Memorising the Sermon on the Mount

I decided to memorise the Sermon on the Mount in April 2016.  It took me about six months to learn all three chapters – Matthew 5, 6 and 7.  My reasons for choosing this lengthy passage were largely around reading a verse in John  – John 14:23,

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.

If we don’t know his words, how can we obey him?  After all didn’t Jesus himself say in Matthew 5,

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished

Of course, there are many ways of interpreting this last saying.  Some would say that only Christians can keep the Law anyway, and that through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who works through us to make us “holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1).  Irrespective of the correct interpretation, there is no doubt that we really do need to know the commands of Christ in order to be able to follow him properly.

As I began to memorise the Sermon on the Mount, a verse a day, so I began to really understand more about what Jesus’s priorities are.  We are to be judged according to how we judge others.  We are to turn the other cheek, to not resist people who wish to do us harm, to depend on God for daily provision, above all to trust Him.

I complete the Sermon on the Mount in October and then spent a month consolidating it while brushing up on other earlier memorised passages.  I now feel its pretty secure in my memory banks and its lovely when embarking on a walk or a solitary car journey to recite the whole Sermon to myself – it takes about 20 minutes in total.

Something else I learned is how much easier it is to read Bible commentaries when you’ve memorised the passages concerned.  I worked through Scott McKnight’s Sermon on the Mount while memorising the passages and it was a joy not to have to keep cross-referring back to my Bible to look up passages.

Church today

Seaford Baptist Church
Seaford Baptist Church

Our church is currently without a minister but we are having very rich ministry from our own people and from occasional visiting minister.  In the meantime we are preparing our “church profile” document and this will soon be sent out to the regional Baptist Association for circulation among Ministers who are looking for a new placement.

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John Newton’s views on human history

John Newton portrait
John Newton

Many will have have heard of John Newton, the writer of the hymn, Amazing Grace.  A one-time slave-trader, John Newton became a Christian and later, 1764 became an Anglican minister serving in the parish of Olney, Buckinghamshire and later at St Mary Woolnoth church, London.

Newton was a prolific letter-writer and I recently purchased a volume of his letters running to over 1400 pages – fortunately now available on Kindle for the princely sum of £3.88 – a bargain if ever there was one.

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Frustrating the referendum result

Psalm 33:10 says, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing, he frustrates the plans of the peoples”.

I pray every day that the plans of those who wish to leave the European Union will fail.  I do this because the decision to leave goes against Christian values in every respect.

From the day that the angel announced the birth of Jesus by proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14), Christians have known that the best plans for earth are those that promote peace.  After Britain and the USA liberated Europe from the Nazi regime it was our aim to establish great councils which would enable nations to work together so that wars could be avoided wherever possible.  Both the United Nations and the European Union have been used to enable the nations to work together and the European Union in particular has seen an avoidance of war between its members throughout the 70 years of its existence.  Are we really supposed to leave this powerful alliance at a time when because of international terrorism it needs supporting and strengthening?

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A new government, a photograph and living without alcohol

A new government

It is remarkable how rapidly the Brexit campaign collapsed after the referendum on 23 June. Within days, the Out campaign had wiped their website – knowing full well that it contained so much misleading and incorrect information.  None of the “Brexiteers” seemed able to pursue their objective of leading the Conservative Party and instead we now have a serious-minded, seemingly well-balanced female Prime Minister in Teresa May.  I have a great sense of God having been at work in Britain over the last two weeks, particularly in the collapse of opposition to Teresa May’s bid to become Prime Minister. Continue reading “A new government, a photograph and living without alcohol”

Bonhoeffer – pastor, martyr, prophet, spy

metaxas_bonhoeffer_hardbackDietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship has been a close companion for many years now, reminding me that the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are fundamental to Christian living. I have just read the biography Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric  Metaxas.  and have once more been inspired by this great man who could have spent the years 1939-1945 as a theology professor in America or Britain but returned to Germany to live out an authentic Christian life, knowing full well that this would inevitably lead to imprisonment and death.

Bonhoeffer surprised his parents when in his early teens he decided he wanted to become a theologian.  The German church was so steeped in liberal theology that it is difficult to see what appeal it could have had to someone who clearly had a deep engagement with God, but through his relationship with the great Karl Barth, Bonhoeffer showed that liberal/conservative dichotomy is not the most important thing – a living relationship with Almighty God is the only thing that matters.  In his early sermons Bonhoeffer was confronting passive religiosity and demonstrating that the teachings of Jesus Christ challenged the principalities and powers of the present world.  All the more so when the world of Germany was being rapidly hijacked by a viciously corrupt and evil regime who threatened everything the Church stood for. Continue reading “Bonhoeffer – pastor, martyr, prophet, spy”

A place of stillness

When the EU referendum campaign started I initially became quite active for the Remain side, believing that we should stay in the European Union. I soon realised that an involvement in politics was not for me and was a threat to my peace of mind and my walk with God.  I am not saying that it is wrong for a Christian to be involved with politics, far from it, but I think you need a great ability to be unaffected in your inner core so that your passions remain where your faith is.  Great men (and women of course) like Dietrich Bonhoeffer undoutedly had the ability to live a life of prayer and also to work actively against (in his case) the Nazi regime, eventually going to his death as a martyr a few weeks before the War ended.

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Book review: Austerlitz – W G Sebald

824The books of W G Sebald have interested me for many years now and unlike most other books, I find myself coming back to them over and over again, quickly becoming absorbed in the images and impressions they create in my own mind. Sebald’s way of travel, and his way of looking at the places he visits have even influenced my own way of seeing, causing me to think in an oblique way about the cities and towns I go to, trying to read the cultural messages communicated by the places I find myself in.

In his book Austerlitz, Sebald seems to be showing us that the holocaust was such a pivotal event of the 20th century that it is now impossible to live our lives without a consciousness of what was done to all those millions of Jewish people. So aware are we now of how thin the veneer of civilisation is on our culture that it is impossible to carry on with normal human activities; our consciousness is infected at the deepest levels with the thought of how western societies can descend so easily to such a level of horrific cruelty.

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Book review: All for Nothing – Walter Kempowski

all-for-nothingIn All For Nothing we travel to the German province of East Prussia in the closing days of the Second World War. To understand the context in which this book is set, we need to understand a little history. The Treaty of Versailles in 1919 created East Prussia as a German Enclave surrounded by Poland to the east, west and south and by the Baltic Sea to the north.   With the advance of Nazi Germany into Poland, the Polish land between East Prussia and Germany was taken by the German Army and East Prussia was reunited with the Greater Germanic Reich (see Wikipedia).

East Prussia was not very affected by the War once the Reich was established but as the Russians advanced, the situation changed with great rapidity. The Russians swept into the west of East Prussia, once more cutting the province off from Germany. The German government was slow to react but in the winter of 1944/45, the population realised that they needed to head west or be massacred by the invading Russians. Walter Kempowski has created a powerfully affecting novel about the impact of the times on the aristocratic von Globig family, who live in a huge house called the The Georgenhof.

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A Christian through reading

In my early twenties I was drawn to various Eastern philosophies and was an ardent student of the “anti-religion” philosopher Krishnamurti. When I was 23, I had arranged to go on a three day youth-hosteling walk around the North Downs with my friend Andy.

The week before we were due to go, Andy dropped out, but I decided to go anyway, thinking that I would use it as a sort of attempt to find out what life was really all about. During my walk I passed two or three village churches with open doors and when I went inside they all seemed to have a series of little booklets in them called The Islington booklets with title such as “What is Prayer?” or “Who is Jesus?”. I remember taking one of these everytime I saw them and reading them during my walk. I came home with a real desire to find out more.

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