Michael's Missives


In January 1999 Sarah Flannery won the Esat Scientist of the year for Ireland with her project on cryptography. “Single-handedly a 16-year-old appeared to have found a way of securely encrypting – that is, the science of secrecy – hiding sensitive information on the Internet, which worked 22 times faster than the one developed at MIT in 1997.”[1]

She  was  brought  up  in a  household  where her  parents  are lecturers,  but  they  did  not  force  their  daughter  to perform mental  gymnastics or pressurise her to be anything other than a  normal  girl.  The  one thing her father did was to set her and her  brothers  puzzles,  which he wrote on a blackboard in their kitchen.

He often finishes his lecture at the Cork Institute of Technology with a 10-minute puzzle because he finds that they are the best way to teach self-confidence and creativity. The reporter, Cassandra Jardine, was presented with one to solve when she went to interview the family.

“A farmer has 12 barrels of apples. Eleven are filled with 5-oz apples; one contains the heaviest, 6-oz apples. The farmer wants to find out which one holds the heaviest apples. How can he, in one weighting, find out which barrel holds the weightier apples?”

In Proverbs 25:2 it says “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”  God is the master at encryption and puzzles, and what he seals no one can decipher. He hid the church in the Old Testament teaching and then suddenly sprang it on Paul. He has given us 3 books Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation – they are all in a sense encrypted, but the Holy Spirit can resolve the mysteries.

I’m not sure about you but I’m pretty hopeless at solving puzzles and intelligence tests – I do not want to think of what my IQ is – I doubt if I would reach 100 — “as high as that” you say, “it’s time for you to stop boasting.”  However, bearing that in mind, perhaps it could be a little higher in the things of God!

Here’s one puzzle I’ve never been able to solve and I think there are many others in the same situation – “Why did Jesus die for me?” A puzzle indeed, known only to God.  I have laboured for 65 years trying to unravel that conundrum.  I accepted Christ as my Lord and Saviour when I was 15 and since that time I have experienced his overwhelming love and forgiveness, but how to answer you as to why He did it and continually does it, is a mystery.

But, don’t let the lack of an answer deter you from accepting that divine love, He came that we might live, and live abundantly. Life is found in Jesus Christ who rose from the dead, to die no more. Those who put their complete trust in Him find God unlocks the scriptures to those who pursue Him, and solves all manner of mysteries revealing His heart.  It’s not intelligence that does it but humility – just like Sarah who is “an ordinary girl” so are those who find God and know Him in reality.  Some people with a low IQ by the world’s standard could have an IQ of 145 in spiritual things, which is professorial level!


[1] Daily Telegraph March 18 2000 article by Cassandra Jardine.


Michael's Missives


In 1850 William Hepburn Russell and James Brown formed a company to deliver 600,000 pounds of government supplies to Santa Fe. Soon afterwards, Russell began delivering supplies to Fort Hall. The freighting business was a great success and in 1854 he joined forces with two other businessmen, Alexander Majors and W. B. Waddell, to start the company of Russell, Majors and Waddell.

In 1860 Russell, Majors and Waddell established the Pony Express to deliver the mail. This involved setting up a string of over 100 relay stations from St. Joseph in Missouri to Sacramento in California, a distance of 1,966 miles. A notice appeared in a San Francisco newspaper: “Wanted. Young skinny wiry fellows, not over eighteen. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week.” One of those who applied for a job as a pony express rider was William F. Cody.

The horses going flat out, it was necessary to provide fresh ones every 15 miles, although the riders were changed less often. One of the youngest was a boy called Bronco Charlie Miller, who was only 12 years old, and when a horse came in riderless, his father hoisted him on a fresh animal and sent him off with the mail.

People were charged $5 per half ounce to send their letters. Each rider rode a certain distance before handing the letters over to the next relay rider. The first batch of letters left St. Joseph on 3rd April, 1860 and arrived in Sacramento ten days later.

In winter, teams of mules were driven back and forth over the trail to pack the deep snow, so $5 for delivery of a letter would buy the services of at least 140 horses, probably 25 to 30 riders, upwards of 175 station owners and several dozen mules. It only took eight days to traverse the distance of nearly 2,000 miles, through storms, hostile territory and punishing terrain. A bit like the post office today!

The Pony Express was initially a popular service. However, on 24th October 1861 a transcontinental telegraph was completed. Russell, Majors and Waddell could not compete with the electric telegraph and the Pony Express was closed down on 26th October.

The Pony Express was superseded by the telegraph, which was overtaken by the telephone and the telephone by the e-mail, and now we are in today’s speedy communications era. What would we do without e-mail, mobile phones and laptop wireless connectivity? It’s unthinkable, but God can send answers even quicker than men can invent the means of transference.

24 years ago I was struggling to change a thermostat on my ailing car, parked in my driveway. I shouted into the bungalow through the open front door, “I think Patricia you had better pray for a new car, I’m going next door to borrow an adjustable spanner.” The old man opposite led me into his garage to find the spanner, and as he bent to open the drawer he asked, “’would you like this car?” pointing to his sparkling 2.3 FE range Vauxhall, nine years old but with only 22,000 miles on the clock. Whenever it rained he cleaned and garaged it. It was a wonderful example of loving care and maintenance. It lasted me for many years.

By the time I had walked a few yards to his bungalow and entered the garage the answer was there, – God had responded, certainly faster than Pony Express, telegraph, telephone and e-mail. In fact, he does say “before you call I will answer,” and that’s mega technology. Can mankind beat that? A sinner falling to their knees cries out “Save me” and as our Australian friends would say, “There we are – done and dusted.” God acts swiftly to that kind of cry, faster than blinking. When He returns, it will be swifter than in a twinkling of an eye [1 Cor 15:52]. Men cannot move faster than their communications, but God can!

Michael's Missives

Riskless living

When I was 39 years old I entered Birmingham Polytechnic as a lecturer. During that time in that department we developed several diplomas and when we were upgraded to a university these were turned into first degrees. This necessitated meeting the representatives of the CNAA,1 and because I was senior lecturer and subject tutor for Building Studies I had to represent my department in establishing the philosophy for my subject specialty.

Our degrees were subsequently awarded and this meant we began to see some high level students attending because we were designated a centre of excellence for Estate Management and Surveying. These students with their ‘A’s’ at ‘A’ level waltzed into the university bristling with academic ability. They saw the subject ‘Building Studies’ and thought here’s a soft option. Their first lesson was to draw a brick with another draped over it, both having frogs (bed-lining indentations) positioned next to a gas tap on the front bench. It had to be freehand with no ruler; they had to estimate the dimension according to the scale they chose. The gas tap gave them a hint.

It also had to be in an isometric elevation, which necessitated spatial perception, which many of them didn’t possess, no matter how intelligent they were. Many students from several nationalities struggled with this exercise and they suddenly realised that Building Studies may, after all, be more demanding than they at first thought, and that they needed a different viewpoint.

The officers of Israel gathered nightly in Saul’s tent to discuss the tactics for defeating the Philistines who were arrayed against them in Oak Valley. Each morning they arose went out to battle, gave their war cry and watched as Goliath arose from amongst the ranks of the Philistine army to challenge them to battle. They in turn slunk away to talk again that evening!2

Then David, the grocery boy, appeared with best mature Cheddar cheese and bread. He was the one with spatial (spiritual) perception, he was used to looking from God’s viewpoint, and saw that the hidden world was more real than the material world. He also had God’s anointing. We tend to look at our giants from ground level but in doing that it heightens our difficulties; it enlarges our giants, and magnifies their potential danger. It distorts actuality in God, for God is above all. We need to shift the vantage point of faith, for it to be faith.

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.3 David had already killed a bear and a lion, and both are stronger than a giant! Therefore his risk was calculated, not brashness or rashness. “Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.”4 That deliberate approach plus God is a wonderful way to obtain victory.

Michelangelo said The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it but that it is too low and we reach it.” We are made for victory and positive living, yet we all have giants walking our valleys. None of us are exempt. There are those who, having learnt much, refuse to learn more and become too content with their lot. They live with their giants and just shout. “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis’. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger but recognize the opportunity.”5  Each day we can live above the taunts of the Goliath of Gath.

 “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”6  But “. . .  we do not look at the things which are seen (foreground), but at the things which are not seen (background). For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”7 The tension of two worlds is answered in Christ, who is our victory. Christians not only touch the foreground, but they remind of the background, for the invisible world is the reality. Finally – “the greatest risk is the risk of riskless living.”8 Take a risk in God and slay a giant!


1 Council for National Academic Awards.

2 1 Samuel 16/17                                            6 James O. Rose

3 Hebrews 11:1-3                                            7 2 Cor. 4:18

4 General Patton                                             8 Steven Covey

5 John F. Kennedy

From the Pastor's Pen

Dealing With Change

‘Change is here to stay whether we like it or not.’

Change for some can be so exciting, while for others it can be their worst nightmare causing a very real issue in their heart and mind. I recall just how different our children were in this particular area. My son Ben was thirteen years old when we moved to Bristol on a beautiful Saturday in September 1992 and was to begin attending his new senior school on the Monday. Off he went full of confidence and excitement at all the possibilities for the future with no fear or uncertainty. He met a young man that first day who turned out to be a distant relative in our family and a Christian. They became firm friends; how amazing God is. My two girls were quite different from each other. My eldest daughter, Rachel, much preferred things to remain the same. Knowing how things would be and what she would have to face and handle was like a safety net to her, while my youngest daughter handled change face on and embraced all that a new challenge can bring.

When Abraham was called to leave his earthly father’s house and go to a land God would show him it involved several faith steps that we at times mirror in our walk with the Lord. God knew the end from the beginning but Abraham had to move in faith. This involved several facets we would do well to practice.

  1. He had to trust in the sovereign Word of His heavenly Father, not knowing what he would face on route.
  2. He had to set off resting in the knowledge God had communicated to him.
  3. He had to believe in the promise of God: God had spoken saying; ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you’.

This promise for Abraham was not just a prophetic Word for himself and his earthly offspring it was an eternal prophesy concerning Jesus because God was speaking of the blessing that would come through Christ. This included every person who would take the step of faith to trust in the sovereign will of the Father, rest in the Knowledge of God and believe in the promise of God.

For the New Testament disciples everything was about to change as Jesus began to speak about having to go away, even though He also promised He would return. The early disciples had no understanding that Jesus would not return for over two thousand years, after all Jesus had said to them; ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me again.’ Jesus may well have been referring to them seeing Him before the ascension in His resurrected state, however, two thousand years of time when measured in the light of eternity is a little while.

The early disciples had to learn and mature in the faith quickly and handle change in an environment of persecution. In the UK the hardship we have had to face is nothing when compared with those who live in countries where real persecution has broken out. The early Church was not concerned with establishing a comfortable life and secure future, although we must have wisdom and plan wisely, they ‘loved not their lives unto death.’ The changes we desire are not the changes that come through the influence of man, but that which comes through the influence of God. We can transition together into the new things God has for us as the family of HICC and embrace change without fear because our faith and trust is in the Lord.