Blogs for August 2017

First Days. Yesterday was the first day of August. The first day of the month. When something begins there is so much potential in what might happen in the coming period or season or even month, just started. Maybe we should use first days of the month or the week in our own lives, in our own families, in our own groups - even our own church - to inspire us to move forward.The first day of the week. There were two very significant first days of the week in the Bible. Firstly (do you see what I did there?) there was the first day of creation in Genesis Chapter 1 when God said "Let there be light". What happened next was that God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. He called the light "day", and the darkness He called "night". And that was how we came to have evenings and mornings, both parts together making that very first, first day. I've just paraphrased what modern bibles say. We just read it as a bland statement that we've all read countless times. But think about it like this, remembering that Jesus was the Creator of the whole universe (Heb 1v2) - what was He thinking when He set out to create on that first day? What was the plan? What had been discussed between the Three Of Them (the Trinity). What envisaged? Had all outcomes, all consequences, all failures been considered? When programmers write computer programmes they build in something called "error trapping". So did they think through the possibility of error - what we now call sin? Did they think it all through and come up with a plan. Yes that would be the second first day. The first day of the week thousands of years later. Resurrection morning. Yes they came up with a grand plan with built-in "error trapping". Luke told the Gospel Rescue Plan this way: "On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in white clothes that gleamed like lightening stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen [from the dead]! On the two greatest first days in the history of time and the physical universe The Lord Jesus Christ was there. He made those two first days the most momentous of days. 2 August 2017 StanH

Light of the World. Going on from yesterday. Strange isn't it that on the first day of creation, the first day of any kind of physical existence, that the creation of light was God's first priority? It's that song by Tim Hughes that keeps going round in my head these past few days: "Light of the world you stepped down into darkness, opened my eyes, let me see...". If you go onto the internet there is, at it's foundation, a lot of science connected to the creation of light. Our God is the God of Science; science and religion are not disconnected and at odds with each other. I don't accept that for one minute.No matter what the source, light is generally produced via the same mechanism: electrons changing their orbits around nuclei. Hey wait a minute! That's heavy ! This is already getting over my head. I don't mind the science - in fact I'm a great fan of those BBC Horizon programmes - but are we saying that while it was still dark (Genesis 1v2) "God was hovering over the waters...working it all out or consulting a plan already mapped out. I don't doubt that God said "Let there be light.." but what I don't understand, stepping back to before this first act of creation, is WHY LIGHT FIRST? Creation is clearly a fully connected and sequential process over six days (I'm OK with that) but it implies that God (Jesus) had a fully worked out blueprint. For all kinds of reasons men and women had to come last in the sequence as they're not designed to "hover" over nothingness or arrive prior to the creation of "meat and two veg and a drink with you meal".Unlike an artist who throws paint onto canvas then thinks he will try (experient randomly with colour) something else, God clearly had a structured plan. By the way colour only exists because of light but let's not go there; this blog is already getting away from me. I've never thought about it before and intellectually maybe I'm not up to it anyway - but why did God create anything. Why couldn't the three of them just be happy with their own company. Need or desire? What provoked or precipitated this great act of creation ? What follows is probably typical of mans thinking on the internet:

God chose to create. He created because of His own will, His own determination, His own purpose; He is the One “who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). Matter is not the result of an accident, or randomness, or chance; rather, it is the result of a purpose, God’s purpose. God’s heavenly creation proclaims in worship: “You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11). The will of God is the explanation for all that is.The act of Creation was a purposeful act by God alone. “He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion” (Jer. 10:12). God did not create because of a necessity outside of Himself, neither because of a deficiency within Him, nor because of counsel around Him. By His own wisdom He created, by His own power. Creation was a free act by the Godhead, with no constraints or necessity; it flowed from God’s will, which is totally free in its determination. God’s will alone is the explanation for Creation! “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). The twenty-four elders in heaven affirm: “For you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11).

Don't get me wrong. I can accept that sort of theorising. That sort of skirting around an answer to the question. It's good I will grant you that and God's Word clearly supports the argument made but, but.....no-one has dared proffer an answer to the fundamental question. Why creation? Why mankind? Why a flawed creation in mankind (sin)? I'm sure God would have foreseen where Adam and Eve were going to go [into sin] and....Why salvation? Perhaps Tim Hughes has stumbled on the answer in his lovely song: "Light of the world, you stepped down into darkness, opened my eyes let me see. Beauty that made this heart adore you, hope of a life spent with you. So here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you're my God....you're altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether wonder ful to me". Our worship of Him who created was planned before creation began. 3 August 2017 StanH.

The next blog continues to reflect on "why?", with a look at Josephs famine and the constructed incident of the silver cup in a sack of corn. I've cleverly called it - The Silver Cup. I know - it's good isn't it?

Footnote. Before we move on from creation and talk about The Silver Cup we need to state what should not need stating - that the order we see in creation week [because our God is a God of order, not chaos] then continued on and even continues on up to the present day. What oft-times we see as chaos in this world today is ordered, was predicted or foretold and remains entirely in the control and plans of our God. If we get that then, when things appear to be going pear-shaped not only in our own lives, but in the life of our nation, in the Church and in the wider world, we can remain confident that God is working out His purposes.You will notice that there is a clear and orderly sequence in creation, begining with light and ending with us. Man. If God had been impetuous or like a silly child with a big bag of toys at Christmas, flitting from one to the other He might have desired to get to his "Man toy" not at the end but at the beginning, unable to leave the best till last. Ooops! That would have been a big mistake for.......how would we see without light, where would we stand without ground, how would we stand without gravity? And when we got hungry what would we eat and when we got thirsty what would we drink? Put simply - there had to be grass before there were cows ! Do you see what I'm saying here? When Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden history began, The story of man and man relating to God and discovering God began. And what an epic story (history) has been ever since. Words from Don Moen's well known song sum up what I think I'm trying to say here: "Ascribe greatness to our God, the Rock. His work is perfect and all His ways are just......". 4 August 2017 StanH.

The Silver Cup. For some reason, which I hope is going to be borne out as I develop this blog, because nothing is planned before I begin to write, I was drawn to Joseph's silver cup (Genesis Chapters 42, 43 and 44) as I was completing the 3 August blog. Going back a step we need to remember that God's work and words are perfect. Nothing that is in the Bible is trivial and need not be there.There are no spare or surplus words. Indeed we are warned by God not to tamper with His word. In the King James Version we read: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you."  (Deuteronomy 4:2). So when we read the strange story of the Joseph's silver cup we should not diminish it or devalue it but revere it and be amazed by the thorough comprehensiveness of Gods plan from before creation. Yes I had to get the creation theme in there again because everything is played out from that foundation. The Joseph years pre-date the Moses years. Joseph brought God's people into Egypt. Moses brought God's people out of Egypt. Question: In God's infallable economy why didn't He contrive to keep them in the Land of Promise that Abraham had first occupied. And, equally, going forward, why did He disperse the Jews across the entire world and then bring them back to the re-made Israel of today with all the ongoing tension that that continues to create in the Middle East? But let's not criticise God because as we already established "....His work is perfect and all His ways are just". The silver cup incident is a story on at least three levels: First, how Joseph humanly contrived (that word is my deliberate choice) to be reconciled with his brothers and beloved father whom he loved (I feel a gospel story in the making here, don't you?). Next, and this only becomes obvious from a wider knowledge of "types" in His word, Joseph is in his way a "type of Christ"; in the way Joseph works and what he achieves we can see similarities to what Jesus did in his day. Joseph is one of those, like Moses, who presages the saving work of the Messiah. Finally we must look beyond the Jews. We are gentiles, not Jews, who have been allowed by God, through Jesus, to be drawn into his family a long time after the time of Joseph but, make no mistake this could not have happened except by the saving of those first Hebrews from famine and starvation. Paul writes in Galatians 3v26-29: "So in Christ Jesus (Christ Jesus is distinction for God Jesus and not Jesus Christ who is the man Jesus or son of David as He was often addressed) you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. [Here's the interesting bit] There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. [There it is again - Christ Jesus]. If you belong to Christ , then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise". Going back to Joseph and his family, this all came about because of a famine. Does that mean that God created the famine which would have caused great hardship and even death to many more than just Jacobs family? I don't think so. I don't believe God interferes with the general consequences of The Fall which also impacts the natural order - like weather and famine. But he can providentially work with such to achieve His purposes and He will have seen a way (or foreseen a way) to use famine to save Jacobs family and at the same time reconcile that broken family. And He would have seen all that long before Joseph was elevated to a place of influence in Egypt - even before the first day. The silver cup was just a fairly crude excuse on the part of Joseph to bring all the family to Egypt - even Benjamin and his father Jacob. Though they were to stay in Egypt some 400 years, it was never going to be forever. Yet over the centuries, even over your lifetime, how many times has God slipped a silver cup into your sack and caused a change of direction for your good? 5 August 2017 StanH.

The King is dead, long live the King! No-one expected Usain Bolt to lose his last race before retiring but he did. It would have been much tidier and a whole lot easier for the pundits and TV commentators to explain away had he finished on a well-deserved high. For he was and still remains one of the greats in athletics and an exemplar to many young upcoming athletes and school children. The next generation. He was an ambassador for his sport and if it were possible I would love to see him knighted. I keep thinking about his popular advertisement role for Richard Bransons Virgin brand. Richard has now got a problem. How can you replace a man like Usain Bolt with a man who went to prison for drugs in sport. What a fine advertisement that would be. The tabloids would have a field day. We may never know what was going on in Usain Bolt's head which to me, in hindsight, was clearly not in the right place and I feel sure many will go back and re-examine the footage. He was messing about with his feet settings on the metal grid just before the race. I've never noticed him do that before. Odd. His equipment, like him, was not quite right. But it reminds me of Jesus Christ. Another great hero of the people who, on the Sunday before he died, rode into Jerusalem a conquering hero. We remember that event as Palm Sunday: "The great crowd...took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!". Someone in the crowd apparently made this comment: "....Look how the whole world has gone after him!". Five days later those same crowds were braying for His blood, incited to a frenzy by the rulers and teachers and "...insistently demanded that He be crucified, and their shouts prevailed". Luke records that the whole crowd (as one) shouted: "Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!". Barabbas was a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder. Compare this with Matthew's Jesus (21v5) who: "...comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey". The people always need a hero and will make a new one for themselves out of this American but he will not stand the test of time. Like Barabbas who had fifteen minutes of fame and was then consigned to oblivion and out of the history books. There will never be another Usain Bolt just as there will never be another Messiah even though false christs may try.          6 August 217 StanH

SentBefore we leave Joseph just a couple of observations. Most of his life in Egypt the Genesis story does not major on him having a deep day to day conversation with God (like say Moses or Abraham had) and yet when the truth comes out and his brothers discover who he is and Pharoah discovers what has transpired, we get these words and this understanding and this self-awareness from Joseph, starting at Gen 45v6: "For two years now there has been a famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no ploughing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. [again I feel a great gospel story coming on - don't you?] So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.". And I would like to add at this point those famous Esther words: "....for such a time as this".  It seems to be God's order of things to send. Most famously of course is Christ's understanding of his own purpose in coming as seen in John 17v3-4: "Now this is eternal life - that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do". So there we have it - sent and sending equate to being given a work to do. Joseph recognised his as achieving a great deliverance. He was a "type" of Christ. Jesus, exactly the same. He takes it a step further at the end of Matthew's Gospel by giving his disciples a work to do - the Great Commission: "Therefore go [go forth/push - which is what sending is meant to set in motion] and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you". There are other sent men in the bible - Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, Paul, Jonah (Ooops! Jonah was not the best of successes - but not all of us can claim a great success like Jesus was able to do in the John 17 prayer). Even Adam - go forth and multiply! Or on the cross of Calvary when he said: "It is finished !". The great project you sent me to do is finished. Salvation. Deliverance. Restoration. Reconciliation. Resurrection. All flow from the great work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. 10 August 2017 StanH

GONE FISHING! PUT A SIGN UP ON MY DOOR. GONE FISHING! Back from holiday on 16 August 2017

Coming Back. I'm back in more ways than one. I'm back off my all too brief holiday in Sunny Jersey and I'm right back into the thick of things at church with a BIG CLEAN DAY in the Church Hall yesterday which is going to kick-off a full re-decoration. But for this blog I've also returned to the subject of Nicodaemus in John's Gospel. He was, I'm certain, a real person known to the Apostle John and, uniquely, only features in John's Gospel. As I may have said in a previous blog (and as I have not indexed my blogs I can't tell you where) Nicodemeus appears three times in John's Gospel and everyone of those occurances is memorable. Over more than forty years of reading my bible I've changed my attitude about Nicodaemeus. Many years ago when I was a young Christian I knew you had to be born again to be saved. Nicodaemus didn't. What are you like Nicodaemus? Don't you know you must be born again? For an important religeous dignatary you don't know much. Forty some years on I respect him a lot more as a true Bible Hero. He was the man in Chapter 3, much like the woman at the well in John Chapter 4, who drew some important information out of Jesus in conversation. That conversation, by the will of God,was preserved in His Word for the benefit of every man, woman and child on the planet over all the centuries since. I imagine the room where Jesus received Nicodaemus to be like a Holbein painting full of deep shadows with John hidden away in the shadows standing witness to some of the most profound words in the bible. What Jesus told him and what John's gospel would tell all of us is that YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN ! That won't mean much to some people but it is the very important fact that stands right at the centre of the Gospel Message. It's a MUST that cannot be avoided. Its the narrow way and the only way to be reconciled and back into fellowship with the Father through the Son. But its not a new idea and Nicodaemus should have known by another route. In the Prophets we have Ezekial and in Chapter 36v26 we have this bit of surgery which is no less profound than the re-birth that Nicodaemus could not get to grips with. This is God the Father speaking to the nation of Israel: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove from you a heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh". Funnily enough, Ezekial Chaptet 36 is one of God's many attempts to draw back His people unto Himself. It's restoration. It's their very own coming back! 18 August 2017 StanH.

A New Thing ! When I wrote about being born again yesterday I didn't really address what got me back onto Nicodaemus. It was this strange subject of being "born again". Am I the only one seeing this? When we got saved forty-odd years ago we never saw it as strange. Never gave it a second thought. We thought it was normal. To be born again. We, as new Christians adapted to the vocabulary of the church. I can see now, forty-odd years later that Nicodaemus was no numpty. He was genuinely surprised by what Jesus was telling him and it came out like this: "How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!".[John 3v4]. What I've noticed is that some of the most important and profound truths in the Bible (those essential to salvation and eternity), often occur once. Jesus told this particular truth to one man in private and we have no indication that He ever preached it again to a wider audience (due to its absence elsewhere in the NT and especially the other three Gospels) and yet, clearly, all of us need to know these facts as of most importance. Paul talks about such a truth as being of first importance. Albeit, I'm fairly sure this is a subject that Paul the Apostle and great theologian never taught in so many words. Having mentioned Paul though, he addresses an equally profound subject (Resurrection) but only in his letter to the Corinthian Church [1 Cor 15] yet, as far as we know from the written record, to no-one else. To none of the other churches in his care. Neither did Peter, James or John in their letters. Modern Christians, however, have taken this truth to heart and teach it "as of first importance" and acknowledge with some pride I think that they are "born again" Christians. The modern Church seems to be divided into two camps: those that are born again and those that never mention it or when they do even deride as somehow obsessive those who call themselves born again Christians. I think that in the picture or parable of re-birth Jesus is really describing some spiritual mechanics that we could otherwise not understand. It is a work of God, even a creative or re-creative work of God, to repair us spiritually by His Holy Spirit. It would be nice to understand the physics, chemistry and biology of re-birth outside the womb (almost like a test-tube baby) but I'm afraid this side of heaven and eternity the phrase "being born again" will just have to do. Jesus was very clear on this subject: "You must be born again!". So you know what I'm going to end with don't you? Are you born again? 19 August 2017 StanH.

Go Large. I often wake up with a theme to blog about. I've been trying to make John the Baptist to be my theme over the last week but in the end it was The Widows Mite that won the day. I'm sure you know the story in Mark's/Luke's Gospels, where Jesus for some strange reason, actually probably not at all pre-meditated, sat down in the Temple at a place that (I feel) just happened to give Him a good view of people putting money onto (lets say) the collection plate. Rich people threw in large amounts but this poor woman put in only two very small copper coins. Mark has actually emphasised that they were indeed very small and, being copper, could by implication, never be worth as much as gold or silver. Before we get to the bit where He calls His disciples over to teach them a lesson its worth asking ourselves that question - how much time does Jesus spend nowadays looking at His Church and the way we behave with the resources and gifts that He has given us? His generosity is not matched or reflected in our generosity and in the wider Church generally. And beyond generosity we also have responsibility for stewardship. In a Kingdom where the first shall be last and the last first it is heartening that this old, nameless poor woman should get her place in the Bible and be honoured for posterity. It is clear that he "knew" (as only God knows each one of us) her circumstances and he knew that she was giving all she had leaving herself with nothing for even essentials. Like many folks today, I have delegated my own giving. I do it by standing order. Thats not as good as at first it might appear. In a way its no better than those rich folk who gave out of their plenty. Once you consign your giving to an automaton, robotic software, you take something of the humanity out of it and your "giving senses" become dulled. On my way home from Church this morning I might stop off at a McDonalds. I may even Go Large! We can be fairly sure that the old widow in Marks account would not be going large that day and possibly ever again. As Jesus taught His disciples she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on. I don't think we've got there yet have we - of, by faith, economically walking on water. Give us this day our daily bread. One day at a time.But actually I don't think this poor woman was giving by faith. I think she was giving painfully until it hurt. Now there's a thought! 26 August 2017 StanH.

They Do Not Need To Go Away. You feed them ! That's what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 14v16. They only had to  feed thousand. We were troubled by the homeless and rough sleepers recently when someone (one of them we assume) set fire to our Refuse Bins and caused considerable damage to the Church and Church Hall. Next, we were challenged. We were challenged by this verse in Matthews Gospel. We were challenged on a practical level as to whether, for security and safety reasons and reasons of sound stewardship, we should close off the rear of our Church where some of these folks congregate to prevent a re-occurance of this arson event. There has been a noticeable escalation of activity recently, with rough sleepers no longer hiding in the bushes behind the building, but bringing their cardboard beds to the front of the Church Hall - some actually sleeping in the main entrance and on the front lawn. If we close off the back then its obvious they will congregate at the front. If you give them an inch - they will take a mile; they have nothing.They are not going away. They have no-where to go. This problem will not disappear. One of them said that if the Church does not feed them they would not eat. Thats the wider Church. But God has specifically given St James Doncaster a burden. Asylum Seekers (that was easy - they are loveable) and The Homeless (not so easy). One feature of making their presence felt is an increase in defacation. Not nice - but where do the homeless go to the toilet 24/7. Someone said Debenhams - I don't think they would get very far into the Shopping Centre - never mind a particular shop. But we cannot ignore what is happening around us. I've been reading the Feeding of the Five Thousand since Sunday School. I've never seen those words before:They Do Not Need To Go Away. The old stories are still speaking to us. These are the words of Jesus. That was His opinion and I'm pretty certian it still is. 30 August 2017 StanH.

 

 


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