Blogs for January 2017

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Britons to use 'hospitality and love' to defeat 'hatred and extremism' in a New Year message highlighting the plight of refugees.

Following a year that was dominated by the migration in Europe, Justin Welby said Britain had always welcomed the 'poor and weak'.

He spoke of how Jesus was a refugee, fleeing as a baby with his parents, and who would go on to call on people to 'welcome the alien and stranger'.

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St James Doncaster became a centre of 'hospitality and love' in 2016 and the Archbishop's message is a clear encouragement for us to continue in this ministry during 2017. 1 January 2017 StanH

I've just been putting the finishing touches to our  Prayer Calendar for Operation Christmas Child Doncaster. As well as being a member of St James Doncaster some of us are part of the Operation Christmas Child team here in the Doncaster Area which works out of St James. We produce a quarterly prayer calender - this new edition covers January, February and March. Its meant to inform and encourage the prayers of our faithful band of volunteers. Why mention it in the Parish Blog? Well volunteering impacts and underpins practically every walk of life, every good and right endeavour, not only in Great Britain but throughout the World. And certainly within the Church we rely upon our volunteers. I'm going to take a risk and share two thoughts from the Calendar. The first is called Final Thought and it goes like this:

"At the risk of being repetitive it has been our hope and prayer and our theme in this issue of the Prayer Calendar that many more members of our faithful Warehouse Volunteer Team might be persuaded to consider extending their support year round to the Monday Shoe-Box Fellowships already described. It could dramatically change the whole dynamic, growth and potential for all that could be achieved at Doncaster with your help. It’s an exciting prospect as we start the new year".

We could, and this is why I thought I should mention it, turn the spotlight onto ourselves and onto church-life at St.James and apply the same principles to how we as individuals might take this inspiration forward into 2017. In our house we always get rid of the Christmas decorations as soon as we possibly can and get back into harness for the new year ahead as quickly and as is decently possible. The time for celebration is now over so let's get our shoulder to the wheel again.The other inspiring item I wanted to share from the Prayer Calendar were these Bible verses:

"BE INSPIRED: We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in the Lord Jesus Christ". And I would leave you with his thought - do those verses sound too grand for a group of ordinary people like us? Yet that’s what the Apostle Paul clearly thought of his fellow Christians in Thessalonica; (see 1 Thessalonians 1v2-3). 3 January 2017 StanH

There's that archetypal picture of a man holding a board up that says something like: THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH. It's not a popular message and I saw an article in Saturdays by Daily Mail where some writer was lampooning that kind of negative "end of the world" view of life. For him everything in the garden was lovely and couldn't be better. Our economy was on the up. I just wonder which window he was looking out of. On the other hand we have a number of, mainly American sourced, Conspiracy Theory-style news agencies, such as the Steve Quayle Archive or the Drudge Report, which tell a very different story where Planet X is about to turn up in our neck of the woods with potentially dire geological consequences for the planet, where World War III is just days away, Donald Trump is about to be assassinated and the World Economy is about to collapse. Men like Jonah, Jeremiah and Elijah didn't think they had a particularly popular message to bring in their day and got very depressed or fearful about the job they had to do - but it was God's message to man. I wrote a blog in December where I spoke about the Consolation of Israel in Luke Chapter 2 where Simeon was looking out for the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel. Well Christians are looking for the fulfillment of Christ's promises but they come in two colours - black and white.White are all the good ones like His return for His Church. The black ones are the apocalyptic wraths of Revelation. We each have to make our own mind up where the real truth lies. In Matthew's Gospel Chapter 25 Jesus warns us about falsehood and deceit: Jesus answered, "Watch out many will come in my name , claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many". You've got to make your own mind up but the Church, which has a grave responsibility before God to the saved and to the unsaved alike, can no longer sit on the fence. What window are you looking through today and what do you see? 9 January 2017 StanH

You've got to hand it to the Apostle Peter. When it all goes quiet in the Snug he can get a conversation going. It was Peter who famously said to Jesus: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God", Matth.16v16; that would do it - but he was right of course.He also walked on water. OK - he got a bit wet in the end because his faith did not hold out; but he really did walk on water for a while, Matth.15v29. He was more than "a brick", he was a veritable rock! You would want him in your team if you were picking one. Jesus called him a rock - "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it", Matth. 16v18. This was one of Peter's better days you would think - yet in a moment he could turn and be a fool. Even before the ink had dried on Matthews Gospel, Peter had put his foot in it again. When Jesus predicts His own death Peter blusters in with: "Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!" and Jesus had to be very hard on him with that searing rebuke, "Get thee behind me, Satan!", Matth. 16v23. He was very impetuous. You will remember that particular day when, some time after Jesus had risen they met him on a beach for breakfast. What Jesus actually said was: "Bring some of the fish you have just caught". So Peter dragged a net full of 153 fish up onto the sand ! You could tear your hair out with Peter around. We all remember, I'm sure, when Jesus humbly, yet lovingly, washed the feet of His disciples on that momentous evening of the last supper before He was crucified. But it was Peter who put his foot in it, if you'll pardon the pun. "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet". And Jesus told him very bluntly, as He would tell you and me this morning, "Unless I wash you, you will have no part with me." What has this got to do with you and me? Well I've just said it - we do run the risk of being dissallowed from having any part with our Lord, Jesus Christ because of our unbelief. John Wesley wrote a book on a bit of theology that was close to his heart - "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection". We have no time to get too involved but he believed in the possibility of our being able to live in a state of perfection whilst here in the world. Not everyone agreed with Wesley by any means, but its a thought. There's that troubling verse in Hebrews 10 (verse 14) and which came to me this week, that says: "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy". It's at this point that we could make all the same mistakes that Peter ever made and blunder in with "No Lord!", "No! no! no! Not me Lord. I am a very bad man so I don't believe I can ever be perfect". We sin when we don't obey God but equally we sin when we don't believe God can make us perfect. Wesley presents many arguments for perfection. To finish this piece we only have time for one of his claims: "Has He not taught us to pray, 'Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven?' And is it not done perfectly in heaven? If so,has He not taught us to pray for perfection on earth? Does he not then design to give it?" 11 January 2017 StanH

Most of us say the Lords Prayer by rote (mechanically and habitually). Do we therefore fail to understand what we have just prayed and therefore, taking that thought a little further, fail to avail ourselves of that thing prayed for. Does God answer our thoughtless and mindless prayers. I once read somewhere and I believe it to be true that all day and everyday most of us, if not all of us, live at some level of unconsciousness even in wakefullness - even when we're doing dangerous things like driving cars and operating machinery (or aeroplanes, or trains). How many of us who drive would admit to moments when we suddenly "come to" and realise we've just driven the last mile or so without really remembering any of it. Thankfully, a lot of what we do is an automatic response to stimulii - we live on autopilot. Take the Lords Prayer as a for instance and that thought that John Wesley brought to us in the previous blog - "As it is in heaven". It's is a very powerful thought. Many of us, I am sure, say some of the words in the Lords Prayer just to complete a sentence but without ever availing ourselves of the promise. Sometimes someone will pull us up and say something like: "Do you realise what you've just said?". The entire universe came out of the mouth of Jesus. He spoke every detail of it into existence; 'And God said, "Let there be light" and there was light'. We can be sure that He, at least, was fully conscious and knew what he was doing and saying. In the previous blog Wesley uses that phrase: "Does He not then DESIGN to give it?". Look again at the Lords Prayer in Matth. 6, especially verse 10: "....Your kingdom come, Your will be done, ON EARTH as it is in heaven". Maybe, just maybe, John Wesley had discovered something that we have still to discover, that: " it not done perfectly in heaven? If so, has He not taught us to pray for [and expect, and live in the light of the reality of] perfection on earth?" My own words are inside the square brackets. And do we not sin, therefore, when we do not take Him at His word? 13 January 2017 StanH

That reminds me:

"Heaven is a wondeful place,
filled with glory and grace,
I want to see my sarviour´s face.
Heaven is a wonderful place".

It's also a very noisy place by all accounts !

I've been thinking about heaven this week - from, of all places, Revelation Chapters 4 and 5. Our Vicar gave us a picture yesterday of Jesus, on His ascension, being clapped back into heaven, like the winning team walking off the pitch at Wembly, by a line of angels lining either side of that great street made of gold and transparent as glass, Rev 21v21. But as I said it's also a noisy place - though I'm guessing its what Neil Diamond calls a "beautiful noise". In Chapter 4 we are treated to a priviledged view of at least part of heaven - through a door standing open. There was a throne in the centre of this space and someone seated on it (maybe a king?) and around Him twenty-four elders. A bit nearer to the centre were four strange creatures called living creatures. They made the first beautiful noise for, twenty four seven, day and night, they never stopped saying:

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come".

This prompts the twenty-four elders to respond with:

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being". [that would make a really good hymn wouldn't it if only someone could come up with the words!]. So far we've now got the living creatures chanting and the twenty four elders chanting. But thats not enough because then we notice a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing right in the centre surrounded by the four living creatures. And the elders and the living have all got harps, so we can expect an accompaniment soon.

And they begin to sing another song - a new song called "You are worthy to take the scroll....". Have you heard that one. Its in Rev 5v9-10 (lyrics but no chords). But it doesn't end there. As my eyes grew accustomed to the space it was only then that I noticed the angles - lots and lots of angels !!! John reckoned 10000 x 10000. Whew! And they were singing as well but not quietly. Verse 12 says: "In a loud voice they were saying: Worthy is the lamb who was slain....".

It just gets better because added to this great choir is added the voices of every creature in heaven and on earth saying: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever. Amen".  15 January 2017 StanH

Our grandson once caught a bug at school. It was the "you're welcome" bug. This meant that when you thanked him for doing something he would reflexively respond with "you're welcome". Which is quite nice and makes you smile but after the first two hundred times it can become a bit, shall we say, wearing. We believe that at St.James Doncaster we are a welcoming church and in the "Welcome" section of this website we, guess what, actually give the enquirer a big welcome and encourage them to come along to this, our welcoming church; am I beginning to sound repetitive? The Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message ran along similar lines of welcome and hospitality. On Monday's our church is open for fellowship, refreshments, prayer and work teams to get on with their various ministries. One task that was given to a few of our Iranian asylum seekers this Monday gone, was to clear away some outdated material on one of our display boards - I wasn't involved but just vaguely aware of something going on in the background. So when I eventually walked past the display board it had been decorated with what they could get their hands on (strictly low budget you understand) but actually it was quite good and it was their own artistic expression. "Later that same day....", as we like tell the story, I got an email from one of the Iranian guys who I correspond with for the website and he had sent me numerous A4 size images that he wanted printing out - everyone of them saying WELCOME in about fifteen different languages, Farsi, Hebrew, Turkish, etc. I think one of them may even have been in English ! Now it may be just the way my mind works and I'm probably making this up but I'd like to think that of all the themes amd subjects they could have come with to decorate the display board the one they actually chose might have been the one that has most impacted their lives since they came to St. James - YOU'RE WELCOME ! 17 January 2017 StanH

In Graham Kendricks song 'Restore O Lord' there's a line, "when evil crouches near". I was hoping to find that in the Bible, maybe in one of David's Psalms because he had more than his fair share of "evil crouching near" in his troubled life. I'd been unable to track it down until I eventually found it quite appropriately in Genesis 4v7 where there is a darkness about Cain who was angry with his brother and as you know he goes on to murder him - as far as we know the first murder in the Bible. This is blatent pre-meditated murder, for Cain contrives to get Abel out in the fields somewhere away from possible witnesses (verse 8). And Cain attacks and kills Abel. That phrase "evil crouches near" came to me when I got up and I have learned over these last few months of doing the Parish Blog to listen to these "first voices in my head" because they usually provide the material for my blogs. I suppose I was having a decent nights sleep when my wife woke me up to say come and look out of the window there's a fire. We quickly got up and went out in our dressing gowns in the middle of the night to find a fire engine in the next street and firemen quenching a fire in our neighbours car; they live over the fence from us. Our neighbours, it turned out, were actually at the airport en route to a Mediterranean Cruise. Someone, youths we imagine but who's to say it was not some political enemy, had set fire to their car parked in the drive; a write-off. Apparently there had been another one in the next housing estate to us. When evil crouches near - nearer in fact than we had thought. We live in a peaceful community on an housing estate that has seen little of no trouble over many years and we've lived there for nearly forty years, so I know what I'm talking about. We've never had any cause to think of moving anywhere else. The other arson incident I mentioned is on a very new and modern estate just up from us - so moving somewhere "new and modern" cannot guarantee a peaceful existence. This incident however does serve to, not so much remind us, but to alert us to the fact that we live in days when evil crouches near. They say, don't they, that wherever you live, there are rats living only a very few metres away - and we've had rats at the bottom of our small garden,  so thats true. I read something quite disturbing for the UK []. A man was out going for a run when a gang of Muslims attacked him. In order to stop the Muslims from attacking, he converted to Islam on the spot by reciting the shahada, the Islamic creed of conversion. You might expect this sort of thing in Iraq (from ISIS) or in Pakistan but not in the UK - so "close to home" as we often say. No - its a warning for us all that "evil crouches near". 21 Jan 2017 StanH

In a certain city there was a judge. Now this sounds like the start of a good story in the Bible because in Johns Gospel chapter five we are told that there was indeed a "certain man" who, in that story, had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. So my story today is a bible-style story. Until this certain day I only had Judge Rinder, Perry Mason and Atticus Finch to get an idea what justice might look like. I had never been in court until this certain day because when I was called to do jury service I was one of those that were "not needed". You can go home the judge said or if you wish you can sit at the back and watch the proceedings. And I chose to do that because I'm nosey. The judge then went to great lengths to carefully explain for the benefit of the appellant, how the hearing would work and then how he would do his job in coming to a decision. He was scrupulous in his approach to justice. Now an appellant is a person who applies to a higher court for a reversal of the decision of a lower court which in effect is what the hearing was all about on that certain day; the appellant was appealing the decision. The judge was saying that he would not show undue favour to this certain man, but neither would he show prejudice. He would look only to see what the law says and apply that yardstick to the facts of the case and the evidence presented. That seems fair at face value but on another level - completely hopeless. Because, humanly speaking, we like to think that someone is in our corner and will maybe get us off or let us off. The law does not do that. God will not let us off. Long story short - the whole day including the actual proceedings and all the participants, right down to the man and the woman who brought us free coffee and biscuits as we waited, were brilliant and it restored my faith in English justice. A decision was not made on the day as the judge was going to go away and re-read all the written evidence and presentations, but in his summing up I discovered something amazing about the law and this I believe gives us all hope on Judgement Day. That there is in fact wriggle-room and latitude in the law. I couldn't have anticipated in what form it would come but as soon as he began to develop his summing up I saw it immediately. The previous judge, it would appear, had had no alternative, based on the case made, but to reject the application. But the appeal judge had received more evidence which gave him the opportunity to legitimately come to a different decision. We still await his decision but with a new hopefulness. For Christians I believe our hope might come from an unexpected quarter. Psalm 139v1-3 says this: "You have searched me Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways". Yes there is Gods Law (God's word) and it is very clear but in our corner we have One who knows us and is our advocate with the Father. 23 January 2017 StanH

Jehovah Jirah. My Provider. This is one of the many names attributed to God which describe and acknowledge his character and as I've already intimated this one means My Provider - a name given to Him by Abraham. Most people can just read their Bibles and be happy, but I sometimes ask "why is that bit in the Bible?". So it was the other day when I suddenly thought about the well known Gospel story of the Feeding Of The Five Thousand. It occurs in more than one of he Gospels so its not as though one of them got it wrong or embellished a really good tale; see Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 5. You will recall that Jesus had already identified Himself as the "me" in Isaiah's prophecy of Luke 4v18-19 so it was very unlikely that He would ever stint when it came to showering blessings upon mankind. He was Father-like in His love of people so quite naturally when He looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards Him in John 6v5 He was already thinking about how they would be fed and watered even before Philip thought about it. Surely you don't imagine that God is waiting for men to come up with the answers to life's problems. As I'm writing this Joyce Meyer is on my TV talking about Jesus' miracles. This is not a miracle. Let me say that again - this is not a miracle! Feeding five thousand people is normal to Jesus. It's His day job! "It's what I do", He would say if we could ask Him. The Apostle Paul makes this promise on behalf of the Father: "......And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus". In Christ Jesus you say? Yes - in Christ Jesus. Jesus will meet all our needs. But feeding five thousand people? Really ? If you go on the Population Reference Bureau website (and there are others) you will discover that since Adam and Eve an estimated 107 Billion (one hundred and seven BILLION) people have lived on this planet. Phew ! Philip was quietly panicking in John 6v5 but, give him credit, he felt able to take the problem to Jesus. Thank goodness Jesus is not phased by a large crowd !!! 25 January 2017 StanH

Last day of the month again - I suppose that I am obliged to finish with a blog that sets a certain tone as we're close enough to the New Year to still make last-minute resolutions. There's not always one in me, so I can't promise anything, but we shall see: I was persuaded to go to some bible training at The Belfrey in York at the weekend. Partly, it was an opportunity to give a lift to some of our Iranian Asylum Seekers at St James and for me to see inside the Church which had once been home to David Watson, the Evangelist I attribute to having led me to the Lord on Saturday 31 March 1973 - a date deeply engrained in the back of my mind. I couldn't tell you the date my mother gave birth but this one date remains with me. It turns out I also needed to benefit from the training which was by the W.I.N.G.S. Team on Developing Your Calling. Which calling ? - thats the one Paul describes in Romans 8v28 "...called according to His purpose". It's a personal call for each one - when Moses was called at the burning bush God said, "I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt. My thoughts went to that WWI recruitment poster that declares. "Your country needs you!". I suppose if its not a big role or project like that which Moses was given, we could be forgiven for thinking that callings are only what special individuals get - like Paul the Apostle or those to whom it was said 'by the Syrian sea', 'the gracious calling of the Lord' - "Come, follow me!". But no, we all get called. It says somewhere in the Study Notes that 'There is no salvation without a call' which tells me two things; first that we are called at the moment of salvation (for me the evening of Saturday 31 March 1973) but secondly if we can't remember our calling did we actually get saved ? Thankfully, I don't think any of it, at the time, is in our control or relies upon our remembering. When we made our first move toward God that was a response to the call; maybe not as dramatic as Peter getting out of the boat onto the sea, but a response to calling nevertheless. Come, follow me! In the intervening years (and there have been many - nearly 44 years) I have forgotten about "Calling". Actually, in my defence, though I got plenty of good bible teaching in the early years, we did not major on calling. We might have talked much on spiritual gifts, talents, on finding our ministry - but no I don't remember my bible teachers major on our calling, which is not the same. Quoting from the study notes we are told that whilst David had been a shepherd, a musician, a killer of giants and a psalmist, his unlikely calling was to be King David. Only when he became King did all those giftings and experiences come together to enrich his kingship for the benefit of the nation. Quote: It was the fulfilment of his call which made sense of his gifts, not his gifts which made sense of his call.

The Poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, who I alluded to earlier, gets the last word in this blog with the verse that ends: "Let us like them without a word, rise up and follow thee". 31 January 2017 StanH 









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