So Christmas is here again! Lights, carols, food, shopping, Christmas can be a busy and hectic time of year. You may be reading this because you were given a candy cane somewhere in Teesside by one of our Jubilee Church team, in which case, we hope you enjoyed it!
Candy canes are popular at Christmas and some people think their meaning has its origin in the festive time. At Christmas we remember that a baby was born two thousand years ago, thousands of miles away in a stable. So what does the birth of Jesus have to do with candy canes?
Well, first, the candy cane is shaped like a shepherd's staff. Jesus likened himself to a good shepherd that cares for sheep. Jesus cares about you and me. He's interested in your life and interested in knowing you.
Second, it's made of two colours, red and white. The white, they say, symbolises pureness. The Biblical records of Jesus say that he never did anything wrong, in fact more than that, he lived a totally perfect life.
The meaning of the red could seem a little out of place at Christmas, but it's really not. It's wrapped up in why Jesus was born. It's about the bloody death he would encounter. You see, whilst Jesus never did anything wrong and lived a perfect life, if we're really honest with ourselves, the rest of us haven't. We know we've all done things and said things that are wrong. We've hurt others, sometimes hurt ourselves but more importantly we have gone against God. The Bible calls it sin.
But, here's the good news. 33 years on from his birth, Jesus took on the penalty of that sin. The cross where he died wasn't a defeat but actually a victory. A victory over sin and death. God no longer holds that sin against us. That is an amazing gift!
You can choose to receive that gift today. And it doesn't start by deciding in your New Year's resolutions to try be a better person, it starts by receiving Jesus. You can do that by saying a really simple prayer. Something like the one below.
Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know is wrong. Thank you that you died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free. Thank you that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of your Spirit. I now receive that gift. Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit to be with me forever. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen.
If you want to know more about what it means to know Jesus personally in your life today, we'd love you to get in touch with us. One of the best ways to explore this is on a course that many churches across the world run called Alpha. It's a 9 evening course (once a week) that examines the claims of Jesus and the Christian faith in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. It's totally free and you can find more about our next course, which is starting in January, right here. We'd love you to come along.
As we come to the end of our sermon series in the book of John, Gavin unpacks the final chapter looking at a miraculous catch of fish for the disciples. Having reverted back to their old life, as Jesus shows in this passage, that is often the place where he meets us. In this talk we look at teaching on mission, church and forgiveness...an action packed way to finish the book of John!
'Resurrection is the victory parade as Jesus the risen Champion comes out of his tomb fully alive to the amazement of earth and to the applause of heaven.' (Andrew Wilson). That's the Easter for you! The miraculous reappearances of Jesus after the cross witnessed by hundreds of people have been refuted for centuries. Yet the bottom line is that no one has been successful in explaining it all away as deception or lies. The reality is 'In its favour as living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.' (Lord Darling, former Lord Chief Justice of England)
Richard Dawkins echoes in the extreme humanities disregard for God:
‘In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won't find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.’
Do we really believe this? Is life so meaningless?
In this section of John’s Gospel we hear what the real Jesus claimed about himself, about the world’s plight and why He came. It’s a story of compassion and love and hope. It’s a story of wrath absorbed, justice payed and suffering joy. As we approach Easter let’s meditate on the real Jesus - what he said about himself and how his story shapes and transforms ours like no other faith, worldview or belief does. This Jesus really is unique!
Jesus shares this popular parable as a way of demonstrating some of the different responses to his message. In this talk, Gavin looks at the theme of evangelism and what our motivation behind this should be, before looking into some different ways of sharing the Gospel in our everyday lives. As 2019 approaches the challenge to all of us is to think about how and why we should be sharing our faith with others.