Blogs for October 2016

 I like starting a new month of blogging. It allows me to write something like, "We finished last month with....". Well we finished last month on an avian theme. Canada Geese flying off into the sunset on their annual migration over my home town of Hemsworth, West Yorkshire which I likened to Christians setting off on what will surely be the greatest migration of their lives - flying up into the sky to meet with the Lord in the air on that great day. Do you believe that will happen very soon? Many knowledgable Christians do ! Paul wrote: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive..." (1 Thess 4v16). Continuing with our avian theme, did you know that "a Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square?". I love those old sentimental songs and b/w films from the 1940's.Vera Lynn popularised the song in 1940 but it was associated first with the film by the same name in 1939. During WWII these movies helped to lift the morale of the nation, especially the heavily bombed war-torn London. Sadly, a nightingale did not sing in Aleppo yesterday. Syria has 391 species of birds - but alas no Nightingales. What the world now knows however is that a man cried in Allepo yesterday. Khalid Omar from Syria's Civil Defence volunteers was hailed a hero when he pulled two month old baby boy, Mahmud Ibildi, from a ruined building after sixteen hours. He was famously seen crying on our TV news screens last night as he kissed the baby he had dug out. Alas! Out of much rejoicing, sadly, came so much heart-wrenching tragedy because later that same day poor Kahlid was himself killed in another Russian air-raid. His tears give hope, however, that in all the horror of war there is still some semblance of humanity trying to overcome evil with love . This reminded me of another volunteer and another bird from another theatre of war. In the famous WWI film "All Quiet On The Western Front", the German hero Paul Bäumer, a sensitive soul, finds himself in the trenches. Having come through the war reasonably unscathed he is left greatly disillusioned by the pointlessness of war and after years of fighting, Paul is tragically killed in October 1918 on an extraordinarily quiet, peaceful day; tragically only days away from the Armistice.The army report that day contains only one message: “All quiet on the Western Front". Distracted by the song of a bird the talented amateur artist Paul dies at the hands of an opportunist sniper whilst drawing this solitary bird singing in one of the few trees still left standing near his trench.  Do you not realise that our God is aware of every man, woman and child lying under the dust and rubble of Aleppo and cries with those that cry. The Bible says, "Jesus wept". He said: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Fathers care". (Matt 10v29)  1 October 2016 StanH

We first started blogging ​on 14 July 2016. Our opening message then was along the lines of: "Sweet fellowship Jesus in the midst, life blossoms in the Church, men by men are blessed when Jesus is in the midst" and we have a sense that Jesus is indeed in the midst at St.James AND we also presented the idea that if the Prayer Meeting of any Church is a barometer for what is happening in that Church you would have to conclude that something was really happening at St. James because there is a healthy prayer-life in the Church. I read somewhere that even in Charles Spurgeon's home church, whilst the Sunday Service was often packed because of his preaching, the Prayer Meeting was not. Well, that said, you will want to know if the Prayer Meeting is still on fire at St.James and I am pleased to report that it is. As someone who has spent literally years attending small prayer meetings of five or six people I am so encouraged by the large enthusiastic prayer meetings that we continue to enjoy at St.James. I am not going to single out any ethnic group (as we are a multi-ethnic fellowship) because everyone who comes, and some have come faihfully for years in some cases, are helping to make the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting the blessing that it has become. Thinking as I was there of the life of the church at St.James my thoughts for some reason went to the message Jesus sent back to John the Baptist with John's Disciples ( I think John may have been in prison at the time, so could not come himself). Jesus sent back this message which, knowing just a little of the heart of John, would have thrilled him: "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard..." Luke 7v22. Jesus then goes on to basically confirm and reiterate the Isaiah prophesy he read about himself in the Synagogue of Luke 4v18-19. I'm not suggesting big miracles are taking place at St James (yet!) but we are beginning to see small miracles. The reason I've written todays blog is that seeing what I am seeing at St.James I felt I should come back again with a report about what is continuing to happen: "Go back and report what you have seen and heard".   2 October 2016 StanH

We could do so much more for the Community we serve if we had transport. A new community-use minibus would enable us, the Doncaster Team of Crossways Mission Partnership (CMP), to get various groups and clubs out to more distant venues and events in the wider area and thus enrich and open up their life experiences - if only we had adequate transport to do so. A number of groups have been identified that would definitely benefit from such a community use facility:

  • Young People of secondary school age. CMP, under the leadership of Annabel Stott, is developing a Youth Work in the parishes of St.Francis West Bessacarr, St. James, St. Johns Balby, Wadworth and Loversall in Doncaster. The need for and benefits to having a shared use facility such as a Community Use Minibus is obvious.
  • In the Balby and Hexthorpe Areas especially, the town of Doncaster has taken in a large influx of asylum seekers and refugees in recent months. A large group of these have, over recent weeks and months, gravitated to St. James and made it their home church. These people, largely young men, have greatly enriched and contributed to the life of the church here at St. James. Because they have so little in the way of resources and money and are not yet allowed to seek employment, we would love to offer them more variety and stimulus. A trip to the seaside would give them a break , but of course "we could do so much more" than that and in such numbers (of a dozen of more passengers), and cost effectively, if we could obtain adequate transport.
  • A third and potentially larger group of beneficiaries is the wider community outside our church doors who might be able to benefit. Parts of Balby and Hexthorpe, for instance, have a history of deprivation to some degree and the availability of a Community Mini Bus could, on the basis of need and appropriate use, be the means to other needy groups in Doncsster benefiting from such a facility.

There would of course be "i's" to dot and "t's" to cross in respect of the many details of insurance, safety, competent drivers, management and maintenance of a shared facility, etc but given the will to make such a project work I will finish where I started with the vision that: WE COULD DO SO MUCH MORE!    7 October 2016 StanH

It was more than 43, maybe even 44 years ago, ​that I first read Paul the Apostle's treatise on love in I Corinthians Chapter 13. I was amazed when I read his statement which began with "Love is patient, love is kind...and ends with Love never fails". It was in the Brierley & Felkirk Parish Magazine editorial that the then Bishop of Wakefield, Eric Treacy, had written the editorial. I actually thought the Bishop had penned those words himself - way to go Eric!  If I am no longer as amazed as I was that sunny summers day it must be me - I've grown harder over the years though thankfully not yet as hard as the stone that Ezekial describes in Chapter 36. Love is not a feeling (well not useful, pragmatic love) its about doing; what we do to each other as human beings. Quoting OT scriputure (Lev 19v18) Jesus told one particular teacher of the Law "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" and "Love your neighbour as yourself". In another place (Matth.25v35-40) and I find this passage so helpful (because its about a love that is understandable), Jesus describes some practical acts of love: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me [like the Good Samaritan] , I was in prison and you came to visit me". Then the righteous will answer him, " Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?" The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of these my brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me." Did you get that? Whatever you did - love is what we do.  8 October 2016 StanH

​This month marks the 50th Anniversary of the Aberfan Disaster in South Wales. ​Last night we watched the stark images of the futile rescue efforts being played out on our screens in black and white television against an unstoppable mountain of pit stack slurry that inundated a mining village, wiping out a school and a few surrounding houses at 9.15am on the morning of Friday, 21st October 1966. Today we see modern state of the art rescue efforts in sharp technicolor - colourful - yet for all that the pain and suffering is no less. When we hear the name Aberfan it is this disaster, and only this disaster, that we will ever remember. There are other names that immediately bring certain events to mind. Auswitch - the extermination of six million Jews, Archduke Ferdinand - his assasination the spark that exploded into WWI, Golgotha - where wicked men put the Lord Jesus Christ to death. Until the war in Syria most of us had never heard of Aleppo - now we will never forget it; I think the same could have been said of Aberfan. Now Aberfan and Aleppo stand shoulder to shoulder in common cause as communities that have known more than their fair share of suffering and sadness.  13 October 2016 StanH

​Apparently the Keilder Forest area of Northumberland ​is a wonderful place to do astronomy in this country. The tourist literature says, "Kielder Observatory is one of the most remarkable places to visit in the whole of the UK. A public astronomical observatory which is second to none, under some of the darkest skies in the world where you'll find "infinite inspiration" and wonders you could never have imagined!". This is because this remote rural area is largely free from the light pollution that we get in most other places. Every so often, more so as I get older, I question whether I am able to fully see and fully know what the Word of God is saying or whether I'm suffering from spiritual or more likely denominational "light pollution". I know an old lady who has been in the Salvation Army all her life - she sees her christian life through salvation army glasses. Anglicans of long standing no doubt see church through anglican glasses. I see people who are "churched" but are not saved (and sadly may never be) and I think to myself - the longer you go on wearing the glasses the less likely are you ever to take them off. It has been said that old people (lets be careful and say some old people) are particularly hard or resistant to the sound of the gospel; there are of course many grand old christians. Nicodemus was a devout and no-doubt learned Jew but completely "blind to the basics". Jesus questioned him, "You are Israel's teacher and you do not understand these things?". I love that old song from the Fifties by The Platters - "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". I know I'm going off at a tangent but I am also reminded of that comical TV advert about the guy who goes "nose-blind". None of us of have any real sense as to just how blind we are in so many ways. I've now ended up a long way from the Keilder Forest and even when I was up in Northumberland last week we didn't make time to visit Keilder. We never got to see that promised clarity of view but I pray like the two blind men in Matthew 20: "Lord we want our sight!". Jesus had compassion on them as He will have on us and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. 17 October 2016 StanH

Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of God ​based on Matthews Gospel Ch.6v33 is a famous and well beloved Christian Song first written and performed by Karen Lafferty around 1972 for Marantha Music's first praise album (1974). I don't know how I stumbled upon her testimony which is recorded on YouTube; here's the link: . She obviously tells her testimony better than I can. When I got on to YouTube I was amazed though, just how many people had a go and recorded their efforts of playing this tune (often without the words); its just one of those tunes - a sort of Christian equivalent to Ralph McTells famous popular song "Street of London" which many people have had a go at playing. Karen Lafferty was a Christian but had somehow gotten into secular stuff with her music - working in clubs and bars - but she didn't entirely lose her faith and she had a good Christian friend who by her testimony (which was by her example - the way she lived) inspired Karen who got interested in the principle of "living by faith" and "walking daily" with God (do watch the video). So Karen gave up her existing paid job and got into ministry work living by faith and little money. There was a phrase she uses on the video which you might miss if you're not paying close attention to her American drawl, but it's this: Where God guides God provides! ​Someone reading this today might find that the spur they've been looking for. Another phrase caught my attention and made me think of the Prophet Jonah: Don't run away from God - run to him! God called upon Jonah to undertake a [scary] preaching engagement for him and instead of getting on with it he ran away to Tarshish and found passage on a ship to get even further away from God; but of course it doesn't work like that. Jonah 1v1-3. If Jonah had believed and applied that addage, "Where God guides God provides" then he would have dicovered that if, like Karen Lafferty, he had gone the way God was guiding him it would not only have worked out but more than that - as the song says "and all these things shall be added unto you...". So, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added into you. Allelu, allelu, alleluia".  21 Ocober 2016 StanH

Paul was a man in a hurry. ​Given that he was in a hurry it's a mystery that he therefore chose to walk from Troas to Assos when he could have travelled more quickly by ship with Luke and the others, Acts 20v13-14. Whatever happened on those solitary miles overland, whatever the Lord told him (on a number of occasions Paul would say that the Lord had stood near him), we now detect a marked change and urgency in Paul in wanting to get to Jerusalem post-haste, Acts 20v16. So much so that, amazingly, he decided not to stop off at Ephesus; they had to come out to him, Acts 20v16. Paul makes it very clear by announcing: "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me", Acts 20v22-23. Alarmingly, Paul announces to the Ephesians that they would never see him again; he was meeting with them for the last time. That last meeting with the Ephesians was all very teary and emotional; in the end they had to tear themselves away, Acts 21v1. At Caesarea good christian friends pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem, fearing what would befall him there, Acts 21v12-14, but he would not be dissuaded. Paul was under a strong compulsion to see things through and finish the job he had been given. Periodically I love to read Acts 20-28 in one sitting - what a story, a magnus opus, what a man of God,what an example to any man or woman (any "he" or "she" who would valiant be 'gainst all disaster), anyone who would serve the Lord in any serious endeavour for the Kingdom. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we in Doncaster and indeed anywhere in the Kingdom, are here today because Paul would not be dissuaded, though he fear for his own life, would not depart from his course, had commited himself to finishing the race, was prepared to be "a drink offering poured out", was prepared to be in chains for the gospel. Now, in hindsight we can see that because of Paul and his last days in Rome, that after his death, his enduring legacy in Rome brought Christianity to these British Isles with the Roman Legions. It could have been a very different story if Paul had not been faithful to the calling that began outside Damascus. Paul could not have known how The Way was going to impact the World. No-one could have known except the Lord give them a vision of the future of the Church. It is now the 21st Century and we are on the cusp of the Last Days - indeed I believe that we are already in the last days and its what I preach. Profound changes are taking place now. Do you have a sense of that? How many in the wider Church are feeling the kind of compulsion that Paul felt. Do you have the same sense of urgency he evidently have? Are you in a hurry for the Kingdom?  We pray "Thy Kingdom Come!" but do we mean it and are we part of that band of "Pauls" who are will to see it in?         26 October 2016 StanH

​"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill", says Jesus in that well-known passage from Luke's Gospel (5v31). It's a verse we are all very familiar with, if not over familiar with, and therefore (tongue in cheek) obviously not relevent to us any longer. This is one of those occasions where we feel haughtily justified in saying, "I knew that!" - obviously! Duh! But "I knew that" and "Obviously!" are actually two serious medical, nay spiritual, conditions that can beset the Christian man or woman as we get older and sleek. Sleekness, by the way, is another Christian ailment. Whole swaithes of the Bible can, apparently, be safely written off as no longer relevent to us - as if we had somehow got beyond merely paddling in the shallow waters of our faith. Yet we are almost proud of being able to say, "but I'm still a sinner brother", albeit a forgiven sinner (implied); our forgiven sins almost something to be proud of. Jesus was of course having yet another go at the Pharisees because they were so impervious (meaning so hardened) to his efforts to be reconciled with them on behalf of The Father. This well-known passage was not written for the benefit of those who came to Jesus with repentent hearts, who recognised that they were sinners, who put their trust in Him. It was written to those who would not and who still will not. Begging your pardon - but are you, brother, sister, a Christian "pharisee" ? The Gospel writers seem to paint the Pharisees (and the Sadducees) as "baddies" - a kind of "Punch" to Jesus' "Judy". But I don't believe they were always like that and I don't believe you (assuming the cap fits) were always like that either. They may have even had a kind of rudimentary faith in their younger student-of-the-Word days but, failing to find the true spirit of the Messiah, Jesus, in the scriptures - took a wrong turn into legalism. As Paul wrote: "...for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" 2 Cor 3v6. In his younger days Paul the Apostle was himself a Pharisee and, indeed, still regarded himself as one when he addressed the Sanhedrin (Acts 23v6). So, like Paul, its possible to be a Pharisee who took a wrong turn somewhere along the way yet, by the Grace of God, got back on track - which is what happened that day when Paul had his life changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul could so easily have continued to war against Jesus and, as some Bible versions say in Acts 9v5-6, resist Him by "kicking against the pricks". When was the last time Christian that you had a life-changing encounter with Jesus?  30 October 2016 StanH






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