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APRIL 2006

In the last few weeks I faced the ultimate reality we call death twice. As a hospital chaplain, I was called to minister to families facing bereavement. In one instance a young mother of 31 years died as the result of an acute asthma attack. In another an elderly lady of 95 years passed away in her sleep. Death is no respecter of persons.

Whether we’re young or old we mustn’t take life for granted. Every day is a gift, to be embraced and enjoyed as from God. And death is a reality to be faced by all of us. When death does come we need meaningful words of comfort and hope. Jesus Christ offers such to all who trust in him. He offers eternal life, that is, a quality life that puts a sparkle into the everyday, and gives hope for the future.

Again, in hospital, a patient related how the story of Lazarus was meaningful to them. In what way? It taught them that the Lord Jesus could bring life and hope to the worst situation. When the Lord Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb, he said: “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live” (John 11:25).

MAY 2006

This month the Christian church is challenged with a revived interest in gnostic writings. This is the result of Dan Brown’s fictional novel The Da Vinci Code and its release as a movie, and the attention directed to the so-called ‘hidden Gospels’ (such as the Gospel of Thomas).

Dan Brown alleges, among other things, that Mary Magdalene and Jesus got married and had a daughter, and that they settled in the south of France and became the progenitors of the Merovingian kings. Historically, the statement is untrue. Theologically, it undermines the person of Christ, who is revealed as the Son of God in the New Testament. The Gospel of Thomas compares with the simple language and witness of the four Gospels as a complex, self-centred, philosophical work. It ignores the works of the historical Jesus.

Belief in neo-gnostic writings side-steps the challenge of the risen Lord, who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6).

For information and answers log on to Christianity Today’s website and follow its links, e.g.:

JUNE 2006

Whitsunday, as we used to call it, isn’t recognised by secular calendars again this year. In spite of this, churches around the world celebrated 2nd June as Pentecostal Sunday. Like Easter, this is an important date. At Easter we remember the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; at Pentecost we celebrate the advent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Christian church.

This year Pentecostal churches remember that 100 years ago the Spirit was outpoured on believers in Azuza Street, Los Angeles, California. The believers were anointed with the Spirit as the early Christians were in Acts 2:1-4. At the same time the experience was repeated around the world. The Pentecostal revival came to Wales in 1904, and Sunderland in 1907. The Holy Spirit is still moving in the world in a dynamic way today.

Whitsunday or Pentecostal Sunday should be more that a date to remember. The biblical promise is for today: “Repent and be baptised every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts2:38,39). So, “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph.5:18)!

God bless you,

         Vernon                                                                     Bible

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Copyright 2008 Vernon Ralphs

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