August 2016

“Ahhwoahahh”   James emitted a cry of frustration. He had discovered the ‘joy’ of crawling.  Setting his sight on a desired object, he lowered his head, moved his hands and feet furiously, then stopped and looked up; his desired object was further away!  He lowered his head, activated his hands and feet, stopped and looked up; his desired object was still further away.  He repeated this again, and when he realised he was travelling away from the object, he let out a howl of anguish and frustration.  You can feel some sympathy for him, I guess.  Since then, he has made steady progress, crawling rapidly in the direction of his desire and now on the brink of walking.

Diane and I went on holiday with Tom & Jen, Euan & Zach.  The boys had wonderful adventures exploring the river outside our cottage, Tom managed two cycle rides, Jen chose her birthday present, the weather was wonderful – all in all, we had a superb holiday – but it didn’t yield the expected magazine article!  Life just continued with joy and fun; no funny little stories, insights or anecdotes to share in the Herald.  Well, maybe apart from the incident at Portpatrick… which has nothing to do with the boys or the family at all…

Portpatrick is a lovely little Scottish port 8 miles below Stranraer.  We arrived for a picnic, and as we strolled round the port, we watched an ocean-going yacht prepare to leave the harbour.  As they began to leave, they nearly hit a small boat, and reversed back into the harbour; they set off again, pulling to the port (left) as they left.  Just outside the inner harbour, the yacht ran aground.  By the time we had finished our picnic, the ebbing tide left the yacht heeling to the left, revealing the deep water channel to the right in which other deep draught vessels happily entered and left the port, the channel the yacht had missed.  We walked up to Dunskey Castle (not a lot left!) and back, by which time the yacht had heeled right over; small boys had waded out to the yacht and were expressing their views about the hapless crew’s ability.  The crew were trying to use their weight to stop the yacht from dipping so far the incoming tide would flood the vessel.  We had to leave before we saw the end of the drama, although the lack of news on the web suggests there was a happy outcome.

The crew had confidently steered their vessel, but had missed their way and so run aground. Every port has marine charts which show the depth of water at high and low tides, the (marked) safe passage.  The crew either didn’t know how to read the chart, or didn’t bother checking it, or just didn’t bother with a chart.  Travelling with confidence without direction is guaranteed to end in disaster.  Jesus promised us a heavenly home: “In my Father’s house are many rooms… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.” (The Bible, John 14.2-4)  Thomas wisely asked for a ‘road map’, and Jesus replied:I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6)  Jesus promises safe passage and clear destination, and the clearest of road maps.

However, as James demonstrated all too well, knowing where you want to go and having a clear road map also requires traction in the right direction.  Many of us have experienced the frustration where we have decided to live a good life and to stop some recurrent habit which is damaging to us and those around us (The Bible calls this sin): we mark where we want to go, put our head down, and put all our effort into it, but when we lift up our heads, our destination and objective seem still further away.  The harder we try, the further away we seem to be.  St Paul found exactly this problem: I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Romans 7.18-19) – a sort of James’ crawling in our inner being and life, travelling backwards, away from our objective.

The good news is that St Paul also reveals the answer to this universal dilemma:  Jesus saves us by his death, taking our place, so by faith in him, we are delivered safely to our destination (Jesus was pointing to the same truth in John 14.1-6).  St Paul declares: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 5.23)  What we earn through our sin is death, separation from God, and the harder we try to live a right and moral life it seems we travel backwards.  The problem is we start the wrong way round.  We think we have to earn God’s approval, but in fact we start with His approval by trusting Jesus; with the free gift of eternal life assured, it is time to start living the renewed life in the power of His Spirit as a response to the gift, not to earn it

Praying that you may find in Christ Jesus the free gift of eternal life and so live it out today.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Simon Cox.

You can find the full text of the August Herald here