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!

‘Grieving: Your path back to Peace’ by James R. White – A Recommendation

IMG_0594I had the book ‘Grieving’ by James White for a few months but didn’t read it. No idea why but I decided to start reading it on the Sunday (22/11/2015). I finished it on Monday morning, the day Sue died.

Why this book? The reason for buying this particular book is twofold. I knew from listening to The Dividing Line that Dr White had been a Hospital Chaplin so I figured he would know what he’s talking about. I didn’t realise he had been a grief counsellor until I started reading but it made perfect sense. The other reason was that I didn’t want to read a book and be either disagreeing with the author or wonder quite what perspective they were coming from. I knew his theology and was prepared to learn. In my grieving I didn’t want the additional grief of reading bad or soppy theology.

As I read the book my reasons were justified. It is an excellent little book. And that’s a plus – it’s a little book. I didn’t want to read some massive tome on grieving. Nevertheless, unlike the previous reviews it is a book that is laid out well and the type is easy to read. By the time I write this review I will have read it again. As pointed out in the book – and I knew this would be the case – while Sue was alive the grieving couldn’t truly start. There’s a massive difference! And nothing prepares you for it. I am now truly on the grieving pathway and it isn’t pleasant!

Contents

  1. Autumn’s Grandpa Mike
  2. Am I The Only One That Feels This Way?
  3. The Patterns of Grief
  4. The Work of Grieving
  5. Avoiding the Pitfalls
  6. The Tough Questions
  7. Getting Through

The chapters are short and straight to the point. There’s very little verbiage, if any (Unlike my writing). He offers advice on practical issues like dealing with the clothes and not creating a shrine for your loved one. There is definitely a pull to do exactly that! So, it was helpful to flag that up. He doesn’t dodge the issue of the Sovereignty of God – this is the will of God. After reading it for the first time it was obvious – to me anyway – that I will need to come back to it or sections of it as I work through the grief over and over again. I don’t believe the book will be anywhere near as helpful unless I continue my habit of regularly reading The Scriptures. The book is written primarily for the Christian even though as Dr White points out much of the grieving process is common to humanity as we are all made in the image of God.

It has actually been a few weeks now since Sue died and even though I wasn’t at the time of the first reading on the grieving pathway I have refered to the book several times. I’m actually glad I read it just before Sue died. Dr White, as far as I know, hasn’t gone down the path I am on, but he really does understand and it comes through in the writing.

I would like to thank Dr White for this book. I am glad to have read it and found it extremely helpful both spiritually and practically. It isn’t a panacea, and it isn’t meant to be, but it is honest and makes no unrealistic promises that all will soon be well because they probably won’t be. I would say out of the three, so far, get this one first. I don’t know if it would have helped to have read it much sooner, maybe weeks or even months before Sue died, but I do believe Pastors / Ministers / Elders should read it and have copies readily to hand.

The book is available in The US & The UK

 

‘Christians Grieve Too’ by Donald Howard – A Review

ChristiansGrieveToo‘Christians Grieve Too’ by Donald Howard is the second booklet I am briefly reviewing. It’s published by Banner of Truth and is also available at the usual outlets. The booklet came out of the authors own grief two years after his wife died of cancer. Knowing that helps. This author has been there.

The title, I think, says a lot. The scripture says we grieve not as the world. It doesn’t say we don’t grieve.

It is a 32 page booklet. It is short. We like short. We like easy to read as well. I have found my mind is affected by grief. I can’t concentrate as well, I can’t remember so well and have trouble sifting things through in my mind. Yes, we like easy to read.

The chapters are:

Preface
The Reality of Grief
The Experience of Grief
Complications of Grief
The Relief of Grief
Hope in our Grief
Our Blessed Hope

I included the preface because what is said there, thought very brief, is important. He quotes C S Lewis saying he and his wife were prepared for death but not for grief. This was also the experience of Donald Howard. It’s my experience as well. I was not, and I am still not prepared perhaps as I should have been for just how devastating grief is.

The overall impression is what it says on the tin. Christians Grieve Too. The booklet expounds this idea. I found it helpful.

I said at the start ‘This author has been there’. And this is very clearly stated in the ‘Reality of Grief’ and ‘The Experience of Grief’. The other two authors have not. That alone doesn’t make it any better to read. But to me, it is relevant. It helps to know the author understands.

We grieve then, but we don’t grieve as others because we have hope. It is a ‘blessed hope’. This hope is only found in Jesus Christ.

As a small booklet it could be given out to Church members so they have at least some idea of what the bereaved person is going through. Whether it is your present experience or not, I would still recommend reading it.

‘Thank You King James’ the Story of Robert Hicks – A Review

IMG_0579‘Thank You King James’ is the story of Robert Hicks. Never heard of him? Neither had I. Robert Hicks is a businessman who started his working life in a local grocers shop: eventually working for Tesco and the Co-Op before entering the world of Christian publishing.

It is a true ‘Rags to Riches’ story. The writing is easy to read and is a mixture of narrative by James Hastings (I assume) and accounts from Robert himself. The first section is a harrowing account of abuse and deprivation on an almost unbelievable scale. That any adult, never mind the parents, could treat their children in such an abominable way is quite simply horrific. He was labelled as ‘retarded’ at school because of a speech impediment that only required a simple operation to cure. An operation that didn’t take place until he was fifteen. And yet Robert was an intelligent boy with a gift for mathematics. A gift his teachers were mostly ignorant of. He was also gifted in business and went on to have a very successful career.

But God was dealing with him from an early age and by the grace of God he became a Christian. A remarkable story. He says,

‘I had never considered myself a sinner, rather someone who had been sinned against…. I raised my head and called upon Jesus to come into my life, to forgive me for what I had done wrong, and I accepted him as my Saviour. There on the cold dirty floor of No. 335 Stonehouse Lane, the place which for so long as a child had been a living hell, I became a child of heaven. (p. 75)’

The book was worth reading for that alone. Instead of blaming everyone else he realised that he too before God was a sinner in need of a Saviour. It doesn’t matter who we are or what our background is, we all need The Saviour – He is Christ the Lord. I thought it was powerful.

What I wasn’t expecting in the book was the illness and death of his wife through cancer. A very similar situation to my own.  His account shows how different we all are when it comes to grief.

Not everyone will agree with how he used his marketing skills in the Church and the not discussed underlying theology. But what does come through is his devotion to Christ and his Gospel commitment, particularly his passion to get the Word of God out to the people.

I was loaned the book, but was very glad to have read it. I recommend it. It’s a DayOne publication.

 

Wishing everyone a Blessed New Year

2016

Thank you for reading, liking, commenting, following or just simply visiting the Blog over 2015. It was quite a year for me personally. As Christians we can look back over trials & blessing but through it all we can say with confidence that He knew the way we would take. None of the last year took God by surprise. Although we can say that, it doesn’t mean the way is easy, nor are we to expect a of ‘bed of roses’. To do so as a Christian is not only foolish but is profoundly un-biblical. Nowhere in the Scripture are we promised a life without pain & suffering. But we are promised to be kept though it (1 Peter 1:5). As Jesus said to Peter ‘I have prayed that your faith does not fail’ (Luke 22:32). We have an intercessor, an advocate, even Jesus Christ the righteous one (1 John 2:1).

With that in mind. May 2016 be a blessed New Year for you all. For some it will mean being kept by the Grace of God that come the end of 2016 you will be able to join me even as at the end of 2015 by raising our Ebenezer and saying ‘Hitherto has the Lord helped us’ (1 Sam 7:12).

For some I pray 2016 will be the year your mouth is stopped as you bow the knee in repentance and faith toward The Lord Jesus Christ and receive the free gift of Salvation (Romans 3:19, Mark 1:15, Eph 2:8, 2 Cor 6:2).

May 2016 then, be a Blessed New Year for You.

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.

 

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.

 

Sue’s Birthday Today – 25/11/1955

2012-03-31 11.55.12Today has been really tough. Sue would have been 60 today. She missed it by 2 days.

We would joke about it because we are the same age then for 10 days. This year (and all the years I have to come) it is not to be.

Happy Birthday darling. I know you are safe with Jesus. I’ll be joining you soon.

I can thank God for her.

It is not death to die,
To leave this weary road,
And midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.

It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears,
And wake, in glorious repose,
To spend eternal years.

It is not death to bear
The wrench that sets us free
From dungeon chain, to breathe the air
Of boundless liberty.

It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust
And rise, on strong exulting wing
To live among the just.

Jesus, Thou Prince of Life,
Thy chosen cannot die:
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife
To reign with Thee on high.

César Malan 1787 – 1864 (Translated by George W. Bethune 1806-62)

Diary of a Grieving Christian – 2 (Someone Died Last night)

I’ve been challenged (in my own mind) about how I’m going to do these. I will have to be honest about how I feel, otherwise, they will be of no use. I’ll also need to discuss at some point along the way about how things feel and about how they actually are. So there’s going to be some theology along the way too.

The other thing is, I’m not sure how many or how often I will do these but following is a post I started some while ago when someone died in the next room. This has present relevance as you will see from my comment at the end.

Someone died last evening and I have to say it was quite distressing. Sue has been at the Hospice since Monday but is hoping to leave today (Thursday 2/4/15) and I will pick her up straight after work. We are just talking together when all off a sudden there was a lot of nurses running in the corridor followed shortly by a terrible sound of wailing and crying. It was distressing for Sue because she didn’t want us to be like that. I said ‘its right and normal to be upset but we don’t grieve as others that have no hope’. I got the sense that the death in the next room was a hopeless one. I may be wrong but that grief was a hopeless grief. In fact, I said ‘that is the sound of despair’. Sue was again reminded of her death. I then read Mr Spurgeon for that evening – a gospel message. I then prayed with Sue and Lydia. We hugged. All the while the sound of crying and loud wailing was coming from the corridor and the room next door. It was about 8.00. PM. Sue wants to die at home. And I want to make it happen for her. I am sad when I think she will not be with me. We planned on getting old together. The Lord has another plan. I haven’t cried in a while, but I will. Sue said ‘I want to die at home in the presence of God’. I’d like to think the lady that died did that – but I don’t think so.

That was never posted, until now. But as I read it now…. Sue did die at home in the presence of God. And it was a death FULL of Hope. We watched her take her very last breath in this life and she was gone. I then stood at the end of the bed with my daughter and said ‘remember the lady and her family at the hospice, this isn’t like that at all’. We wept. But we wept in hope. [I’ll have to do a brief post on Hope because what the Bible means by Hope isn’t what the world means: there is quite literally a world of difference.] You can see how relevant the post is now – as I can. We thank God for His Grace.

Diary of a Grieving Christian – Introduction

Copy of 2012-03-31 11.59.26Susan Margaret Iliff 25/11/1955 – 23/11/2015. Forever with The Lord.

The love of my life, Sue, died yesterday at 1:30 in the afternoon. That is to starkly state the cold hard fact. Another fact however, is that Sue has gone to be with her Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ.

We were married for 32 years. We were best friends as well as husband and wife. We did everything together and pretty much went everywhere together. Even if I were nipping to the shops, she would say ‘hang on I’ll put my shoes (sometimes slippers) on and I’ll come with you’. That’s how it was. We loved each other deeply. What a blessed marriage we had. A true gift from God. Sue was the most wonderful person and a Godly wife.

I’m going to write about the process of my grief and other things I’ve learnt along the way. I’m doing it for two reasons. 1. It will be cathartic and a record. So it’s for me, to help me get through this horrible time. 2. I pray it will be of some benefit to others that might be going through a similar time. So it’s for others.

I’m not sure how far back I’ll go just yet, but I have made a few odd notes along the way since we were told the terminal diagnosis. I’ll leave it there for now.

Grief might do weird things to me. So if all the posts suddenly disappear I hope you will understand.