This blog was mainly written during the last few years of my paid ministry, I was team rector of the Anglican parish of Morden in South London.  Inevitably as clergy like to do, it refers back to earlier ministry in the North-East of England, and the Sultanate of Oman.  During the last four years, entries tale off.  If you wish to read more, put a keyword, like MISSION or NIGERIA in the ‘search’ box on the left.  Blogs are in date order, most are short, there is the occasional sermon.  I hope you find something of interest.  I am now working on a new website:  Pray2050.com


Treasure in Heaven

Bidbro church

Bidborough St Lawrence – Matthew 6:19-24

After Hilary and I were married here, 46 years ago, our first home was an old terraced house in Newcastle.  It was in an area where, if you left your home for any time, you needed to make sure it was secure from burglars breaking in.  It had basement windows, and on one occasion when we went away, I used strong boards over them and bolted them up through to the inside, and secured the doors pretty well.  But when we came home, we found that burglars had chiselled out the bricks from under the stairs up to the back door, and there was a neat hole through the brickwork.  It was not that we had many valuables in the house anyway, but it served to remind us that treasure on earth should not be too important to us – and to work out what our treasure actually is.

Here in Bidborough, quite a number of people work for a bank, or used to and a bank pays their pension.  Banks are usually a good place to put our money, but of course they can fail, as did Northern Rock, a bank where once we had a mortgage, fortunately paying it off before the bank failed.  Jesus warns us not to put that which is most valuable to us as money in a bank, or property, but to work out what our treasure really is, and to put it safely, in Heaven.

But then the question needs to be asked: “where is Heaven?”  Next Sunday’s Bible readings include the Lord’s Prayer, and there Jesus tells us that when we pray to God, we should ask: “Your Kingdom come on earth, as it is in Heaven.”  God’s Kingdom and Heaven are closely related.

The Bible tells us that we are created for relationship.  Relationship with God – receiving His Love, although we do not deserve it – and then giving love to Him, through relationship with others – family, neighbours, remembering the parable that Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, where the most hated person becomes our neighbour.

The story has often been told here, of how St Lawrence was a deacon in the  church in Rome in 258 AD,  and he had the job of distributing money given to the church, to the poorest people in Rome.  When the Roman emperor Valerian wanted the church’s money, he called Lawrence in to hand over the money.  Lawrence asked for three days in which to gather the riches of the church together, and then gave the money to the beggars from the streets of Rome, and took them to the emperor saying: “Here is the church’s treasure.”

As Christians, disciples of Jesus, our treasure is in relationship – with God and then with those He has given us to be in relationship with.  In the 10 Commandments God gave us through Moses, marriage and parenting come second after our relationship with God.  Not everyone is married of course, Jesus wasn’t, Paul wasn’t, but the relationship we have with each other when we put first our relationship with Go – that is what should be most important to us.  “Let the children come to me” said Jesus, and the blind and the lame, and the beggars – the poor of our world, who God loves every bit as much as he loves each of us.  One day, we will be called to account, (like St Lawrence was) as to where our treasure is.

In 1984, 34 years ago, David Jenkins, a liberal theology professor from Leeds University became Bishop of Durham – he did not believe in the virgin birth and spoke about Jesus’ resurrection in a way that made many believe he was denying that Jesus ever rose from the dead.  I was then vicar and rural dean in a coal-mining area near Durham, and was on record as saying as the first story in BBC national news one day, that David Jenkins’ being made a bishop should be delayed until he had explained himself more clearly.  I lasted three more years before leaving Durham diocese – on one occasion he came to speak to my deanery synod, when he said something I really did like:  “When we get to heaven, we will need eternity to talk with everyone in heaven to find out how they had experienced God’s love while on earth.”

That makes good sense to me.  We will need a very long time, to talk with Old Testament characters, the famous ones and the quiet ones, New Testament characters, and all those through history, in far-off places and cultures very different from our own.  Billions of people, presumably angels too.  Surely, we will need eternity to hear about how God had directed their lives, and been to them shepherd, saviour and king, how they had expressed in their lives on earth, their relationship with Him, their devotion to Him (v24 of Matthew 6), and how that had worked out through their relationship with others.

So when we read about, hear from the human Jesus 2,000 years ago talking about heaven, we need to listen.  When He tells us to “lay up our treasure in heaven….”  What did he mean by that?  Surely, to work at the relationships He has given us, now, to try to make sure that – as far as possible – they are grounded in His love for us.  “Be my witnesses…” said Jesus.  He should be at the heart of all our relationships.  And so we bring Heaven to earth, and become the answer to our prayer: “Your Kingdom come on earth as in Heaven.”.

Did you know, that one day, God will judge you, “according to what you have done?”  St John, in Chapter 20 of the last book in the Bible, the book of Revelation,   writes:  11) Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.  12)  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

God – outside our little world of time and space – in the same way that a painter stands outside his painting, adding a detail here and there with all the time in his or her world, focusing on the moment being fixed on the canvas – the God who created us, loved us enough to die for us, on whose hand is written our unique name – that God knows us far more than twitter, google, facebook or any other social media.  Whatever clever algorithms different social media use to learn all about us, God knows us far better and in greater detail.

So: where are you banking your treasure?  I hope it is in relationships that are grounded in the relationship that you have with God in Christ.  (“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”)  Then, you will be beginning to answer the prayer: “Your Kingdom come on earth.”  Then you will be building the foundation for all those conversations that in eternity, you will enjoy with the friends of God from every age and culture.

Read Psalm 84, preferably with others.  While the psalm describes the temple in Jerusalem, it is surely also a metaphor for humanity being in relationship together, reflecting the first and most important relationship on offer, between ourselves and God.  (v6 – a dry valley, v10 – wicked = those who put themselves before God.)

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka (the dry valley), they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God; look with favour on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;  I would rather be a              doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favou r and honour;
no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.



Church of England General Synod and SOCE

Gen Synod 2017

Four months since I write a blog, in November 2016 I explained why I would not be ‘blogging’ so often as before.  However, voting in two debates of General Synod last weekend drives me back to the keyboard.

Synod has met twice this year.  In February, bishops presented their report on same-sex relationships (only one bishop voted against, and that was by mistake as he pressed the wrong button) and the house of laity supported the bishops’ report, it was the clergy who voted against, and as all three ‘houses’ have to agree a motion, it was rejected.

Last weekend, Synod voted against SOCE – Sexual Orientation Change Efforts.  Such efforts were not defined, asking only that any effort should not be attempted.  Government was even called upon to legislate against such (undefined) efforts.  Neither was there any attempt at theological engagement or Biblical exegesis on the subject.

Of course, early attempts at conversion therapy were nearly always misguided and often cruel, leading to suicidal thoughts and sometimes suicide itself.  The film ‘The Imitation Game’ about Alan Turing tells that story well.  I accept the conclusion of Andrew Goddard and Glyn Harrison, of the “lack of high quality evidence for the prospect of radical change (e.g. the absence of reliable Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) and the potential for harm that could result, especially from unrealistic expectations and promises of benefit from any particular counselling support. Indeed, we note that influential support groups for Christians who experience same-sex attraction such as ‘Living Out’ and ‘True Freedom Trust’ focus on the need for acceptance and formation in Christian discipleship rather than offering bold claims of sudden shifts in the patterning of sexual interests and attraction.”  I recommend reading Harrison and Goddard’s full reflection, on Ian Paul’s blog Psephizo (July 6, 2017)

My particular concern focuses around Synod’s passing comment that “sexual fluidity does occur…”, but does not follow it up.  In the 1980-85 Synod, I tried unsuccessfully to speak along the lines that this was my own teenage experience, as well as that of many of my peer group.  I wrote later about this.  I suggest that this has been true for every generation, and from a study of 1960’s pyschology, more of a male issue than female.  A culture that is built to last encourages its children to understand, that attraction to the opposite sex is the better option.  The Old Testament and the Qur’an, emphasise the importance of not only conceiving children but nurturing them by the parents that conceived them.  Jesus, in the New Testament, defines marriage as between one man and one woman, for life, as do the apostles.

Those who press for a liberal attitude for sexual expression would do well to look beyond the end of their noses and give credence to the significantly higher birth-rate among our Muslim co-citizens.  How long do they think it will be before strict marriage laws are enforced by a government representing the concerns of a Muslim population moving towards majority influence, but without a New Testament understanding of the complementing of male and female in God’s creation ordinance?  As expressed before on this blog, I would prefer to encourage Muslims to read the Qur’an as not denying the cross of Christ.

More important, how many excellent would-be parents will lose the life-enhancing experience of nurturing their own children, and grand-children, by not gently being discouraged from expressing teenage same-sex attraction, and allowing themselves time to – yes – mature sexually?  Of course for some that will not happen, and for them either the high calling of celibacy.  For others, either married or in a civil partnership without direct nurturing responsibilities, the opportunity to serve the community in ways that parents cannot.

How to get this across to the now wavering bishops of the Church of England (who had only in February presented a pretty good report on the subject), to our increasingly female clergy (who maybe do not understand fully the male tendency to promiscuity), and to the house of laity?

(written before reading Ian Paul’s Psephizo blog of today’s date.)

Mothers Day, and apparent tragedy

My evening sermon today began with a rant against “Mother’s Day” (at least call it by its original name ‘Mothering Sunday’ when servants were given a day off to visit their mothers).  I objected also to ‘Fathers day’, and proposed a ‘Parenting Sunday’ instead to give thanks to God for both our parents – these days sharing responsibilities (apart from ironing).

I referred to the crucial role people who do not conceive children play, in the care and protection of children (ie Jesus, St Paul, and not forgetting the millions of young people, mainly men suffering their ‘lesser Calvaries’ (Studdart Kennedy) of 100 and 75 years ago.

It was however, apparently random events which God allows and even wills that was my main concern.  We read Psalm 105, with its reference to God over-ruling through the apparent chance events of Joseph’s life, bringing about the survival of Egypt and the Israelite nation in time of famine.  We had also read the verses at the end of Matthew 10 where Jesus speaks about sparrows and each hair of our heads being God’s concern.

I then told of three ‘tragedies’. of children of missionaries losing a parent .

100 years ago, missionary doctor Sharon Thoms died, falling from a telegraph pole he was fixing a phone line to, between two hospitals across mountains, in Muscat and Muttrah in Oman. His little son Wells was at his father’s funeral at a cove near Muscat.  Wells trained as a doctor.in the United States, then returned to Oman to serve as a doctor all his adult life.

Steve Saint’s father Nate was killed by Auca Indians in the Amazon jungle 60 years ago, when Steve was a small boy.  (It was Nate’s colleague Jim Elliott, killed at the same time who had said prophetically before his death: “He is no fool, who parts with what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” – words originally written by Nonconformist preacher Philip Henry in the 1600’s).

15 years ago, Steve tried to comfort little Cory Bowers at the funeral of Cory’s missionary mother and baby sister who had been killed.  They were in a plane flying over Peruvian jungle, which was shot at, mistaken for drug runners.  One bullet killed his mum and then his sister.  Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot, Kevin was wounded but managed to get the plane down.  Steve said to Cory:

“Cory, my name is Steve. You know what? A long time ago when I was just about your size, I was in a meeting just like this. I was sitting down there and I really didn’t know completely what was going on. . . . But you know, now I understand it better. A lot of adults used a word then that I didn’t understand. They used a word that’s called tragedy. . . But you know, now I’m kind of an old guy, and now when people come to me and they say, “Oh I remember when that tragedy happened so long ago.” I know, Cory, that they were wrong.

You see, my dad, who was a pilot like the man you probably call Uncle Kevin, and four of his really good friends had just been buried out in the jungles, and my mom told me that my dad was never coming home again.  My mom wasn’t really sad. So, I asked her, “Where did my dad go?” And she said, “He went to live with Jesus.” And you know, that’s where my mom and dad had told me that we all wanted to go and live. Well, I thought, isn’t that great that Daddy got to go sooner than the rest of us? And you know what? Now when people say, “That was a tragedy,” I know they were wrong.”

Then Steve Saint looked up at these twelve hundred people and told them the difference between the unbelieving world and the followers of Jesus. He said, “For them, the pain is fundamental and the joy is superficial because it won’t last. For us, the pain is superficial and the joy is fundamental.”

So:  what of the apparent tragedies that God allows?

Like Joseph as retold in Psalm 105?  in Genesis 50:20, Joseph says to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” When it says, “God meant it,” it says more than, “God used it.”

Then consider the words of Jesus on why missionary candidates should not fear to go to the hard and dangerous places, and why mothers should not fear to let their sons and daughters go — or even take them. In Matthew 10:28-31 Jesus says to his disciples to get them ready for suffering:

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (29). Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (30) But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (31) So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

At the end  of the sermon, I should have emphasised, that:

Jesus knows that people will kill the bodies of his missionaries. This is going to happen. But, he says, “don’t fear those who can only kill the body, and can’t kill the soul” (Matthew 10, verse 28).

Jesus said:  we don’t need to fear hostility because no sparrow falls to the ground apart from God. And you, his disciples, are more valuable than many sparrows. So how much less will you be shot out of the sky apart from God! God governs the flight of a sparrow, and God governs the flight of arrows and bullets. This is the basis of every Bible story about the victory of GodBird flight and arrow flight and bullet flight belong to the Lord. This is the solid ground of our comfort in calamity: God’s sovereign goodness to all who trust him.

Restating the Trinity

Sermon preached on March 5th 2017.

READINGS:  John 5: 19-24, Romans 6:4-11, 19-end.

My challenge you today, to think through one question:  When you get to Heaven, do you expect see Jesus and God as one and the same, or two separate beings?  To put it another way:  Was Jesus’ death on the cross, one person offering to another person the sacrifice of their own life on behalf of the world?  Or, was it the same person, making the ultimate sacrifice?

Grandchildren composed these two poems, when I told their parents my sermon theme, they gave me permission to use them.  No problem for the children with my theme…….

Fully God Fully Man!  by Phoebe Linley (11)

Jesus is the King of Kings…

But He had to learn how to go to the toilet!!!

Jesus is the Word…

But He had to learn how to write His name.

Jesus is the unchanging God…

But at times He was tired.

Jesus is all powerful…

But sometimes He had to sweep the floor!!!


Fully God Fully Man!  by Jonah Linley (9)

Spirit Word but

Tired Sad

King of Kings but

Cold wet

Heavenly throne to

Stinky Manger

All powerful but

Helpless baby

The Great I am

Punished for all our sins

As St Paul put it in Philippians 2, (and this is closest to the meaning of the Greek language that he wrote in):  “God was  in Christ, reconciling the cosmos, (the world) to Himself.”  “…Theos ein en Christo…”

Steve Chalke, the well-known Baptist church minister who founded the Christian charity Oasis, puts it like this:  When Jesus died on the cross, was it God the Father accepting the death of His Son, as redeeming human sin, or not?  When he asks the question – ‘was the cross a form of child abuse by the parent?’ – clearly, he thinks it was not.  I disagree with Steve on other things, but I think he has it right on this one.  It was God Himself, having come to earth in the person of Jesus, paying the price of human sin, in His own body, on the Cross.”

So, what do you think?  Keep thinking….  As a human being, Jesus called God “Father”, and he taught us to pray to God: “Our Father…..”, his Father and ours.  And in our Romans 6 passage, v10 – St Paul speaks of Jesus “being in fellowship with God”, making it sound as if there are two different personalities involved.  And, indeed, that is what the foundation document of the Church of England says:  Article One of the 39 Articles:  “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts or passions; of infinite power, wisdom and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible.  And in unity of this Godhead there be three persons of one substance power and eternity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

 I spent a while, trying to research where the phrase “three persons” originally comes from, it would have been two or three hundred years after the books of the New Testament were written down.  The word Trinity is not in the New Testament, nor any formulated doctrine of the Trinity – the use of the word Trinity did not become accepted generally until late in the fourth century.

For me, I go to St John for the best explanation as to the relationship of the human being Jesus of Nazareth, with and “the One Living and True God…” of Holy Scripture, from its very beginning in Genesis, to other Gospel writers and Paul.  That is why I chose our first reading, from St John’s Gospel, chapter 5…..  There, John describes the healing of a lame man, on the Sabbath, and the lame man is then questioned by the Jewish authorities, who then question Jesus.  Verses 19 and following give Jesus’ answer: “…….. (read these…..)  +Tom Wright suggests that these verses seem almost to be a parable.

Jesus told other parsables, about Fathers and Sons – the parable of the vineyard owner, whose son is killed by the tenants of his vineyard?  And then of course, the parable of the Prodigal Son of course, although it should be called ‘the parable of the two sons’, as the denouement only comes when the older son’s reaction is described.

Ken Bailey suggests that as Jesus told it, he left the end of the parable untold – let me try to tell it, as Ken did once to a Cyprus and the Gulf clergy retreat that I was at:  (read St Luke’s Gospel Chapter 15: 28ff…)  Then Ken’s extra v33: “But the older son became even angrier, and struck his father down to the ground, and kicked him until he was dead.  And so the honour of the village was satisfied, the prodigal son sent out of the village for ever without a penny, and all the villagers applauded the older son for restoring justice over forgiveness.”

Does that seem far-fetched?  But remember the immediate context of Luke 15:2 “The Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling about Jesus and saying ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and even eats with them…”  And then the final context, as the religious rulers had Jesus crucified.  Is he not then to be identified, in this parable, with the father?

Near the beginning of St John’s Revelation, Jesus is quite clearly identified with ‘The Lamb before the Throne,’ and on into this final book of the New Testament.  But as we come to the last two chapters of Revelation, there is, I believe a quite deliberate bringing together of Jesus and God Almighty, the great ‘I AM’ of the Old Testament, ‘Yahweh’ Himself.  Vv 5-7 of Rev. 21: “He who was seated upon the throne…”  notice incidentally, how the members of the church, the Bride of Christ, are called ‘Sons of God.’

Vv 22-23……

v 24: “….by its light”, not their light.

Then Ch 22:1, 3 – v4 “They will see His face….” not their faces, but His Face.  Do I need to go on?

As we read through St Paul’s letter to Christians in Rome, I believe we have to keep in mind the fact that Jesus, the risen Christ, who met with St Paul on the Damascus road, is the one and the same as God.

And, I suggest, that increasingly these days, we need to explain what we mean when we call Jesus, God’s Son.  Of course we should as scripture does, seven times in the book of Romans.  But we are called Sons of God (Romans 8:14 and 19).  But there are today in Britain 2-3 million Muslims, for whom calling Jesusd God’s Son is heresy, because the Qur’an assumes that when Christians call Jesus God’s son, they mean it in a biological sense.  Of course we don’t, but they think we do.

So I suggest that as other words change their meaning and we stop using them in a general sense, (I leave you to think of such words), so we should explain our meaning of Jesus as God’s Son.

And while you are writing me off as a hopeless heretic, I will stick my neck out further, and say, I find the word Trinity in these days, as not saying all I want to say about God.  I said earlier, it is not a Bible word, and maybe, just despite it taking 400 years or so for the Church to come by it, we need to find other ways as well to explain how Jesus lived on earth as a human being ‘in every respect like us’, and yet was at the same time, Almighty God.

I may have tried falteringly before in sermons in this church, how I have tried to explain it to teenagers, that while the term ‘Trinity’ is quite adequate in our 3-dimensional world, it is not all that can be said about God, who is outside our 3-D world of space and time.  Growing up here, I have had more than 60 years to think about the passing of time, with the poem that my dad found on a little card attached to a small clock in Chester cathedral, copied it down and gave it to Mr Cramer, the then verger, to inscribe on the clock pendulum as it slowly swings there under the tower.  (Well, I think he must have stopped the clock to attach it).  And you coming to St Lawrence now, have this constant reminder to use our lifetime well, as time speeds up as we grow older.

Psalm 90 tells us that God is outside our time….

So, while not denying the Trinity, I suggest we need to say that God is more than just Trinity.  With youngsters, I use the crude illustration of moving from a 2-D world to a 3-D one.  An artist can of course spend a great deal of time, painting a 2-Dimensional picture.  Time is frozen in such a painting.  Time spent in an Art gallery can be of course very pleasant indeed, gazing at faces or events.  But how much better to see the face in the flesh, or the landscape opening up in front of us, so we can walk out into it.

Maybe, just maybe, the world that God inhabits is just like that.  Our 3-D  ‘3score years and ten’ and now increasingly our 4score years, can be thought of as taking up only a tiny space in God’s greater 4-D world.

I’m sorry though, if that is too obtuse to understand.  Here is another attempt, to explain how the word Trinity is not all there is that can said about God…….  Maybe we should consider a 3-D model of the standard 2-D triangle (or clover-leaf) to illustrate the Trinity…..

(Show model of Tetrahedron, and offer cards with web address to make them):


Finish with The power of the cross




The House of the Forest of Lebanon (see blog Feb 20th 2016)


50 years ago, MIke Williams was on hand helping me rebuild a gearbox in my Thames 15cwt Ford van.  Recently, he was on hand to give advice on constructing identical roofbeams (strong enough to support a turf roof).  Doors and windows are from skips in the village – the little flat-roofed concrete shed at the back is old).

Two weeks ago, I was just back from Oman, I hope to follow this blog in the next day or so with one about the Cross of Jesus in the Qur’an.  Maybe the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (an important element in John Bunyan’s ‘House of the Forest of Lebanon’ can be taught in a fresh way through the ‘House’ now under construction.  Watch this space!

Looking to the future


In “Watchman, what of the night?” my last blog in July, I described watching the dawn.  In September, I had the privilege again of watching it for two weeks in Madagascar.  For many Republican voters in the U.S. election, it may seem a new dawn is breaking over Washington, for other Republican voters they wonder if it is a false dawn.  I know that for some Christians, their vote for Donald Trump was a protest vote without their seriously expecting him to win the presidency.  As each new (24hour) day dawns, pray for the U.S. president-elect, that the advisers he chooses will be people who listen for God’s leading, as we pray that also, for ourselves.  And, pray that they learn more and more, as all Christians need to, that forgiveness is the Cross-shaped truth at the very centre of building real and lasting peace.

My next blog may be some time coming.  Since I retired from parish ministry three years ago, the number of people visiting this blog has dropped to only a few a week.  I hope I have not wasted too much the opportunity of retirement, to listen more to God through His Word, and to do the work he has given me to do.  Meanwhile – I would be happy to keep in touch with any who would like to do so, at email: skinhicks@tiscali.co.uk

Watchman, what of the night?

George Muller of Bristol, preached a famous sermon with this title around 1870.   http://www.mullers.org/downloads/Muller%20Sermons%20pdf/Watchman,%20what%20of%20the%20night.pdf 150 years later the sermon still stands as a great exposition of Isaiah 21:11.

Early on in preaching, I would say that it did not matter if the Last Judgment came in my lifetime or in many thousands of years time, what mattered was how I had lived my life before God, in the light of the cross of Jesus Christ.  But Muller properly corrects that, when he says:  Some may say, “Why make so much of the coming of the Lord? Is not death the same thing, for it is our going to Him? I once thought so myself; but I was led to see that there is a vast difference between the two. The hope of the Church is not death, but the return of the Lord. If I am taken out of the world by death, I shall myself be happy so far as regards the soul; but, blessed as I shall be, my happiness, even as regards myself alone, will not be full; for I shall not yet have my glorified body, my redeemed body. But when the Lord comes, it is the whole family brought into happiness and blessedness – the whole family gathered home. Then there will be the resurrection of the just, the first resurrection, when, therefore, the whole elect family will receive their glorified bodies. Death has to do with the partial happiness of individual believers; but the coming of the Lord has to do with the complete happiness of the whole redeemed family! So you see there is a vast difference between the two events as to the hope connected with them; and we must not yield to the statements that are made to the contrary. We must be guided by the Word of God, and not frame our own notions about these things, nor follow the notions of good people around us, if their thoughts are not according to the Word of God.

Tomorrow, Hilary and I go for a week to a youth centre on nearby Ashdown Forest, with 12 twelve children and their parents, we will be using Scripture Union Bible teaching material: “Guardians of Ancora”.  Fifty years ago, I was with a group of Durham students running a Christian camp for a group of 15 boys from Sacriston, a mining village near to Durham.  The camp was at Tayvallich on the west coast of Argyll, Scotland.  It was within a few months of my acceptance by the Church of England, for training towards ordination.  As a 21 year old, the immanence of the Lotd’s Return was real enough to set up a meeting with the College Principal, Jim Hickinbotham to try to persuade him that I need not endure a third year of further training, when a 2-year period was extended to three for non-theological students.  I failed in that endeavor.  My blog of Feb 10th 2013 has a ten minute film which includes a picture of that Tayvallich camp.

I watched the last light of yesterday fade over the valley from my rampart walk. Now the dawn of another ‘Lord’s Day’ comes.  As I prepare for teaching the next generation of my own extended family, I wonder how Isaiah 21:13 -17 will be fulfilled?

Many millions to pray for Europe (& the U.K.)?


52% of the U.K. electorate voted for Brexit – to ‘Leave’ the European Union last Thursday while 48% of us voted to ‘Remain’.  The picture of Europe by night suggests that whatever political arrangements we have, we have more in common than divides us.

Some Brexit voters saw beyond the migrant issue, but are properly concerned about the dangers of ever-closer union without democratic accountability.  Most of England with the exception of London went for Brexit (Newcastle and Tunbridge Wells among a few other honorable exceptions).  Now we wait to see if Scotland joins the EU and separates from the U.K., maybe the elections in France will produce a Frexit vote (etc) so there won’t be much of European Union to join.

Maybe, E.U. leaders will wake up to the fact that relatively few of us want any more political union, just  closer genuine working together.  And most especially, maybe Christians across Europe will wake up and make the Great Commission a priority.  Maybe Christians from across the pond will help to wake us up, as hopefully a million gather in Washington National Mall in two weeks time to pray for the USA.  See http://www.Reset2016.com

  • The organisers want a million people to agree to show up in person.  But how many more millions could link up on line?

Great is Thy faithfulness…

Another month passes since my last blog. Yesterday a fortnightly home group/ Bible study group, it seemed as if the last one was only 2/3 days before.  “…And later as I older grew, time flew…”  so the poem goes, referred to previously.  Last night before sleep, I was reading my occasional journal of 50 years ago, and was thinking about God’s faithfulness before and since then.

The Grange

This evening, Hilary and I hope to show old Morden friends Marion and Peter Stephenson around the garden of the ‘two before last’ rectory in the village, near neighbour to the house my parents stayed in nearly 80 years ago, on furlough from China,  I think ‘The Grange’ was the rectory during the English civil war in the 1630’s, not a bad Living then!  (A Living is the old name for a rector’s job, a rector received rents from farmland).

Enough of ancient history.  Just 50 years ago will do for now – when God the Holy Spirit first connected in my mind the idea of churches together in evangelism in the North-East of England, with prayer at the centre – as I had experienced as a teenager in Northern Nigeria’s “New Life for All” campaign.  By July 1966, I had connected that with the idea of inviting Billy Graham to head it up.  Then 40 years ago this summer, as the new vicar of Newbottle  I was joining early morning prayer meetings for a Dick Saunders Crusade being organised in Houghton-le-Spring.  I have already blogged about how in 1982-5 Billy Graham headed up Mission:England, North-East, as well as in several other regions of the U.K.

Tomorrow, the U.K. referendum about the European Union: ‘Brexit’ or ‘Remain’?  Not quite a re-run of the Civil War of 370 years ago, but Boris Johnson appeals for a new Independence Day, his successor as the new mayor of London, Saddiq Khan putting up a passionate argument for Remain.  Maybe this evening, “…no longer gracious ladies walk in gardens in the sun…” That is a line from a song Chris Griffiths and I wrote for a musical in Elswick, Newcastle in the early 1970’s (it may well be raining tonight for our garden visit).

With regard to the Kingdom of God, how desperately churches together across Europe need to take more seriously their Great Commission, witnessing to the unique forgiving power of the Cross of Christ.  How to encourage prayer across the churches, to that end?  And not only of course praying about our witness to other native Europeans, but to all those from other cultures and faiths living, or wanting to live, among us.


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