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.
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
WELCOME AND OPENING PRAYER
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
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
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 1 Chris
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.
Maybe a couple more and then I’ll probably get back to the usual posts interspersed with things I’ve learned over the last year or so or a ‘kind of’ diary entry. Waking up today (Tuesday 8th December 2015) in many ways is far worse because I now have to think about life without Sue, and move on as they say. But I don’t want to ‘move on’. Although I’ve talked about ‘moving on’ I have no idea what that means without Sue. For now, I’ll walk through Sunday and the day of the Funeral – yesterday Monday 7th December 2015. The whole Service was recorded. And I think it was just such an amazing service. The church was pretty well full. The Gospel was clearly proclaimed. The singing was wonderful. Without a doubt, God was in that service! And to bless!
So on Sunday I stayed at home all day. I planned on going to the evening service but in the end just couldn’t face it. Instead I joined Robert and the folks at IBC in Sacramento for their morning service on-line. I seriously wondered how I would get through the Burial and the Service on Monday. I was dreading it. I even thought about not turning up. Monday came and I started the day by lying awake worrying if the burial would be in the right place and a number of other things I seemed to only just be thinking about. Didn’t people throw roses or something into the open grave? What an idiot – I just hadn’t thought it all through and now it was too late to do anything about it. I read my Bible and prayed. Then I got up.
It helped that the family were here. Ruth and Adrian were on their way with the kids. I was hoping my suit would fit. It was horrible not having Sue making sure I had dressed myself correctly. I came downstairs, saw myself in the mirror and just felt so sad that Sue wasn’t with me – we did everything together. Rhodri & Sybil also arrived and we gathered in the living room because I wanted us to pray before leaving. Chris and Adrian prayed. As we stood to leave, I said, ‘remember, as Sue would have said, her body is there, but she isn’t’. We then got in the cars and made our way to the cemetery.
One of the first things I noticed when we arrived at the cemetery was that Ruth came with a bunch of single Roses. Dear Ruth. I wasn’t sure how many would be at the burial. But I soon realised there were a lot more than I expected. All waiting for us to approach. Everything was in place. The grave was where I had hoped it would be (but worried about). I felt calm and at peace. Julie from the Funeral Directors briefly explained what would happen and directed us to the right spot – right in front of the grave with the coffin ready to be lowered. Everyone gathered round. Paul (Pastor Paul Watts) spoke beautifully, movingly and with much conviction. As Christians we can speak with conviction the truths of the Gospel even when death is quite literally right before our eyes.
My dear, dear, darling Sue’s body is now in the ground waiting for the resurrection at the final day, when Jesus will be revealed in all those that have believed and those that have rejected Him will call upon the very rocks to cover them from the face of the Lamb of God who will now be their Judge.
One of the things that stood out as testimony was the diversity of people that came to the burial or the service or both. People she had worked with from 30 years before, others from more recent times, friends and even girls from where she had her hair done. She touched a lot of people, all sorts of people, not all from the church either, but couldn’t see it in herself as you will hear.
I needn’t say too much about the funeral as the whole service was recorded (link above & below). But once we were all there and seated Paul began to lead the service. (Our Son Chris and Ruth’s husband Adrian gave tributes. Our friend Trevor Thomas read from the Scripture and Chris’s Pastor Geoff Thomas prayed.) The church was well-nigh full. Sue endeared herself to a lot of people. I don’t know what I thought throughout really. But the Gospel was faithfully preached and very clearly. We pray for fruit. There were a couple of times my emotions nearly got the better of me but I hung in there. Afterwards it was a case of trying to meet and thank as many people as possible. Sharon the lady that first spoke to Sue about Jesus was there with her husband and ‘naughty boy’ Paul. My Best Man Mike was there. It was lovely to see so many. By the end of the service I was shattered. So many people at our church (Lower Ford Street Baptist Church, Coventry) helped make the day happen. I am so thankful to God for all the people there that have prayed and helped and supported. ‘See how they love one another’.
The day(s) after is another story. Now what do I do?
Sue’s testimony to the Grace of God was mentioned in the service and copies were made available for people to takeaway. I’m pleased to say they all went. I remember Sue agonising over writing this, so concerned was she to get it right. Several times she asked me to read it and make sure everything was as it should be to Glorify her Saviour. It’s a powerful testimony to the SAVING power of the Gospel of the Grace of God. But not only that, it’s a powerful testimony to the KEEPING power of the Gospel of the Grace of God. He SAVES & KEEPS. I think as Christians we can so easily neglect the latter.
I grew up in a non-Christian home and although I never attended church, I did go to a Church of England school where I suppose I must have received some sort of religious instruction but as far as I am aware I did not hear the gospel. However I grew up never doubting the existence of God, and as I look back I can see that the process of coming to faith in Christ started all those years ago.
When I was eleven, the local vicar came into school seeking to drum up candidates to attend confirmation classes. My friend and I decided to go along. However I had never been baptised and as this was a requirement of attendance I had a problem. I desperately wanted to be confirmed and can remember being consumed with the need to be baptised. As a result I dragged my bewildered parents along to the village church to be ‘sprinkled’.
I did go on to be confirmed, and even took communion on a couple of occasions, but this early attempt at being a Christian was not to last and as I look back I can see all I had was ‘religion’, there had been no true work of grace in my heart.
Gradually the world, together with painful personal circumstances, began to take their toll. Over the next few years the cracks that had begun to appear in my parent’s marriage began to worsen and the effects of their constant warring and final separation profoundly affected my emotional state of mind.
Over the following years I continued to fall deeper into sin and to also bear the consequences of it. By 23 my parents had separated for good, and I was working. I think that it was at this time the Lord began in earnest his work of salvation in me, and I once again began to think about God and began to be concerned about the way I was living.
At the time I was working in a residential hostel for children with severe learning difficulties. One day when on duty with a colleague that I knew to be a Christian I had the desire to instigate some sort of conversation about God. In order to do so I can remember bringing up the weather and saying that ‘not even God can control the weather.’ My comment had the desired effect and from that day a door was opened never to be shut again. During the course of one of our many conversations I learnt that she was married to someone I had gone to primary school with. The lad in question had been a really naughty boy, always in trouble – a real ‘rum’un’ as they say. I found out that he too had become a Christian and this astonished me. How could someone like him change so radically?
Over the next few months Sharon gave me a booklet about the Ten Commandments, together with books by David Wilkerson (The Cross and the Switchblade) and Nicky Cruz (Run baby Run). These in particular were to have a profound effect on me, and for the first time I began to think about Jesus. I was reading how he was able to work in the hearts of seemingly hopeless cases and give them the power to live transformed lives. For the first time I had begun to consider my own relationship with Jesus, and to be truly concerned about my eternal soul. There was a growing realisation that because of my sins I actually deserved to go to hell and not to heaven as I had always assumed.
For many months I remained under conviction of sin and once again I (capital I) sought to reform my life. Over time though it became apparent that nothing had really changed, I was still unable to conquer my sin and the power to live a transformed life like the people I had been reading about was completely absent. As a result when faced with a situation that I should have walked away from, I did not, and it was to cause me to descend into such depths of despair that I believe if the Lord had not intervened, it would not have been long before, at best, I would have been committed into a mental institution, but more likely be dead. However the Lord knew what he was doing and he had His hand upon me; He knew that I needed to get to that desperate state before I would truly turn to Him.
This indeed was the turning point in my life. I knew God was saying ‘enough is enough’ and I needed to repent and turn to Him, but where did I start? Amongst the literature I had been given there was a small booklet or tract and at the back there was what I think would be called ‘the sinners prayer’ I can remember writing it out and praying it – that was the start.
As an aside-
Up until now when ever I have been asked, I have always said that I don’t know when I was converted, but that it happened over a period of about eighteen months under the ministry of Peter Jeffrey and Clive Gouldon. However there were several things that happened after I prayed that prayer that have always puzzled me and have caused me to ask if I wasn’t converted at this point, how come they happened?
I believe the things that I experienced over the following months cannot be explained in any other way than miraculous.
For instance I was a very heavy smoker, practically a chain smoker. I knew that smoking was wrong, so one night I threw away all my cigarettes together with a gold plated lighter and prayed that the Lord would help me to stop smoking. The next morning my prayer was answered, and for the first time in many years I did not want a cigarette. He had completely delivered me from all my cravings; they had totally been taken away – and other than a small relapse a year later, I have never smoked again. There was also a transformation in my emotional well being, the gnawing sense of insecurity that had always eaten away at me vanished and I felt a strength and a security I had never known before and there was real joy in my heart. I no longer sought security in other people and I was given the power to say no to things that previously had complete control over me.
I knew that I needed to go to a church, previously Sharon had taken me to a house group fellowship but I felt it wasn’t for me. I also tried going back to the village church but that didn’t seem right for me either. I then remembered Sharon had said that I should get a Bible and that I could get one at the Christian bookshop in Leamington. So one day I went along, and there I met the owner who some of you may know – David Arnold. I can’t remember anything of the conversation other than he must have asked me if I was a Christian. I can remember saying ‘yes but I know I don’t look like one’ and then promptly bursting into floods of tears. Poor David he was so kind.
At the time he and his family were travelling over to Rugby and attending Railway Terrace Church, he must have asked me if I would like to go as well. From then on I began to attend Railway Terrace regularly with them.
Although as I say many things changed, and my life was nowhere near what it had been, it was however not what it should have been. I had been given power to conquer many besetting sins, but after a while when temptation came I chose to cling to things that I should not have.
Therefore I think the conviction of sin and lack of assurance I felt when I heard the gospel preached at Railway Terrace, was because I was grieving the Lord in not walking wholly with Him. God wanted all of my life not just part of it. Consequently the joy that I had initially felt left me and the next 18 months were hard and unhappy times. Well the Lord did not give up on me and eventually over this time He dealt with the things that were grieving him and I at long last came to gain the assurance that my sins were forgiven.
As these dark days came to an end I was granted a token of great blessing by the Lord by way of going to live with David and Fi Arnold and their family. It was as if the Lord was saying to me ‘right I can trust you now’ and all the joy that I had experienced during those first remarkable days returned.
I have only even given my testimony once publicly and until now have never written the events down. Although I have found the process of doing so very difficult, the Lord has enabled me to finally get everything down and in so doing perhaps make sense of what happened. But when all is said and done all that really matters is that I know that I am His now and that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And although He knew me before the foundation of the world, perhaps when I reach glory I might be permitted to see the date of entry when I was born again in time.
By nature I am an anxious worrier and the Lord knew that I would need something to hold me through further times of doubting. Although the process of coming to faith in Christ was an extremely painful one I am so thankful for it because over the years when I have been tempted to doubt my salvation I have been able to look back at the person I was before Christ met with me and know that that person would never have been capable of living the life that He through his grace has enabled me to live.
Over the past 27 or so years He has steadfastly kept me, He has graciously borne with my many faults and failings and has been my rock through times of trial and distress. There have been many times when my love for Him has grown dim but mercifully His love towards me has ever remained constant and over the years He has granted me many blessings, not least my dear husband Mike and our three wonderful children Christopher, Philip and Lydia.
The link at the bottom is to a Go Fund Me support page for our Grandson, Gethin, his parents – Chris & Kate and our other grandchildren Sarah & Bryn. Katy’s sister Jenni has set the page up.
For information follow the link. If you can help them financially – great. Either way, please offer a prayer to our Father in Heaven that Chris & Kate and their children (our grandchildren) Sarah & Bryn, might be sustained in every way – physically, mentally, financially and spiritually. ‘He knows the way that I take: when I am tried, I shall come forth as gold’ (Job 23:10). Not easy though! Their world has been turned upside down over the last year. This is, and will be an ongoing need. We pray God will sustain then as He has thus far. Praise God.
OUNTEOUS is Jehovah in His nature; to give is His delight. His gifts are beyond measure precious, and are as freely given as the light of the sun. He gives grace to His elect because He wills it, to His redeemed because of His covenant, to the called because of His promise, to believers because they seek it, to sinners because they need it. He gives grace abundantly, seasonably, constantly, readily, sovereignly; doubly enhancing the value of the boon by the manner of its bestowal. Grace in all its forms He freely renders to His people: comforting, preserving, sanctifying, directing, instructing, assisting grace, He generously pours into their souls without ceasing, and He always will do so, whatever may occur. Sickness may befall, but the Lord will give grace; poverty may happen to us, but grace will surely be afforded; death must come but grace will light a candle at the darkest hour. Reader, how blessed it is as years roll round, and the leaves begin again to fall, to enjoy such an unfading promise as this, “The Lord will give grace.”
The little conjunction “and” in this verse is a diamond rivet binding the present with the future: grace and glory always go together. God has married them, and none can divorce them. The Lord will never deny a soul glory to whom He has freely given to live upon His grace; indeed, glory is nothing more than grace in its Sabbath dress, grace in full bloom, grace like autumn fruit, mellow and perfected. How soon we may have glory none can tell! It may be before this month of October has run out we shall see the Holy City; but be the interval longer or shorter, we shall be glorified ere long. Glory, the glory of heaven, the glory of eternity, the glory of Jesus, the glory of the Father, the Lord will surely give to His chosen. Oh, rare promise of a faithful God!
Two golden links of one celestial chain: Who owneth grace shall surely glory gain.
We live in a fallen world and it can be a terrible blow to receive difficult medical news. Christians don’t get a free pass on suffering. But these words may help the one trusting in Christ.
‘Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.’
There’s no getting away from the fact that we are all on a one way journey. There is no reverse. The sand of time will run out. For the Christian, amidst their sorrow – and it’s a real sorrow – there is Hope. I have to pause for a moment, because when the Bible uses the word Hope, it doesn’t mean a vague wishful thinking in the face of a bleak unknown. It means a certainty, into a Glorious future. The words above are the second part of the first verse. Here’s the full hymn as found in Christian Hymns, No 816. Christian, rejoice and ponder each precious truth. What a blessing to be saved and have The Lord Jesus as Saviour!
The sands of time are sinking;
The dawn of heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair, sweet morn, awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But day-spring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.
The King there in His beauty,
Without a veil is seen;
It were a well-spent journey,
Though seven deaths lay between;
The Lamb with His fair army
Doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.
O Christ, he is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love;
The streams on earth I’ve tasted,
More deep I’ll drink above;
There to an ocean fullness,
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.
With mercy and with judgement
My web of time He wove,
And aye the dews of sorrow
Were lustered with His love:
I’ll bless the hand that guided,
I’ll bless the hand that planned,
When throned where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.
The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear bridegroom’s face,
I will not gaze at glory,
But on my King of grace;
Not at the crown He giveth,
But on His pierced hand:
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Immanuel’s land.
I’ve wrestled on towards heaven,
‘Gainst storm and wind and tide;
Now, like a weary traveller
That leans upon his guide,
Amid the shades of evening,
While sinks life’s lingering sand,
I hail the glory dawning
From Immanuel’s land.
Author: Samuel Rutherford; Author: A. R. Cousin (1857)
(This version in Christian Hymns, 816)
What mercy, what judgement as He weaves our web of time! What a wonderful thing, what a joy it will be to ‘Bless the hand that guided’ and to ‘bless the heart that planned’. Will it be your joy to Bless and Praise Jesus. I pray it may be so.