Blogs for November 2017

Like Burnished Bronze. Over the last few months we at St James have been challenged to consider and recognise what our individual ministry is in the Body of Christ. Our place in the Church.Other people often see in us what we fail to see in ourselves. Yesterday we stood on a pretend body that had been etched onto the floor with masking tape. Masking tape hands, masking tape eyes, masking tape nose, masking tape mouth, masking head, knees, shoulders, etc. I feel a song coming on about...."matchstick cats and dogs!". 

In this last week I've been blessed and inspired by the re-reading of an account in 1 Kings 7 where King Solomon brings in an artisan craftsman from Tyre to help him finish off the Temple. That man was HURAM. Not a name many will be familiar with. "....His mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali but his father who taught him his skills was from Tyre (so not from one of the twelve tribes). Huram was a skilled cfraftsman in bronze". In the Church today some people might grumble about that and mutter that "Oh! he's not Christian so why is he being allowed to work on our building?". Forgetting of course that everyone is God's subject - even the Kings of Assyria and Babylon and Rome. Solomon clearly had his finger on the pulse and knew where to buy in the necessary skills to achieve the high standard of finish that he wanted to achieve. Our story continues; "...Huram was filled with wisdom, with understanding and with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to KIng Solomon and did all the work assigned to him". Wikipedia tells us more: that he worked with a variety of materials:  "...it is said that Hiram/Huram was "skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to [en] grave any manner of [en] graving." Thus he seems to have superintended all the work of the Temple. Josephus the Jewish Historian actually wrote this. I read somewhere that he even worked with ribbons. Nice!

We don't have time to explore the wonderful account in 1 Kings 7 of all his doings, all the items in bronze that he made. But it was a lot. There was so much that Solomon himself gave up on keeping tally: "...Solomon left all these things unweighed (and Solomon would have been a stickler for detail) because there was so much; the weight of the bronze was not determined [indeterminate we would have said today]", 1 Kings 7v47. But what impressed me was, given the sheer scale of the undertaking, we have this record; "....All these objects that Huram made for King Solomon for the temple of the Lord were of burnished [shiney] bronze", 1 Kings 7v45. Three observations: It is certain this record is about the work for which Solomon had engaged Huram, that is was for the temple of the Lord, and that therefore [my interpretation] Huram made sure that it was burnished work, the very best finish he could possibly produce for the Lord or as unto the Lord we might say.

Lesson: Whether we consider the Church to be the building or the body (the people) it should be brought up to and maintained at the very highest standard (the shiney standard) for the glory and honour of the Lord. 6 November 2017 StanH.

 

He giveth and giveth and giveth again. That phrase came up in our Sunday Service yesterday and speaks of God's bountiful provision from His storehouse in heaven. It reminds me also of the massive grain silos that Joseph built for Pharoah in Egypt to accommodate the seven lean years that he had foreseen. Thats what brought Jacob and his household down to Egypt in the first place. The promised land was in a region suffering famine. That's an interesting discussion in itself. God creating a famine to bring about His purposes for His people.The gospel promises of God is what brings us to Him. We didn't go down to Egypt - He came down to us! Another picture of God's bountiful provision came up in my daily readings (Spurgeon) earlier in the week. Spurgeon was writing about Isaiah 33v16: "Whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him". The basic question of faith which comes to us all is to whether God will fulfill His promise. Its a two-fold question - of faith and of personal doubt about God. Spurgeon wrote: "Do you think that your heavenly father ,though He knows you have need of food and clothing, will yet forget you? Sadly, many of us are still in the position of not even being sure that He knows anything about us - that we have these needs. Spugeon also said this: "The angels never doubted Him, not the devils either; we alone, out of all the beings that God has fashioned , dishonour Him by unbelief, and tarnish His honour by mistrust. There's an interesting comparison - my previous blog was about "burnishing" this one is about "tarnishing". But you say, can God do big things, insurmountable things. Looking the other day for something to read I discovered that I had at some point downloaded a "post-apocalyptic" novel on life in a war-ruined America after the atom bomb. After the next World War. There will be no food, water, electricity, heating, emergency services or hospitals, government, money, supermarkets - nothing. No economy. No money. No means of production. We will steal from each other. Scavanging. Raping. Slavery. The complete breakdown of law and order. Looting shops and warehouses in the first year or two until nothing remains. Killing to survive. That's how many will behave. How will the Church behave? How will you and I behave? Well - our God will provide as He has always done. But it will be no picnic. It will be no joyride. Old Testament history shows us that there will be a price to pay. For the Hebrews it involved slavery, oppression and more than 440 years before getting back to any semblance of "normality" and even then it was for a different generation because entire generations had been born and died in the intervening years. The Bible does not speak in any great detail of the rebuilding of society after the flood but it would have taken a long time. Generations in fact. Our childrens, childrens, children. 13 November 2017 StanH

Silly Season. It's our "silly season" again. Our annual Shoebox Campaign for Operation Christmas Child runs throughout November each year. It's when we and our volunteers receive thousands of gift-filled shoe-boxes from Schools, Churches and Individuals (often unknown, unnamed, unsung heros who work quietly away, generously creating these gifts for children). We are fully focussed, extremely busy but buzzing with excitement for the work we are engaged in. This is Christian Mission.That's why in my case there has been very little in the way of blogs produced this month. I was thinking today about a couple of shoeboxes me and my wife brought to church early in the Campaign. Later that same day I realised that I had not given our specific boxes a "send-off" or an accompanying prayer to go with box. And now those two boxes are lost in a "sea of boxes". Hundreds and thousands of boxes. I could not even remember the Christmas wrapping paper we had used to cover the boxes. And now they are lost (well not really lost but hidden from our eyes like a seed in the ground) languishing somewhere in the dark interior of a carton (of ten boxes per carton) in a warehouse, waiting transport. Probably to Eastern Europe - who knows, maybe Ukraine or Belarus. We've not been told the destination yet. Thats when I thought of the man saved and restored to good health in the parable of the Good Samaritan. There's the tenuous link between our charity, Samaritans Purse, our two shoeboxes and this story told by Jesus of a man set upon by bandits and left for dead. And my thought was - what happened to that man afterwards when he had gotten over his ordeal and injuries. Did it change him? Did the love and care of that Samaritan man have a lifelong impact on his life for the better. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is so good a story that has all the hallmarks of being true and it would be really sad if, given the love, the efforts, the generosity of this one man to another, it did not go on to yield a good harvest. My prayer is that those two shoeboxes, whereever they eventually end up, will yield a good harvest in the lives of two children we will almost certainly never meet and never know. 24 Nov 2017 StanH.

Advent. Advent is just around the corner. Another year is past and our Lord has not yet returned. I was talking for a second there of His Second Coming. Advent, of course is a remembrance and celebration of His First Coming into this world. Thats what we celebrate at Christmastime. I thought that my blogs for December should all have the Advent theme - like a £2 Cadburys Advent Calendar from ASDA. That's going to be a bit of a challenge but I think there will be plenty to write about and reflect on.

It all began a very long time ago in prophesy. Isaiah alludes to His coming as early as Isiaiah 7v14 with these words: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel". Meaning God with us. Since that time men have looked for His coming. It was there in the Jewish psyche, always close to the surface; as when Herod questioned his advisors about where the Messiah was to be born. It was always "on the cards" we might say - but when He finally came it was a bit of a shock. Matthew 2v3 records: "When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. They were disturbed. What will that "disturbance" look like in the 21st Century. With so much happening in this present age what will it take to stop people in their tracks. To throw News At Ten into turmoil. To take Brexit off the headlines. Because that is what will happen when He comes again. 29 November 2017 StanH. 

Advent Starts With God. It all started a very long time ago in the heart of God. Back in September I wrote a blog about John Milton's "Paradise Lost" when I made this speculation:

"....I think that in those closing moments as God watched Adam and Eve turn their backs on Eden and walk through - lets just say out through the gates of heaven, He would have been profoundly sad. And I believe from that moment on, with regret in His heart for what He had had to do, for He is righteous, He conceived a plan to bring them back. And that is what we have come to call The Gospel".

God was not wrong in what He did. He was righteous. But that did not stop Him having regrets. There's another hint of that after theall-destructive flood, when He makes this promise: "...Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on earth". [Gen. 9v 16]. 30 November 2017 StanH.


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