Monday, July 24, 2017

Who was the most ignorant American you have ever met?

An Answer provided on Quora to the question "Who was the most ignorant American you have ever met?

I'm generalizing to open so as to set the context:

Australians, perhaps like other countries, stereotypically consider American tourists in Australia as loud and slightly obnoxious. At Australian tourist attractions you see the Americans spending more time looking through a camera view-finder than absorbing the ambience.

Now to the setting:

To the west of Sydney, Australia is a mountain range that runs to a North South alignment from the southern tip of the continent through to the northern tip of the continent. It is called the Great Dividing Range. The part of the Great Dividing Range immediately west of Sydney is called the Blue Mountains. It is called the Blue Mountains as the trees release oil on extremely hot days and the oil creates a blue haze from a distance.

Within the Blue Mountains there is a popular tourist attraction called the Three Sisters. The Three Sisters are three outcrops of sandstone rocks. They are named the Three Sisters from an indigenous Australian story about three sisters that were turned into stone. Tourists view the Three Sisters from a series of platforms. There is a drop from the platforms to a valley floor. I image the drop exceeds 300 feet (think Grand Canyon but with a carpet of green tree tops as far as the eye can see).
At the Three Sisters is a tourist information center that is perched out onto the drop to the valley floor. The tourist information center has broad windows that give a scenic view of the valley. Tall trees tower up to the height of the windows.

In the Blue Mountains there are many varieties of Australian Native birds. This includes many parrots, galahs, cockatoos, kookaburras, lorikeets, rosellas and more. Many of these birds have very colorful plumage with bright oranges, reds and yellows common. The birds tend not to be too shy of humans.

The tourist information center includes bird feeders that sit out beyond the windows. The staff fill the feeders with seed each morning. I remember there being four of these feeders and each could fit about ten birds at a time.

Now to the scene:

I stood at the window of the tourist information center one day to watch the birds. I quickly counted eighteen different species amongst the birds that were freely coming and going and concluded that there was probably more species than I had counted. My mind was to how there was probably up to one hundred birds in the immediate vicinity. The wild birds could freely come and go and like most Australian native birds they fed at a number of locations on any given day.

So, I hope you have got that - the birds were numerous and they were freely coming and going from the bird feeders.

An American woman arrived beside me. She was wearing a fresh t-shirt that had a popular Sydney logo on the front which told me that she was probably only just off an airplane the previous day. She bustled in and quickly took about ten photographs of the birds. She possibly did not look beyond the birds to view the valley. As her husband joined her they both stopped to take in the bird feeders and the comings-and-goings of the numerous colorful species. She then turned to go as rushed as she had come. Before leaving she made a pronouncement at volume that everyone in the tourist information center heard:

"These Australians are so stupid, they should put those birds in a cage."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

2 Kings 7 sermon, slide 15 of 15

Wrapping up: I thought to reflect briefly on the life of a American missionary to the South American country Ecuador.  Jim Elliot died while on mission activities amongst indigenous people.  Jim knew confidently that faith required action, that he needed to share God’s mercy and that God cared for all people.  We are never foolish in God’s eyes if we give up things of this world for the gift of eternal life.  We are never foolish in God’s eyes when we seek to share God’s good news.  Go then boldly and share God’s wonderful message of grace through his son Jesus Christ. 

Go in peace.  Amen.

{The end}

A debrief from the Pastor that assisted me with this sermon is linked here


2 Kings 7 debrief

An extensive debrief followed the sermon on 2 Kings 7 last week.  The fifteen slides of the sermon commence from this link.  The Pastor who had prepared me offered excellent feedback over a coffee.  The feedback was in the sandwiched good-bad-good style.  All three feedback points are excellent.  They all need consideration.  I have added a fourth point to the Pastors three points to settle one of my own points of discomfort.

I'm very willing to be sharpened in considering feedback, after all:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

The four points are:

  1. I failed to have a question at the beginning to spark the audiences interest in the topic.  Something was needed to order of: "“Have you ever been in a state of despair where you could not perceive any answers?”, or, “Have you ever wondered whether God would respond to your needs?”. 
  2. The application point "Faith = action" needs some work.  It is plausible that the lepers were simply acting in fear.  Alternatively, the lepers may have been acting out of desperation.  They need not have had faith and God did not need to observe faith for God to take action.
  3. Consider developing the context a little bit further.  2 Kings 6 ends with various indications of the state of the king's leadership and his relationship with the prophet.  How does this context affect the consideration of the events in 2 Kings 7.
  4. Consider that Samaria does eventually fall and the people are exiled.  Why is God providing for the people in 2 Kings 7?  How is that Samaria do not fall into exile earlier? Consider the people's obedience to God and there worship of other gods.
Much thinking is needed!  The feedback is very welcome.


Ministry of church signboard

It has been an amazing week.

I had delight in preaching a sermon on Thursday to join an "Interactive Cafe" discussion of the message afterwards. (The sermon slides start at this link post).  The highlight was in observing how the first application point had sunk into people's hearts.  "Yes", they said, "we too are unlikely agents for God's Word and we can serve him".

Then, as a coincidence, the Sunday morning radio sermon that we listen to was on The Parable of the Talents from  the Gospel of Matthew.  The coincidence is in that the Parable identifies with how people should use the skills that God has offered them for the kingdom.  Thankfully, the preacher did something that I think to be rare in preaching from this text.   The preacher identified with deployment of both people's skill and money - where many preachers seem to focus only on deployment of money).  The preacher did this by identifying three people engaged with an overseas missionary body where the people's engagement was predominately skills based.

Along the way I learnt that the Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia seemingly has not heeded a verse of the Bible.  As a result, I've added Ephesians 5:3 as a verse to excise from the Bible.

Finally, another person pointed out a local curiosity - an informative sign before a blank sign:

Now, I find that church signboards can be quite useful.  They can be eye-catching and quirky.  They can trigger a smile.  They are like a newspaper front page headline - perhaps as important as a church's website (Southern Cross magazine, July 2017).  They can be cheeky with messages like: "The church is full of hypocrites yet there is always room for one more".  Church signboards can be Biblically provocative: mirroring for instance Jesus when Jesus powerfully let the church leaders know that Jesus heals today:

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 

Church signboards can be a valuable ministry for a congregant (or number of congregants) to adopt - a retired person perhaps.  I've had a turn at changing a church's signboard message myself.  I was disappointed one day to find that someone had accessed the local signboard and altered the letters in a most derogatory way.  I see this local sun-drenched signboard as highly valuable in that it faces traffic of approximately three thousand vehicles a day and busloads of people.


Note: all links good as at 23 July 2017
Note: an earlier post recognises that one Pastor was very responsive to church signboard feedback (linked)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Unlikely agents

Praise God!  I preached today on 2 Kings 7.  The fifteen slides commence from this link.

The highlight was not in the preaching.  After all, the preaching was just foolish me and a humble set of slides.  The highlight was not in Christians brothers and sisters who came, yet it was a delight to have friendly faces. The highlight was not in the prayer session beforehand with the pastor who guided me to prepare the sermon, although her assistance was appreciated.  The highlight was not in the experienced service leader or the well chosen sermon-matching hymns, yet they were grand.

The highlight was not in monologue.  It was in dialogue.
A food van serving German sausage; photographed as I travelled home on Pitt Street Mall.  The van is run by a Christian friend.  Please consider purchasing from them

The church group continues immediately after the service in a circle of chairs.  They share a cup of tea and discuss the day's sermon.  The service leader invited me to stay, for the whole, or for part, of the discussion group. 

The highlight came in a series of spontaneous questions from members of the group.  The questions all perchance centred on the first of the five application points.  The application points are on this linked slide.

That application point - rich in textual reference to how God had restored the people of the city of Samaria using four destitute lepers - was that God uses unlikely agents.

For God:

- used Joseph, the least of his brothers, to give the Israelites a name in Egypt, and,
- used Moses, a murderer and a stutterer, to lead people out of Egypt, and,
- used David, a shepherd boy, with a sling to defeat a Philistine giant, and,
- used twelve most unlikely men to be Apostles, and,
- used an apostle; Peter, who denied Christ three times to build his church, and,
- replaced one of those Apostles with Paul; a man who described himself as the worst of sinners.

The questioners identified with their own brokenness and their own failings.  They had warmed to the message that while they were least amongst people of the world they were capable of great work of God.  For example, a man spoke of how in his steady path to deafness, and through his many medical appointments for cancer treatment, God was using him to share the Gospel with medical personnel. 

It is in community that Christians most encourage each other.  It was a pleasure to be part of the church's community and to see them care for each other and encourage each other.  It was wonderful to seem them identify with just one single point of application and to see them deliberate on it. 

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 

The highlight was not in message delivery - it was in the hearer's absorption and understanding.


POSTSCRIPT: The day after writing this post I debriefed with the Pastor who had guided me through the sermon preparation.  I took away three main feedback points and will be working on each of them.  Our conversation quickly turned to a more important matter - after I had departed from the discussion group three persons; the pastor, a regular congregant and a irregular congregant continued on.  The three had enjoyed discussion for some time.  The irregular congregant; a Hindu by birth, gave his life to Christ.  I care not to take any credit for this man's decision yet I recall that Charles Spurgeon, early in his preaching career, begged God to reveal to him one convert of his labours - the reward of preaching is when people change their hearts.



Note: all links good as at 20 July 2017

Note: I recently considered the balancing act of the suburban preacher in this linked post.  I am not suggesting that I am anything like a suburban preacher as a blow-in has none of the pastoral or parish responsibilities.

Trial that lasts only as long as you can bear.

I am in preparation for a sermon on 2 Kings 7.  Indeed, today is the day. It is a blessing to dwell on a particular part of Scripture.  The sermon is now complete in fifteen slides commencing from this link.

In late preparation I chose to turn to a consideration of what the passage does not say.  The text from which the sermon was prepared was 2 Kings 7:3-16a and I used the NIV.  It seems odd to contemplate what the text does not say yet it seems a purgative to ensure accuracy in presentation.  That is, purge first in written word least I purge with a loose tongue during the sermon.
So, here is what the text does not say:
  • There are only four lepers,
  • That the lepers, in colony, are only men,
  • That the four lepers are suffering leprosy – indeed; leprosy seems to be used as shorthand for a range of skin diseases,

  • The duration of the leper’s situation outside the city,
  • The relationship of the men to people in the city, nor the identification of any relationships that are estranged by the men’s absence from the city,
  • Whether the lepers are visited by priests (whether for assessing their state of health or for pastoral reasons), and,


The King’s name, although we know it to be Joram from 2 Kings 3:1.
Then, I also found cause to deliberate on something puzzling in 2 Kings 7:13:
One of his officers answered,
“Have some men take five of the horses that are left in the city.
Their plight will be like that of all the Israelites left here
—yes, they will only be like all these Israelites who are doomed.
So let us send them to find out what happened.”
The puzzle was in the life and health of the horses.  The siege had caused much break in order.  There had been great hunger.  The King’s officer alludes to how either horsemeat had been devoured or horse food shortage had led to death of horses – “five of the horses that are left in the city”.  So, the puzzle is in why any horses were spared.  Any of the food that was suitable for both humans and horses would surely have been devoured by humans, and, the horses themselves would have provided sustenance to those who hungered.   For instance, in 2 Kings 6: 25 it is evident that a donkey’s head was valued for food.
The puzzle has no answers in the text.  We can imagine that God was working even to safeguard the few horses remaining that those horses may play their role in Samaria’s restoration.  God had given Samaria a trial that only lasted as long as Samaria could bear.
I can bear any pain as long as it has meaning
Haruki Murakami
Note: all links good as at 20 July 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

What is the best experience you have had with a police officer?

Ozhamada, Trying hard to avoid the dark side of the web.

Many years ago, my wife and I would volunteer as course marshals for a wheelchair race.
The race took place along a route that is adjacent to a popular tourist destination. The route was set on roads and the roads are closed for the occasion. The race was scheduled on Australia's national holiday. The combination of the holiday, and the popularity of the location, meant that we had a busy job as course marshals in holding people back who wished to cross the road. We could allow the people to cross the road, yet we had to first ensure that the wheelchair racers were a safe distance away. The wheelchairs traveled at speeds of up to 6o km/hr so they could cause a significant injury to a pedestrian. Naturally, if such an accident was to occur the driver and the wheelchair would also be damaged.
As course marshals the only form of authority we had was an event t-shirt and a lanyard with our identification. We are average joes so we do not serve in any policing or security roles in our day-to-day work positions.
About halfway through the race my wife found that a significant crowd had formed waiting to cross from the side of the road that she was patrolling. A rather loud and belligerent tourist targeted my wife and started to heckle her about how he should be let across. He tried to gain support of the crowd so that the crowd would also heckle my wife. He was totally gross in the way he behaved. He had no consideration for the occasion.
While this was happening a senior New South Wales Police Officer joined the set waiting to cross the road. The officer was dressed quite unlike the heckler and the rest of the crowd. While the heckler and the rest of the crowd were very casually dressed in summer wear, the Police Officer was wearing full parade uniform along with his service medallions. By the Police Officer's age and by the number of service medallions he was wearing, I'd hazard a guess that he was perhaps one of the longest and most distinguished serving officers in the New South Wales. It would be fair to assume that in the Police Officer’s long career that he had seen it all.
The heckler turned to the Police Officer. His rant changed to one that questioned my wife's authority. He said to the Police Officer:
"She can't tell me what to do, can she? Tell her to let us cross the road."
To which the senior Police Officer set out to reply.
First, the Police Officer slowly looked the heckler up and down. Then a comfortable smile appeared on the Police Officer's face. Everything about the Police Officer's manner was designed to communicate to the heckler that it was the Police Officer that was in charge.
Then, the Police Officer quite sternly said the words that made my, and my wife's day. The words bought great laughter from the crowd and had us chuckling for a long time afterwards:
"At this moment, this lady has authority over me. [to which he lifted his voice in a menacing tone to conclude:] You'll do exactly as she says".

What was the best restaurant experience of your life?

Whether it was a hundred dollar Michelin-starred restaurant or some hole-in-the-wall restaurant on a trip abroad, where was it, and what made it special?

Ozhamada, Trying hard to avoid the dark side of the web.

My wife and I were backpacking through Europe in 1999. On the journey through Europe we ate simply - often just cheese and bread. However, a promising exchange of information that occurred with other backpackers had us heading out for lunch when we arrived in Florence.

Florence is a fantastic city.  Like most European cities the area immediately around the city center is a tourist trap with pricey restaurants.  Our tipster had us heading well into the streets of the city to a small tavern.   With our map in hand we walked about two kilometers twisting through the streets.  We passed many acceptable looking eating places while staying steadfast on finding our destination.

We were told that the tavern did a different meal combination everyday.  We were informed that we were best to just pay the flat rate and then wait for the food to arrive.  Guests sat at long tables that filled on a first-in-first served basis.  We chose to sit next to each other rather than opposite each other.

What followed was unforgettable.  The food itself was superb.  The conversation was curious.

We were not long seated - and the only foreigners in the building - before a young local Italian male arrived.  He looked flustered.  He shrugged his shoulders and advised that he had just broken up with his girlfriend.  Next seated - and adjacent to the male - was a local nonna.  At a guess the nonna was probably in her early nineties.  The nonna was quick to join the conversation.

A rowdy and heartfelt debate followed between the nonna and my wife on one side and the young male on the other.  The debate centred on the nonna's unmoving insistence that the male leave immediately to woo his former girlfriend back.  The nonna was like a rock - she refused to budge from her position one bit.  One-by-one she dismissed everyone of the male's arguments.  At appropriate times other locals also contributed to the debate.  We were using our limited language skills to contribute such that there was a mix of Italian, Spanish and English flying across the table.

The male felt besieged.  He relented as the meal came to an end and agreed to go and find his former beloved.  There was a great deal of backslapping and applause.
It was memorable for its genuineness and warmness. It was memorable as a one-off event. It was memorable as a highlight of our journey. Michelin-starred restaurants cannot deliver such an experience.

Not to be outdone the male did have a question of us before he left.  The meal included a choice of a carafe of red or white wine.  We had chosen the red wine.  Everyone else on the table had chosen white.  "Why did you choose the red wine?" he asked.  We looked back at him blankly and before we could answer he continued: "Everyone here chooses the white wine" at which he paused to put on a huge grin; "Because you can drink more of it".

Sunday, July 16, 2017

2 Kings 7 sermon, slide 13 of 15

And everyone from the city took of the provisions of the camp. Health was returned to the city.

Slide 14 is linked

See blog post: Sharing God's providence

  1. The illustration is the copyright of Arabs for Christ and are made available for free download under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
  2. The illustration can be accessed here:

2 Kings 7 sermon, slide 10 of 15

In their humility the lepers considered their good fortune.  They had benefitted from God’s providence.  They could not keep such abundance to themselves – it was only proper that they share the providence with others.

Slide 11 is linked.

See blog post: Being virtuous without wealth or power

  1. The illustration is the copyright of Arabs for Christ and are made available for free download under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
  2. The illustration can be accessed here:

2 Kings 7 sermon, slide 8 of 15

God provided magnificently by making the enemy hear a large advancing army.  God magnified the footsteps of the faithful lepers.  The enemy took fright and fled from the camp.  The enemy left food, and weapons and clothing behind.

Slide 9 is linked.

See blog post: Four lepers delivered before they begun


  1. The illustration is the copyright of Arabs for Christ and are made available for free download under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
  2. The illustration can be accessed here:

2 Kings 7 sermon, slide 11 of 15

So, the lepers returned to the city and reported their good fortune to the guards.  The guards then reported to the King. 

Slide 12 is linked.

  1. The illustration is the copyright of Arabs for Christ and are made available for free download under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
  2. The illustration can be accessed here:

2 Kings 7 sermon, slide 14 of 15


1. God acts through the most unlikely people – the lepers were broken and ostracized.  They were the least of the people of the city.  They had no hope of survival.  God nonetheless powerfully used them. This tells us that God values all his people.  God appreciates everyone’s contribution.  There are other examples of God using unlikely people – for instance, in the story of David and Goliath, David attends the battle field unprepared to fight.  He is offered armor but instead walks out in his ordinary clothes.

2. Faith requires us to act.  We cannot have faith in God and just bottle it up.  Instead, faith calls us to action. This is why our pastors are so eager for us to share the news of the Gospel, this is why it is always joyous to see you bring friends to church services or events.

3.  We should value community.  God gave us community as a gift that we may benefit from the skills of others.  The health of our community is linked to our health.

4. When we recognise God’s mercy – we should want to share the mercy.  God provided for the people of Samaria.  God’s providence is for all his people. 

5.God answers the needs of his people in amazing ways.  We should be people of hope, even in the most dire of situations.  When people needed God the most – after they had rejected his prophets and when they were suppressed by Roman conquerors - he sent his Son, the Lord Jesus.  We should keep our senses open for all of God’s answers and be prepared to receive the answers with gratitude.

Slide 15 is linked

  1. The illustration is the copyright of Arabs for Christ and are made available for free download under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
  2. The illustration can be accessed here:

2 Kings 7 sermon, slide 12 of 15

The king sent forth a scouting party and awaited the party’s return.  When the scouts confirmed the lepers story the King sent everyone to plunder the camp.

Slide 13 is linked

  1. The illustration is the copyright of Arabs for Christ and are made available for free download under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.
  2. The illustration can be accessed here:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Being virtuous without wealth or power

I am in preparation for a sermon on 2 Kings 7.  A date less than a week away is set. Final preparations are being made.  It is a blessing to dwell on a particular part of Scripture.  {postscript: The sermon is now complete in fifteen slides commencing from this link
The Scripture contains a most startling indication of how four humble and broken lepers are virtuous.  

As the story opens the four lepers are stationed at the city gate.  That station is due of them by their disease.  It is a requirement of Levitical law.   The separation of the lepers from the community is a provision of cleanliness for the whole community.

Now, the lepers could accept their station with groans.  They could wail how unfair it is that they are cut-off.  They could make demands for their restoration.  After all, 2 Kings 6 concludes with news that he city is in such disarray that other Levitical laws are being breached.  Indeed, there is perhaps so much disarray in the city that the priests were unlikely to perform their duty of inspecting the lepers to see if they are healed.

Nonetheless, the lepers accept their lowly station at the city gate.  They accept their lot.  Why then do I conclude them to be virtuous?

There are four indicators of their virtue:

Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

The first three indicators of virtue are evident in 2 Kings 7:9:
  1. The strongest indication is in their return to the city once they are aware of God's provision of the food in the enemy camp.  This indicates that they wish to share all that God has provided and that they care for their neighbours,
  2. The second indication is in how they act immediately.  They have travelled out from the city at dusk and seek to return before daylight. They hold it a priority to ensure good news is quickly shared with all, and,
  3. The third indicator is in the respect they have for the King and for order.  The lack of food was perhaps such a pressing thing that a message passed over the wall was called for.  Nonetheless, the lepers recognised the sense of reporting news in an ordered way to the King.
The final indicator of the leper's virtuous nature is found in the decision to travel at dusk.  While the lepers were least on the minds of the city folk, there absence from their station could perhaps be a sign of trouble.  That is, the lepers were unprotected by the city wall such that an attacking enemy would defeat them with ease.  The absence of the lepers from outside the gate - something that would be most noticeable in daylight - could herald danger.  The leper's travelled when their absence would be least noticed.

The virtuous nature of the lepers should bring joy to us all.  Even in our weakest ebb God provides for us.  Even we were are broken there is hope.  Even those who are outcasts can still show hold to integrity and respect.


Note: all links good as at 15 July 2017

Four lepers delivered before they begin

I am in preparation for a sermon on 2 Kings 7.  A date less than a week away is set. Final preparations are being made.  It is a blessing to dwell on a particular part of Scripture.
The Scripture contains a most startling indication of how God responds to faith.  God acts in immediate accord with the lepers.  

The four lepers set out to the enemy’s camp.  The lepers head off to the camp hoping that the enemy spares their lives.  God goes before the lepers.  God does not so much as shield the lepers as they go, but instead delivers them before they go.  A safe journey is paved for the lepers.  For, the enemy hears the sound of the chariots and horses of a great army (2 Kings 7:6).  The enemy assumes that Israel has hired an army of Hittites or Egyptians (2 Kings 7:6).  The sound, is not an amplification of the leper’s own steps, but instead God’s concurrent response to the commencement of the leper’s journey.  God applauds the leper’s faith and delivers them before they set out. God delivers the lepers for their choice of action and for acting that choice out rather than the actuality of the march upon the camp.  God’s angelic host encamped around the lepers and protected every step:
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
God’s delivery before the lepers set out is evident on studying the text.
An earlier post considered how the lepers started out to the enemy camp at dusk.  We learn of that in 2 Kings 7:5.  In that verse we see the story through a camera lens that is upon the lepers:
At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans.
When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there. 
The Bible tells us of another occurrence that day at dusk.  This time the insight given is from the perspective of the enemy camp.  The camera lens is upon the enemy camp:
So they [the Aramean enemy] got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents
and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.
Now the period of dusk is typically quite short.  Dusk provides cover for movement to occur.  The lepers were likely to be quite weak from hunger.  They risked being sighted by the enemy and losing their lives prior to arriving at the camp.  It was better that there was no one in camp to observe the lepers from afar.  The lepers were broken people – people without access to the city of Samaria – people who had adopted the journey they were on as possibly the last act in the world.  Yet, God had caused the camp occupants to run.  And, the enemy ran not as the lepers approached, but instead as the lepers begun!
God rewards those who act in faith.  We should be like the lepers in that they had hope for a positive outcome in spite of their most humble circumstances.  With God, we do not need precision of knowing where we are going before we go: 
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place
 he would later receive as his inheritance,
obeyed and went,
even though he did not know where he was going.

Note: all links good as at 15 July 2017