today, therefore, the people of God are not to waste time waiting for a perfect world that we can’t make, or questioning God’s wisdom in granting salvation as He chooses.  Today, we are to celebrate what we already have, the salvation and hope of Jesus, the promised Messiah.  We really are different from other people, only because we recognise Jesus for what He really is – God and man.  We chose to accept Jesus as Lord and so to become the Chosen people of God.  Happy Christmas!


[1] Matthew 26:11 “The poor you will always have … ”

[2] Matthew 24:6 “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars … [in the end times]”

[3] To the point where it damages society!

[4] Ephesians 1:3-14.

The Healing of Naaman

A sermon about Epiphany and Baptism, based on the healing of Naaman by Elisha in 2Kings 5.

Introduction: ‘Whistle Blowing’

Someone in church has asked for a sermon on ‘whistle blowing’.  A whistleblower is a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing occurring in an organization or body of people.  I am interested in talking about ‘whistle blowing’, because I had occasion to do it about 4 years’ ago, and my career in the Royal Air Force was effectively finished by doing so.  However, what happened to me is unlikely to be relevant to many others. 

When we were discussing the idea of this sermon the case of a Christian district nurse was in the news.  She worked in Weston Super Mare and she was investigated by her employer for offering to pray for a patient.  She was suspended without pay, but, thankfully, reinstated without any action being taken against her.  She was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, and I wonder whether action would have been taken against her, if not for that fact and all the publicity surrounding the case.  Sadly, her case is not unique.  What should we do if we feel called to ‘blow the whistle’ because of our Christian principles, or even to share Christ with a potentially hostile world?

Sermon

(The aim of the original story is to get to the confession in verse 15: “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”  But there is much more to be learned from this passage…)

Naaman 

Naaman is a powerful general, well regarded and of high personal qualities – but he has a problem.  The point is though that he knows he has a problem – how many have problems but won’t admit them even to themselves?  Then again, Naaman’s problem is obvious to others, so he can’t delude himself.

That’s like so many people today, isn’t it?  Most people around us have a vague belief in God, but don’t know Him personally.  Nevertheless, they can apparently get along quite nicely without God, so they don’t realise that they have a problem.  It’s not until they face something that they can’t solve with own resources, or understand in their own wisdom, that they realise they lack something they need.  Even then some refuse to see the truth.

Elisha

Elisha is the “man of God”, and he is not impressed or awed by Naaman’s earthly power, regard or qualities.  He also chides the King for his fear and lack of faith.  Some would see Elisha’s behaviour as arrogant, but let’s not forget that Elisha has got something that Naaman needs – the General hasn’t come to call out of friendship. 

We are in a similar position to Elisha.  Because we know God personally we have something that is beyond mere worldly power and prestige – we also have a God-given authority and freedom.  In these days of diversity, tolerance and “my rights”, it’s not fashionable to say that we have The Truth, of The Faith, but we do.  We are very blessed and fortunate people and we don’t have to apologise for that; we are free to tell others about our relationship with God.  Elisha wasn’t interested in being popular or fitting in – he had a God-given job to do.  So do we.      

The King of Israel

In the story, the King symbolises a lack of faith, but perhaps this is unfair.  We know that Israel has suffered at the hands of Aram, so perhaps the King’s suspicion is justified; perhaps we need to be sensitive to others because we don’t know what they have experienced in the past.  Also, you can see the King’s horror at the prospect of war and the thought that, even if Israel wins, he will be responsible for leading some of his men to their death.  Perhaps we should try to understand over-zealous officials who don’t want religious controversies disturbing the peace. 

The Girl Servant of Naaman’s Wife

The girl has been captured and taken away from her people by Aram, a nation who do not know the true God.  You would think that the girl would have no love for her master, but she tells his wife that the prophet in Samaria can cure him.  What faith and courage in witness!  Perhaps also the girl can see good in her master, even though he is author of her misfortune and the enemy of her people.  

Naaman’s Servants

Naaman’s servants also chose to take a risk to help their master who was in a rage.  Let’s not forget that Naaman could have killed any one of them if he so chose.  Remember, that there was nothing in it for them – they didn’t know that the cure would work!  Once again it is the courage and love of the servants – who are not even significant enough to be named in the story – that enables God’s miracle to happen.  Without them there would be no story and no conclusion:  “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

Conclusion

We are surrounded by people who do not really know God and choose to ignore Him.  Some of these people have authority over us.  Our way of life is not popular or well understood.  Nevertheless, our God has the final victory and we will have the last laugh.  God’s victory over His enemies gives us the opportunity to pray for them, tell them the good news and serve them.  Let’s pray now…

Sharing the Faith, Refining our Faith

‘Sharing the Faith, Refining our Faith’ – a sermon on Psalm 22/Mark 8:31-38 (Lent 2, Year B)

Aim

To show that we need to share the Good News that Jesus is the Christ – with each other and with unbelievers

Introduction – Sharing

‘You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian’, ‘my faith is my business’, ‘you can’t share your faith in a secular society’.

Psalm 22 tells us that God intends everyone to hear the Good News. It cuts across all divisions: rich and poor; in the church and outside; Jews and non-Jews; those living, dead and yet to be born.

The Psalmist says that everyone will turn to God and be blessed. How will they know that they should do this? How will they know how to turn to God?

Message for the Time

Peter had already confessed that Jesus is the Christ, but he totally misunderstands Jesus’ mission.  No one knows this until Peter speaks out, then Jesus corrects Peter and asks people to gather round – then Jesus explains his mission and that of his disciples.

Notice that Peter was correct given the religious assumptions of the day – but still wrong. The other disciples probably thought the same thing – but no one knew they were wrong until Peter spoke up! We all make mistakes, but if we view our faith as our possession and never discuss it then we will never discover anything new – our faith is closed, dead. We must share our faith and our experiences, thoughts and doubts with each other.

Message for Today

Notice also that Jesus then told his followers that they must deny self, take up their cross and follow Jesus (to death).  He also says that if we are ashamed of Jesus message, he will be ashamed of us on judgment day.  Clearly, Jesus expects us to share our faith with the faithless, even if this is not easy and earns us hostility.

What odd ideas do people have about: God – superstition, “a deal with God”; Jesus – “a good man”, “a wise teacher”; and the Holy Spirit – something for weirdos only?

What odd ideas do people have about our faith?  Are they hostile to Jesus because they think we think ourselves superior and are judging them? We need to tell them the truth about how we don’t deserve salvation!

We need to share our faith with each other, and with non-Christians, in order to make it real, vital and alive. We need to share the Good News, that Jesus is the Christ, that he died for us and is alive today as if our lives and their lives depended on it. Because it’s true!

Truth in Love

Speaking the Truth in Love – a Sermon on Mark 12:28-34 and Ruth 1:1-18 (Year B, Ordinary 31).

Mark 12:28-34

  • Although the man is wise – Jesus thinks so – I find him smug.
  • He says Jesus is right, but really he’s saying “we’re both right – aren’t we clever?”
  • Jesus says he is “not far from the Kingdom of God”:
    • Might expect Jesus to say The Teacher of the Law had ‘arrived’.
    • Maybe speaking the truth wasn’t enough – not spoken in love.
  • Contrast this with the words of my wife:
    • I had made some flippant comment about something on the TV;
    • She said “You can be a bit of an oaf sometimes” – how can you say that, just because it’s true?
    • What I hope she really meant was “don’t be an oaf, because I love you, and I know that you can be better than that.  You are worthy of my love and I am worthy of having a husband who is not an oaf.”

Ruth 1:1-18

  • Naomi has taught her daughters-in-law about God.
    • The women spend more time together – work/social convention.  [Muslim story]
    • She has no special knowledge of God but uses personal contact and example.
  • They have been together for a long time – a lot more ‘face time’ in those days.
  • Notice the contrast between the physical and the spiritual harvest.
    • They (and we) are used to good and bad times being defined by the harvest (work).
    • Naomi planted the spiritual seed in the good times and now harvests in the bad.
    • Orpah does not remain true when tested, but Ruth does.  Doesn’t God do the same?
  • Ruth ‘walked the walk’ AND ‘talked the talk.’

Meaning for Today

  • Today we face a difficult spiritual harvest.
  • Times are good in this country and people don’t seem to feel the need of God:
    • Some think that they can appease God by the superstition of religious ritual.
    • Some think that they can ignore God; he is distant, impersonal.
    • Some think that they can put God in a box, based on their theology.
  • However, the Bible tells us the truth about God:
    • Is personal, he is alive and wants to know us – all of us.
    • Wants us to know Him, this knowing not academic/theological, but personal.
    • God loves us, but He is Holy and those who reject Him are doomed.
  • We will not get through to non-Christians by just proclaiming the truth.
    • The teacher of the law did that – did you warm to him?  I didn’t!
    • People need to get to know God through us outside of a church.
    • We need non-Christian friends and we need to invest in them and believe in them for their sake, and because we value them for themselves.
    • Person of Jesus attractive; devotion to Him more attractive and reliable than knowledge.
  • Our challenge is to be disciples, to ‘speak the truth in love’, and ‘walk the talk’.  Integrity, consistency.

Wholehearted

Wholehearted – a sermon on Mark 6 and 2 Samuel 6  (Year B, Proper 10 / Ordinary 15).

Scripture

In Mark 6 and 2 Samuel 6, we have images of people joyfully worshipping God.

  • In 2 Samuel 6, King David has the Ark, the earthly symbol of God, brought to Jerusalem.
    • David has no problem letting God take centre stage in his capital.
    • He dances and celebrates with gusto – abandoning his dignity!
    • Michal despises David, perhaps seeing her loss rather than her people’s gain.
  • In Mark 6 (the almost King) Herod does not want Jesus, the earthly symbol of God, brought to Jerusalem – it was bad enough having him in the country!
    • Herod is a puppet King, put there by the Romans, not God.  He is insecure.
    • He is also a guilty man.  Despite himself, he liked listening to John.
    • Herod put his own comfort and dignity before justice, before God.

Meaning at the Time

Of course, there are two ‘times’ here – OT and NT.

  • When Samuel was written probably already referring to a bygone age:
    • A united powerful kingdom, ‘the good old days’.
    • Yet not a whitewash of History – David’s evil deeds show through too!
    • Lessons from the past, guidance for today and hope for tomorrow.
  • Mark’s Gospel was written down much closer to the actual events.
    • The early church was still working out what it was, where it was.
    • It was growing strongly – not in decline/destroyed like Israel (OT & NT).
    • People are shown that Jesus repeats the OT pattern, perfect/completing it.

Meaning for Today

What do these stories tell us about ourselves, our Nation, today?

  • What is the context – personal, corporate, national?
    • Our church in the UK is in decline, like the UK itself, affecting how we see scripture.
    • Worship/Witness/Work: I’m not good at being wholehearted in worship/witness – I like to be in control; work is OK, I can drive myself to do that.
    • Tony Blair (former UK Prime Minister) criticised by Anne Widdecombe (former UK politician) for not accepting the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching; he replied ‘I am a modern man’: i.e. ‘my reason alone will decide what I believe’.
    • Is our rich western society, that has so much to lose if it were to give up control, afraid of surrendering to God?
  • Our church reminds me of working in the declining Ministry of Defence (declining public sector in general?).
    • We seemed to have no confidence in ourselves, our judgement.  Bewildered!
    • Decisions made for jobs, money, etc, not what really needed for defence.
    • Our leaders had no belief in us!  They were open to outside influence.
    • Can you blame them?  We were not making decisions on what was needed for our mission, but for temporary, narrow, factional advantage.
    • We lost sight of what we should do rather what was expedient to do.

Conclusion

The message from 1,000 years of scripture: let God in! let God rule!

  • We, as individuals and an organisation, can surrender to God with complete confidence.  Let society turn away if it wants to.
  • What difficult things do we need to do to succeed in worship, witness and work?
  • Let us wholeheartedly celebrate putting God first, and thus instructed, guided and inspired, wholeheartedly focus on our mission.

God’s Leadership versus Human Leadership

Samuel has appointed his sons as judges, but their leadership is corrupt…a sermon on 1 Samuel 8:4-20 (Year B, Proper 7)

The People/Elders

A conspiracy!  The Elders have plotted this, rather than listening to God, waiting on his word.  The Elders don’t want to keep going with the current system – they want something new, better!

  • Why won’t they try and make the current system work? …
  • … you don’t make a name for yourself by keeping things the same!

The focus of the elders is ‘keeping up with the neighbours’ other nations.  Nevertheless, in vv19-20 the people want:

  • A tangible, visible leader;
  • To be the same as others – they desire to conform;
  • Someone to make the difficult decisions for them; and
  • They desire for security.

God and His Prophet

Samuel is horrified, (Moses held it together, but now it’s all going wrong on his watch) so he goes to God in prayer immediately.  God is the real authority here, Samuel is only his servant, his prophet; Christian leaders take note!  We see an incredible insight into God’s relationship with his people:

  1. God knows that His people are consistently unfaithful;
  2. Nevertheless, He commands His leader to listen to their demands;
  3. He ensures that they are warned of the consequences; but
  4. He does not force His will on them.

The Prophecy

Samuel warns the people that a king will compete with next-door nations for power and glory, which will lead to war.  Then the people and the economy will be devoted to war, which is costly.  That hierarchy between king and people will be costly – all those layers of self-important people will eat up what once belonged to the people and the 10% tithe to God.  They think that they would get a king to serve them, but they will serve him!

Application

Someone asked the question: ‘how do you explain war to children?’  Here is an answer.  When we humans are not busy loving God, listening to him and giving him the glory, we get busy looking after themselves and our possessions.  Then we begin comparing themselves to others and start looking at our neighbours with suspicion!  So, conflict begins…

Our church leaders may be weak and fallible, and we have those like Samuel’s sons among us, but our hope is not in them.  Our God is pure and can hold power and authority without being corrupted.  We have the Spirit – the mind of Christ – in us, the loving example of Jesus and God Himself.