Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries


 The World Turned Upside Down   Audio

Luke 1:46-56

Our image of the first Christmas is so sanitised, isn’t it? We imagine a young woman, dressed in a pearly white robe with a blue veil over her head, riding a lovely little donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. When they get there the inn is full but the kindly innkeeper cleans out the stable and sets them up there with a manger filled with fresh hay and nice clean swaddling clothes for the baby Jesus. It’s all so wonderful, isn’t it?! 

And so far from the truth!

The truth is that Mary was in disgrace: pregnant without first being married! The penalty for such a thing could have been death. Joseph had decided not to mention that he wasn’t the father so he was probably in disgrace as well, though possibly not quite to the same degree, being a man. 

Samson - A Strong man’s Weakness     Audio

Judges 13-16

I love movies. I especially love those thrillers where the hero overcomes all odds to defeat the villains and save the weak and helpless victims. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Bruce Willis overcoming incredible injuries to win out in Die Hard, or Arnold Schwarzenegger finally getting the better of the evil Terminator or one of the countless James Bonds overcoming whichever evil enemy of civilisation it is this year, I love to see justice done and the helpless helped.

But of course these are all fictional characters. They’re not real, are they? No more so than Superman or Batman. But then they’re also the stuff of myth and legend, the sort of stories that have been told from time immemorial, often stories based on real events, real people, in the time before history was written down.

Well, today we’re going to be thinking about one of the real heroes of history, a man who was Arnie and Bruce and Bond put together. Samson was a real person, born around the 12th century BC, but endowed with supernatural strength by God, who had chosen him to save his people from their oppressors, the Philistines. The sign that he’s chosen by God for this special task is that he’s to be a nazirite. That is, he’s to drink no wine or strong drink, eat nothing unclean and not cut his hair. And as a result of God’s special calling he grows up to be the strongest man in the universe. Unlike Gideon, who we looked at last week, he doesn’t need to be encouraged to stand up to his enemies. He doesn’t need to call out the tribes of Israel to fight the Philistines because he’s a one-man army. All he needs is the jawbone of a donkey and he can kill any army that stands against him.

Yet as we read through the story we discover that he isn’t entirely the man of steel that we thought he was. Far from being a He-man he’s really just an ordinary hu-man. In fact, he could well be one of the heroes of modern literature: a flawed specimen of a man who never quite lives up to his potential until the final fateful act of heroism that takes his life.

Fake or Real?   Audio

1 John 2:3-27

How do you spot a fake? You see a post on social media telling you about some new discovery, some whizz bang way of making money, or sure fire way of getting fit, being healthy, living longer, but how do you know if it’s real. How many times have you had a friend request on Facebook and realised that that person was already your friend? Steve sent out a text message last week saying be careful because someone was pretending to be him on email. We live in a world of fakes and sometimes it can be hard to recognise them from reality.

Well, clearly, from today’s reading, you don’t need to have Facebook to be faced with fakes. John writes to his friends to warn them about fake Christians and to help them be sure that they themselves are the real thing.

I’ve met people over the years who were not quite sure if they were up to the mark as Christians. They weren’t sure that they believed enough or understood enough or were faithful enough. And no doubt the people John was writing to here had similar worries. So he gives them four tests to apply to their lives to reassure them, but also to warn them about certain people who wished to lead them astray.

Gideon - An Unexpected Hero   Audio

Judges 6 - 8

Gideon isn’t exactly your Hollywood image of a hero is he? In fact he’s the exact opposite. He’s much more the indecisive, timid type. He’s one of those people who want every ‘i’ dotted and every t crossed before they make a decision and even then they still have doubts. You can see the sort of person he is from the situation in which we find him at the beginning of this story.  “11Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites.” Just to make the situation clear, you need to understand that in those days wine presses were generally dug into the ground, so that if you got inside a wine press you’d be out of sight, in Gideon’s case from their enemies, the Midianites.

Yet the encouraging thing for those of us who relate to Gideon as this timid, nervous type, is that despite the unpromising material from which he was made, God takes him and makes him into a hero of Biblical proportions. So let’s spend some time thinking about the process through which Gideon was changed by God into a leader and saviour of his people.

Marriage and Singleness - 2 gifts from God  audio

1 Cor 7:1-40 

“Dear Paul, life is so difficult here in Corinth. We’re trying to live a spirit filled life but Corinth is such a worldly city it’s hard to keep up the standards of life you seem to have set for us.  In your last letter you warned us about those members who were living immoral lives, so we need some advice. Some of our leaders are saying that that means we should lead lives of total abstinence from sex. Did you really say: "It is well for a man not to touch a woman" or have they come up with that by themselves?”

It’s seems this is the sort of letter that Paul’s received and is now sitting down to answer.

 He’s been through the introductory remarks about what he’s heard about them and now he comes to this and other questions they’ve put to him.

Deborah & Barak - Lessons from history   Audio

Judges 2-4

One of my favourite lines from the TV series, Mash, was the statement that this was the latest ‘war to end all wars’. The point they were making of course was that we never seem to learn from history. In fact, isn’t this the one lesson we have learnt from history: that we never learn from history? No matter how bad our experience of history is, we never seem to be able to learn our lesson so we avoid the same mistake the next time.

But that begs the question of course, whether there are patterns in history from which we can learn. Historians and thinkers have debated that question over many years. Some would say, “Yes, there is a meaningful pattern to history, and if we can find it we can do something to change the way things happen.” Karl Marx thought he’d found a pattern in history revolving around the unequal distribution of power and resources. If you followed his model you’d eventually arrive at a Utopian, classless society that he called Socialism. Well, that didn’t work out did it? No more than any of the utopian communities set up in the 19th century. Socialist societies have been found to fail just as badly as the capitalist societies he was critiquing.

Praying with Paul - How Should we Pray  audio

Col 1:9-14 

      Today we move into a short series on prayer that we were introduced to last week by our service of “Music as Prayer”. Over the next 4 weeks we’ll be looking at Paul’s prayers to various churches in order to see both a model and a foundation for our prayers. Let’s listen to this short prayer that Paul prays for the Colossians and as you’re listening see if you can pick up some principals that might help you in your prayer life and we’ll see if you find what I’ve found. [Read Col 1:9-14]

I should begin by pointing out that Paul’s prayer for the Colossians has one major difference from the other prayers that we’ll consider over the next few weeks as well as a couple of similarities.

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