‘The dearest idol I have known’

It’s a funny thing how just one passing thought can change our perception. I can’t remember where it was (a Travelodge I think), but a few weeks ago I mused on the line of this well-know hymn:

O for a closer walk with God

and came to a different conclusion. Probably nothing new. And you might well wonder how come it took so long to see it.

In our better moments we do long for that closer walk. And we do lament having a ‘closer walk’ in times past but not so much now and so we also say with Cowper:

Where is the blessedness I knew

Unless you are a Christian, and have experienced that closer walk, you won’t have a clue what I’m on about. One of my favourite hymns expresses it as ‘one transient gleam of loveliness divine.’ (Anonymous; from Stockwell Gems)

A Christian can live for a very long time on ‘one transient gleam‘ such is the power of ‘loveliness divine.’

In verse five then of Cowper’s famous hymn we have these words:

The dearest idol I have known’
whate’er that idol be,
help me tear it from Thy throne,
and worship only Thee.

(William Cowper, 1731 – 1800)

Just the other day in our prayer meeting we heard of the various idols that even as Christians we have. I’ve always thought of it in that way. The many idols we have. But not anymore. Of course we do have idols a plenty, and Calvin, I think quite rightly, describes the heart as an ‘Idol factory.’ (See below) But if you think of a factory, someone is usually in charge. I’ve worked in factories (on the shop floor) making stuff so I know the production process.

I’ve no idea if Cowper had this in mind when he wrote that hymn, but I do think he could well have. What is the dearest idol? That is singular. Could it be a car, money in the bank, a career, health, or the many many other things in our lives? No, I don’t think so.

The dearest idol is me. I’m on the throne. And I need to get off it.

So the factory analogy: I’m in charge and I produce stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. My factory is very efficient. And there is lots of overtime available. But my factory has a new owner now. Remarkably, the new owner gives me a lot of flexibility. I get to make a lot of decisions. But it’s not my factory anymore and we make a different product now.

And Cowper is right, we need God’s help to tear it down. Not only can we not do it, we don’t want to do it either. We like being in charge. If you’ve not been a Christian very long I have to tell you the struggle to tear self from the throne is a lifelong struggle. It ebbs and flows. I’m not very good at it. Anyone who has been a Christian for a long time will tell you it is so. Telling you otherwise is a lie.

The overwhelming sense that I have as an ’employee’ of the new owner is of gratitude. Or it should be. And in my better moments it is. What a gracious and wonderful owner he is! Usually employees don’t get to visit where the owner lives and there’s a strict boss employee relationship. But not with this owner. This owner makes you part of his family and eventually you get to live in his house, with him – forever. Maybe I’m talking like a madman, but it wasn’t easy for the factory owner to make it so. His own Son had to die in order for me to be part of the owners family. And even though he knew I would still try and be in charge – he still did it. Why? No idea. But he did. It isn’t a boss employee relationship anymore – it’s family now.

The old owner was a tyrant and let me do whatever I wanted and made me think it was my factory. But it wasn’t. He was in charge all the time really. The old owners only real aim was destruction even if it seemed like all was well. It isn’t well if that’s you. As Paul puts it:

Tit 3:3  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray (AV has Deceived), slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
Tit 3:4  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
Tit 3:5  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Tit 3:6  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Tit 3:7  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

The Lord has diagnosed the problem:

Jer 17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

We know this to be true. And yet, ‘Christ died for the ungodly.’ (Rom 5:6) Will you not come to Him? (Matt 11:28)


Like many of you, perhaps, you’ve often heard the Calvin quote where he said the heart is an ‘Idol factory.’ Sometime ago I decided to find it. So here’s the quote:

Hence we may infer, that the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.‘ In modern parlance, a factory.

If you’ve ever worked in a factory it’s a brilliant analogy. The mind is in constant production – it never stops. Just a little further down the same page Calvin says this:

‘The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a god suited to its own capacity; as it labours under dullness, nay, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God. To these evils another is added. The god whom man has conceived inwardly he attempts to embody outwardly. The mind, in this way, conceives the idol, and the hand gives it birth.’

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Henry Beveridge), Book 1, Chapter XI, Section 8. p.97, Volume 1, Wm B Eerdmans publishing, 1997.

Covid is for the Church – not the world?

There’s a tendency for the church to look out upon the world with an eye to judgement. That’s probably an understatement, nevertheless, there’s a lot in the world that would rightly fall under the judgment of God. The millions of abortions that take place on its own confirms that. It isn’t surprising then that some Christians could see the current pandemic as a judgment from God. We look on to see the world repenting and calling upon the Lord (or rather look on and don’t see that). The Church being in the world gets caught up in these judgments from on high. We look in vain. There may be a few people here and there that turn to God, but by and large the world carries on as usual. The church is sidelined. That is the way of the world. Let’s face it, the church today (in the UK anyway) is an utter irrelevance.

It’s probably not a unique thought. But what if it’s the other way round and we are looking at this all wrong? What if it’s really the world caught up in God’s judgment upon the Church!

Just as we look vainly upon the world for repentance towards God, we look vainly upon the church to do the same. The world looks upon the church in vain. Where is the repentance and a turning towards the Lord in repentance and faith? We might say, ‘What have we to repent of?’ Our self-righteousness world be a good start.

These thoughts came out of my reading just the other morning. My default is probably set to look out and judge the world. But it came to me specifically that the Covid Pandemic has been sent by God as a judgement on the church. We always, or nearly always, think that if anything bad happens in the world it’s a judgment from God upon the world. It’s a damning and profoundly unsettling realisation that it could well be the other way round. I am quite upset about it. I’m finding it to be quite disturbing actually. For one thing it means I’ve been looking at it all wrong.

The verses I’m referring to are found in Chronicles. The context is Solomons dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Of course, all Gods dealing with the church are by grace. Even His judgments are a mercy to His people and to His church. I’ve heard the phrase used a few times lately that God is sifting the church. It does seem to be the case. Perhaps God is sifting us as individuals as well. What are our convictions? Do we care more about being correct than people? Some evidence then that the church needs to be looking at itself rather than casting a self-righteous judgmental eye on the world – which we’re pretty good at doing.

We know that God sends the pestilence, even this pandemic. I don’t think most Christians doubt that. God hasn’t been surprised or caught off guard by any of this. But I do think we (I include myself here) may have seriously misjudged its purpose. I’ll admit to being late to realise this. Maybe too late. I think my fear now is that once things start, dare I say it, returning to ‘normal’, it will be ‘business as usual.’ The meetings will restart and return to ‘normality.’ The pandemic will have passed, and we’ll all thank God and return to thinking how wonderful we all are, and nothing will have changed. My biggest worry, like I say, is that for the church, it will be ‘Business as usual.’ Do we want ‘business as usual’? What did ‘business as usual’ look like?

How then, in the light of this, assuming it’s true, and I’m right about this, are we to respond? To respond right now. I don’t think prayers for God to end the pandemic are really going to cut it.

If all that’s happening is really about the church, and it really is, how are we to change? I don’t think I’ve read much along on these lines. A lot has been said about the legality etc of the lockdowns and how the government are persecuting the church. You know the stuff I mean. Those are real issues by the way.

Christians have, and are, deeply divided over how to deal with the pandemic and our responses to government overreach are just as divisive. Wearing masks, closing churches, social distancing, and vaccinations are just some of the many ways we have been divided. We have our views. I have mine. And I’m not saying these are not valid. For example, the government is overreaching in many areas. They are manipulating the population. But what if we have all missed the point?

As churches we want to get back to normal. We want to get back to business as usual. But what is normal? And what is business as usual? What did those things look like? What is normal for us? What is a normal prayer meeting for example? Do we want a return to normal? Are we happy that our normal prayer meetings now just continue as normal but online? Or our normal services just continue now as normal online. And when our services return to normal will they just continue as before?

We do ok with normal. Normal is safe. Normal is cuddly. Normal has no surprises. We can manage normal. Normal is under control. Under our control that is. I think, perhaps what the word normal describes is formality. We are very formal. Normal is formality. Could it even be described as having a form of godliness? Or even in Revelation the Lord Jesus describes one church as having a reputation for being alive. But that wasn’t how Jesus described them! We are just so correct and righteous.

We pray (sometimes), or sing, for God to come sweeping through us. Maybe he is. But not in the way we expected!

And as we (at Towcester Evangelical Church) heard on Sunday morning, don’t think for one moment the purposes of God will be thwarted. They won’t be. But we will miss out. Don’t worry though. Everything will be back to normal soon! God will have passed by unnoticed, and we’ll be left to carry on with business as usual.

The world, on the face of it, is completely opposed to the Christian faith. And I understand all the reasons for that. But I think there’s another side to this. And that is, unconsciously or not, the world is looking to the church for hope and redemption, and for mercy and forgiveness. Where else is real and true hope to be found? There is nowhere else. Only the church of the Lord Jesus Christ has the good news of the Gospel to dispense to the world. It is us, Christians, that have been commissioned by God to preach Good News of a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.

Honestly, I’m at a bit of a loss to know quite what to do with this. I believe the very thought of what I’m suggesting will be met, by some, with opposition, or much more likely to be met with the cold shoulder of indifference.

We can’t revive ourselves, and we can’t turn the tide of secularism back, so isn’t it time for us to call upon the Lord to have mercy on us? To revive us. To wake us up out of our slumber. Or are we (self) satisfied with ‘business as usual.’ Are we, or will we be satisfied with being ‘normal?’

 

Behavioural Science (in the UK) & The Gospel Invitation

These ideas have been knocking around in my mind for a while now, but I heard recently on talkRADIO someone mention, for the first time anywhere, The Behavioural Science Unit. I was beginning to think I was the only one that had ever heard about this. It’s also called ‘Nudging.’ There is a unit (in government) that is actively engaged, using these techniques, in manipulating the behaviour of the population. That’s us. So I have stood back and observed, over the past year or so, our behaviour being manipulated. There is active coercion happening.

Many of you might not know what ‘Nudging’ is. Some time ago The BBC had a program on ‘The Power of Nudge‘, and it was quite astonishing. The reason I know about this is because I listened to it at the time of its first broadcast. Quote: ‘What really changes people’s minds (about the idea of nudging) is because it works.’ This was part of a series on ‘The Pursuit of Power’ in case you think I’ve gone crazy. This was a part of a Behavioural Science unit in No 10 when David Cameron was PM. (This unit is now independent and is called ‘The Behavioural Insights Team’ or ‘Nudge Unit’ –  https://www.bi.team/bit10/  They still use Nudging) The original unit had a sunset clause attached to it, set at 2 years in case it didn’t work. But it did and does work. The UK (and other countries) are now (as I see it) a huge experimental ‘Petri Dish’ of behavioural management and control. I’m sure there are other such Units. Is it a conspiracy then, if it’s happening.

Incidentally, Dr John Lee (Professor of Pathology) in his video (HERE) (dated 1st May 2021) mentions The Behavioural Insight Team (from 30m) that uses FEAR to manipulate the population. I watched this on 4th May 2021. Again, this is clear evidence that we are being manipulated (as if we didn’t already know). This is not something to cast off as something only a few conspiracy nutcases believe – because it’s really happening.
I wonder if advertisers used these techniques whether they’d be legal. Subliminal advertising is illegal, even though the jury is out on its actual effectiveness. Nudging really does work though.

There’s a Vaccine advert that has been running (ad nauseam) quite regularly on talkRADIO and is, I think, a typical use of nudging. Remember, nudging works. That’s why they do it. In the advert we are told to ‘Join the millions already vaccinated…. Every vaccination gives us hope.‘ There are other Ads, but the point is to move us, or nudge us, into action. To manipulate our behaviour. And you can’t miss all the signs everywhere to reinforce the behaviour (social distancing & masks). By the way, I’m not making any comment on taking the vaccine, or not. Merely that ‘Nudging’ works. I didn’t catch who it was and only caught the last part of an interview (some weeks ago now) on talkRADIO but I think it was an MP that said he was ‘surprised at how easily people gave up their liberties.’

It’s inconceivable there is only one of these businesses operating. The Big Tech companies are doing it all the time. Sometimes by withholding information, at other times by using targeted information, at other times by taking down information that doesn’t fit the narrative. Did you see the film ‘The Social Dilemma’? Maybe you thought it was an exaggeration. Perhaps, to some degree. But the point is it’s happening. Whatever your view of President Trump is or was, it comes to something when Tech Companies can pretty much silence the President of the US.

As we appear to have some sort of end (to the pandemic, not the aftermath) to this madness what’s the point in saying all this now? The point is this: don’t think the behavioural insight team, and other such teams, will be clearing their desks and closing down the office as the crisis comes to an end. I think that would be unbelievably naive. No, the ‘insights’ gained through this will be used in other ways (I’ll leave those other ways to your imagination) to manipulate the population into other behaviours (or beliefs). The trick is, of course, to do it a) without us realising it and/or b) by making us actually want it – so we become complicit in our own change of behaviour. Talk about 1984 (‘I love you Big Brother’).

How does this affect the Church?

Apart from my concern as a citizen about losing my freedoms, the other (more important) reason I’m interested in all this is because this is the sort of manipulation that when presenting the Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God we DON’T do. We don’t manipulate people into becoming Christians. We don’t ‘Nudge’ people into the Kingdom! Even if it works, and it does – we don’t do it. This is one reason why I’m not in favour of big organised evangelistic campaigns or what is called ‘the Invitation System.’ We should run a mile from any such methods. As the Bible says: ‘… we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor 4:2).

But there’s also a dark side to all this. The church is engaged in a war. Not a physical war. But a spiritual one. ‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph 6:12). And as Paul tells us in another place ‘… the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Cor 10:4).’ ‘We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Cor 10:5).’

And it’s quite interesting at his point how the Apostle Paul speaks of taking every thought captive…. I’m not sure we can so quickly dismiss some of this stuff as ‘conspiratorial’ as many Christians seem to do. How is it all affecting the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? The Bible says ‘we are not ignorant of his (Satan) designs (2 Cor 2:11). Perhaps we are ignorant of Satan’s schemes in this area? I’m all for the plain teaching of the Gospel. We shouldn’t employ any subterfuge in presenting the Gospel or any ‘bait & switch’ techniques. But that doesn’t mean, as we have read, we shouldn’t be unaware of Satans devices. Love not the world nor the things of the world (1 John 2:15). Manipulating and coercing people is a worldly activity. It’s what the systems of the world do. We don’t manipulate and coerce people into the Kingdom of God. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is He that makes his people willing in the day of his power (Psalm 110:3). We don’t use worldly methods. And we don’t need to either. The Spirit of God doesn’t ‘influence’ people, rather, he makes them alive (Eph 2:5)!

It’s important for us, therefore, to know there is someone that speaks the truth. The Lord Jesus many times used the phrase ‘I tell you the truth’ (verily, verily) and that is exactly what he did, and does. He didn’t use methods of coercion or manipulation. He speaks the truth, even when we don’t like it. So when he invites us to himself, as he does right now, promising rest for our souls, we can be assured that he is speaking the truth. In other words, we can trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

Come to me (Says Jesus), all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.(Mat 11:28 & 29).’

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
new life the dead receive,
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
the humble poor believe.

(O for a thousand tongues – Charles Wesley, 1708-88)

 

‘The Madness of Crowds’ by Douglas Murray – Recommended reading

The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, Douglas Murray, Bloomsbury, 2020. This is the updated & expanded edition.

Have you ever seen the 1963 film ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’? It’s a totally crazy film with big stars in it all searching for buried loot under a ‘Big W.’ It’s a comedy and is hysterical. It’s very funny.

This book by Douglas Murray plunges us into a mad, mad, mad, mad world as well. There’s a lot that’s hysterical. But it isn’t funny. At all. There is a ‘Big W’ though. And an elusive prize.

I didn’t take any notes. I simply wanted to read it. I think the book will make a good companion to Carl Trueman’s latest book (started but not finished).

On the cover of the book is the line: The Sunday Times Bestseller. This is rather surprising because, I assume then, someone is buying it. I did. Presumably lots of people are buying it – not sure if they’re reading it though. Murray was initially encouraged by this. But in the afterword of this edition he’s rather more pessimistic. The frightening aspect of the book is that you can be anything you want to be by ticking the appropriate ideological box. And this is the message: we (that is, most people) are being coerced (or simply marinated) into an ideology. We are being forced further into an ideology that divides. You capitulate or else. In fact, it works the other way as well. You can be told what you are as well. So a black man can be a white man if he doesn’t get with the program. The whole idea of black, white, man, woman, boy, girl is an utter mess of confusion and cancellation. Murray has provided us with enough evidence (all cited in the end-notes) to convince anyone, that wants to step back and see, that what is going on is complete madness.

The Chapter Titles are: 1. Gay. Then an Interlude – The Marxist Foundations. 2. Women. Another Interlude – The Impact of Tech. 3. Race. Interlude – On Forgiveness. 4. Trans. Conclusion. Then an Afterword for this edition.

The chapter on Race is the longest – just. The chapter on Trans is the saddest. The whole book is fairly tragic though. At the beginning of the book he explains the difference between what he calls a Hardware or a Software issue. It recurs a few times through the book.

‘…. the contemporary world has begun to settle on a morality which roots itself in this dispute and which may be viewed as a hardware versus software question.
Hardware is something that people cannot change and so (the reasoning goes) it is something that they should not be judged on. Software, on the other hand, can be changed and may demand judgements – including moral judgements – to be made. Inevitably in such a system there will be a push to make potential software issues into hardware issues, not least in order to garner more sympathy for people who may in fact have software, rather than hardware, issues.’ p.29.

I do think there are some conditions that might be described as a ‘Hardware’ issue simply because we live, according to the Bible, in a fallen world. We should expect to find things that don’t fit. For example Murray gives some figures for people with Intersex (formerly Hermaphrodite) that might be a ‘Hardware’ issue. I’m not convinced surgery is the answer though. It’s all very sad. Help is definitely needed but it’s coming from the wrong place. Everyone has an inherent worth and dignity because we are all  made in the image of God our creator. Everyone. Just like me they need the love and grace of God not an ideology.

‘It has been estimated that in America today around one in every two thousand children is born with sexual organs that are indeterminate, and around one in every three hundred will need to be referred to a specialist.⁷’

I wasn’t sure quite how to read those figures but according to one website I looked at there’s about 1.4 million intersex people in America. That sounds like an epidemic to me. But it depends where you are on the trajectory and also on who decides where you are. Some of the people that decide, frankly, should be prosecuted for child abuse. It’s not science or health care, it’s ideology. It’s all in the book if you can stomach it. 

I’ll quote below a couple more sections from the conclusion to give you a flavour of the book.

Because the most extreme claims keep getting heard, there is a tendency for people to believe them and their worst-case scenarios. p.242

Final quote:

‘With each of the issues highlighted in this book the aim of the social justice campaigners has consistently been to take each one – gay, women, race, trans – that they can present as a rights grievance and make their case at its most inflammatory. Their desire is not to heal but to divide, not to placate but to inflame, not to dampen but to burn. In this again the last part of a Marxist substructure can be glimpsed. If you cannot rule a society – or pretend to rule it, or try to rule it and collapse everything – then you can do something else. In a society that is alive to its faults, and though imperfect remains a better option than anything else on offer, you sow doubt, division, animosity and fear. Most effectively you can try to make people doubt absolutely everything. Make them doubt whether the society they live in is good at all (and it’s working – my comment). Make them doubt that people really are treated fairly. Make them doubt whether there are any such groupings as men or women. Make them doubt almost everything. And then present yourself as having the answers: the grand, overarching, interlocking set of answers that will bring everyone to some perfect place, the details of which will follow in the post (in other words there is no answer – my comment)’ Pp. 247-248.

Given the hot-button topics I thought the book is written quite sensitively. It’s not an aggressive book, but unfortunately what Murray can’t give you, and to be fair he doesn’t try, is any hope, or an objective truth claim to base that hope on. I don’t think he’s saying there’s no such thing as truth, I’m fairly sure he would say there is, but he can’t base it on anything. If there’s no God of truth, there can’t be any truth. The Lord Jesus said ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ And so as Christians our hope is in God – the God of the Bible. But we do have to reach people with the Gospel of Christ; a world that is perishing and drowning in its own particular madness. This book describes the world, or some of it anyway, that desperately needs the Gospel.

A Happy New Year to All

I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.

Last year we saw in 2020 with all the usual celebrations and the usual wish of a Happy & Prosperous New Year. Things didn’t work out that way. Nobody saw or predicted what was to come. What a year it was. And then celebrations (though very different) and wishes for a Happy New Year have again been expressed. Everyone (mostly everyone) is saying this year, 2021, will be a better year. We have the Vaccine. All will be well. Not necessarily.

If your business survived and you are able to pick it up again – great! But in many respects 2021 will be much the same as the previous year. Because we live in what is described as a fallen world people are still going to be ill. People are still going to die. All the hardships that are endured will in that sense continue. Things continue much the same in our ever changing fallen world. Our bodies continue to grow old. So so many awful things happen in our unstable sinful world. Things don’t stay the same in the sense of stability, rather, things continue in a sinful unstable state where nothing stays constant. The only constant for us is our sinfulness.

The only reliable constant is the Lord God. He stays the same. I don’t want to be a wet blanket. Instead, let me point you to the only wise God. We’ve just celebrated how God has intervened in our world by sending His Son – The Lord Jesus Christ. Isn’t it time you considered Him?

The verse above came into my mind this morning. Below is the full text of the hymn. Worth pondering. Christian, rejoice that His love and grace remains the same. Enjoy. Happy New Year!

I hear the words of love,
I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice,
and I have peace with God.

‘Tis everlasting peace,
sure as Jehovah’s Name;
’tis stable as His steadfast throne,
for evermore the same.

The clouds may come and go,
and storms may sweep my sky –
this blood-sealed friendship changes not:
the cross is ever nigh.

My love is oft-times low,
my joy still ebbs and flows;
but peace with Him remains the same –
no change Jehovah knows.

I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.

Horatius Bonar, 1808-89

‘Beyond the Big C: Hope in the face of death’ by Jeremy Marshall

Beyond the Big C by Jeremy Marshall, 10 Publishing, 2019. £3.99 at 10 of Those (£1.75 each if you buy 10 copies).

Of course unbeknown to Jeremy there would be a new Big C in town, no longer is it Cancer but Coronavirus. Cancer has been (temporarily) usurped. I’ve always known Cancer as the Big C. (My Mum died of cancer, my sister-in-law died of cancer, and my wife died of cancer) Even with massive leaps forward in treatment and diagnosis I think most people would still see it like that. A cancer diagnosis is a solemn thing.

As for the book, I started reading it in bed one evening and finished it the next morning. It’s a very short book – 70 pages. No chapters but lots of helpful headings throughout. His honesty at the shock diagnosis and the fears he had, are, I think, really helpful. I thought his honesty was, and is refreshing. Non believers out there aren’t stupid and can detect insincerity at ten paces so it’s much better to be honest.

A strong and vibrant faith is not incompatible with being afraid. I’ve seen it. We don’t want to be afraid but it’s a powerful emotion. Here’s a successful man, a very capable man whose world is changed completely. What he finds is that Christ is right there with him in his suffering. I know what cancer treatment involves, having seen what my wife went through, and it isn’t pleasant!

Just a brief quote from page 45:

I long for my suffering friends to know that God has entered this sad, fallen, sinful world and he meets us right in the midst of our grief and sorrow.’

‘What we can offer – as well as compassion to those suffering from cancer or other terminal diseases – is the one thing that the world craves above all things: hope in the face of death. I love to tell people how the Lord has, by his death, defeated death.’

That does not mean having cancer for a Christian is a barrel of laughs – it isn’t. It’s tough. Really tough.

I like the way he challenges non-believers but without being aggressive or condescending. This is a great little book to give away or maybe leave (COVID regulations permitting) in a dentist or doctors waiting room. You probably wouldn’t be allowed to do that, but it’s a thought.

The Day Sue Died – 5 years today.

Today is a day like any other. Except it isn’t quite like any other, it has a certain poignancy to it. Five years ago today my beloved Sue died – my wife for 32 years. My recurring diary entry for today says ‘The day Sue died and my world collapsed.’ It certainly felt like it had collapsed. Death will touch all of our lives, sometimes as a quiet intruder, sometimes as a violent house invasion. However it comes, it leaves a mark. Sometimes it’s a trail of destruction.

When someone precious dies, you don’t get over it or move on. (How I hate those most unhelpful and cruel phrases). You don’t forget but you can move forward. Sue didn’t want me to mope around but to enjoy my life. I did do plenty of moping around but with help from dear friends and our three children I have moved forward.

The biggest help in my life – and the cause of all the helps – is my God and Saviour. In the providence of God He has provided Sandra (herself a widow) complete with her family – who incidentally I love very much.

The Grace of God is a very wonderful and very real thing.

Sue hadn’t been gone long and life without her was really hard. I remember going to a History Lecture (as I do) and a remarried widow there said to me ‘Mike, it might not seem like it just now, but it does get easier.’ No, it didn’t seem like it at the time. But after 5 years, I can tell you, that for me, it has got easier. But I know for some that it hasn’t got easier at all. Each day is really really tough. Frankly, I don’t know what to say, but if I were with you I’d give you a big hug and say nothing. And probably cry with you. The Lord has brought you this far. Look up and see Christ seated on His throne. And if you aren’t a Christian perhaps for the first time look up for His help. If you are a Christian, as hard as it is, keep looking up.

So today, again, I raise my Ebenezer and say ‘Hitherto has The Lord helped me.’

Kind author and ground of my hope.
Thee, Thee, for my God I avow:
my glad Ebenezer set up,
and own Thou hast helped me till now.
I muse on the years that are past,
wherein my defence Thou hast proved;
nor wilt Thou relinquish at last
a sinner so signally loved!
(Augustus Montague Toplady, 1740-78)
It would have been Sue’s birthday on Wednesday and for the last four years my daughter and I have gone out for the day. This year will be slightly different because of you know what. So we’re thinking to stay local and have a meal together and that will be nice. It will be a happy time. Some sadness, but happy too.