Thank You David: An Encouragement to Pray

Years ago I used to play snooker regularly at a local club and spent a lot of time in that smoke filled room. One of the men I played with a lot was a man named David. David was an epileptic and often could be seen drooling down his beard. Not a pretty sight. He was a regular at the club and from memory I had the impression he was tolerated more than befriended. I got on with him ok and would have a few frames with him. The detail is a little hazy as is the order of events. Nevertheless, at some point after becoming a Christian David told me he had been praying for me. Whether his comment about praying for me didn’t register I can’t remember but I do remember trying to find David to thank him. I asked in the Christian Bookshop. I enquired at the snooker club. David was not to be found. I never saw him again. But I have not forgotten him. I have never forgotten that when I was lost and without Christ David prayed. For me.

Now here’s the point, or points.

1. What’s remarkable is that I’m quite sure David never spoke to me about The Gospel or about The Lord Jesus or of my need of a Saviour. He never ‘witnessed’ to me. Others did, but he didn’t.

2. Despite the fact he never spoke the Gospel to me I had a great sense of thankfulness, even making several unsuccessful attempts to find him.

3. David as far as people went was a non-entity (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) He would have been overlooked and passed by. But God heard his prayer.

4. The Bible says ‘faith comes by hearing’ (Romans 10:17) and so it does, but it also says ‘the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’ (James 5:15). I don’t know how fervent David’s prayers were for me. But I do know our feeble attempts at prayer go through our Great High Priest – The Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, for all our feebleness, our great God has decreed the use of means. In this case the prayers of an epileptic non-entity called David. Isn’t that wonderful?

What’s encouraging is the fact that after nearly 40 years as a Christian I’m still filled with a sense of thankfulness that David prayed for me. Not that he pummelled me with the Gospel, invited me to Church or any of the other ‘means’, but that he prayed. Some people are very gifted at speaking the Gospel. And we need them. But don’t ever be tempted to think that all you can do is ‘simply’ pray.

May we all, like David, pray, and God will work. Thank you David.

Grieving – Two-Year Milestone

Thirty-Two years we were married and two years ago today my dear Sue passed peacefully into Eternal Glory and into the presence of her Saviour, The Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m thankful over these two years for the support of family and friends, and for the Church where I’m now a member.

The Lord has been very wonderful to me and by His marvellous Grace I raise my Ebenezer and say ‘Hitherto has The Lord helped me’. Doctrine, and by that I mean theology, can often seem dry and aloof. As A. W. Tozer said ‘Doctrine is the highway that leads to God’. My experience, especially over these last two years, is that doctrine is not only alive and vibrant but does indeed lead to God. When I read a Confession of Faith it’s full of God and overflowing with His majesty and grace to sinners. I’ve also found that God brings us through trials in order for us to see that. I thought I knew stuff about God and The Lord Jesus but I realise now I was only scratching the surface.

Agnostics and atheists may well think we are delusional and might even feel a bit sorry for us Christians. The reality is they are the ones that are deluded. Often deluded into worshipping themselves and what could be more delusional than that! While all the time The Lord says ‘look unto me all the ends of the earth and be saved’. What an offer!! Only a fool would turn that down.

Holding someone’s hand while they slip away into eternity isn’t something to be taken lightly. But I knew exactly to where Sue gently slipped away. I don’t know the when or where or means by which I shall enter eternity. But enter it I will. And so will you. Sue entered eternity with a Saviour who is Mighty to Save, as will I, no matter the details. You will enter eternity, but will you die with a Saviour. Will Jesus, the only Saviour for sinners, be your Saviour. O I pray He will be.

Remembering the cost

This is a re-post from a few years ago but nothing has changed. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t find a picture of my Dad, just his cap and the one (center) from a group photo of Dispatch Riders from WW2.

Nothing much to say really other than I purposefully stood

Dispatch Riders

‘at ease’ for 2 minutes thinking about the peace we have. What my Dad lived through and survived for that peace, all the lives that were lost, the tragedy of war – though sometimes necessary – and the utter depravity of mankind.

The world seems pretty awful at times – and it is. There is no other explanation that makes sense except what the Bible teaches about the sinfulness of Man. Nevertheless, the Grace of God restrains evil so that it isn’t anywhere near as bad all over as it could be.

We thank God for His remedy – the sending of a Saviour. I don’t see any other solution. It’s all been tried and found wanting. And that’s the problem, sinners do not want God’s remedy. There is a day coming when sin will be dealt with once and for all. When Jesus comes to judge the world in righteousness those that have rejected The Lord Jesus Christ will go into everlasting punishment (Hell), and those that have bowed the knee to The Lord Christ will go into everlasting joy with God (Heaven).

So we can look beyond remembering the fallen in war – and we ought to remember them. But we look to the one whose sacrifice is sufficient to save to the utmost.

In the end, it’s a very simple choice, Repent or Perish. Trust in Christ or be lost. There’s no middle ground.

Abortion – 50 Years of Shame by Dr John Ling

The article below is reproduced (copied) here with the kind permission of Dr John Ling. It’s quite a disturbing piece that should be read. John writes ‘It is exactly 50 years ago today (Friday) that the 1967 Abortion Act was passed.  Attached is a piece I have written, Abortion – 50 Years of Shame, to commemorate that dreadful event.


Abortion – 50 Years of Shame.

 Anniversaries are how we mark out our history – some are welcome, others are not, some are humdrum, others are special. This year two are extra special – a 500th and a 50th. Both changed our world. The first is when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in 1517, which ushered in the wonderful Gospel freedoms of the Protestant Reformation. The second is the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, which ushered in the hideous practice of legally killing unborn children in England, Scotland and Wales. The story of the Augustinian friar has been retold many times, the slaughter of the defenceless pre-born is a more veiled story.

How did we get the 1967 Act?

The history of UK abortion law is long but simple – for many centuries abortion had, by and large, been a criminal offence. And even today, abortion remains, perhaps surprisingly, illegal in the UK. This is primarily because sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act still make it a crime for anyone, using any means whatsoever, ‘to procure the miscarriage of any woman’. The 1929 Infant Life (Preservation) Act further extended this prohibition to a child ‘capable of being born alive’. In other words, for a 100 years and more there was an explicit and widespread public condemnation of abortion, severe penalties for those illicitly involved, as well as genuine protection for the unborn and their mothers.

So what happened in 1967? How did we acquire just about the most liberal and ruthless abortion law in Europe, even the world? Pre-1967 statutes allowed abortion only for the preservation of the mother’s life and health. For some, this was never enough. If the door to abortion was slightly ajar, they wanted it ripped off its hinges. Yet no British government was willing to grasp the nettle. Several MPs had introduced abortion-liberalising bills, but they had all foundered.

Then in May 1966, David Steel MP drew third place in the ballot for private members’ bills and he introduced his Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill into the House of Commons. Its first reading was on 15 June and a protracted and arduous debate began. Days and nights were spent arguing, rewording, lobbying and generally manipulating events in both Houses. It was all quite legitimate – the Bill’s supporters simply seized their opportunity. Eventually, with parliamentary time being given by the Labour government of the day to ensure its success, the Bill passed its third reading on Friday 14 July 1967 after an all-night sitting in a half-empty House of Commons by a majority of 167 to 83. It received the Royal Assent on Friday 27 October. Six months later, on 27 April 1968, the Act came into operation – the legalised killing started.

One year later, its sponsor, David Steel, speaking at a meeting of supporters, said that the Bill was successful because ‘The right men were in the right place at the right time.’ By contrast is the dismal fact that the number of evangelical Christian leaders who ‘saw the issue’ and stood up and spoke out against the Bill can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Effective opposition was too little, too late.

What is the content of the 1967 Act?

The Act was not only a compromise, but also a poorly-drafted piece of legislation. This may have suited the purposes of the pro-abortionists, because over the years most of its intended legal boundaries have been ridden over roughshod. During the next two decades, no fewer than fifteen attempts were made in Parliament to revise the Act either by tightening the criteria for abortion or lowering the upper time limit. All failed.

In outline, the 1967 Abortion Act did not legalise any abortion. It gave no right to a woman to an abortion and it did not provide ‘abortion-on-demand’. Also, it imposed no duty on any doctor to carry out an abortion. Nevertheless, it did offer a legal defence against the charge of attempting ‘to procure the miscarriage of any woman’ under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. Thus it did, according to section 1, protect from prosecution a ‘registered medical practitioner’ who performed an abortion, as long as two such doctors certified that, in their opinion, formed in good faith, the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, on one or more of six statutory grounds, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated. After 50 years, 97% of all UK abortions are now performed under ground C, the so-called ‘social clause’. It specifies the ‘risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman’. In effect, this criterion is as long as it is wide – almost any pretext will do.

What is the effect of the 1967 Act?

In simple terms, the answer is that an estimated 8.8 million unborn children have been aborted in the UK during the last 50 years. Such a colossal number is almost beyond comprehension. The annual figures remain enormous – during 2016 there were 190,604 abortions performed in England and Wales, plus another 12,063 in Scotland. This total of 202,469 is approximately the entire population of Bournemouth or Swansea or Aberdeen. It is equivalent to 770 unborn children every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Have you grasped the enormity of abortion, on your doorstep?

Legalised abortion was never envisioned to be like this. Back in 1967, abortion was intended for the poor, overworked, struggling woman with several children, living in squalor with a useless drunken husband. It was regarded as a last resort. Today, 50 years on, abortions are typically for young, single women, in good health, in decent housing, with a regular income, carrying healthy unborn children. What are we doing?

Over the years the 1967 Act has been tweaked so that the upper time limit for abortion is now typically 24 weeks. However, if disability, such as Down’s syndrome, is suspected then the upper limit is birth, yes, 40 weeks. However, what has not changed in the last 50 years is the physical and mental toll on mothers, fathers and, of course, the unborn. For many parents, the aftermath of abortion is often shadowed by guilt and regret. Such symptoms of post-abortion syndrome are denied by many medical authorities but are familiar to those involved in pro-life counselling.

What is the future of the 1967 Act?

For some, the reach of the Act is still not enough – they want more than 200,000 abortions each year. And there are now serious calls to decriminalise abortion. Indeed, in March of this year, a Ten-Minute Rule Bill was presented to Parliament. Its purpose was to remove all legal restrictions on abortion by tearing up sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, the 1967 Abortion Act and probably the 1929 Infant Life (Preservation) Act too. Alarmingly, the Bill was passed by 172 votes to 142. The second reading was set for 12 May, but in the meantime, a General Election was called, Parliament was dissolved and the Bill fell. Nevertheless, this episode should jolt the consciences of MPs and us.

Furthermore in September, the 33 Council members of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) voted to change the College’s position from neutrality to supporting decriminalisation. The RCOG’s president, Lesley Regan, has said that abortions should be treated no differently from other medical procedures – including something as simple as removing a bunion. While most abortionists are members of the RCOG, its full membership of 6,000 was not consulted. A similar ethical stance has also recently been taken by the British Medical Council and the Royal College of Midwives. The latter’s chief executive, Cathy Warwick, who incidentally is also the chairwoman of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the UK’s largest abortion provider, also did not bother to consult her members. There is clearly an alliance of radical pro-abortionists currently pushing their extreme agenda. Decriminalised abortion for any, or no, reason, at any stage of pregnancy, performed anywhere would be a truly disturbing prospect.

How are you affected by the 1967 Act?

Since an estimated one in three women in the UK has now had an abortion before the age of 45, you, your family and your friends, may well be directly affected. Indirectly, we are all affected. Because the lives of more than 8 million unborn children have been terminated in the UK in the last half-century, we should all be dismayed. It is our 50 years of shame. Evangelical Christians have, for too long, been equivocal about abortion – shame on us especially! If you have not shed tears about its practice and aftermath, you have not yet understood abortion.

We are the people who should, above all others, understand such life and death issues and respond with principled compassion. Have you responded at all? Do you still hold ‘a moderate view’ on abortion? What hinders you from upholding a wholeheartedly pro-life position? Is it the issues of disability or rape or underage girls? Perhaps you need to ponder anew what it means to be ‘created in the image of God’ (Genesis 1:27) and to be ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:13-15). Abortion is a direct rebellion against the God-given gift and dignity of the unborn.

What must we do about the 1967 Act?

Christians have an onerous task here. We have been entrusted with both the diagnosis and the cure. The Christian worldview possesses rugged answers to difficult questions and then it calls us to engage and care for all those entangled with abortion and its consequences.

So, have you prayed for, given of your energy, time and money to help those caught up and suffering? They are all around you. Perhaps now, on this heinous 50th anniversary, is a good time to pledge to respond more biblically. Abortion has been called the greatest genocide in history. As the great anti-slavery campaigner, William Wilberforce, once declared in another context, ‘Having heard all of this you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.’

Dr John Ling is a trustee of Life, the largest pro-life charity in the UK. His latest book, Bioethical Issues, is published by Day One. His personal website is www.johnling.co.uk

Reformation Lecture – Holding Fast, Pressing On

On Tuesday 31st October we have a Reformation Day Lecture that will be given by Pastor Jeremy Walker of Maidenbower Baptist Church.

Where: Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth.

Time: 7:30

If you can make it, please come.

I’m told it will be recorded.

Artwork / Illustration by Chris Iliff

Freedom of Speech and the current confusion and  obscurity regarding an adequate definition of Extremism

This morning I read this post by Stephen Kneale at The Arbour. Later, I read Isaiah 54:17. What follows below are commentaries from Albert Barnes & John Gill on this verse in Isaiah. They are quite lengthy, but given the apparent progress the enemies of The Gospel of The Lord Christ are making it seems somewhat providential to post them here. And let’s be clear, the defense of Traditional Marriage isn’t about battering Homosexuals or anyone else. What it is really about is the authority of the Bible and among other things what it means to be a Christian. What is a Christian is an ongoing question that will not and is not going to go away. Why? Because sinful man is forever trying to find a way of Salvation that keeps man on the throne. The cry of sinful man, no matter how polite it can seem, is ‘We will not have this man (The Lord Jesus) rule over us. (See Luke 19:14) The Freedom to express any other view or belief other than the one you are told to express, particularly on SSM or Abortion, is starting to look like and feel like extremism. If it looks like a duck….

Here’s the text of Isaiah 54:17. ‘no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD’ (ESV). The comments of Barnes & Gill follow.

No weapon that is formed – No instrument of war, no sword, or spear; no instrument of persecution or torture that is made by the smith, Isa 54:16.

Shall prosper – On the meaning of this word, see the notes at Isa 52:13. The sense here is, that it shall not have final and ultimate prosperity. It might be permitted for a time to appear to prosper – as persecutors and oppressors have done; but there would not be final and complete success.

And every tongue – No one shall be able to injure you by words and accusations. If a controversy shall arise; if others reproach you and accuse you of imposture and deceit, you will be able ultimately to convince them of error, and, by manifestation of the truth, to condemn them. The language here is derived probably from courts of justice (see the notes at Isa 41:1); and the idea is, that truth and victory, in every strife of words, would be on the side of the church. To those who have watched the progress of discussions thus far on the subject of the true religion, it is needless to say that this has been triumphantly fulfilled. Argument, sophism, ridicule, have all been tried to overthrow the truth of the Christian religion. Appeals have been made to astronomy, geology, antiquities, history, and indeed to almost every department of science, and with the same want of success. Poetry has lent the charm of its numbers; the grave historian has interwoven with the thread of his narrative covert attacks and sly insinuations against the Bible; the earth has been explored to prove that’ He who made the world and revealed its age to Moses was mistaken in its age;’ and the records of Oriental nations, tracing their history up cycles of ages beyond the Scripture account of the creation of the world, have been appealed to, but thus far in all these contests ultimate victory has declared in favor of the Bible. And no matter from what quarter the attack has come, and no matter how much learning and talent have been evinced by the adversaries of the Bible, God has raised up some Watson, or Lardner, or Chalmers, or Buckland, or Cuvier, or Wiseman, to meet these charges, and to turn the scales in favor of the cause of truth. They who are desirous of examining the effects of the controversy of Christianity with science, and the results, can find them detailed with great learning and talent in Dr. Wiseman’s Lectures on the connection between Science and Revealed Religion, Andover, 1837.

This is the heritage – The inheritance which awaits those who serve God is truth and victory. It is not gold and the triumph of battle. It is not the laurel won in fields of blood. But it is, the protection of God in all times of trouble; his friendship in all periods of adversity; complete victory in all contests with error and false systems of religion; and preservation when foes rise up in any form and endeavor to destroy the church, and to blot out its existence and its name.

And their righteousness is of me – Or rather, ‘this is the righteousness, or the justification which they obtain of me; this is that which I impart to them as their justification.’ The idea is not that their righteousness is of him, but that this justification or vindication from him is a part of their inheritance and their portion. (Albert Barnes December 1, 1798 – December 24, 1870)

No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper,…. All weapons of war, as the Targum, which are made with a design to hurt and destroy the people of God, shall be rendered useless; not one of them shall prosper to the advantage of their enemies, or so as to answer their design; nor to the hurt and prejudice, ruin and destruction, of the saints:

and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment; that shall raise any calumny upon thee, or bring any charge against thee, or enter into a lawsuit with thee, litigate a point with thee in any court of judicature, or claim, in right and law, a power, authority, and dominion over thee, as the pope of Rome does over the consciences of men:

thou shalt condemn; disprove and roll off the calumny, refute the charge and accusation, put to silence the clamours and pretences of wicked men, carry the cause against them, and shake off the yoke of bondage they would bring them under; and, instead of being condemned by them, condemn them. By “weapon” may be meant all the attempts made by force to ruin the interest and church of Christ in the world, such as the bloody persecutions of the Roman emperors, who, though they made sad havoc of the professors of Christianity, and designed hereby to have rooted it out of the world, and thought they should have accomplished it, yet could not do it; so far from it, that the Christians yet more and more increased, insomuch that it became a common saying, that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church; also the wars of the Papists with the Albigenses and Waldenses, and all the cruel methods they have taken by fire and faggot, and the bloody inquisition, to hinder the growth of what they call heresy; yet all have been in vain, a reformation has taken place, and many nations have embraced the truth, and shook off the yoke of Popery; together with all their efforts since to crush the Protestant interest; and though the kings of the earth will be stirred up, and gather together to the battle of the Lord God Almighty, they will not succeed, but be overcome and slain, and the beast and false prophet at the head of them will be taken and cast alive into the lake of fire: and by the “tongue” may be designed the edicts of the Pagan emperors, forbidding the exercise of the Christian religion, and threatening the preachers and professors of it with imprisonment, confiscation of goods, and death itself; and the anathemas, bulls, and interdicts of the popes of Rome, as well as the reproaches, scandals, and calumnies uttered by the emissaries of that church against all that depart from it; together with the errors and heresies of false teachers of all sorts in all ages of the world, which, though levelled against the faith and doctrine of the church of Christ, have not been able to subvert it, nor ever will:

this is the heritage of the servants of the Lord; this, with all that is said in this chapter, is the part, portion, and privilege, that such shall enjoy who serve the Lord Christ, and not antichrist; they shall be treated rather as sons than as servants, and have an inheritance assigned them; not only protection from all enemies, and absolution from all charges, but they shall receive the reward of the inheritance in heaven, that which is incorruptible and undefiled, and reserved there, since they serve the Lord Christ:

and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord; the vindication of their righteousness, of their cause, and of their character; or the reward of their righteous works in a way of grace; even all that righteousness and true holiness that is in them, and that righteousness which is imputed to them, and by which they are justified, are from the Lord; by which they are secured from all the charges of law and justice, and, from all the accusations of men and devils, and which will answer for them in a time to come, and acquit them at the bar of God before men and angels; see Rom 8:33. (John Gill 23 November 1697 – 14 October 1771)

Can the Ungodly or Atheist be ‘Nice’?

On a BBC Radio 5 Live broadcast yesterday, the discussion (phone in) was to do with the dismissal of Sarah Kuteh by the NHS for offering to pray for a patient. Let me set that aside for a moment. But a rather strident Atheist called in and said he would be apoplectic if someone offered to pray for him or his loved one when they were at their lowest. I have some sympathy with that. But what struck me was his claim that believers, Christians in this case, didn’t think Atheists are capable of doing ‘good’. I was glad that another caller attempted to correct him, but the guy was so wound up it probably fell on ears that were at that time unable to hear it. I have heard this claim before. It certainly isn’t something I believe and I’m not aware of ever being taught it either. Let me say now: If Christians say Atheists are incapable of doing good or being nice, those Christians are quite frankly, wrong.

This morning I read the following in Acts. Before I briefly comment on it here’s the passage;

Act 28:1-10
(1) After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta.
(2) The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold.
(3) When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand.
(4) When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.”
(5) He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.
(6) They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.
(7) Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days.
(8) It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.
(9) And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.
(10) They also honored us greatly, and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.

Notice in verse 2 that Paul records how ‘the native people showed us unusual kindness’. The people of Malta welcomed them all. The people on Malta did not believe in the God of Paul, that is, the ONLY True God, the Christian God. Either way you look at it, from the perspective of Paul these people were at best pagans. And yet he describes them as having shown unusual kindness. Also, notice in verse 7 how ‘Publius… received us and entertained us hospitably for three days’. It seems the people of Malta were kind and hospitable. And Paul records the fact of it. So, I have no idea where people like the ‘phone-in’ Atheist get the idea from that Atheists cannot perform acts of kindness, but it isn’t from the Bible. The fact is, God in His kindness has poured Common Grace into our world and into the lives of the people who live in the world. So much so that I can recognise that there are many many kind people out there that aren’t Christians and can even be full-blown antagonistic Atheists that are hospitable, kind and welcoming. I have experienced kindness from many an Atheist and I’m thankful for it and for them.

What the Atheist cannot do is explain their acts of kindness. Where does this kindness come from? As a Christian, I can explain it. I see works of art, I hear incredible music, read amazing stories, see films that are masterpieces of art and I can explain where it all comes from. And many of these things come from the creative genius of Atheists. Where from? Who decides good and bad in an impersonal uncaring universe? Vlad the impaler? Hitler? Stalin? Polpot? No. There’s a standard. And my dear Atheist friends cannot live in an impersonal uncaring world, and truth be told they wouldn’t want to either. And because of the Common Grace of God; most of the time we don’t live in an uncaring world. And we should all be thankful for that.

I do take the point that dealing with people at their lowest requires great sensitivity. And we can all fail at that. But as for the apoplexy of our Atheist friend at the offer of prayer. What would he rather have? I suppose silence and a gentle squeeze of the arm can do a lot of good. Nothing can stop us praying for people. We don’t always have to tell them we are praying for them as if God needs some psychology to help. But in an Atheist world, the approaching death of a loved one, or a serious illness can honestly be met with a, so what. But who would want that? No one. Only the cruelest of people would say that. And yet, we hear that very thing argued by Atheists. They might argue it, but they can’t live it.

Contrary to what I said above, I do have an idea where the notion comes from. That Atheists can do no good. What has happened is a category error (If I have that right). When it comes to Salvation and doing good to impress God enough to let us into heaven; there isn’t one of that can do that. And I mean No One. The fact that none of us can perform anything, including acts of kindness, meant God Himself had to intervene. We daily see and experience acts of kindness. Atheists can be kind just like anyone else. But their kindness will not get them into heaven. And neither will mine. There’s the category error right there.

So just how did God intervene? Well, this is what Christmas is all about. It’s about God sending a Saviour. I’m sure many an Atheist will be singing about it over Christmas. And some will be glad to sing of God being made incomprehensibly man. Of Jesus being born that man no more may die, of the Incarnate Deity. God entered into history. These things were not done in a corner. They didn’t happen secretly. The Gospels in the New Testament record these events. It’s astonishing, but all we are required to do is place our trust in what God has done – especially in the Cross. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. This Christmas, may you believe and be saved. AMEN.

Diary of a grieving Christian – 1 Year Milestone

Copy of 2012-03-31 11.59.261 year ago today (1.30 PM) Sue passed into eternity to be with Christ which is far better. Frankly, I try to avoid the word died because if the Christian faith means anything at all, in a very real sense she hasn’t died. Yes, her body, her earthly remains are dead and in the ground. I know that only too well. I will be visiting the cemetery today. I still balk at the word loss or lost as she is neither. I do admit it is difficult to avoid using them. When I sing hymns that speak of heaven or being with The Lord Jesus I still well-up because in my minds’ eye I see her there in that happy and holy throng. It’s with a sense of great thankfulness to God mixed with the gut-wrenching desire for her to be here with me. I miss her so.

It’s a remarkable thing marriage. If we try to do it right and truly become ‘one flesh’ as Jesus tells us to, we invest everything into it. (That includes the Bank account. We only had one account and our salaries were paid into that one account.) It’s a physical thing. It was that. Of course it was, otherwise, we wouldn’t have our three wonderful children. But it’s so much more that as well. Our wife or husband sees us in our vulnerability, at our worst, sees our body get old and flabby, sees us in our sin, in our failures, in our weakness and yet learns to love and care all the same. And, what a blessing it is to enjoy one another’s company, to like being with each other. And so often, to say so much, without saying anything. She used to wear my sweatshirts especially when decorating.

Given the oneness of marriage, please don’t think I’m over it because a year has gone by. I was recently speaking with a widow. She still has those times when the grief is raw after many years. I have to tell myself and realise the sadness isn’t going to be over anytime soon. I am learning to have part of me missing.

A lot of our marriage investment is done unconsciously at a deep deep level. It has to be so if the marriage vows are taken seriously. When we enter into that covenant; I don’t think we fully realise quite what that means. I wonder that in some supernatural way God fuses us together even deeper than the atomic level. God does this at the spiritual level. Something unseen that cannot be probed. Something that can’t be touched. We mess with marriage as our society is doing, and we mess at a level where the consequences are huge. And we are seeing the consequences. Marriage is for one man and one woman – that’s it. ‘Gay’ marriage is deeply sinful and rebellious. (I’ll have to do a separate post on this)

More than one person has told me I was punching above my weight with Sue. She was stunningly beautiful to the end, she was wise, nearly always right, ok, always right and incredibly capable. She loved me and the kids more than life itself. Above all, she was a Godly woman of prayer. Yet so disparaging of herself. She wasn’t perfect. I hope where she lacked I took up the slack as it were and the other way round too. We often said to each that we were a team. So despite her being way above my pay-grade, God had other ideas. I have heard it said that as long as your betrothed ticks the relevant boxes the person you marry could be anyone. We didn’t believe that for one moment. We believed and I still believe God brought us together. (Though I guess the means could be different) She could have done a lot lot better than marrying me. And when I told her that she would tell me off. We used to say to each other, we would do it again. We wouldn’t swap each other. She was the best thing that ever happened to me. God kept us together too. And however long I have on this earth I will have to deal with the parting every day. I’m told over time you do learn to live with it. But it never goes away.

Today, Wednesday is when she left for heaven. Friday would have been her birthday, then it will be my birthday, then the first funeral anniversary (7th Dec), then Christmas. It’s been quite a year. I left work, moved to another part of the country, left several friends, left Church, sold the house, put most of our stuff in storage, started attending another Church, moved into rented accommodation, brought some stuff out of storage, searched for and looked at loads of houses and I’m now in the process of buying a house. So there will be the move, then getting all our stuff out of storage, sorting (again) through the things we shared together, settling into the new house, and breathe (that’s for you Jilly. Thank you).

I have a lot I would like to write about. Please pray I would get on and do it and that it would be helpful and profitable to others. I am reading a few books that I will comment on. Some very helpful stuff out there. But in the end, all praise is to God and our Lord Jesus for keeping us from falling. Where would we be if it were not for the Grace of God! We daily raise our Ebenezer and say Hitherto has the Lord helped us. I do anyway. And I know many of you do as well.

Speaking of investing all, isn’t this exactly what Jesus did for us! We don’t really invest everything do we, but Jesus did and does. His providential dealings are remarkable. There are many many references to marriage in the Bible. It’s no accident the Church is called the Bride of Christ. Jesus invested His blood into us poor faltering failing sinners. He doesn’t cast us off. No. He has vowed to keep us, to forgive us and cleanse us. Sue liked me holding her, she felt safe. O how much much more are we His people safe in His mighty arms. My dear non-Christian friend, how I long that you might be safe and know the love of Christ, that He is mighty to save and mighty to keep. O call upon Him for Salvation and safety, and love, and forgiveness, and then eternal joy with Christ which is far better.

Thank you for bearing with me.

A Grief Continued

I was told the Christian Bookshop (Michael Keen) had ordered several copies of a book on grieving by Al Martin, a well-known preacher in Reformed Baptist circles. Michael very kindly handed me a copy yesterday morning after the service. Opening the book on the way back to the car I began to read.

The very first paragraph is gripping and took me immediately to the bedside of Sue as she breathed her last. To say I began to hyperventilate is a slight exaggeration but it’s a moment I have relived over and over and over again. It’s not nice. After nearly 11 months the emotions still come back with great vividness and force. The agony and the grief that wells up in the depths of my being are there in that first paragraph of  the book. It’s very obvious to me that Pastor Martin is reliving that moment. I know he has experienced this and I’m gripped, wanting to read what this man has to say.

As I walked racing through my mind was the thought to ‘isolate, isolate, isolate’. I felt the need to get away from people. The reality is this is not a good thing. Isolation is different from solitude. I like the solitude of staring out to sea. We all need solitude from time to time. It’s when our emotions run away from us like a freight train that we are to ‘take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ’. It isn’t easy when our emotions are SCREAMING to us one thing, but then seek to do the very opposite. Staying away from Church and people is understandable and sometimes can be helpful, but long-term is destructive and unhelpful. The thought of isolation needs to be brought into obedience. I often fail miserably.

Back to the book. I dipped into future chapters so I ‘might’ Blog through the book. There is one particular chapter in which he will deal with some very heavy theology that I too have had to work through. Pastor Martin wrote it for his own understanding and to help others. I’ll be blogging (if I do), as before, for the same reasons. So I trust even this brief post will have been helpful.

Just one further note. His book is for Christians when their loved ones have died ‘in Christ’. Like me, the loved one for Al Martin was his dear wife. However, should any non-believers come across the book they will be pointed to the God of all comfort and to The Lord Jesus Christ ‘whom to know is life eternal’. The Gospel is here.

I have only just started to read this book, but already, I have read enough to highly recommend it.

 

A Response to a Painful Referendum Result

A young mother has written a Blog Post about the Referendum result and has asked for a response from a Christian that voted Leave. I know very little about her so I hope she will forgive me for being impersonal. Here’s my attempt at an answer. You can read her post HERE.

It’s been a week or so now but I have thought a lot about a particular Blog post and just what to say because it deserves a response. A response I notice is still forthcoming. I’m qualified to answer her because I voted to leave. I hope what follows will help. Whilst I would not go as far as to compare it with bereavement, it does give an indication of how badly she feels about it now (it may pass). It’s a passionate truly heartfelt piece of writing. What’s particularly good about it is that she is having to face up to some harsh realities. If she does want to compare it to bereavement she needs to realise those feelings aren’t going to go away any time soon. In fact they may get worse. And, no matter how she feels about it, it will not alter the fact of the situation. And another thing to consider is the situation may never ever improve. And, she is truly powerless to change it. Forget voting and all that nonsense, if people truly believe they are in control of their destiny they are delusional. They aren’t. We aren’t. You aren’t.

She speaks of coming out the other side with grace and love. That begs the question, does she know she will come out of the other side? She doesn’t. It’s finding grace and love in it.

As she indicates, people say things to the bereaved that aren’t always helpful even though they do mean well. In the main people don’t quite know how to deal with it so can appear unhelpful while trying to say something positive. Mostly, they just don’t know what to say. But wish they did.

We don’t know if God cares deeply about our membership (or not) of the EU as an organisation. I’d need some scriptures to back that up. We know He cares about His people. He cares about His Church. He cares about people. He also cares about His Glory. He cares about the Gospel. The Bible tells us that. It also tells us He sent the Chaldeans to take His people captive. And He brought judgement upon them. It tells us He disciplines us as well. And even if God does care deeply about the EU, you won’t find anywhere in the Bible which was the right way to vote.

I responded with some quick-fire responses on Facebook – a couple of hymns. And a post on my Blog.

That’s my general reply. Here’s a brief comment on her 5 points. I’ll finish with a comment on her conclusion. Finally, I’ll write what I think she needs to know because she is talking about something quite profound. And something I too have to come to terms with.

  1. I agree. We only need to read the Psalms to see the truth of this. Her feelings are legitimate.
  2. Nothing much to say here except that she will need to understand where they (Leave) are coming from as well. Some of the ‘remain’ responses have been quite vile. I agree though, it isn’t helpful either way and we do need to be compassionate.
  3. She says we won’t understand. I beg to differ. She has used the term grief and bereavement. I know only too well what that feels like. We live in no less an uncertain world now than we did before the Referendum. The difference is she understands a little of that now.
  4. I’m talking. But Leave or Remain isn’t the issue. I am deeply flawed as well. I struggle to be gracious about anything. I’m glad for her it’s only politics. Winning or losing isn’t the issue either.
  5. I am bothered about politics. But it isn’t my whole life. I like to know what’s going on and try to be informed. But I accept the challenge; maybe I should be more involved. For me, joining a political party is not an option!

Most of my writing is a scramble of stuff, but her scrambling is a lot better than mine. I’m not one of her friends so I can’t say much about the last paragraph other than try to be gracious both ways.

And yet. And yet, I totally believe with my heart and my head that God is in control; yes, indeed, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25). I know my citizenship is not of this earth; I know that God is sovereign; I know that my primary concern is the spread of the Gospel and his Kingdom, not earthly principalities. (From her Blog Post)

That is a key paragraph it seems to me. It’s trying to bring together what you feel and what you know. I feel all sorts of things. God gave us feelings. It’s the way He made us. Sometimes though our feelings don’t square with what we believe but we feel it anyway. Or, it can ‘simply’ be tough to deal with traumatic events in our lives. It can be devastating. And it can be just as devastating when what you feel is what you believe. (You would need to read my posts on grieving to get that) And those around us aren’t always going to understand. And that’s hard as well. So the article, I think, is trying to honestly deal with these things from a Christian perspective. It’s when our expectations or what we thought would happen are crossed with a catastrophic event. And who’s to say what that event will be. To her, at this time, it’s leaving the EU.

I’ve considered how things can feel for quite some time. So I do understand that she feels how she does. In a sense it’s not for me to understand why she feels that way (her politics maybe) but to understand that she feels it at all.

The Sovereignty of God can be understood as something ‘out there’ as it were. Like the Government. They make laws and we react to them. The Sovereignty of God isn’t like that at all. Yes, He is in control of the whole of creation. And yet He is in control of my circumstances in such a minute way that Government couldn’t even begin to understand. Through the later stages of Sue’s illness, and even from the terminal diagnosis, we talked a lot about God’s Sovereignty. Soon after Sue died, it was something I had to face in a new way.

Soon after Sue died I read about the death of John the Baptist. Now that raises some important issues. Tough issues. John was cousin to Jesus. Do you think Jesus cared for him? He knew John would die. He could have prevented the axe from falling – but He didn’t. He could have given Herod a bit of resolve to refuse the hateful request – but He didn’t. However, it isn’t just that God passively watches events and the circumstances of our lives as a hapless bystander. Not at all! He actually willed the death of John the Baptist and He actually willed the death of my wife. And it isn’t just wishful thinking, as it were, on the part of God; His omnipotence is able to carry it out. His omnipotence also delivered a Leave verdict. But there’s more.

He knew the effect it would have on the writer of the Blog post. He could have moved circumstances in a way that she would be much more sympathetic to the Leave vote. He could have moved the hearts of more people to vote Remain. He could have ensured a different result. Just a few adjustments here and there by God and there would have been a different result. He could even have moved her to vote Leave. In doing so she would not be experiencing ‘an overwhelming sense of sadness, anger, bewilderment, betrayal, desperation, and powerlessness’. But none of that happened. Back to Matthew 14 and the death of John the Baptist. Mat 14:13  ‘Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.’ It seems to me Jesus was grieving for His friend, cousin and forerunner. Even though it was something He could have prevented! Isn’t that amazing? Is it possible Jesus brings us into the sphere of suffering that we might be like Him and have compassion on the people? She has asked for understanding. She has it. Can she have compassion on those that voted Leave? Is it possible The Lord of All brought in a Leave verdict for her good though so painful?

We do not know what the Lord will bring about politically through the result of the Referendum. Maybe the doom-mongers will be right. Maybe it would have been even worse had it gone the other way. One thing I do know, or at least I have observed; there is little calling upon the Lord for mercy. There is little compassion shown either way. There is much recrimination and blame. Where is kindness? We see it in our suffering. We were never promised a life of ease. But Jesus is with us in our suffering and though we may feel on the verge of despair – by the Grace of God it is enough.

I have said enough. I hope it’s of some help.