Blogs for March 2017

I've never been on a World Cruise. Not that I'm likely to - my wife doesn't like water and would never be able to choose that many different sets of clothes. I've been watching that TV Series with Jane MacDonald going off to foreign parts on various cruise ships. Those modern cruise ships are just amazing! Enormous! Lavishly fitted out to the heights of extravagence.I do wonder if Heaven is like one of those ships? As that childrens chorus goes - "Heaven is a wonderful place, full of glory, full of grace. I want to see my saviours face - heaven is a wonderful place". Jesus did say to the disciples in John 14 that His Fathers house had many rooms. It would have to be a very big cruise ship thats for sure! Over the last few days I've been trying to get my head around Revelation Chapters 4 and 5. It gives us one particularly surreal view of heaven. There's a song or maybe its just the line of a song: "I only have eyes for you...". In John's viewpoint of heaven all attention quickly falls on the person of the cruicified Lord Jesus Christ who appears as a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the very centre of the throne. The writer of Revelation manages to draw all our attention to that Lamb. I thought of a very rich man who had everything (just like King Solomon). Such a man would live his life in wealth and opulance but it would only take one event - such as the loss of a loved one or a serious accident or illness to take all focus off the things of this world; his things. In a moment they would lose all value, all pleasure, all status and become as nothing - like toys abandoned by a child who has lost interest. And I wonder when we get to heaven whether all our misconceptions of what heaven is like and has for us, will be abandoned as our attention and our worship falls on to Him who was slain for us. Now that childrens chorus begins to make more sense: "Heaven is a wonderful place, full of glory, full of grace. I want to see my saviours face - heaven is a wonderful place".   6 March 2017 StanH 

Silence can be very loud. I was recently invited to a Nigerian celebration following a baby baptism. Now that was loud! We knew it was loud when we were in the Church Hall but when I eventually walked out to get in my car it was only then I realised just how loud it must have been. "My ears were ringing !",is what people often say and I guess that would be a fair description. They weren't particularly painful at the time, but later I got an earache. I'm OK now though, so no need to send me a Get Well Card! But thanks for thinking of me.Then there's that Simon and Garfunkle song - The Sound of Silence. "Hello darkness my old friend..." is how it begins, but lets not go there. What brought me to the subject of silence was perhaps one of the strangest verses in the Bible. Its in the Book of Revelation but before we go to it I want to go back to Revelation Chapters 4 and 5 where the writer John is called up into heaven where he describes what's going on around God's throne. I blogged this subject quite a few weeks ago when I focussed, as I remember, on all the singing that was going on around the throne. In Chapter 7 John records that: "...there was before me a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches (thats a lot of trees!) in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice....". Now in theory that is going to be quite a cacophony and yet it was beautiful worship. But now we come to that strange verse at the start of Revelation Chapter 8 (verse 1): "When he (Jesus) opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour". What a strange event ? What a strange expression: "...for about half an hour". Remember that some of these guys (the four living creatures) were crying "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty" and they were at it 24/7. So what would it take to stop everyone in their tracks and reduce them all to absolute silence? I don't claim to know but I've always surmised that something was about to kick off. That, afterall is what is being revealed in The Revelation. It's all going to kick-off. So when the seven angels standing there are given seven trumpets then it becomes even clearer that something is definitely going to kick-off. The chapters that follow that strange verse are quite harrowing and we won't be going there today. But are you ready for this? As a church are we ready for this. In the game musical chairs we are supposed to find a chair when the music suddenly stops. In John's vision of heaven the music has stopped and I think I'm right in saying that after Rev 8v1 stops the music, it never starts again until after the Fall of Babylon in Chapter 19. 8 March 2017 StanH

What will YOU do with Jesus? I've had a busy week in a number of ways not least as regards the male voice choir that I'm part of. Wednesday night was a choir practice as was Thursday morning. I don't normally go to Wednesday nights because that clashes with the Prayer Meeting at my home church in Doncaster but on occasion needs must. On Friday night we were singing at a Bobby Ball (of Cannon & Ball Fame) Gospel Event at Boston Spa. That was great as we had done a similar one with Bobby Ball at Ilkley last year. Then on Saturday afternoon were were at Pocklington Methodist Church and that was really good as well. Someone in the choir always gives a very short gospel message and this time it fell to the Conductor himself. It did not begin as an obvious mini-sermon as he was just summing up and saying how we'd all enjoyed being there, what it all means to us as a choir and why we do what we do - which is to present the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in song. But at some point it changed to a challenge that has always been there for Christians. Christian man, Christian woman - what will you do with Jesus?This is not primarily a question for the unsaved - although it should serve to make them think. It is, however, a challenge to Christians. Gods own. The Jews, you understand, were also Gods own. Jesus was a Jew. He remained a Jew and never became a Christian as some might mistakenly think. It says somewhere that it was to His own that he came but they rejected Him. Politically, they put pressure on Pontious Pilate by a fairly odious form of political balckmail, to do their dirty work and get Pilate to try, condemn and execute Jesus. Even before Pilate questioned Jesus the Jews had made it clear the outcome (and the only acceptable outcome) they would accept. In John 18v31 we read: Pilate said, "Take Him yourselves and judge Him by your own law. But we have no right to execute anyone they objected". The man, Jesus, had not even been tried yet but the intended outcome, the political expedient, was that Jesus would not be coming out of this a free man. His death was already a done deal. Caiaphas the High Priest put it like this in John 11v50: "You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than the whole nation perish". Caiaphas was prophetically correct of course but his motive was evil and not that which was in the mind of the Father. John in one of his letters written many years later, wrote this: "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours but also for the sins of the whole world". So what's this got to do with us? Well evil men gave false testimony against Jesus that night but it is our priviledge and our responsibility as Christians to tell out the good news about the Lord Jesus Christ. So Christian man, Christian woman - what will you do [what testimony will you give] concerning Jesus? 12 March 2017 StanH

Some more thought-provoking verse by Alfred Thananchayan....

Jesus died in the cross to
release our Soul from the prison of sin.

Jesus words will break our mind concrete  built with cement ego 
only Your words can
untie our thoughts from the possessive Ropes.
your blood  wash dirt's of our hearts.
Jesus you are my  integrity 
Most of our sins are arising from the selfishness.

Jesus you cut the honey Bushes of worldly desires with the blade of self denial and made the path towards kingdom of heaven.

Jesus I Will walk in the paths you made
Even its hurts me ,That leads towards ultimate happiness.
Jesus is the  only answer of my all questions.
His word is lighthouse for the ship's of souls floating in the sea of life in this world

Corrected 15 March 2017 Alfred Thananchayan, Poet.

But how do you know ? We attended another asylum seeker tribunal earlier this week. It was a tough one. The judge gave us a rough ride. Firm but fair you might say. But was it? At a point in time through the proceedings and on the subject of a evidencing a genuine salvation (my words not hers) the judge re-iterated her question to the witness on the genuineness of the appellant's christian status. Is this person really a christian? Yes Ma'm. How do you know ? So the witness sets off going "round the houses" systematically trying to set out why they think the appellant is genuine and before too long the judge stops them dead in their tracks. Stop! You're not answering my question!  How do you know ? Emphasis on HOW. Or possibly emphasis on YOUAnd thats a very good question. Any witness in these tribunals, where the whole case is founded on christian status and the unsafeness of sending apellants back to a country which persecutes christians, is by implication testifying to the genuineness of their christianity. Apparently its not enough to say, in effect, that "it takes one to know one". Although, subjectively, that is absolutely correct and nine times out of ten it would be safe - that the spirit in them (if it is genuinely God's Holy Spirit) is recognised by the same Holy Spirt that lives in me. Deep calls to deep is a phrase taken from Ps.42v7 and I take that figure of speech and apply it to the picture of kindred spirits calling to each other back and  forth like cherubim in mid-flight. My spirit is in communion with His Spirit and his spirit. Simultaneously. Now I concede that that is not objectively rigorous by the standards of the law. But let me digress Ma'm (says the witness): I've been a born-again Christian exactly 44 years to the day - today! And your point is what? I want to make a confession Ma'm (says the witness). Let me hear your confession says the judge. I am still barely scratching the surface of my understanding of God after all this tme and therefore in my defence of the appellant I would put it to this court that it would be legally unsafe and a complete travisty of justice to reject this man's appeal, who has been a christian barely a year, because he cannot yet dot every "i" or cross every "t" theologically or indeed expound the scriptures as well as John Wesley or Martin Luther. I rest my case Ma'm......16 March 2017 StanH

I saw love in a pub yesterday. We had gone into a family pub belonging to a well-known pub chain where the emphasis is pub grub at reasonable prices. We had actually tried to get into a much more up-market country pub but as there wasn't a seat to be had, we drove on. As I was waiting for the food to arrive I noticed a large sign on the wall which claimed that the most sincere form of love is a love of food. Now there is a bit of truth in that if truth be told. See what I did there? I'm sure you've heard the phrase "cupboard love" which is an ingenuous manifestation of what appears to be love. The best exponents of this form of love are our family pets and our grand-children who will do anything to get a tasty treat out of us. Now I once a read a well-known paperback book about psychology and as early as the first chapter it considered the nature of human love and loving relationships or so-called loving relationships. It would appear that what often manifests as love is actually needfulness - quite emotional, quite selfish, quite weak in substance. Because love is meant to be strong. Imagine this scenario. A couple is in the throes of breaking up. One is leaving the other and here's what that other says: "Don't leave me I need you!". There is no mention of love - its all about need. Sadly this is not love and even if they had tried to stay together their flawed relationship would always be at risk. How many married couples stay together for all the wrong reasons - the childrens sake, keeping up appearances - in the community, in the family, in the church, in the village. Because its easier than starting over. The bible speaks of a real and genuine love and sometimes its a tough love. God even exiled the nation of Israel for a time to teach then a lesson. In the beginning Adam and Eve were actually expelled from the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3v23 tells us: "So the Lord God banished him [thats Adam and Eve] from the Garden of Eden. In the next verse we are told that he drove them out (NIV Version). Wow! Compare this with the words of that famous hymn by George Matheson: 

  1. O Love that will not let me go,
    I rest my weary soul in thee;
    I give thee back the life I owe,
    That in thine ocean depths its flow
    May richer, fuller be.

 

This surely is a solid and a reliable love. A genuine love where God gives but gets nothing back until we learn to love and worship Him. And what about the best known verse in the bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life". Sacrificial love. Going back to my pub scene, I was so taken by this sign that I took a photo of it on my phone to remind me to do this blog: the most sincere form of love is a love of food. People bandy around words like love in much the same way that Pointious Pilate bandied with Jesus the idea of truth when he contemptuously asked: What is truth ? Combining those two ideas of love and truth we might, if we are lucky, come to idea of true love. 23 March 2017 StanH

Blood bath

We bathe in blood.
Tasted tears.
With the oil lamp we lived in a bunker.
For one plate rice
with an outstretched hands
we waited at the food bank.
The smell of the urine at the refugee camp.
Death greets in the morning and fear in evening.
Caskets of the dead do come daily.
The Weeping noise is the national anthem
Devoid of hope
we move about like corpses.
  
                              By Alfred Thananchayan
                               1995 jaffna war,Sri Lanka

Post Script: As Sri Lanka's government begins a path towards reconciliation and addressing the atrocities of the past, Tamils in the war-torn Jaffna province are still struggling to rebuild their lives. 25 March 2017 StanH


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