Blogs for August 2016

As we start another month at St.James Doncaster I am reminded of how I finished last months blog with thoughts of our once only World Cup win in July 1966 and of the spiritual dimensions to such memories of years past when the exiles from Judah in captivity in Babylon remembered that their time of exile was coming to an end. Today I am reminded of that poignant song by Stuart Townend where he cries out like Daniel on behalf  for us all "How Long?" with such words as:

How long before Your glory lights the skies?
How long before Your radiance lifts our eyes?
How long before Your fragrance fills the air?
How long before the earth resounds with songs of joy?

Oh, how long, oh Lord? Come soon, oh God
Come soon, oh Lord, we wait for You
We wait for You, come quickly, Lord, oh
Come soon, Lord
 
Reminded as we are of His promised soon return do we have a Daniel or a Nehemiah interceding even now on behalf of His Church?   1 August 2016 StanH
 
 
A friend of ours, Tony Horsfall, has written several Christian books but one in particular comes to mind which reflects on Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd...".  There are many equally fascinating subjects in the Bible that could be made the worthy subject of a book but time and again I go back to John Chapter 3 and the man, Nicodeamus - he fascinates me. We all I'm sure go to that most famous of well-beloved verses, John 3v16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him hall not perish but have eternal life...", but for me there is this enduring fascination with Nicodeamus - the man himself. Here is a man who is representative of every man and women who would come to Jesus and if we put ourselves into his shoes we may begin see why. I've been reading the Bible for more than forty years and still I'm discovering something new in His word and about Him. What has Nicodeamus got to teach us? Well, following the style of Jesus let me seem to go off at a tangent at this point. Some Greeks came to Jesus and got as far as the reception desk - His disciples (John 12v20-22). We don't actually find out if Jesus received their visitation because his response is instead to go off at an apparent tangent and teach a great truth..."very truly I tell you..", says Jesus. Whatever they wanted to know is not told to us, but what they needed to know is; do we understand the difference between wants and needs ? Likewise, Nicodeamus does not it seems get the answer he would like to have had, as he gets his foot in the door and tries the lead Jesus down a particular line of discussion but, just short of being ejected with a flea in his ear, he receives a priceless truth from Jesus that he needs to know - as do we all..."Very truly I tell you",says Jesus, "no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again".             3  August 2016 StanH
 
Bracket Man. I'm a bracket man - when I write I like to use backets (and hyphens) - yes I like to use hyphens as well. That last sentence well illustrates what I mean. So when I read John 20v9 this morning in the NIV (which, I might add, is entirely inside brackets) I said "ey up mi duck whys tha usin' brackets?". What had happened was that Peter and John had gone to check out the tomb of Jesus when Mary Magdalene came back and said His body had been taken. I'm not sure who wrote verse 9 - whether it was John or his scribe - but someone had added commentary which says "They still did not understand from Scripture (meaning OT Scriptures) that Jesus had to rise from the dead". Well its quite clear from the first nineteen chapters that John had well understood, perhaps more than any of the other Apostles and Gospel Writers, that Jesus had to die and would return so whats his problem? The OT is very clear about His need to die, for example Isaiah 53v8b-10, including these words, "He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in his mouth (v9)". Matthew in his gospel said that the tomb belonged to Joseph of Armathea and he was that rich man (27v57) so that seems to fit. Well John would have known about Jonah and the great fish and he would presumably have known about Hosea (6v2) and Psalm 16v10 because, from all that Jesus had taught them about his Father, the Father would not abandon his well-beloved Son to the realm of the dead. However, and I'll finish with this, Dr. William Lane Craig makes this very good point - "Once the disciples came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection, then they could [have gone back] to the Scriptures looking for verses to validate their belief and experience, and passages like Jonah and the whale and Psalm 16.10 could be re-interpreted in light of Jesus’ resurrection. But [Craig says] to think that the belief in Jesus’ resurrection was derived from the Old Testament is to put the cart before the horse; it gets things exactly backwards". The fact is it happened - and in the days and weeks following that ressurrection day he was seen by many, ate a hearty breakfast with some and underwent a close physical examination by a man who doubted it could have happened - so there we have it. 6 August 2016 StanH

Spare a thought - have you ever wondered how everyday english phrases (well, like "spare a thought") are received by people with little english? Running the race might be quite a topical title for today's blog given that we're in the middle of Rio 2016 when many races are being run (or variously rowed, swum, cycled, fought, fenced, jumped and thrown). What's a blog? Well its a piece (a piece of cake? no! no! no! - journalists call their articles "pieces"). We're already getting into "deep water" (where's the water?) Ssh! there's no water - we mean getting into difficulty (well say difficulty !). Where was I ? Its funny - not! (how do I explain the use of "not" in this context?) the way we English use and abuse our own language, use it to the max, and push it to the limits as we speak with friends from other countries and other languages whose use of english is not half as bad as our own (where did the other half go?). We take for granted (where do we take it? now you're really getting up my nose - sorry beginning to annoy me!) that everyone else is up to speed in how to receive all the phrases we throw at them (no not proper throwing like a javelin). We quite merrily (are we really that happy?) break every rule in the book (there's another strange phrase). So please re-read this blog (or piece) and identify how many strange phrases are being used in everyday writing, masquerading (in the interests of simple everyday english did you really have to say masquerading?) as good english and spare a thought (what do we mean by spare a thought? - well pause to consider) our poor foreign language students (English isn't foreign! It is to them !). What do we mean by poor - well not economically poor, not even poor in spirit that Jesus spoke about but rather having very little chance of learning our crazy english language or winning a race against Mo Farah. I'm the world's worst (thats another odd phrase - don't ask!) when it comes to misusing my own language so I can't begin to imagine (why not just say imagine?) whether other languages - such as Farsi, Tamil, Spanish (or Albanian with its four dialects) - have similar subtle quirks and phrases in those languages that would catch you and me out if we were trying to learn them. So today let us pause to consider our brothers and sisters from other lands. 9 August 2016 StanH.
 
Wouldn't it be amazing if there was a really clever app that told you all about the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God for fallen mankind? Now you've got to agree that would be a really amazing app. Well I've come up with a brilliant idea - a completely new technology. Whats that then ? Paper Apps! Paper Apps ? Yeah! Paper Apps. I never thought of that. Oh yes! This is going to be the next big thing in Doncaster. Paper Apps! Look I've got this really clever device - how smooth is that ? Woosh! Gentle as a summer breeze! Almost zephyr-like. But it's a book! Only a book. No its more than that. Imagine being able to read Johns Gospel on paper. Wow! Just try it and see how easy it is, "For God so loved the World that.....". Oh yeah! That's really smooth - I see what you mean. So what are going to call this new app. Well I took the word Kindle and re-worked it to become Bible. Get it? Do you see what I did there. Wow!  10 August 2016 StanH
 
I'm currently re-reading yet again that wonderful old book by Frank Morison, "Who Moved The Stone", written in 1930; see our Book Reviews section for more details of a modern re-printing. He forensically examines, as only a lawyer by profession can, the period from the Last Supper to the moment that it was discovered that Jesus had risen from the dead. The book is brilliant but actually this time it raises a really frustrating omission by Morison that I wish he had explored. Its the puzzle as to why Jesus chose to stay in Jerusalem for the Passover Meal (when he could have had it in more salubrious surroundings at Betheny) and why having finished the meal, instead of going back to his and his disciple's lodgings in Bethany at the comfortable home of Martha and Mary (and Lazarus), he then takes them up to the Garden of Gethsemene at a late hour and detains them there for an extended period. I can only come to one conclusion (and on this point Morison does touch upon it but all too briefly) that Jesus quite deliberately and pre-meditatedly held himself there at the disposal and convenience of evil men until they got round to coming for Him with clubs and swords. We sometimes talk of Jesus putting himself on the cross and holding Himself there for us - or words to the effect - but the picture that comes to my mind this morning is of Jesus the lamb caught in a thicket. He deliberately walked into the thicket of Gethsemene (see Gen 22v13 "Then Abraham lifted his eyes and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son").   11 August 2016 StanH
 
Come with me if you will to Jerusalem. Its AD34. It's mid-morning and we're walking through the busy bustling streets of the old town. To our left we see people sat outside a Costa Coffee Shop drinking coffee and talking quite loudly and animatedly (still) about the resurrection of Jesus. [It's by now several years after the tragic crucifxion of that good man they called the Christ but his followers are growing even more vociferous in these days, if that were possible, about his alleged resurrection]. Further on we shoulder past another group on a street corner and they too are talking about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (what is going on?). A bit further on we have to call into Tesco Express to get some bread and semi-skimmed. On the way out, at the till next to ours the customer and the shop assistant are also quite animated, lost in conversation on the same subject. So when we get outside I say to you "Do you know what Steve?". "What?", you say. "Why don't we walk up to Golgotha and find that garden where the man Jesus is buried - Joseph's tomb can't just disappear its carved in solid rock - cast in stone, right?. His remains are either still there - or they're not!". Now if I can work that out nearly 2000 years later why could'nt the people of AD34? It's a "no-brainer" ! It would be a simple matter, would it not, to disprove the resurrection and destroy those troublemakers, the Church, in one fell swoop! But no-one ever did, not the Priests, not the Thought Police, not Saul of Tarsus when he came to Jerusalem just like us in AD34. Who knows Steve we might bump into him - just a scary thought......let's get going!  13 August 2016  StanH
 
When we got to the top of the hill, the sun was by then high in the sky and I was feeling weary and I thought of Jesus, making that self-same climb through the streets of Jerusalem with that great cross on his bloodied shoulders. As we got past the Tower Pool, Golgotha came into view. I hadn't known what to expect, words can't describe...... . There were still the remains of other crosses, other hapless souls of more recent date that had hung and suffered there but none I guess like Jesus - for he had had the whole world on his shoulders. The sins of the whole world,someone has said. We saw the garden away to our left and got to our feet and wandered over. Tombs, many tombs - but we eventually came upon one tomb and then we knew that this was the tomb. Again I hadn't known what to expect but what I had, at first, was a deflating dissappointment. There was nothing there - not really. I had imagined maybe an old Jewish babushuka lady sweeping away leaves with a besom, maybe a pristine lawn in front, kept that way by the gardener, a bunch or two or flowers with sentimental verses or just a plain old RIP - but no, nothing. The stone had been completely rolled away, right away, used elsewhere for a more needy tomb I guess. Then I went inside. No signs of life, just accumulated dead leaves and I sat, I guess, where the young man had sat on that cold April morning four years earlier and at last I had some understanding of what he had understood: "Don't be alarmed," he had said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go [ now and tell the world what you have seen and now understand that Jesus, the one they are calling the Christ down on the street corners of Jerusalem, really is risen from the dead that all who believe on Him may also rise at the last trump"].  15 August 2016 StanH.
 
I was catching up on my office filing today and came across a poem by Alfred Thananchayan. I'd forgotten he had  given me a copy. Alfred is a Tamil asylum seeker from Sri Lanka. His appeals process is proving to be a very long drawn out affair which could be very disheartening if he hadn't got his Christian faith to draw upon. That long wait, what Alfred calls passing years, can be felt in the reading of these poignant verses.......
 
Slowly slowly I am dying thinking of you
Moon is hiding inside clouds.
Years are passing I continue writing poems about you,
Filing papers with pain, dying in every line.
 
I am waking up my friend in the middle of the night
To borrow a pen to write about you.
 
Walking at  midnight a lonely road, aimless like crazy.
Sitting in the bus stop looking at an empty road and thinking about you.
The moon is setting, something in my heart, veins are carrying sadness.
Every night I am washing it away with alcohol.
 
One rainy day in a train I saw you inside a water drop falling in the window.
Alone, sitting in room listening one romantic song and imagining I am singing
On stage you are with the audience listening to it.
I am day dreaming walking with you on the beach, holding your hands
Slowly slowly my life becoming an illusion.
 
Sometimes, like a small child, I am crying loudly, some people  said I am crazy
Some people said I am not worthy but my innocent heart not listening to my intelligent mind.
I slipped and fell in your eyes and keep falling.
 
Days are passing, nights are passing with thoughts about you.
Tears flooding every new day, graveyard coming closer to me.
Yearning soul's unfulfilled desires searching for you
Every nook and corner of this world but world is too big, life is too short.
 
One night you came in a dream and smiled.
That whole night I am awake thinking about you, kneeling down in front of fate.
Every dawn I am searching the horizon.
 
                                                                                                      Reproduced  17 August  StanH
 
We visited the island of Lindesfarne in Northumberland earlier this year and brought away a few anonymously written pamphlets about the old saints - Aidan, Cuthbert and Bede. Aidan was the Irish monk that originally set up the monastry on Lindesfarne though he is probably the least remembered which, I like to think, is a measure of his humility. It is said that for Aidan the most important thing in a person's life was his relationship with God and he believed that prayer was the chief way of building that relationship. Ironically only one prayer has survived in the tradition. It concerned Penda the King of Mercia who was laying seige to the town of Bamburgh in sight of Aidan who was on the nearby island of Inner Farne. Penda had set up a great bonfire against the town wall from wood taken from destroyed cottages - his plan was to set light to the bonfire when the wind was in the right direction. Observing all this Aidan, it is said, simply raised his eyes and hands to heaven, saying with grief : "Lord, see what evil Penda does!". The wind changed, the smoke was blown back on the attackers who abandoned their assault, and so the Northumbrians were saved. Quoting from the pamphlet: "Such a restrained prayer seems typical of the man whom Bede so often calles 'moderate' and 'discreet'. Aiden will not attempt to compel God [in his praying but rather], it is sufficient for him in his prayer to be a channel through which God's help is able to flow to his people's need". See 2 Tim 2v21, 2 Cor 4v7 and 2 Cor 5v20.
 
Channels only, blessed Master,
But with all Thy wondrous pow’r
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.
Mary E. Maxwell, published 1900
 
19 August 2016 StanH
 
I was particularly impressed by the Women's Triathlon yesterday and I especially felt for Sarah True (USA) when she came off her bike - not just the physical pain which was obvious but also the disappointment after months, if not almost four years of training and hard work (since London 2012), when having tried to keep going, in the end, she had to drop out of the race. The great crowd around her looked down at her in the road but no-one seemed to come to her assistance. Her whole purpose in coming to Rio 2016 had been just for that one event. The triathlon is her one athletic specialism. There's a spiritual lesson here - let us hope that we don't have to drop out of our race. May we not only finish the race but win the race also. Hebrews 12v1-3 says this: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverence the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart".  20 August 2016 StanH
 
The devotional below is an extract from the UCB Word For Today media stream for Sunday, 21 August 2016. There are a number of UCB media streams in the footer section of our web pages which we would encourage visitors to the St James Website to explore...........
 
The Word For Today is written by Bob and Debby Gass
 
When you’re called to serve God in a particular capacity, it’s not unusual to go through a period of anonymity where you feel invisible. Isaiah was called of God ‘from the womb’ (v. 1 NKJV). But he experienced a season of being hidden ‘in the shadow’ while God perfected his ministry. When a vision takes a long time to come to fruition, and you’ve sacrificed and worked without recognition or seeing results, it’s easy to feel like you’re wasting your life. Isaiah was human too. He got discouraged and said, ‘I have laboured to no purpose … spent my strength … for nothing’ (v. 4 NIVUK 1984 Edition). But just because you feel that way doesn’t mean it’s true. ‘God … rewards those who earnestly seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6 NIV 2011 Edition), and you’re no exception. It took thirty years before Jesus started His public ministry. Moses, David, John the Baptist, and Paul endured years of obscurity before they were brought to the forefront. In God’s Kingdom there are no overnight sensations or flash-in-the-pan successes. Christian author Beth Jones says: ‘Anyone who wants to be used of God will experience hidden years in the backside of the desert. During that time the Lord is polishing, sharpening and preparing us to fit into His bow, so at the right time, like “a polished shaft” He can launch us into fruitful service. The invisible years are years of serving, studying, being faithful in another person’s ministry and doing the behind-the-scenes work.’ The Bible says, ‘God is not unjust; he will not forget your work’ (Hebrews 6:10 NIV 2011 Edition). Be patient; when the time is right He will bring forth the fruit He placed inside you. Prov 19-21, 1 Cor 15:29-58
 
© 2016: This devotional is produced by UCB, free of charge through the generosity of our supporters. As a gift to the body of Christ, permission is given to Churches and Christian organisations to copy up to a maximum of 52 daily excerpts per year. Excerpts must acknowledge The Word for Today as the source, give the UCB address and inform that free issues of the daily devotional are available for the UK and Republic of Ireland. For more information about the terms of use, contact publications@ucb.co.uk
 

Yesterday I got unexpected help from the Psalmist: "I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth". Psalm 121v1-2. The night before something had come along to disturb my comfortable life and my small plans and these little worries came back to my rememberance as soon as I awoke the next morning. In reality my problems are indeed rather small and of little consequence yet God graciously reminded me of those inspiring words from one of David's Psalms. They came in an instant. Well they came when I was suddenly awoken by a tremendous leg cramp that I get periodically. The solution for cramp of course is to get out of bed and walk around until it subsides but, as anyone who has suffered cramp knows, pushing through the pain barrier to get on your feet is horrendous. This reminds me that many of life's problems are thankfully short-lived and most of the bigger ones are just for a season. It turns out my wife had had this same psalm (Ps.121) going round in her head for days - well she, afterall, is more spiritual than me but we are often on the same wavelength ! A young woman came into our church yesterday just when we were thinking of going home - well our sign does say that all are welcome so we couldn't very well say "sorry we're just closing". This woman disturbed a comfortable conclusion to our day, our plans had to wait. She was in a very bad place. Someone had apparently told her that if you came into this particular church (our church) your problems would go away. She wanted to be alone in church - just to sit. It was not long before we heard her gentle snoring. We never got to know her name. She didn't want to share her problem. She would not allow us to pray with her - which might have made us feel a whole lot better about ourselves but it was really her needs that mattered (others needs to prefer the song says). She eventually awoke, pulled herself together, gathered up her things and made to leave. Her parting words were, "If this doesn't work there is always suicide!". It would have made us feel better if our day had ended on a high note but sometimes it is good to be disturbed, to get spiritual cramp you might say, in order to understand that the majority of days don't always end on a high note for many people. We pray those words of David will be her strong tower whoever she is. David concludes the psalm in this way: "The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and for evermore".   23 August 2016 StanH

 
On this day, the day when our children and grandchildren traditionally get their GCE "O" Level Results, when the dice has already been rolled, the stage already set and their future lives already shaped, my attention was arreseted by a very curious verse (verse 24) in Jeremiah chapter 3: "From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our ancestors' labour - their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters". If we had gone on to read verse 25 we would have discovered that God is holding to account the shepherds of these flocks and families. This is not the only time that God has held bad shepherds to account (see Ezekial 34). Long story short, ".....both we and our ancestors from our youth till this day [have] not obeyed the Lord our God". In what way have we not obeyed you Lord? You have not been good shepherds of the sheep or indeed of your sons and daughters. Today most of us don't keep flocks and herds but we still raise children - do we or rather do we leave them to surrogate shepherds, surrogate influences,  because we are too busy with our own lives ? How many of us have missed our children growing up because of our busy careers? So who are these shameful gods? Well any god who is not the One God is a shameful god - more so if they would cause harm to children. Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these", Math 19v14. If our actions (or more usually our negligence) prevent children from finding the One God then we should be very afraid. So who are these modern gods and who are these surrogate shepherds. I can suggest a few: teachers - we often leave too much to our modern education system which, has we now know is increasingly averse to God, to Christianity,even to evolution. One of the main surrogates are other young people who have a much bigger influence than we might imagine - not just simple peer pressure but many aspects of group pressure, of fashion, of values, of morality and so forth. Children are no longer "seen and not heard" - they are one of the largest, if not the largest, economic markets and receive the attention of many gods who would seek to cash-in and exploit them - fashion, music, film, social media, computer games, mobile phones and other technologies  - its a long list queuing up to get their attention, all the time steering them further away from the One God. Tomorrow we will discover in the Book of Proverbs what a good shepherd looks like. The secret is nurturing in a "godly home" where a child can be rightly trained.  25 August 2016 StanH
 
We said yesterday that the secret to the good shepherding of our children is nurturing in a "godly home". I can't take any credit for the following abstract that  I've taken from the internet and  http://fighterverses.com/blog-post/the-book-of-proverbs-on-training-children/ written, I believe, by Ed Glenny in 2012: "In Proverbs, education in wisdom, or the fear of the Lord (1:7), involves different members of the family; even the grandfather and grandmother are mentioned in the exhortation in Proverbs 4:1-9. However, the father and mother share responsibility for the pedagogy [education] of the child. It is implied that the mother’s teaching begins early, because twice the son is told not to “forsake” it (Proverbs 1:8; 6:20). She begins her instruction of the child from the moment she first takes it in her arms, and her influence continues until the child reaches maturity (Proverbs 10:1; 31:1, 26). Proverbs suggests that the father is the leader in the training of the child, because he is the only one who speaks in the first person to the child (Proverbs 2:1; 4:1-4), and he connects the mother’s teaching with his, never his with hers. Furthermore, the father explains how his father taught him (Proverbs 4:3–4). Thus, in the godly home the father takes ultimate responsibility, under God, for the training of the children and works together with his wife to teach them the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom.   26 August  2016 StanH
 
A few blogs back you may recall the launch of my new invention - Paper Apps ! (see 10 August 2016). On the 19 August 2016 I wrote about St. Aidan and mentioned that I'd picked up a few pamphlets on my visit to Lindesfarne. One of those pamphlets was about the Lindesfarne Gospels. In its day that document (lets say that app) would have been cutting edge and the anglo-saxon equivalent of one of those "amazing apps" that I was prattling on about. This book was predominantly the work of one man - the scribe Eadfrith. This great work, which is a special copy of the four Gospels, was prompted by the desire to do something memorable to mark in 698 AD the canonisation of Bede (to become St. Bede) some eleven years after his death in 687 AD. This was a very costly book both in time and resources. On calf skin it took the skins of at least 130 calves to produce the parchment which, so well prepared, was like suede leather on both sides - allowing both sides to be written on. A truely "amazing app" it was the product of the very finest cutting edge technologies of the day - high quality white parchment, locally made pens made from the famous bird population quills of the Farne Islands, precision setting out of letters using invisible pin-pricks and grooves as guidelines (William Caxton eat your heart out). For ink he used a mixture of soot, glue and water and almost certainly mixed it himself to his own exacting standards. This ink did not easily fade and has survived to this day unlike many documents that did not. In addition to ink Eadfrith was a great artist in paint; he used forty-five different colours from animal and vegetable products, from the locality and from distant lands. The most exotic and expensive paint was ultramarine blue made from the precious stone lapis lazuli found in the foothills of the Himalayas. Eadfrith not only copied the text of the Gospels but he did what today we would call the artwork which is highly complex - a recurring theme and motif are dogs and birds, especially the Eider Ducks loved by St.Cuthbert.  27 August 2016 StanH

Earlier in the week in the midst of the aftermath of the tragic earthquakes in Italy I had thought to make a comment about the young man who survived the earthquake but was angry with God; that he blamed God for allowing this disaster to befall them. Even Christians get angry with God and though I don't know where that young man stood in the faith I was still able to empathise with him in his suffering. Alan Marsden,Pastor of Martin Top Salem Congregational Church wrote a very concise blog about this very comment that had been captured on the ITN news: see http://www.martintop.org.uk/blog/italy-quaking - so have I really anything more to add? Well, its an interesting thought that in addition to human life being fractured by the original sin of Adam and Eve, the whole geological fabric of our planet may also have fractured on that day resulting in the earthquakes we increasingly experience today as the end times draw near. Alas the fact of sin and its geological consequences does not relieve us from the suffering of sin but we can be sure that there will come a better day. Until that future day arrives though we are called to comfort each other. Pauls says this: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God", 2 Cor v3-4. Jesus taught: "Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted", Math 5v3-4 and in that lovely hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness' we have that brief phrase, appropriately from Lamentations 3v22: "Thy compassions they fail not". 28 August 2016 StanH
 
In my blog of 19 August I mentioned the prayer life of St.Aidan of Lindesfarne. A couple of points should have grabbed your attention. You will be familiar with that phrase from a song, "it's not what you do, its the way that you do it...." ; well Aidan has something to teach us on how to do prayer. You may recall the story told of evil King Penda of Mercia and his attempt to burn down the Northumbrian town of Bamburgh. Aidan prayed against it but he prayed in this way: "It is said Aidan simply raised his eyes and his hands to heaven, saying with grief, "Lord, do you see what evil Penda does?". How did he pray? He prayed with grief in his heart and it is this 'how' that God sees more than our most persuasive words. It's not what you do but the way that you do it. It goes without saying though that you can't pretend grief. We are taught that God sees the true heart of a man. In a way Aidan's prayers were easy prayers because they were just the natural outworking of what was going on in his heart. And then finally it is said that Aidan's prayers were just a channel through which God's help could go to his people - what a staggering thought ! What a responsibility and what a privilege each one of us has to pray and pray aright.   30 August 2016 StanH
 
It's the end of August already. To this comment it is traditional to add something like, "Where's the summer gone!" or "Where's this year gone!" or "The kids are all back to school next week!". August of course will be remembered for the Rio Olympics 2016 and the amazing success of Team GB which is so well-deserved. It will be remembered also for the devastating earthquake in Italy which, though it may no longer be news headlines, will never be forgotten by the friends and families of the victims. Whatever is eventually rebuilt will never really replace what was originally there and lost. I took my grandson to the cinema in August - Jason Bourne - we've seen all five including the one who was not Matt Damon. We like that sort of stuff - plenty of shooting, violence, car chases, mass destruction on a grand scale. However, I want to go and see Swallows and Amazons which is now showing at Cineworld, though it will probably by myself. I'm seventy at the end of this week so, born when I was, I belong to and strenuously cling on to, that Age Of Innocence in which I thought I grew up. In truth I was one of the first baby boomers after WWII, so hardly an age of innocence and yet my childhood, growing up with literary classics like Black Beauty, Treasure Island, Peter Pan, The Railway Children and yes Swallows and Amazons reinforces my belief that I was one of the lucky ones, one of the last contingent to voyage into the age of innocence. I don't think my grandson would enjoy Swallows...well its not exactly Fast And Furious or one of his other favourites - its not exactly Harry Potter or Lord Of The Rings either. And thats sad - growing up in a world without innocence. What have we done to our children and grand-children? Maybe thats what alarmed God when he realised what Adam and Eve had done: "And he (God) said, ' Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?' ". To Eve he just said '[Eve] what have you done [luv]?' When you read it like that in isolation, you can almost hear the disappointment in his voice. 31 August 2016 StanH.
 
 


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