Is this Christmas? Extracting The Legal Pain!

Extracted is the legal pain. These five words in verse two form a single line in this remarkable hymn by Charles Wesley. This is Wesley at his best as someone said. These hymns are not inspired in the same authoritative sense that the Bible is but they can convey profound truth in a wonderful way. Inspired perhaps with a little i. These five words convey two very important Bible truths. Truths that need to be constantly stated because man in sin always assumes and seeks to state the opposite and to deny the truth. So what are these two truths?

1. ‘Extracted is the legal pain’ tells us of a problem. Any punishment is unpleasant and we all recognise that it’s the result of doing something wrong. Overstay in a car park and a demand for payment will arrive in the post. Get caught speeding and you’ll get a fine. These are trite examples but you get the idea. If you get caught breaking the law of God – and make no mistake we have all been caught – payment is required. The Bible calls it sin. And as we continue sinning, that is, as we continue breaking the law of God we are, as it were, earning a wage. The Bible says very plainly that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). As if that wasn’t bad enough, the reason we continue to sin is because there’s a deeper problem. The problem is that there’s a something wrong with our nature. But we seek to deny it or play it down. What problem? There’s nothing wrong with me, you might say, even though you know full well there is a problem. There’s a deep-seated problem that’s impervious to mere outward reformation. What’s required is a reformation that goes far beyond any outward change. Changes of habit or lifestyle are definitely in vogue and even make good viewing. But these changes will do nothing for us legally before God. In the court of God who can make representation for us when on every hand we are found guilty in thought word and deed. Any earthly representative has the same problem. It’s no accident The Lord Jesus Christ is called our Advocate (1 John 2:1). The problem for us is that we need a nature that is beyond the law. There isn’t one! The law of God condemns all. It slays all! All are guilty and found wanting before a Holy and Righteous God.

2. Although the words speak of punishment in an excruciating manner the legal pain is being extracted from an innocent party. The fact is, the legal pain should really be extracted from me, the guilty sinner, but it’s been extracted from another! Secondly then, to ‘Extract the legal pain’ speaks of Substitutionary Atonement. And this is the heart of The Gospel and why The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world. And it’s why at Christmas we realise why The Christ came. It’s not really about stars, stables and shepherds but about a bloody cross, about agony of soul and of body, about punishment and death. It’s about the cost of Redemption! A cost we sinners cannot ever possibly pay. Not even an eternity will extract the legal pain from us! We need another to do it for us. One that is suitably qualified for the awful task. Although Wesley has captured the horror of breaking the law of God putting the frighteners on you is not necessarily a good evangelistic strategy. But on the other hand, you are a fool if you ignore it because you don’t like being threatened or dislike ‘hellfire preaching’. The truth is, there is a Hell. And there’s only one way to escape it (Heb 2:3). That way is The Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Being ‘right with God’ is a legal declaration that God makes. This is the Justification by faith that is celebrated this 500th Reformation year – and every year. Because of what Christ has accomplished on the Cross, God is able to be just and to justify those that have faith in The Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 3:23-26).

So it’s no wonder the Wise men and the Shepherds rejoiced when the Salvation of God appeared. We Christians ought to be amazed at what God did in sending His Son. And we are amazed at what Christ has done by coming to us when we could not and would not go to Him (Heb 10:5). Salvation truly is of The Lord. Will you trust Him? Is your faith in The Christ? Please have a happy Christmas. But don’t ignore or neglect what it’s really all about.

Series on Ecclesiastes – A Reccomendation

IMG_2896This series on the Book of Ecclesiastes is by Pr Jeremy Rhode. Pr Rhode is a Lutheran minister of Faith Lutheran Church, Capistrano Beach, California. I am not a Lutheran but am finding this series to not only be extremely helpful and challenging but actually quite enthralling. He’s a good speaker. The series are made up of teaching sessions to his church. He says this book is about Solomon – via the Holy Spirit – gripping us by the neck and forcing us to look into the Abyss. You may remember the famous courtroom scene in ‘A Few Good Men’ where Tom Cruise asks for the truth and Jack Nicholson shouts back at him – ‘You can’t handle The Truth’. Well, can you? Christian, you would benefit from hearing this. And if you aren’t a Christian you really really need to hear this!

If there was ever a book needed for our time – the Book of Ecclesiastes is it. It is hard-hitting and does not shy away from telling us how it really is. Ultimately life without Christ is meaningless. Disagree? You need to hear him out.

Some listeners may balk at some of his doctrinal emphases. And you may wish he phrased things a little differently or in the way he makes some of his points. But that aside, I commend this series to anyone that has the courage to face up to reality. There’s a challenge for you! At the time of writing, I am at Lesson 9 of 24.

Follow This Link and see the feeds at the top of the page or download individual lectures.

HT. I came across this series via a recommendation from Chris Roseborough of Fighting for the Faith. Check his stuff out as well. Chris is also a Lutheran minister.

Bildad is Alive & Well

Job's_Comforters_Butts_setThis passage stood out from Job chapter 8.

Job 8:1 Then Bildad the Shuhite answered and said:
Job 8:2 “How long will you say these things, and the words of your mouth be a great wind?
Job 8:3 Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert the right?
Job 8:4 If your children have sinned against him, he has delivered them into the hand of their transgression.
Job 8:5 If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy,
Job 8:6 if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation.
Job 8:7 And though your beginning was small, your latter days will be very great.

Then this passage from Zophar:

Job 11:2 “Should a multitude of words go unanswered, and a man full of talk be judged right?
Job 11:3 Should your babble silence men, and when you mock, shall no one shame you?
Job 11:4 For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’
Job 11:5 But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you,
Job 11:6 and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves‘.

Bildad and his two friends Zophar & Eliphaz are as much in the dark as poor Job but they make the assumption that it is because Job has sinned that calamity has fallen upon him. Of course, everything we do and all we are falls short of the Glory of God, so in that sense, we have all sinned. But here, there was no particular sin that brought judgement upon the head of Job. On the contrary, we are introduced in the very first verse of the book to Job as a man that ‘… was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil‘. We further read in chapter 1 ‘And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”. That is the testimony of God about His servant Job. Apart from the book of his name Job is only mentioned in three other places in the Bible, twice in Ezekiel and once in James. Here they are.

Eze 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.
Eze 14:20 even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.

Jas 5:11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness (patience AV, endurance NASB) of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

The three verses testify to the character of Job. On fast forwarding to the last chapter, we read the following.

Job 42:7 After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.
Job 42:8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

That is pretty serious stuff to have God say his anger burns towards the three friends. Why? Because they have not spoken what is right, unlike Job. Job is told to pray for his friends. Were the three friends included in verse 11 of the final chapter? I think so. The two things they had sought to do when silent are mentioned again at the end – to show sympathy and to comfort. Job still has to live with the death of his children even though blessed with further children. There is restoration but he still needs sympathy and comfort. Maybe Bildad and his friends learnt something as well. And Job had to pray for the ones that had cut him down with words. Something for us to learn.

Job 42:11 Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.

So, returning to the passage in Job 8: 1-7, I thought, ‘I know this man’. Anyone sitting under a graceless and judgmental ministry, that batters instead of builds, that pours judgement instead of the Balm of Gilead will know him too. Bildad (and his friends) is alive and well.

It’s very simple, and simplistic, to think because this, that. Job’s friends were doing the best for him when they wept and sat with him in silence because they could see his suffering was very great. I’m sure Job was grateful that his friends sat with him. Until they opened their mouths that is. Here’s how they are introduced:

Job 2:11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.
Job 2:12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven.
Job 2:13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

If only they had kept quiet. Instead, they add to his suffering by getting it all wrong. Job is a righteous man. He has Gospel Righteousness. And by that I mean he had a righteousness that wasn’t his own. It is from another, given, gifted to Job through faith. Even though Job is a righteous man he says some dumb things like we all do and repents in dust and ashes before God.

May we learn to weep with those that weep. I am reminded again of the ministry of Andrew Davies some years ago at the Aberystwyth Conference. He preached four sessions through the book of Job. Now there was a lot of good things said. But a point Andrew made was this; ‘Don’t beat people with the truth!‘ Not only did they beat Job with the truth, they were wrong. Let us not be like that. Let us, so far as we are able, pour in the Balm of Gilead – the Gospel of the Grace of God in Christ. Let us not batter our brothers and sisters in Christ with the law but pour in the oil and the wine of forgiveness and mercy, truth and love, the covenant mercy of a gracious God!

The Heart of Christ by Thomas Goodwin – Foreword by Michael Reeves

IMG_0593The other day I was given a copy of Thomas Goodwin’s book The Heart of Christ, from the Puritan Paperback series from Banner of Truth.

The foreword by Michael Reeves was so moving I wanted to share it. The full title is: The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth.

How can Thomas Goodwin be so forgotten? Once ranked as a theologian alongside Augustine and Athanasius, even hailed as ‘the greatest pulpit exegete of Paul that has ever lived’, he should be a household name. His writings, while not easy, always pay back the reader, for in Goodwin a simply awesome theological intellect was wielded by the tender heart of a pastor.

As it is, Goodwin needs a little re-introduction. He was born in 1600 in the small village of Rollesby in Norfolk. His parents were God-fearing, and at the time the Norfolk Broads were well-soaked in Puritanism, so unsurprisingly he grew up somewhat religious. That all wore off, though, when he went up to Cambridge as a student. There he divided his time between ‘making merry’ and setting out to become a celebrity preacher. He wanted, he later said, to be known as one of ‘the great wits’ of the pulpit, for his ‘master-lust’ was the love of applause.

Then in 1620 – having just been appointed a fellow of Katharine Hall – he heard a funeral sermon that actually moved him, making him deeply concerned for his spiritual state. It started seven grim years of moody introspection as he grubbed around inside himself for signs of grace. Only when he was told to look outwards – not to trust to anything in himself, but to rest on Christ alone – only then was he free. ‘I am come to this pass now,’ he said, ‘that signs will do me no good alone; I have trusted too much to habitual grace for assurance of justification; I tell you Christ is worth all.’

Soon afterwards he took over from Richard Sibbes’ preaching at Holy Trinity Church. It was an appropriate transition, for while in his navel-gazing days his preaching had been mostly about battering consciences, his appreciation of Christ’s free grace now made him a Christ-centred preacher like Sibbes. Sibbes once told him ‘Young man, if ever you would do good, you must preach the gospel and the free grace of God in Christ Jesus’ – and that is just what Goodwin now did. And, like Sibbes, he became an affable preacher. He wouldn’t use his intellectual abilities to patronise his listeners, but to help them. Still today, reading his sermons, it is as if he takes you by the shoulder and walks with you like a brother.

All the while, Archbishop Laud was pressing clergy towards his own ‘high church’ practices. By 1634, Goodwin had had enough: he resigned his post and left Cambridge to become a Separatist preacher. By the end of the decade he was with other nonconformist exiles in Holland. Then, in 1641, Parliament invited all such nonconformists to return, and soon Goodwin was leading the ‘dissenting brethren’ at the Westminster Assembly. ‘Dissenting’, ‘Separatist’: it would be easy to see Goodwin as prickly and quarrelsome. In actual fact, though, while he was definite in his views on the church, he was quite extraordinarily charitable to those he disagreed with, and managed to command widespread respect across the theological spectrum of the church. Almost uniquely, in an age of constant and often bitter debate, nobody seems to have spoken ill of Goodwin.

If there was a contemporary Goodwin overlapped with more than any other, it was John Owen. In the Puritan heyday of the 1650s, when Owen was Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Goodwin was President of Magdalen College. For years they shared a Sunday afternoon pulpit, both were chaplains to Cromwell, together they would co-author the Savoy Declaration. And both had their own sartorial whimsies: Owen was known for his dandy day-wear, his snake-bands and fancy boots; Goodwin, it was giggled, had such a fondness for nightcaps that he is said to have worn whole collections on his head at once.

First and foremost, Goodwin was a pastor at heart. Students at Magdalen College soon found that, should they bump into Goodwin or his nightcaps, they could expect to be asked when they were converted or how they stood with the Lord. And when Charles II returned in 1660 and Goodwin was deprived of his post, it was to pastor a church in London that he went.

The last twenty years of his life he spent pastoring, writing treatises and studying in London (the study sadly interrupted in 1666 when the Great Fire burned more than half of his voluminous library). Then, at eighty years old, he was gripped by a fatal fever. With his dying words he captured what had always been his chief concerns: ‘I am going’, he said,

‘to the three Persons, with whom I have had communion… My bow abides in strength. Is Christ divided? No, I have the whole of his righteousness; I am found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Christ cannot love me better than he doth. I think I cannot love Christ better than I do; I am swallowed up in God… Now I shall be ever with the Lord’.

The Heart of Christ in Heaven Towards Sinners on Earth was, almost immediately, Goodwin’s most popular work. It is also exemplary of his overall Christ-centredness and his mix of theological rigour and pastoral concern. Published in 1651 alongside Christ Set Forth, the two were written for reasons dear to Goodwin: that is, he felt that many Christians (like himself once) ‘have been too much carried away with the rudiments of Christ in their own hearts, and not after Christ himself’. Indeed, he wrote, ‘the minds of many are so wholly taken up with their own hearts, that (as the Psalmist says of God) Christ “is scarce in all their thoughts.”’ Goodwin wanted us ‘first to look wholly out of our selves unto Christ’, and believed that the reason we don’t is, quite simply, because of the ‘barrenness’ of our knowledge of him. Thus Goodwin would set forth Christ to draw our gaze to him.

Of the two pieces, Christ Set Forth and The Heart of Christ in Heaven, the latter was the cream, he believed, for through it he would present to the church the heart of her great Husband, thus wooing her afresh. His specific aim in this essay is to show through Scripture that in all his heavenly majesty, Christ is not now aloof from believers and unconcerned, but has the strongest affections for them. And knowing this, he said, may

‘hearten and encourage believers to come more boldly unto the throne of grace, unto such a Saviour and High Priest, when they shall know how sweetly and tenderly his heart, though he is now in his glory, is inclined towards them’.

Goodwin starts with Christ on earth and the beautiful assurances he gave his disciples. In John 13, for example, knowing that he was shortly to return to his Father, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as a token of how he would always be towards them; he told them of how he would go like a loving bridegroom to prepare a place for his bride; after the resurrection, the first thing he calls them is ‘my brothers’; and the last thing they see as he ascends to heaven is his hands raised in blessing.

It is as if he had said, The truth is, I cannot live without you, I shall never be quiet till I have you where I am, that so we may never part again; that is the reason of it. Heaven shall not hold me, nor my Father’s company, if I have not you with me, my heart is so set upon you; and if I have any glory, you shall have part of it… Poor sinners, who are full of the thoughts of their own sins, know not how they shall be able at the latter day to look Christ in the face when they shall first meet with him. But they may relieve their spirits against their care and fear, by Christ’s carriage now towards his disciples, who had so sinned against him. Be not afraid, ‘your sins will he remember no more.’ … And doth he talk thus lovingly of us? Whose heart would not this overcome?

It is moving stuff, and it is strong stuff. In fact, Goodwin presents the kindness and compassion of Christ so strikingly that, when reading him, I find myself continually asking ‘Is Goodwin serious? Can this really be true?’ He argues, for example, that in Christ’s resurrection appearances, because he had dealt with the sin of his disciples on the cross, ‘No sin of theirs troubled him but their unbelief.’ And yet Goodwin is so carefully scriptural that one is forced to conclude that Christ really is more tender and loving than we would otherwise dare to imagine.

Then Goodwin takes us to the heart of his argument: his exposition of Hebrews 4:15, which

‘doth, as it were, take our hands, and lay them upon Christ’s breast, and let us feel how his heart beats and his bowels yearn towards us, even now he is in glory – the very scope of these words being manifestly to encourage believers against all that may discourage them, from the consideration of Christ’s heart towards them now in heaven’.

Goodwin shows that in all his glorious holiness in heaven, Christ is not sour towards his people; if anything, his capacious heart beats more strongly than ever with tender love for them. And in particular, two things stir his compassion: our afflictions and – almost unbelievably – our sins.

Having experienced on earth the utmost load of pain, rejection and sorrow, ‘in all points tempted like as we are’ Christ in heaven empathises with our sufferings more fully than the most loving friend. And more: he has compassion on those who are ‘out of the way’ (that is, sinning; Hebrews 5:2). Indeed, says Goodwin,

‘your very sins move him to pity more than to anger… yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease… his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his bowels shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not, ‘What shall separate us from Christ’s love?’

The focus is upon Christ, but Goodwin was ardently Trinitarian and could not abide the thought of his readers imagining a compassionate Christ appeasing a heartless Father. No, he said, ‘Christ adds not one drop of love to God’s heart’.11 All Christ’s tenderness comes in fact from the Spirit, who stirs him with the very love of the Father. The heart of Christ in heaven is the express image of the heart of his Father.

How we need Goodwin and his message today! If we are to be drawn from jaded, anxious thoughts of God and a love of sin, we need such a knowledge of Christ. If preachers today could change like Goodwin to preach like Goodwin, who knows what might happen? Surely many more would then say as he said ‘Christ cannot love me better than he doth. I think I cannot love Christ better than I do’.

Michael Reeves
August 2011


The Christian & The Death of a Loved One by Peter Jeffery – A Brief Review


Over the next couple of weeks or so I plan on reviewing two small booklets and a short book on grieving. All three are Christian books.

The first one I’ll be reviewing is ‘The Christian and the Death of a Loved One’ by Peter Jeffery. It’s produced privately by Peter so to get copies you will need to contact him through his website.

Some of you will know that my wonderful wife Sue went to Glory at the end of November 2015 and so this is the context in which I write.

The booklet is super short (16 pages A5), about the length of a chapter in a book with a few headings and could be read very easily in about half an hour or so. Short and easy to read is good. Some sections are only a few paragraphs so there is little waffle and the writing is straight to the point as you would expect. The Headings are:

Sorrow and Comfort
The Comfort of Friends
The God of All Comfort
The Believers Unbelief
Resurrection (1)
Do You Believe This?
God is in Control
Resurrection (2)

There are several helpful quotes, but for me, the most helpful by far, is from William Hendrickson in the section ‘God of All Comfort’. It reads as follows:

‘In the heart of Martha the darkness of grief and the light of hope were engaged in deadly combat. Sometimes her lips gave expression to her near despair, then again to her optimism. Here is a woman, deeply emotional. But, here is also a disciple of Jesus, her soul filled with reverence for her Lord. Here is, consequently, a heart, stirred to its depths, and swaying between grief and hope.’

That is my current experience. So it’s comforting to know I’m not going crazy even though at times it feels like it.

In places Peter was a little too stern I thought, but on the other hand it wouldn’t be helpful to overly molly coddle someone, even someone in the midst of grief. The most important thing the grieving person needs to hear is the truth of the Gospel. That doesn’t mean you batter them with Gospel Truth, but hear its truth they must, and as sensitively and as loving as possible.

It could be a bit over prescriptive at times; for example, expecting the grieving believer to fully have the fear of death removed. They may well experience this full assurance but we shouldn’t assume it. By assuming it, the emotions of the believer, already in turmoil, could do without the added burden of wondering if they have a true faith or not. They may have already thought that anyway so be careful.

The strength of the booklet by a mile is that it constantly points the believer to Christ and the Gospel wherein lies our hope. ‘To whom else shall we go’ said Peter to Jesus, ‘you alone have the words of eternal life’. We are also directed to the fact that God is in Control – even if in the midst of our grief it doesn’t feel like it. We are taken ultimately to the Resurrection with the knowledge that The Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death! We can have confidence that our believing loved one is with Christ which is far better.

For a brief booklet it is well written and packed full. It is quite general though, so don’t expect it to answer every question or address every issue but nevertheless it’s well worth reading. I would recommend reading it alongside something else, maybe one of the others I’ll be reviewing.

Would I recommend giving this to someone in the midst of grieving over a loved one? Yes I would. The positive Gospel emphasis and some excellent quotes make up for a few limitations. The booklet will help give you that Gospel focus. Just be sure you read it before giving it to someone.

Be discerning. But let me just say, please please don’t then keep asking if they have read the particular book / booklet / leaflet / tract or whatever YOU gave them. Just simply pray that God would guide them and be their comfort.

Finally, be aware, the grieving person has their senses heightened to an extraordinary level. They may feel things in a completely different way to how they did before entering the grieving process. They will hear your words but may not have a clue how to respond. So don’t expect too much of them and although you want to help don’t put the burden on them to either make decisions, answer your probing questions or make you feel better.

That’s the first of the three reviews.

May You Have A Very Blessed Christmas

We remember this day that Jesus was ‘born that man no more may die’. The lovely trees that adorn our homes are the antithesis of the Cross of Christ and remind us that he bore our sins on that tree. ‘You shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins ‘. Therefore, we Glory in the Cross of Christ.

Praise God for His ‘indescribable Gift’. May all your Christmases be truly blessed and Christ-Centered.

Diary of a Grieving Christian – 7 (How are you doing?)

It’s been little while since the last post. I’m conflicted about what to say or whether to say anything at all. Sue died 4 weeks ago today (21/12/2015). How am I doing? Well, I’m still breathing (thank you Jilly). It’s a day at a time. But I wonder daily if I can keep it up – yet by God’s Grace here I am. Living without Sue is awful, intolerable even. I can’t put it any other way.

One Christian brother put it to me this way; ‘What a blessing marriage is – and therefore what a grief in the parting’. I appreciated that. And I feel both so very keenly.

At Church yesterday morning I was asked something like, ‘Are you back to being at peace now?’ I said, ‘No, in fact it seems to be getting worse’. They then said, ‘Are you back at work?’ ‘No’, I replied. ‘What do you think is preventing you from getting back to work?’ I was silent for some moments, and then asked what they were doing for Christmas. I needed to get away from that conversation, and needed to just get away period. I know isolation isn’t helpful, but my reaction is to avoid Church when people ask such things. I know they mean well and I know they pray for me. And it’s appreciated, but even Job’s ‘friends’ sat in silence for a while.

We supported each other. Sue called me her rock, but I needed her just as much. We were a team, a good team at that. We needed each other and I’m sure that is how it should be.

The union of a man and a woman is about as close a relationship as is possible in this life. And so when the Bible says that marriage portrays the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the Church, we are given an indication of just how close the bond is between a man and his wife. The Bible describes it as being ‘one flesh’. Husbands are told to ‘love their wifes as Christ loved the Church’. It’s why adultery is such a heinous crime. There’s much more to be said on this, not as a ‘diary post’ though but as a separate topic.

That’s it for now.


Sue’s Funeral – Order of Service

Here is the Order of Service for my beloved Sue. I have adapted it slightly to post it here. It’s quite close to how it was printed so you can read the wonderful hymns. The full service audio link is also at the end of this post.

Sue Iliff
25th November 1955 – 23rd November 2015


Funeral Order of Service Led by Pastor Paul Watts


1. The God of Abraham praise,
who reigns enthroned above,
ancient of everlasting days,
and God of love.
Almighty, great I Am!
by earth and heaven confessed,
I bow and bless the sacred name
forever blest.

2. The God of Abraham praise,
at whose supreme command
from earth I rise and seek the joys
at God’s right hand.
I all on earth forsake,
its wisdom, fame, and power,
the Lord my only portion make,
my shield and tower.

3. Though nature’s strength decay,
and earth and hell withstand,
to Canaan’s bounds I urge my way
at God’s command;
the watery deep I pass
with Jesus in my view,
and through the howling wilderness
my way pursue.

4. The goodly land I see,
with peace and plenty blest,
a land of sacred liberty
and endless rest;
there milk and honey flow,
and oil and wine abound,
and trees of life forever grow,
with mercy crowned.

5. There dwells the Lord our King,
the Lord our Righteousness;
triumphant o’er the world and sin,
the Prince of Peace
on Zion’s sacred height
God’s kingdom still maintains,
and glorious with the saints in light
forever reigns.

6. The whole triumphant host
give thanks to God on high;
“hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”
they ever cry.
Hail Abraham’s God, and mine!
I join the heavenly lays;
all might and majesty are thine,
and endless praise.


TRIBUTE 2 Adrian

1 IMMORTAL honours rest on Jesus’ head;
My God, my Portion, and my Living Bread;
In him I live, upon him cast my care;
He saves from death, destruction, and despair.

2 He is my Refuge in each deep distress;
The Lord my strength & glorious righteousness;
Through floods and flames he leads me safely on,
And daily makes his sovereign goodness known.

3 My every need he richly will supply;
Nor will his mercy ever let me die;
In him there dwells a treasure all divine,
And matchless grace has made that treasure mine.

4 O that my soul could love and praise him more,
His beauties trace, his majesty adore;
Live near his heart, upon his bosom lean;
Obey his voice, and all his will esteem.

PRAYER – Pastor Geoff Thomas (Aberystwyth)

BIBLE READING – Trevor Thomas
Romans 8:18-39 (New King James Version; NKJV)
From Suffering to Glory
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy
to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the
earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the
sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,
but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation
itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious
liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation
groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only
that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves
groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption
of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen
is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we
hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know
what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession
for us[a] with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He
who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because
He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love
God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom
He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His
Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover
whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He
also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
God’s Everlasting Love
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be
against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up
for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also
risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession
for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation,
or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or
sword? 36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him
who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor
angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to
come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able
to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1. Come, let us join our friends above, who have obtained the prize,
And on the eagle wings of love to joys celestial rise.
Let saints on earth unite to sing with those to glory gone,
For all the servants of our King in earth and heaven are one.

2. One family we dwell in Him, one church above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream, the narrow stream of death;
One army of the living God, to His command we bow;
Part of His host have crossed the flood, and part are crossing now.

3. Ten thousand to their endless home this solemn moment fly,
And we are to the margin come, and we expect to die.
His militant embodied host, with wishful looks we stand,
And long to see that happy coast, and reach the heavenly land.

4. Our old companions in distress we haste again to see,
And eager long for our release, and full felicity:
Even now by faith we join our hands with those that went before;
And greet the blood besprinkled bands on the eternal shore.

5. Our spirits too shall quickly join, like theirs with glory crowned,
And shout to see our Captain’s sign, to hear His trumpet sound.
O that we now might grasp our Guide! O that the word were given!
Come, Lord of Hosts, the waves divide, and land us all in Heaven.

MESSAGE – Paul Watts

1. I saw a new vision of Jesus,
A view I’d not seen here before,
Beholding in glory so wondrous
With beauty I had to adore.
I stood on the shores of my weakness,
And gazed at the brink of such fear;
‘Twas then that I saw Him in newness,
Regarding Him fair and so dear.

2. My Saviour will never forsake me,
Unveiling His merciful face,
His presence and promise almighty,
Redeeming His loved ones by grace.
In shades of the valley’s dark terror,
Where hell and its horror hold sway,
My Jesus will reach out in power,
And save me by His only way.

3. For yonder a light shines eternal,
Which spreads through the valley of gloom;
Lord Jesus, resplendent and regal,
Drives fear far away from the tomb.
Our God is the end of the journey,
His pleasant and glorious domain;
For there are the children of mercy,
Who praise Him for Calvary’s pain.


Diary of a Grieving Christian – 5 (The Viewing: Another Visit to the Funeral Directors)

Today (Friday) was the day I was not looking forward to. My friend Robert suggested I go see Sue if I can as it would or could give me some closure. I made the appointment to view Sue for 10.00 this morning (Friday). I was dreading this. It’s not for everyone and have made no demands on the kids. But I reasoned, whatever I decided, I would probably regret. But If I didn’t see her the opportunity would be lost and wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. If it was a horrible experience, I reasoned, the memory would fade having many better memories and pictures of Sue. Armed with Sue’s words echoing in my mind ‘they are not there’ I drove to the place where Sue is resting – her body at any rate.

So I pulled into the car park and sat praying for a moment and then decided what I would do. I would go in on my own, pray aloud and then read aloud a part of 1 Corinthians 15. I went in and was ushered into a room in reception while waiting  for Julie, the lady assisting us in the arrangements. Julie appeared and took me through a door and along a corridor with a series of rooms. Quite weird actually. We then stood outside the room where Sue was resting. I was emotional and crying outside the door. We went in, with me still crying to see Sue lying in the coffin. Julie was very good. I told her my intentions, explaining Sue was not there but in heaven. She said it was good to have faith – not quite sure what she meant by that. Julie then left. I was alone with the body of my beloved and wonderful Sue.

With trembling voice I thanked The Lord for saving Sue, for keeping her over the years, for bringing us together, for keeping us together, for our children and our grandchildren. I asked the Lord to be with us as a family, to be present at the burial and the service and that He might save, that the Gospel would be preached and that He would be Glorified.

I then turned to the Scriptures and began reading this passage: 1 Corinthians 15: 35-58. I noticed especially verse 37 where it says ‘what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel’. A bare Kernel! And then noting the following verses:

1Co 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
1Co 15:43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
1Co 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

I continued to read, reinforcing the truth that Sue is not here but has gone to be with Christ. Finally, I turned to Job 1:20 – 21.

Job 1:20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped.
Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

After reading from Job I spoke to Sue, even though it was bonkers, given what I had just read. But it was for me. I then came out of the room and made my way through to reception. Julie appeared again, we spoke briefly and I was on my way. I was consciously different. Was this closure? Absolutely no idea. I felt calm and at peace. Quite different from how I was before. Is this normal? No idea. The Word was powerful as I read it there in that room alone with God. There was no flash of lightning, or smoke, or voice (apart from mine), or trembling (only mine). Just The Word of God. When faced with Death, all we need is the Word of God. All flesh is as grass, but The Word of the Lord endures forever!

In closing this post, note these verses very carefully:

1Co 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
1Co 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Diary of a Grieving Christian – 4 (Overview of the week)

Just a quick overview of the week. It’s been a busy week. My emotions are on a roller-coaster. I went to Church on Sunday morning with family (very close friends) to a Church where a few people knew me and where only one or two knew that Sue had died. The Pastor knew me but knew nothing of my situation and said the usual ‘how are you?’. I said ‘I was fine’ and he was off getting ready for the service. It was actually quite nice to not be asked in that uncomfortable way ‘how are you?’ but just in a British way that really means Hello. I had never sung the last hymn before but it so fitted where we were that morning. So much so that we are singing (no 3) it at the Funeral Service. We all thought how fitting it was, and will be.

Slightly different in the evening going to my home Church. I nearly didn’t go but some friends had saved a place for me at the back. I figured I had to go at some time. Everyone was really kind. An older gentleman came up to me and said ‘I know exactly what you are going through’. We were both moved as we shared our grief together for a few moments. Pastor Watts mentioned Sue several times in the sermon. His sermon was based on John 17:24 ‘Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory…’ Used that text as part of the announcement in the local paper. I took the opportunity to sort out the hymns and tunes and to find out from the Pastor what the reading would be. He said he would be preaching from Romans 8. He would preach on anything I liked. I told him, Sue wanted him to take the service and that she would be happy with what ever he chose to preach on. I shattered at the end of the day.

On that evening someone came and said ‘they were sorry for my loss’. I intend on coming back to this phrase, maybe in a separate post.

Frankly, the rest of the week is a bit of a blur.My birthday on Thursday wasn’t much fun without Sue. I spent some time Wednesday & Thursday sorting out the Order of Service. Chris sorted the front picture and the layout – quite emotional for him. His Mum would be proud of him as she would be for all three of the kids. More time was spent trying to contact people and let them know the news about Sue. I think it was Thursday, as I went to go up the stairs there was a piece of note-paper on one of the steps. As I looked I could see it was Sues writing. It must have slipped out of one of the address books without me noticing. It was a list of people Sue wanted me to contact about her death. One of the names had after it: 1st person to tell me about Jesus. Please thank her for me. The only detail she left was that she worked in a flower shop in a nearby town. I tracked her down and they are hoping to come to the service. God is Good!

I find myself pacing around aimlessly for a lot of the time. I realised it was because of spending such a lot of time caring for Sue that now there was nothing to do. I told the Doctor this. He reassured me by saying it was normal. Also that being lethargic and tired is a part of grief. Their’s a commonality to our humanity.

Thursday I had a letter from Chris’s Pastor Geoff Thomas. It made for an emotional read but the truths he expressed were so powerful and so very helpful. We have a Great Saviour. His name is Jesus.

Today, Friday, I went to see Sue. I’ll do a separate post for this.