Blogs for January 2018

Mindful of our humble state. As we leave Advent and Christmas behind let us remember those words of Mary from Luke 1v48: "...for He [ thats God] has been mindful of the humble state of his servant". This is a truth from which all of us can take encouragement as we begin what some are predicting could be a momentous year; and not necessarily for the good. If we needed a visitation from God then it is this year. There is much suffering in the world and its on an unprecedented scale. Many will think that God is deaf and blind to the cries of his people but he is not. He is ever mindful of us. I am taken back to two major moments in human history where God makes it very clear that all along He has been mindful of His people; three if you include the sign of the rainbow in Genesis 9v15-16. First, then, at the burning bush when God said to Moses: "...I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them....". At the start of the book of Exodus in chapter 1 these people were already suffering oppression - even before the birth of the baby in the "moses basket" but it was not until eighty years later that God spoke to that same "baby", Moses, at the burning bush and started to do something. For God did act and through Moses He did lead them out of slavery and to the land of promise. Thousands of years later there comes another, arguably much greater, moment in history. God's people are still oppressed but by another oppressor - Rome. But the relief that comes is more personal - because people can be tormented in so many other ways. In these well-known words from Luke Chapter 4 we see that God is not concerned with mere aggressors like the Romans but with the conditions in which so many people find themselves: Jesus announced, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has annointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour". Will God come again yet a third time or a fourt? Oh! Yes. Jesus promised that He would come back for us. First in John 14v3: "...And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me...". But how will in come? In Thessalonians 4v16 Paul assures us that: "...the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. After that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air". Later, how much later I can't say, we (as the armies of heaven) will ride on white horses and wearing white lined behind the One who is called "Faithful and True" and "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" to finally defeat God's enemies as described in Revalation 19v11-21. 7 January 2018 StanH 

I Never Knew You. If you were unlucky enough never to have been mis-sold PPI then sadly will not have received up to £7000 in compensation. But who knows - from May 2018 with the coming of GDPR (thats the General Data Protection Regulation) lawyers may be able to help you sue the backsides off a list of organisations as long as your arm who are mis-handling your data. Thats the records they keep about you. The other day I read an article in a newsletter about GDPR. Amusing at first and then quite sad really. One of the main features of it is that you will be able to force organisations, by law, to forget you. Yes you heard it here first - to "forget" you. Even your local church. So if you are ( no I don't want to know your name and I'm certainly not allowed to keep your name in future) but say you're - sad, lonely, depressed, marginalised and a general all round "billy no mates" then you can make your misery complete in May by insisting that everyone forgets you as well. So what am I saying this morning? I'm saying think long and hard before insisting upon your legal rights. Take care not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Do you really want to be forgotten by - your local church, your sewing circle, your knit & natter group, your Mens Group, your local Darby & Joan, your Walking Group, your Turkey & Tinsel Holiday Company. Do you get the picture. Let's not tar everyone with the same brush. Do you really want a blanket ban on every organisation that touches your life just because you have the right, by law, to be unhappy. Think about it. 9 January 2018 StanH

Who Cares? Thats quite a common saying or a common response these days and reflects the modern hardness of attitude to many things and situations. Who cares ? OR See if I care ! Even Christians can get like that. But is that acceptable behaviour for Christians? Does that please God ? Is it God honouring ? Was Jesus like that ? Obviously not. The "good Samaritan" cared and went out of his way and at considerable personal expense to do the right thing when he helped a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers and left half-dead. But today I want to talk about one of my Old Testament heroes - Nehemiah. Now there was a man who cared and wore his heart on his sleeve. Nehemiah was a Jewish exile in service to King Artaxerxes at the citadel in Susa (the remains of that ancient city, nowadays called Shush, are to be found in modern day Iran). Many people will have been born in captivity but I think Nehemiah had actually come from Israel and very probably from Jerusalem itself - for he had a special in what was happening there. Do we keep in touch with what is happening in the wider Christian world or back home or are we insular ? Nehemiah wrote this: "Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem". Nehemiah clearly had a special interest in his home town. Nehemiah continues: " They said to me, 'Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire". Now many people would have been saddened to hear news like that - but how saddened? Just crocadile tears or enough to make them take action? Saddened enough to go and do something about it? Nehemiah was distraght and writes: "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then....................!". We will come back to what happened next at another time. But what follows is a major prayer to God. Its a prayer for and on behalf of the people of Israel. Nehemiah reminds God of his covenant promises to His people. But he goes beyond just a reliance in God to do all the work. In faith, he makes a his own commitment to God about what he is proposing to do - beginning with asking his employer, the King, for help. Of course it could all have gone pear-shaped and Artaxerxes could have laughed him out of the palace. But Nehemiah closed his prayer like this: "....Give your servant success today by granting him favour in the presence of this man". Nehemiah's life was going to change forever from his comfortable position in a grand palace. But he was up for it. Are we ? 18 January 2018 StanH

There's Always Someone Wanting To Put The Boot InWherever the Church is at work there is always someone out to spoil and destroy and undermine a good work. As long as we understand this it is no longer a shock and need not be disheartening and destructive as it might otherwise have been. Afterall when Jesus told the parable of the sower he said: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up". Well what a surprise or maybe its no surprise at all - thats what birds do. Now then - we've got those same "birds" at work in Nehemiah's story. King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah all that he dared ask for, all the timber he would need to carry out repairs on the gates of Jerusalem, all authority was given Nehemiah in letters from the King (Jesus said something similar in Matth. 28v18 "All authority has been given unto me. Therefore...". I think the King would have envisaged some opposition to Nehemiah along the way so he sent with him army officers and cavalry. Nevertheless the birds soon appeared in the form of two men who would prove to be a thorn in Nehemiahs side at every step of the way, once the work began. Nehemiah 2v10 reads: "When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites". Whenever we promote the name of Jesus - whenever we lift high the name of Jesus - spoilers will come out of the shadows. 25 January 2018 StanH

My Bus Pass Ran Out. My bus pass ran out last year and I still haven't gotten round to renewing it. I only tend to use it in Park & Ride situations, so for me its no big deal if I'm without a bus pass for a while. However, it reminds me of something the Prophet Daniel discovered one day. And it was that their 70 year sentence in exile had or was about to run out for the exiles - but no-one seemed to have noticed (nor cared) until Daniel was reading his bible one day. Like me - they had lost track of time . It reminds me of Robinson Crusoe or someone incarcerated in a dungeon who scratches a crude calendar on the walls (IIIIII) marking off the passing days. God's people had been sent in exile to the Babylonian Kingdom for seventy years as prophesied by Jeremiah and had clearly not been marking off the days or, if they had, had lost interest a long while ago. And thats where we find Daniel going through the scriptures one day, having his Quiet Time. Read Dan 9v1-3. The penny suddenly drops and he realises that their time in exile is up, the seventy years (at least seventy years) have elapsed and he is the only one who seems to have noticed. The exiles haven't noticed. Their captors don't seem to have noticed either. I'm not really sure how this sort of exile worked - it may have been a bit like an open prison. In the case of Nehemiah, for example, in that other well known exile story, his brothers and some friends seem to have come back with bad news about Jerusalem after taking a trip there and returning. That aside - back to Daniel. Seventy years is a very long time (I'll be 72 years old this year so I should know what seventy years feels like). We know that when the Children of Israel left Egypt with Moses (about 400,000 people) that none of them got there, not even Moses; except two plucky men of faith - Joshua and Caleb. They all died on the way due to the sin of unbelief and it was only their decendents, born on the way, who survived the trip. So we can imagine people dying and being born on the way to Babylon and after having got there, dying there and children being born there who never knew their country of origin and in some cases not their history either or why they were in exile. So the original crowd who sat and wept at their predicament "by the rivers of Babylon" were probably long gone in most cases and the present younger generation, including perhaps even Daniel, were not native Isrealites. If Daniel had been born in say,Jerusalem, then he could have been around 85 years old when he read Jeramiah that day.  And there's another factor at play here - that, like in Egypt, the people had settled and were content in Babylonia and in some cases were comfortably off and like Daniel (and even Nehemiah in that other book) had good jobs in pleasant surroundings - good food, good wine (fit for a king) and good clothes to wear. What some people would nowadays call a "cushy number". So they had long since stopped counting off the days (IIIIII) - albeit you would have thought that the annual celebration of Jewish Festivals throughout each year would have served to remind them. But whose to say that they were all rigorous in observing their religion? Maybe they had backslidden. So what has that got to do with the Church of today? Well - there are many key prophecies and promises still to be fulfilled including some of Daniel's. We are currently on PAUSE between weeks 69 and 70 of Daniels famous 70 week prophesy which is described later in that same Daniel Chapter 9v24-27. Just hope you've been raptured before week 70 gets here - you really don't want to go there ! But thats another story for another blog. What I ought to say is that the Church has a responsibility, if it knows about these end-time prophecies (and as it's got the Bible it is deemed and held accountable by God to have read it) to pass the teaching on. 31 Jan 2018 StanH


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