Jesus – The Rescuer has come!

My friend Ken Samples has recently posted an article on his page about Original Sin. Basically saying how this doctrine has great explanatory power. Why? Because we see it at work in ourselves and in the world every day. I remember a Tozer sermon where he said how it is sin that has filled all the prisons, how it is sin that causes all the brutality and cruelty, the lying and deceitfulness, and the pride and arrogance we see in the world – and in ourselves.

How sad our state by nature is!
our sin how deep it stains!
and Satan binds our captive minds
fast in his slavish chains.

(Isaac Watts, 1674 – 1748)

His article made me realise afresh what it is that will be great (one of the things anyway) about heaven. There will be no sin. None at all! That is good news. Although if you love your sin that is not good news. There’s a double edge to that. It’s not good news because you love your sin and the rescuer has come. But you don’t want rescuing! Or you don’t see the need for a rescuer. And it’s not good because there will be a price to pay – eventually. You may hang on to your sin, and you may love it: But it’s only for a season. It will be short-lived.

To some extent we all love our sin – including Christians. But Christians can look forward, and do look forward, with joyful anticipation to that time when we shall be unencumbered by our sin. The glory of being without sin will be to worship God. To worship face-to-face without sin. Robert Murray M’Cheyne puts it so well in verse two of ‘When this passing world is done.’

When I stand before the throne,
dressed in beauty not my own,
when I see Thee as Thou art,
love Thee with unsinning heart,
then, Lord, shall I fully know,
not till then, how much I owe.

(Robert Murray M’Cheyne, 1813 – 1843)

This is our desire as Christians is it not – to Love Thee with unsinning heart!

But not yet. But the Rescuer has come! Christ The Saviour has been born. He has lived. He has died. He has risen. He has ascended. And He will return!

Perhaps this Christmas with all the disruption and confusion, and even great sadness for some, we have lost sight of what it is we are supposed to be celebrating?

Yes, the Rescuer has come! Jesus, the Saviour for sinners!

The doctrine of original sin has great explanatory power. It explains the state of our world. But the Christian Gospel offers much more than an explanation. It provides an answer. In fact the only answer.

Again, there is only one answer. Jesus, The Rescuer has come.

You will hear it, you may even sing it, but pray with the hymn-writer:

O holy Child of Bethlehem
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in;
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel.

(Philip Brooks, 1835 – 1893)

Call upon Jesus The Lord. Call upon Him to be your Rescuer! To be your Lord Emmanuel.

Church Services and Boiling Frogs

On 3rd November a friend posted this on Facebook:
‘If we are going to press for the continuation of public worship in Christian churches, can we get beyond the somewhat tepid assertion that it is good for our mental health?’

This post, in part, is an attempt to answer that very important question.

[Apologies, if the formatting is not working correctly]

It sounds dramatic, but the Apostle John warned us about the Anti-Christ. (1 John 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7) And Jesus told us to look out for false Christs that will seek to deceive us. (Matt 24:5) Kim Riddlebarger, if I’m channeling him correctly, said the sign of the Anti-Christ is when the machinery of the State is mobilised to persecute the church. The question is, is this what we are seeing now? Are we seeing movement towards that? When does it cross the line from a painful inconvenience, that we are told benefits our neighbour, to outright persecution? Are the powers that be acting with more subtlety than we see in China? In China we definitely see the State mobilised against the church – and against religion in general. It would be insulting and quite ridiculous to compare our situation with Christians that are losing their lives simply for being Christians. Or are we in the West seeing the proverb ‘Softly softly catchee monkey’ being played out. Would a full on assault be too obvious? You’ve heard of boiling frogs. Is that us?

My recent reading about Cyprian of Carthage (200-258), The Scottish Covenanters, and Martin Luther has raised all sorts of questions. Christians then were asking similar questions. I have a couple of quotes from the book on Cyprian that, I think, puts where we are at, or where some think we are at, here in the UK and the US. It’s a debate that is happening right now. Is the fact that church doors are closed and gathered Worship is restricted, some might say forbidden, demonstrating State persecution? Is the State boiling a few frogs?

The following quotes ‘might’ help the discussion.

‘Persecution and prosecution were the same thing in these cases. Being prosecuted for disobeying laws that violate religious conviction is germane to persecution. We empty persecution of its meaning if we do not include prosecution for refusal to do something that would violate a person’s faith. [The writer] Moss does not see it this way. She writes, ‘There is something different about being persecuted under a law – however unjust – that is not designed to target or rout out any particular group. It may be unfortunate, it may be unfair, but it is not persecution.’ p. 70 & 71.

Some feel that way now. Perhaps saying ‘The lockdown doesn’t seem fair, but it isn’t persecution. Christians aren’t being singled out.’ Brian Arnold gives a footnote to the comment above from Moss, saying;

”I understand Moss’s point and I believe the point is well-taken in certain instances. Take for instance Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was killed, not for his faith, but for his attempt to assassinate Hitler. Should he be considered a martyr? Perhaps not. But early Christians do not fit this category. They were killed because they were asked to do things that would have severed their souls from Christ for eternity.”This is footnote 21 on p. 71: Moss, The Myth of Persecution, 14-15.

This is at the heart of it. Are we Christians being asked to do, or not do something that is a serious violation of our faith?

Some say yes, or at least, we are close to it. Others say no. Did I say Cyprian experienced persecution and plague? He also had some interesting things to say, I thought, on the Lord’s Supper. He was eventually beheaded in the year 258.

Shifting or sifting?

Whatever it is the Lord is doing (some of which may be a sifting), in a few months we have shifted (a lot have anyway) from worshipping in our church buildings (whatever the building) to worshipping as an online church community. We say, ‘What a blessing from God this technology is that we can meet. It isn’t ideal but we can meet. How wonderful.’ And it is, but we all know this is second best to meeting together as a church. Right? I’m seriously wondering if our online church experience is really just boiling frogs. It’s a bit weird for the minister speaking into a camera, or just one or two techie guys there but it’s what we are doing. Some are a little further on from that and are working towards more being able to attend. I’m not quite sure what happens when the church building reaches its social distancing capacity. For us, we simply aren’t going to all be able to attend with the current regulations in place. That’s my understanding anyway. I’m amazed at how quickly habits can form. There’s no rush to make the meeting. There’s no inconvenience. There’s little or no discipline. There’s no need for punctuality. You can amble into your living room, if you get up at all, watch the service at your own convenience while still wearing your pyjamas and eating your breakfast. And, you can pause the service while you boil the kettle and make your cup of tea.

Jesus came in the flesh. He had a body while on earth. He still has a body on earth – it’s called The Church. There’s something deeply Incarnational about gathering physically as the church. The Bible speaks of giving the right hand of fellowship (Gal 2:9), or greeting one another with a kiss (1 Peter 5:14) or simply sitting down with one another. Speaking to one another face to face. And if your church practices it – washing one another’s feet! Or the laying on of hands or anointing. I must admit to not seeing a lot of anointing with oil. Still, these all require physical contact.

The Lord’s Table

Then there’s the Lords Table – Communion. Breaking bread together. I know some churches are managing to do this online. We can’t ask Cyprian or Luther what they would have done today, but Luther did say this:

‘The Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may refresh itself and not weaken in the struggle but continually grow stronger…. The devil is a furious enemy; when he sees that we resist him and attacks the old man, and when he cannot rout us by force, he sneaks and skulks about everywhere, trying all kinds of tricks, and does not stop until he has finally worn us out so that we either renounce our faith or yield hand and foot and become indifferent and impatient. For such times, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, this comfort of the Lord’s Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment.‘ Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Though’ by Stephen J. Nichols, p.129.

We are moving towards a year now. When was the last time we physically assembled for the Lord’s Table? And when will we be able to celebrate again? Many of us celebrated (past tense) the Lord’s Table each month. Churches do this differently, but whatever the frequency, we must surely celebrate this means of grace at the minimum annually. Is it a command from The Lord Christ, or a suggestion? The State, however we frame it, intentional or not, is causing us to neglect the physicality of the Lords Table. This is how I see it. And it’s a problem. Isn’t it? When will we be able to celebrate this again and strengthen and refresh our faith together and say ‘Until He comes.’

Then what shall we say of Baptism? Will we have ‘Socially Distanced’ baptism’s? But perhaps we’ll leave that for another time.

Overstepping Authority?

Has the State over-stepped its authority? Surely it has no authority over the church of The Lord Jesus Christ. Meeting online, however convenient, is at best a very poor substitute for the physical gathering of the body of Christ – His church.

Now, what to do? That’s the question. We pray. We need a great deal of Grace and Wisdom from God. Be patient – for now. I am not suggesting we storm Westminster, or that we start a riot. And I’m not advocating for Civil Disobedience. Maybe in time that will come. There is some legitimate push back from some quarters. Remember, frogs that are slowly boiled eventually die (or submit). We should resist thinking an online church is a true expression of the church at worship. It isn’t.

Whatever happens, even if we never physically meet together again, the Lord has promised to build his church (Matt 16:18) in the face of the severest opposition, as we see in other countries today. And He will. The Lord has done exactly that in times past when in Cyprian’s day ‘the blood of the martyrs was the truly the seed of the church (Tertullian).’ However He will do it, He (The Lord Christ) continues to build His church. and will build it. And ‘He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied….’ (Isaiah 53:11)

‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.’ (Romans 1:16)

The call is to be discerning and ‘Know the times.’

Sweetening the action

I’ve heard it said or prayed over the years something like ‘O Lord if you do not meet with us we are wasting our time’. Roughly translated that means we want to feel and know the presence of God in our meetings. And what Christian wouldn’t want that! I get the sentiment, I do. I do want to experience the presence of God.

But as I’ve thought about it, why would it be a waste of time to do something that Christ has directly commanded us in His Word to do? And, on top of that, we have promises that tell us God is with us. We aren’t told ‘when you meet together you’ll have a gooey warm feeling’. But we are told He will be with us.

As I read through ‘The Bruised Reed’ by Richard Sibbes, this paragraph recently stood out.

Obedience is most direct when there a nothing else to sweeten the action. Although the sacrifice is imperfect, yet the obedience with which it is offered is accepted.

We could apply these words of Sibbes in many ways, but let’s apply them to when the Church in obedience gathers for worship. When we meet together we want it to be sweet. We want something to ‘sweeten the action’ as Sibbes calls it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if we engineer our services to make sure it’s sweet, I do have a problem with that. Whatever it is that’s added, or taken away (e.g. pews), let’s make as sure as we possibly can that it isn’t to ‘sweeten the action’. Often I think it’s because we aren’t feeling something – whatever that something is – that we make adjustments to our services to sweeten them. Whereas Sibbes is telling us that because there’s nothing in it for us except the obedience, God accepts that. God accepts our obedience even if it isn’t sweet to us. Are we really adding it because we think the action is Biblical or because it makes us (or others) feel good, or sweet as Sibbes call it.

Our obedience is already tainted, it is an imperfect sacrifice, let’s not make it any worse. Especially when God accepts it for Christ’s sake. Christ has offered the perfect sacrifice and is the only ‘sweet smelling aroma’ that’s required. Praise God it is so.

MOS – Worshipping with Calvin

It’s a while since I listened to the Mortification of Spin but this podcast (Worshipping with Calvin MOS podcast) is definitely worth a listen.

Podcast Notes (Follow podcast Link below)

‘Terry Johnson shows up at the Spin’s “totally awesome” worship band practice. Terry is the pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah and has written Worshipping with Calvin: Recovering the Reformed Ministry and Worship of Reformed Protestantism.

The crew turns down the instruments, shuts off the spotlights and smoke machine, and listens intently as Terry makes the connection between theology and worship, tracing back to the Reformation period and the solas. He talks about the proper balance of freedom and form, and what the church is supposed to do when gathered on Sundays.

Why should you worship with Calvin? Find out, as you join the conversation.’

http://www.alliancenet.org/mos/podcast/worshipping-with-calvin

 

 

Bible Reading: Benefits and Warnings

When I say Bible Reading, I mean systemically reading it through in a year. There are quite a few plans available that take you through the OT and NT in a year. Here are three plans you might like to try.

No 1. The Murray M’Cheyne plan. This takes you through the whole Bible and through the Psalms and NT twice. It can be a lot of reading but then you do get Psalms and NT twice. Obtainable from The Banner of Truth to buy (cheap) or free to print off Here.

No 2. This plan is similar, going through the whole Bible once, so slightly less to read. Available Here.

No 3. Finally, there’s Reading it chronologically. Available to print off Here.

The advantage of the Chronological plan is you read events, Psalms and Prophets in ‘real time’. The disadvantage with this plan is you won’t reach the NT till October! So it is a bit lopsided. This is the plan I use, but as a ‘corrective’ I read a separate NT plan as well.

Go Here for more plans.

I accept there are many ways to ‘do’ your private devotions. And there are advantages to some of these methods. For example, some use commentaries or other things like The Geneva Bible notes – which are very good. I’ve never found that way helpful and they will not take you through the whole Bible. It’s my personal conviction that Christians should be primarily reading the Bibles. Ad Fontes if you like.

If I’m reading a book about doctrine or the Bible, I read that in addition to reading The Bible not instead of it. There are hundreds of excellent books out there that will grab our attention, but no matter how good it is, it isn’t The Word of God.

I have found that if I don’t read before I go out, the day and what it brings just takes over and I end up reading it when I’m far from my best, or I have to catch up. I know it isn’t easy with a family and work, but it can (normally) be done – even if, at times, done poorly. You may not agree, but I think better to do it poorly and out of duty than not at all.

Four Brief Benefits then, not necessarily in order of importance:

Benefit One: You get to read it all not just your favourite bits or what’s trending or topical in your particular Church circles. We rightly make much of The Bible and how all our doctrine and practice come from it, but have we read it. All of it. If you are a new Christian then you probably won’t have read through it yet. So let me encourage you to start doing it today.

Benefit Two: This is similar. You are reading what God Himself has decreed to be recorded and preserved. There are lots of things we might like to know that hasn’t been recorded for us but what we have is what God has left for us to read.

Benefit Three: By systematically and regularly reading it you will slowly become familiar with its contents. You will make connections between one Scripture and another. Names and places will begin to stand out and you get a ‘feel’ for the book as a whole.

Benefit Four: As you read pray. Let God’s Word speak to you and guide you. He will bring people, situations, your own failings and the wonder at what God has done for you in Christ before your mind. Thank God and pray.

Benefit Five: I decided to briefly add this one as well. God Himself tells us through His Word of particular benefits. We are warned, informed, encouraged, delighted, sanctified and cleansed! (Eph 5:26)

That’s the benefits. I’m sure there are many more but now for a few warnings.

Warning One: Just because reading it this way works for you – including the benefits – don’t be fooled into thinking God is going to bless you because of it. He might. He might not. It certainly won’t get you into heaven. Only Christ can do that! Take a look at your heart.

Warning Two: It isn’t always going to be great fun. There will be times when it will be a real grind and you’ll only be reading out of habit. The temptation will be to give up because your heart is cold and formal. Welcome to the real world. Press on. Don’t give up. Remember there isn’t just your own sinful heart to contend with, there’s also an enemy that would draw you away from God’s Word.

Warning Three: You find out other Christians aren’t or haven’t read it right through. Pride is always ready to overtake us. Imagine, getting proud for reading The Bible! It happens. However, God has a way of humbling the proud heart.

Warning Four: For whatever reason, there will be times when you will get behind and the task of catching up begins to look impossible. Don’t get overcome with guilt. Either of these options is fine. Option 1. Set some big chunks of time aside and catch up. Maybe a Sunday afternoon. Option 2. Start afresh from where you are and then keep going!

Finally: I might as well warn you now as there’s no way of getting around it, it won’t always be easy, it will take discipline and just sheer doggedness at times to keep going. But those glimpses The Lord will give you of Himself from time to time far out-way the hard work.

I hope you found this helpful and encouraging.

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!

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Funeral Order of Service Led by Pastor Paul Watts

WELCOME AND OPENING PRAYER

HYMN
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 1 Chris

TRIBUTE 2 Adrian

HYMN
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.

HYMN
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

HYMN
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.

CLOSING PRAYER

Diary of a Grieving Christian – 6 (The Burial & Funeral Service)

Follow this link to listen to the whole service. Funeral Service of Sue Iliff

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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?

Follow this link to listen to the service. Funeral Service of Sue Iliff

The Sands of Time are Sinking

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.

Far Off I see The Goal

1 Far off I see the goal—-O Savior, guide me;
I feel my strength is small-—be Thou beside me;
with vision ever clear, with love that conquers fear,
And grace to persevere, O Lord, provide me.

2 Whene’er Thy way seems strange, go Thou before me,
and, lest my heart should change, O Lord, watch o’er me;
but, should my faith prove frail, and I through blindness fail,
O let Thy grace prevail, and still restore me.

3 Should earthly pleasures wane, and joy forsake me,
and lonely hours of pain at length o’ertake me;
my hand in Thine hold fast till sorrow be o’erpast,
and gentle death at last for heaven awake me.

4 There, with the ransomed throng who praise forever
the love that made them strong to serve forever,
I, too, would seek Thy face, thy finished work retrace,
and magnify Thy grace, redeemed forever.

Robert R. Roberts (1865-1945)