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Thursday, 25 June 2015

A personal testimony.

Some time ago I discovered that, although I had enabled "Comments", none were showing up.  I decided that no-one wished to make a comment about any of my posts!!!   However, one of my brothers wondered why I had not allowed a comment that he had posted to be published!  It appears that I have simply not being advised of comments that may have been made.  If you have made a comment that has not appeared, please accept my apologies - I wasn't ignoring you, or refusing to publish - I was simply unaware of your comment!

Anyway, the comment from my brother is longer than most of my posts.  It is extremely personal, but reminds us that what we see on the surface is not always the whole story!  It also reminds us that Almighty God is interested in each one of us; but that we need to place our trust in Him, regardless of the outcome!

"Growing up with multiple seizures was no picnic. At the age of seventeen, it was 'tough' to say the least. While I had resigned myself to never being allowed to drive, when all my peers were learning and then began driving and talking about their cars, I felt SO isolated. It was just as hard when my friends  three or four years younger than me began learning to drive, and also years later, when my nephews / nieces were learning while I was still depending on public transport or my bicycle. I was a 2nd class citizen, I felt shunned by many of my peers, EVEN in the Church youth group, of which I assisted in leading.

It was at a time like this that I almost ended it all.

I was working at a dead end menial job, listening to my peers talk about their careers and big wages. I was in my mid twenties, still single, living with my parents, many of my peers were dating - well they had their cars, they could find people from different churches; who was going to be interested in someone who had to rely on public transport all the time?.

To try to counteract being side stepped when my peers were talking about their cars or careers, I busied myself with preparing the coffee and tea we served and cleaning up afterwards. I then went out to the church hall to find a chair at one of the tables I had previously set up

On one evening I had come out and sat at a table, only to be told by a peer that someone else was going to be sitting there. Moving to another seat, another person asked me why I was sitting in their seat. This happened a third time, and I got the message; and walked out. Fortunately, the other assistant leader noticed  me and followed enquiring what had happened. I explained everything that had occurred. He persuaded me to return back but that he was going to speak to the group prior to me going in. All concerned did apologise profusely.

The evening I am alluding to, I am not sure if something similar had happened at the church youth group or even whether it was that same night, but I, who normally slept very soundly, was having a struggle getting to sleep. I was tossing and turning reflecting on my existence and various instances that had occurred.  It was so bad that, knowing my mother had sleeping pills that were readily available, I contemplated going downstairs, getting the pills and downing them all. 'Everyone would be better off not having to worry about me', or so I thought.

THEN I heard that "still small voice" saying to me "What will your father think when he comes in, in the morning, to get you up for work?" "What will your mum think when she realises it was her sleeping tablets that you used to end it all? She will blame herself for having them readily available and they will blame themselves for not realising anything was wrong. Their lives may be cut shorter than would naturally be, due to the stress of losing a child" Now I loved both my parents and just couldn't put them through that pain, so I decided not to pursue the matter.

For someone whose mind was in such turmoil less than an hour beforehand, I was able to turn over and fell into a deep sleep. Only HE could make THAT happen.

The second encounter was much different and occurred about 6 years later and just twenty one months after I had been married. I had been offered the chance of neurosurgery. HIS timing, not mine. I contemplated the pros and cons of having the surgery and thought "what if?"

What if I DONT go for it.? I would still be taking over 6,000mg of medication per day, I would still be having, on average one seizure every two weeks, I would still be working in my dead end job and still relying on public transport. THEN, in about five years time, I would be thinking "what if?" - what if I HAD gone for it. So, I started to think "what if?"

What if I DO go for it.  There were seven things that could have occurred.

1- As in all major surgeries, I COULD die

2- At the other end of the spectrum, I COULD come out 100% healed

3- I COULD end up paralysed on one side while still having the seizures. (they had to see if they could shut down my brain and restart it again. - had it not restarted I would have had the same effects as someone who had a 'stroke')

4- I COULD end up in a vegetative state.

5- I COULD end up with a vast reduction in the number of seizures

6- I COULD end up with memory loss.

7- Hmmmmmm I can't seem to remember what the last one was. :D

Friends and family, - even strangers to me, were praying about it, and I went in for initial tests to see if I was a suitable candidate, after all, if I wasn't, at least I tried and no harm in seeing the outcome It was while I was in for the tests, that my daily Bible reading was Judges 6, where Gideon feared that he was going to die because he had looked on the face of an angel. I came upon verse 23, and felt that God was speaking directly to me. This verse says "And the Lord said, My peace I give unto you, do not fear, you will not die"

In the hospital ward, I just put my Bible on my lap, and with tears in my eyes, looked Heavenward and said "Thank you Lord"

I started looking at the passage closer and the first thing I noticed was WHO was speaking; It wasn't my dad, it wasn't my neurologist, it wasn't even my surgeon, It WAS however the HIGHEST authority you could get, The LORD, "El Shaddai".

I then started to look at what HE was saying to me and there were three things:

'My peace I give unto you' and when God gives His peace, it's the peace that passes ALL understanding  Phil,4 v 7  "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

From that moment I could feel calmness about the whole ordeal, just as I had felt years earlier when I didn't go for my mums pills and fell into a deep sleep.

The next thing He said was "do not fear"

Well, if I wasn't to fear, then I presumed that I was NOT going to come out of the surgery any worse than I had gone in, SO, 3,4, and 6 (above) were not options to be considered.

Since Phil 1 v 21 reads  "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." I had three possible positive outcomes.  However, I then read the four words "you will not die" - number 1 was out of the running, leaving 2 positive outcomes.  I could end up with a vast reduction in the number of seizures or, I could come out 100% healed.

I was informed that I was a suitable candidate by my neurologist, was sent home until they were ready for me. I was actually looking forward to having it performed. A few weeks later, I was called back to the hospital.  I was at such a peace, that on the morning of the surgery, when the orderlies were bringing the breakfast around for the fellow ward buddies, I started joking with them, acting out a parched man in a desert "water, water" They couldn't understand how I could be so upbeat minutes before going under the scalpel.

Ten hours later I came out of surgery, was transferred back to my ward, then released from hospital 11 days later - which just happened to be 'Mother's Day'.

Now, 24+ years later, not on any meds, driving and in a career I love, - being able to help people, some of whom have seizures, have had strokes or acquired brain injuries. I love my work but all this would have been missed if I hadn't had that initial 'still small voice' experience and had ended it all, or if I hadn't gone in for the tests and received the assurance from El Shaddai."

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Life on Mars!

"Its near perfect design and shape means it must be the result of intelligent design and certainly not a trick of light and shadow" (Paranormal Crucible web site computer narration).

An interesting comment, I hope you will agree!  It refers to a pyramid-shaped  object, photographed by the Mars "Curiosity Rover" - the unmanned space vehicle, placed on the surface of the Red Planet, by NASA (North American Space Administration).  According to those who believe that there was (or still is!) civilised life on Mars, it is clear evidence of an intelligence that designed, and built, the "structure".

Perhaps it is; perhaps it is not.  What I find fascinating is that the majority, if not all, of those who would make this astounding claim, will still insist that the universe itself is merely the result of random chance events over billions of years!  They will insist that the complexity of the eye - mammal, fish, or insect - "just happened" in a series of "evolutionary" changes (for which there is absolutely no evidence of which I am aware!).

If one is prepared to examine the subject with a truly open mind, one quickly realises that there is, indeed, design and purpose behind all that we see and experience - on planet Earth, and beyond!  The only question is:"Who designed it all"?

The Old Testament book of Genesis (Beginnings) gives a clear and simple answer: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen.1:1).  Those who refuse to accept that simple statement do so, not on the basis of what they claim to be "scientific evidence", but because they are not prepared to accept the very existence of One to Whom all of mankind is ultimately answerable.  They demand 'evidence' for the existence of God, unable, or unwilling, to recognise that such evidence is all around them.

Whether we examine the immensity, and the regularity, of the cosmos; or whether we marvel at the workings of DNA; we are surrounded by evidence of intelligent design - and only the blinkered will claim otherwise.  

However, the most amazing thing is that this wonderful Creator of all that is, desires to be in a loving relationship with weak, sinful, human beings such as you, and me.  To make that possible, He took upon Himself human flesh and, in the Persona (not a typo - see my book: "Great Words" - details above - and the chaplet on "Trinity") of Jesus of Nazareth, lived a human life - yet without sin, in any shape, manner, or form. (see Heb 4:15).  Out of that great love for us, He even went to the cross, becoming sin for us, and dying the death that we deserve. (see Rom.5:8; II Cor.5:21; inter al).  Before He breathed His last, he uttered a great shout of triumph - in the Greek language in which the New Testament is largely written, the single word "Tetelestai" - "Finished!" (Jn.19:30).  He had completed the amazing work of salvation, and the way had been opened for those who come to Him, confessing their sins, repenting of those sins, and seeking His help through the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, to come into the presence, and know the fellowship, of that same Creator God.

Have you made that move?  He is ever waiting - but not for ever!  "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (II Cor 6:2; emphasis added).

He has been my Saviour, and Lord, and Friend, for more years than I care to consider.  I have often let Him down (and still do!); but He has never let me down.  I commend Him to you and, as always, if you think that I may be able to be of help at a personal level, please feel free to contact me via the e-mail address at the top of the page. 


Saturday, 20 June 2015

A voice from the Kirk.

I have already made some comments about the direction in which, after the last General Assembly, the Church of Scotland has gone.  However, one minister has analysed the situation much better than I could ever have done.  I reproduce the first part of his message here, and provide a link for those who wish to read all of it.  Doing so is heartily recommended!

My Statement to the Church of Scotland

by jeromeobrien

What would you say of a Parliament that passed legislation directing that ALL traffic was to drive on the left side of the road, but added, that it was also permissible for road users to drive on the right hand side if they wanted to and no penalty would be incurred? What would you say about parents who said to their children that the rules of the house were XYZ, but the children were welcome to do the exact opposite, that was fine, no problem, the parents would allow that? What do you say of a church that agrees truth, and then allows its members, no, its pastors, shepherds and leaders to ignore that truth?

To that Parliament, I would say that they are inviting traffic chaos and harm, and I would probably not drive on their roads, nor would I encourage others to do so. In all likelihood, I would encourage them not to.

To those parents, I would say that they are failing in their moral responsibility, and that they were inviting their children into a world of shifting and irrelevant parameters.

To that church, I would say, “You are broken”.

At the General Assembly, on Saturday 16th May, was the culmination of a long internal conversation that the Church of Scotland has been engaged in. To its credit, it has not rushed into this conversation and it has taken its time over it (even though it was forced into it by the actions of a few). But this past week, it crossed a line that it has been skirting along for some time.

In summary: last year, 2014, the General Assembly provisionally agreed a law and there were two essential parts to it as follows:
  1. The historic and current doctrine and practice of the Church in relation to human sexuality and their application to the ministers and deacons of the Church are hereby affirmed (for the avoidance of doubt, the Kirk understands this to mean that human sexuality is to be expressed in the relationship of one man and one woman in a committed union called marriage and its ministers, etc. are bound to follow that);
  2. In recognition of the diversity of views within the Church about the historic and current doctrine and practice of the Church in relation to human sexuality and their application to the ministers and deacons of the Church and in the interests of the peace and unity of the Church, departure from the practice of the Church shall be permitted to Kirk Sessions and they shall be entitled to call ministers who are in same sex civil partnerships (in other words, Kirk Sessions need not abide by the now accepted understanding or practice of human sexuality).
I say that this was provisionally agreed. The General Assembly sent this proposed law down to all the Presbyteries of the Church to consider and to reply whether they were in agreement with it or not. 31 approved the law, 14 did not. Though that is a 2 to 1 difference, the actual numbers of those voting were much closer i.e. 1,380 for and 1,160 against.

So this law came back to the General Assembly, and on the 16th May, by a vote of 309 for and 189 against, the law was passed.

To that church, I say “You are broken”.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Encounter with Jesus.

The next (third) volume in my "Getting to know you ..." series of books, is expected to be on great prayers that are recorded in the written Word of God, the Bible.   However, I also hope, at some stage, to publish a volume with the same title as the above - dealing with some of the people who met the Lord Jesus when He walked this Earth, and based on a lesson series that I used with S2 (c.13 years old) pupils in Lesmahagow High School when I taught there for about twenty years!

One of the themes that I would expect to develop in that book, is the necessity of having a life-giving encounter with Jesus.  It is the only encounter which, if treated as He would desire, brings assurance of real life in the here and now, and of even 'more real' life in the hereafter!

The story is told of a young man who worked on a farm.  This was in the days when he was expected to "live-in" during the week, but was allowed to go home on Saturday evening in order that he might spend Sunday with his family.

One Saturday, he had to attend to a lot of extra work, and it was quite late before he could set off for his parental home - some five miles away, along an unlighted, country, road.  At first, he was quite content, stepping it out, and whistling to himself.  However, as the lights of the farm faded behind him, and as no others took their place, he became less happy.  For a time, "Fear" became his companion as he looked this way, and that, imagining all sorts of shapes lurking in the shadows.

Suddenly, out of the inky darkness ahead came a loud , clear, voice: "Is that you, Johnny?"  It was his father, coming to meet him, and to guide him safely home.  No longer was he afraid, for his father was with him!

How wonderful it is to be in God's family - to be one of those who have been, in Jesus' own words, "born again"; who have received new life in Him.  Members of that family have the assurance that, no matter how dark the hour, the Father is waiting to see us through.  Each of us may say, with Jesus, "... I am not alone , for the Father is with me." (John 16:32).   Even when we come to the darkness of "... the valley of the shadow of death ...", we need "... fear no evil ..."(see Psalm 23), for He is with us to guide us safely home.

Another wonder is that even if we have not yet accepted His offer of salvation, in Jesus, we may still turn to Him and be assured that He will meet us on the road; that we may have an encounter with Jesus that will bring us into the family.  Have you done that?  Will you do that?!  You'll never regret it if you do!

Friday, 12 June 2015

The point of tension!

Yesterday, my wife and I drove down, via Manchester, to Maidstone, Kent, where we spent the night with dear friends prior to crossing the Channel (La Manche!) in the very early hours of tomorrow (Saturday), leaving at 0030!.

As we drove down through Scotland, and northern England, I was struck by the number of wind turbines that were standing there, in the calm, almost totally still, weather conditions, with not even a hint of movement from their massive, propellor-like, vanes.  I have always thought of these monstrosities as a blot on so much of the landscape, but now they were showing themselves to be absolutely useless.  They were not generating a single watt of electricity.  They were merely taking up space!

Of course, I am aware that, as the wind strength increases, then the vanes begin to turn, increasingly quickly (although, if the wind is too strong, then the turbines must be turned off, lest the vanes spin off and cause much damage!) and that they would, then, be generating power at a substantial rate.  However, with no force coming against them, they just stood there - achieving nothing!

I suddenly found myself thinking of so many "church members"in the affluent western church.  Looking important, as they make their way to their particular meeting-place each Sunday (or less often!), they are achieving nothing!  Their idea of the Christian faith is built upon social requirements, rather than upon a living relationship with the Creator, through the Son, in the strength of the Spirit.

Then I thought of those in what we refer to, simply, as "the persecuted church".  They know what it is to face up to challenge, to hardship, to adversity.  They have experienced, and continue to experience, the harsh wind of secular humanism blowing hard against them.  And the result?  They grow!  It is in such difficult circumstances that their trust in the Lord Jesus is purified - as gold in the refiner's furnace.

The last thing that I want, for myself or for those who are nearest and dearest to me, is the same kind of physical persecution that is suffered by my brothers and sisters, in Christ Jesus, in North Korea; in northern Nigeria; in Iraq; in Iran; in a total of more than fifty countries around the world.  However, such persecution could well come!  If it does, I predict two things - (a) there will be droves of people who will leave the church (whatever the denomination) as quickly as they possibly can.  They will be those who like to look good, and who are content to stand up in the calm, but who have no personal relationship with the Lord, and no true allegiance to Him; (b) the church will grow!  This is the experience in countries in which disciples of Jesus are persecuted.  As someone has said: "A faith worth dying for is a faith worth living"!

A minister with whom I worked, a long time ago, had a background in engineering.  He was constantly reminding me that "the point of tension is the point of growth."  I have never been absolutely sure what that means in engineering terms, but I do know that is has been shown to be true in terms of church growth.   If, and when, real persecution comes to "the west", I trust that those who follow this blog (and its writer!) will be found among those who are, if necessary, "faithful unto death". (Rev.2:10).