This is a parody of the famous Leonard Cohen song  Hallelujah. I dedicate it to all those whose Hallelujahs are cold or broken.

 
You know what lurks inside me, Lord
You know just why I feel a fraud
But through it all Your love is just as sure
My life is up and down, but when
I fall, You raise me up again
And all that I can do is pant: “My Saviour!”

Hallelujah
O my Saviour
Hallelujah
Jesus Saviour

My faith’s not strong, not doubtingproof
I fall too often, that’s the truth
The burden of my sin surely hides You
The world, the flesh: I fall apart
I stretch my hands out to Your heart
If I can only cling to You, my Saviour!

Hallelujah
O my Saviour
Hallelujah
Jesus Saviour

I know I’ve said this all before
I try again; I can’t do more
I surrender, I give up, I can’t stay true
You’d judge my life as such a farce
It’s certainly no victory march
As I stumble, and I fall before my Saviour

Hallelujah
Lift me, Saviour
Hallelujah
Jesus Saviour

From time to time it’s true, I find
Your words keep playing in my mind
But sometimes so faint: if I am far from You
Without Your voice, I’m so forlorn
But when I see the crown of thorns
I weep beneath the cross of Christ my Saviour

Hallelujah
Christ my Saviour
Hallelujah
Christ my Saviour

 

I know You came down from above
Your life, Your death: it all was love
You came to set us captives free in You
And on that cross Your blood You shed
Yet three days later from the dead
The Father raised You up: O Glorious Saviour!

Hallelujah
Glorious Saviour
Hallelujah
Jesus Saviour

So now from sin You set me free
Let Holy Spirit dwell in me
So I can live the way You want me to
And when the end of time has come
The battle fought, the victory song
Is glory to the Lamb, Christ my Saviour!

Hallelujah
Glorious Saviour
Hallelujah
Jesus Saviour

Hallelujah
Christ my Saviour
Hallelujah
Jesus Saviour

Link for Israeli Defence Force singing it in Hebrew. However, they sing 5 stanzas; I have 6; and one of the versions has 7!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtAMrRtuF_4

Below is a link to another parody of this song, but Christmas-themed.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1OzT2NZQ6I

This is the text of the sermon delivered at my Mom’s Memorial Service on 28 June 2013. It was delivered by my son, Marcus, a Theology student. It was also the first “real” sermon he preached!It summarises our salvation.

You can look up the Biblical references by clicking on them.

 
The Battle Won: Standing by grace in the holy place

 
Reading from Psalm 24. http://biblehub.com/niv/psalms/24.htm
New Testament reading from Hebrews 12:18-29. http://biblehub.com/niv/hebrews/12.htm

 
[Prayer before sermon]
Father of mercies and God of all comfort, help us today to comprehend that we have a strong and certain hope in the midst of grief.  Lord, you have the words of eternal life [Jn 6:68]; where else shall we go?  We ask that your Holy Spirit who inspired these words of Scripture would give us understanding, that according to your great mercy we might know the living hope kept in heaven: imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.  In the name of Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life, Amen.

 
Dear friends and family, thank you for this opportunity to remember my grandmother with you and to take encouragement with you in a few precious truths from the Scriptures.  It is the paradox of a Christian’s death that ours is a joyful grief; for, as the Apostle Paul says, though we do grieve, we do not grieve as those who have no hope [1Thes 4:13].

 
The passage we read from the letter to the Hebrews speaks vividly of our great hope and comfort: Lilian Collins, my Gran, has come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the assembly of all who are enrolled in heaven.  Her name, together with the names of all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, has been written there for all eternity.  She stands now, together with a great cloud of witnesses [Heb 12:1], in the very presence of the Father, God Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth and judge of all; and her standing place there has been secured by the blood of the victorious Lord Jesus Christ, who endured the scorn of the cross [Heb 12:2] to redeem all who would trust wholly in him, to the praise of his glorious grace.  That is why I have titled this message “The battle won: Standing by grace in the holy place.”  Yes, friends, the battle has been won, and she stands by grace in the holy place.

 
My Gran desired that Psalm 24 be the text for her memorial, and I invite you to turn there with me, while keeping in mind this magnificent picture in Hebrews 12 of true worship of the true and living God.  Psalm 24 asks us two very direct questions.   This morning we will consider primarily the first question, which is at the heart of this psalm: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?” [Psa 24:3]  I pray that we will receive further hope, comfort, and encouragement from the Lord as we understand the basis for our confidence that, more alive now than ever before, my Gran now experiences unending and unhindered joy in the very presence of God.  As the English minister and poet John Donne said, “No man ever saw God and lived.  And yet, I shall not live till I see God; and when I have seen him, I shall never die.”[John Donne, sermon XCV, on Job 19:26.]

 
Now, to give you just a little background, Psalm 24 is a song composed by King David, who was king of Israel around 3000 years ago.  It is a triumphant song which David wrote to commemorate the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant at Mount Zion in Jerusalem.[2 Sam 6]  This Ark of the Covenant (or promise) was a gold-plated wooden box, a little over a metre long, containing the Ten Commandments and other reminders of God’s just and providential care and guidance of his people, the Israelites.  Most importantly, it symbolised God himself dwelling among his people, his glory resting with them – even as in the Exodus God had rescued his people from Egypt and his presence and protection were symbolised by the pillar of cloud and of fire.  And when Israel went into battle, the Ark went before them, a picture that God himself was leading them and winning the victory for them.  So the arrival of the Ark at Mount Zion in Jerusalem was a momentous occasion – one of the highlights of the Old Testament – for it symbolised the very presence of God with his people, and his faithfulness to the promises he had made to them.

 
Psalm 24 begins by recognising God as the sovereign creator, ruler, and sustainer of all the universe, and especially of us, the people dwelling therein, whom he has created as distinct from the rest of creation to be in special relationship with him.  Therefore he alone is worthy of worship, worthy of praise and glory and honour.  It is the question of how we ought to worship God, of how we may enjoy his presence, which concerns us in this Psalm; and answering that question will give us confidence in our comfort today.

 
David asks, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?”  To ascend and stand before the Lord is to be in his holy, pure, perfect presence, to enjoy the fellowship with God for which we were created – that fellowship which Adam and Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden before they rebelled [Gen 3] against God’s good and just rule and sought to usurp his perfect moral authority; that fellowship which was broken because of their rebellion.  To be in God’s holy presence, worshipping him, is the highest privilege and the deepest joy of all, and the fulfilment of our most ardent longings.  As David exclaimed in another Psalm, “In your presence is fullness of joy”[Psa 16:11; cf. Psa 21:6.].  And we learn elsewhere that it was on this occasion commemorated in Psalm 24 that David danced before the Lord with all his might [2 Sam 6:14.], so great was his rejoicing at the prospect of being in the presence of the Lord.  That is the same joy we see in the celebration of Hebrews 12.  And that, dear friends, is the fullness of joy which my Gran now experiences, and this gives us comfort in the midst of our grief.

 
But the question, “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?” is no matter of mere formality.  This is not a simple question of etiquette, about how to approach a state president or the Queen, of what to wear, what to say, when to bow or curtsey.  This is far more weighty, as the passage in Hebrews reminds us: “Our God is a consuming fire.”  And we will find unshakeable confidence for our comfort as we answer the question, “Who shall stand in his holy place?”

 
David answers this question, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  But think for a moment of the implications of this.  The great King David himself committed adultery with Bathsheba, tried to cover up the resulting pregnancy, and finally had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, murdered.  He is hardly the kind of person of whom we might say, “He had clean hands.”  But to take it further, the Lord Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew [Mat 5:27-30; 21-22.] taught that adultery and murder were not simply matters committed by the hand.  Jesus said, if you’ll pardon the paraphrase, that adultery was not jumping into bed with the wrong woman: that was the result of adultery, which we have already committed in our hearts in every lustful glance.  Likewise, murder was not taking a stick and bashing someone over the head: that was the result of murder, which we have already committed in our hearts in every malicious thought.  Jesus’ teaching revealed that we are all at heart adulterers and murderers.  Not one of us has a pure heart, even if we might claim to have clean hands.  Who, then, shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place?  Psalm 24 anticipates the answer that not one of us can qualify by virtue of our own righteousness, yet it holds out hope to all who acknowledge they have dirty hands and defiled hearts.

 
You have heard how my Gran did not want a eulogy at her memorial.  She did not presume to come to the table of our merciful Lord – nor, finally, to his throne in glory – trusting in her own righteousness, but in his manifold and great mercies.  Righteousness – that is, the ability to stand in the presence of the holy, holy, holy God without fear of judgement and condemnation – this righteousness is not earned, but rather received.  There are no good deeds we could ever do to merit the favour of God and so restore fellowship with him, because at the end of the day all our attempts at self-righteousness are like filthy rags [Isa 64:6.] before the holiness, the moral perfection, of God.  No, friends, the righteousness that saves is, as verse 5 says, “righteousness from the God of [our] salvation”.  It is righteousness not of our own doing, but of God’s gracious giving.

 
This is why we can be confident in this great comfort, friends, which we can have today that my Gran is in the joyous presence of the Lord.  We must not ask, “Was she enough of a saint to enter heaven and stand before God, the holy God of all the world?” – for she appears before the throne of God not clothed in her own good works, but in the righteousness that God has given to all who put their trust wholly in what Christ Jesus has done.

 
In the New Testament letter of James, which was one of my Gran’s favourites, James writes that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”[Jam 4:6.]  The proud are those who trust in their own resources for their salvation (their good works, rituals, a legacy, etc.), rather than trusting in God; they will be opposed and condemned by God as rebels against his just and perfect rule.  But the humble are those who realise that the project of self-salvation is futile. They acknowledge that they are indeed rebels against God and deserve his judgement, and they humbly cast themselves on his mercy, trusting wholly in what Christ has done.  God gives grace to the humble.

 
Think again of that Ark of the Covenant, whose arrival at Mount Zion in Jerusalem marked the occasion for this Psalm.  On top of the Ark was fashioned what was called the “mercy seat” or “atonement cover”, and it was there that God had said he would meet with Moses, Aaron, and the high priests [Exo 25:21-22].  They could come into the presence of God only if he were merciful to them, and only if their sins were atoned for, that is, paid for; otherwise, their own sinfulness would render them liable to his just judgement.  They could not approach trusting in their own righteousness, but only trusting in his faithfulness and mercy.  They did have to come in perfect righteousness – but that righteousness was not of themselves.  Instead, it was a righteousness given to them by God, by virtue of their trust in his promises, rather than their merits, and on the basis of the blood of a sacrifice sprinkled on the mercy seat to signify that another had died in their place, to atone for their sin [Lev16; Heb 9:5.].
Friends, in the letter to the Hebrews, from which we read earlier, we are also told that the Ark of the Covenant, all the temple furnishings, its sacrificial system, and its high priests, were a picture pointing prophetically forward to the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He indeed manifested the presence of God, as the Gospel of John tells us: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[Joh 1:14.]  He alone came with clean hands and a pure heart, not only to Mount Zion, but also to the Mount of Golgotha, to Calvary, to the cross.  There he was crucified as a perfect sacrifice in the place of all those who would trust in him.  By his death he paid the penalty for their sins, and by his resurrection he secured their eternal life with him in glory.

 
The letter to the Hebrews tells us again, “Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf….  He has appeared once for all … to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”[Heb 9:24-26.]  Because Christ stood in the place of judgement on our behalf, all who trust in him receive the righteousness of the God of their salvation, and may stand in the holy place, in the presence of God.  As the Apostle Paul puts it, “For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”[2 Cor 5:21.]  Those who trust in him are forgiven their sins, clothed in the righteousness of God, and reconciled to God, and will experience the fullness of joy in the presence of God for all eternity.  This is the basis of our confidence for our great comfort and joy today: not that my Gran was a good person, but that she trusted in the only good Saviour.

 
We have not asked the second question Psalm 24 poses, though we’ve already seen the answer to it: “Who is this King of glory?”  Just as the Ark of the Covenant went before the nation of Israel to show that it was God himself who was mighty in battle on their behalf to conquer their enemies, so it is Christ Jesus who has fought on our behalf to conquer the great enemy, sin, and has risen victorious from the grave to show that death, too, is ultimately conquered.

 
The King of Glory is, indeed, none other than the risen and ascended Christ, the Lord, strong and mighty, mighty in battle over sin and death, who has ascended and entered into heaven itself – the only One with clean hands and a pure heart qualified to do so.  For him the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem are flung wide open to admit their King.  But this King of Glory, strong and mighty, will also carry all who trust in him, rather than in their own efforts, up the hill of the Lord, to stand in the holy place.  Our confidence, our comfort, our joy and encouragement rest in Christ alone, the King of Glory.  The battle is won, friends: stand (with my Gran) by grace in the holy place.

I went to the vet the other day. In fact just three weeks after my Mom died, I had to put my beloved cat down. The vet said Mr Tiggles was suffering and would not get better, and putting him down was the right thing to do.

Now we know this vet, and when other vets had given up with a previous problem, he had persisted until Tigger came right. I don’t class myself as an animal lover, but Tig has taught me a great deal: in fact he had previously taught me some things about God as well (which I intend to repost later); now in his death (as my wife, my daughter and I sobbed our hearts out) he was teaching me something again.

When a day or so later I was expressing some doubts about having The Tig put down, I was told, “D__ (the vet) knows him, and loves animals; you should rely on his judgement.” And here was the lesson. God knows when we should die.

Have you ever wondered why some people who are prayed for do not get visible healing? I have. And only recently have I begun to get the glimmer of an understanding about this.

Some years back our church had a lady who was a leader of a woman’s group, and was really loved and respected. She went down with an incurable disease relating to her nervous system, which led to a slow, progressive death. She was prayed for, and prayed for, and prayed for. I recall at one service the assistant minister said that we weren’t even going to pray for healing “if it was God’s will” because we knew it was God’s will for her to be healed, and so she WOULD be. I felt really uncomfortable about this, but at the time couldn’t articulate even mentally why I felt that way. Was I just in revolt because (according to the minister in charge) I did not speak in tongues and therefore did not have the Holy Spirit?

Both my wife and I had also been prayed for; been told; “You are healed: now walk in your healing;” and certainly still suffered. Because we weren’t healed, the blame (i.e. guilt) for that was plonked on us: not enough faith.

I belong to a kind of email-based intercession group. Some of the people we’ve prayed for have had healing (disease, injury, financial circumstances), and some (outstanding people in their churches) have not been healed as we know it, and have died. Did we not have enough faith? Did we not put in enough effort? Did we not twist God’s arm enough?

Whose healing is it anyway?

A close friend of mine has a very dear friend who has cancer. This has spread to various organs, including the brain. We have obviously been praying for healing; but, medically speaking, the outlook is gloomy. My friend was “tackled” for considering the possibility that her friend would die, the argument implying: if you admit to the possibility that your friend could die, you lack the faith required for him to be healed.

Again, as far as I am concerned, we have the heresy that faith implies that we can say there will definitely be a healing, and we usually mean of the physical sort.

To assert this is the same (I think) as saying Naghmeh Abedini’s pastor-husband, Saeed, is still in gaol in Iran because she doesn’t have enough faith that he’ll be released. If you believe that, you haven’t heard Naghmeh’s testimony.

If everyone were healed, we’d have people who were centuries old in their “current” physical bodies. It’s a fallen world: everyone has to die: “… people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,.” wrote Paul [Hebrews 9:27]. Under these natural (fallen) circumstances I have no wish at all to invite you to my 5304th birthday tea!

Of course, if all suffering is illogical and random, the only thing that matters is what makes us feel good.

Moreover, whose Sovereignty is it anyway? Is there any purpose in suffering? If our suffering has a purpose, then (firstly) it’s not all pointless and (second) it will stop only when that purpose has been achieved. If we hold that God is sovereign, then He has a right to choose, and that probably won’t sit too well with our quasi-democratic – and definitely self-centred – notions; but we don’t call the shots: God does.

Let’s go back to Naghmeh and Saeed: since he’s been imprisoned in Evin he has brought at least 30 people to know Jesus. Given that he is an evangelist, this means he is accomplishing his purpose while suffering in gaol: his life and suffering have themselves become a testimony. Naghmeh has addressed the issue at the UN – so those people have heard the Gospel. She’s been on US and BBC programmes in the Farsi language during prime viewing time in Iran, and has testified to Jesus; so thousands of Iranians have now heard the Gospel. Of course we all pray for his release, and that of all the others who are imprisoned or persecuted for their faith in Jesus.

My wife spent 3 weeks suffering in hospital because of a totally smashed ankle: during those three weeks, I learned the meaning of Grace. My friend went through suffering in her marriage; our prayers for her husband weren’t answered according to our wishes; but, having seen her suffering and tested, I know her faith is real, and that she’s not just some perennial optimist. And so she has been a massive blessing to me and my whole family – because of her suffering.

Let’s return to her friend’s suffering. Can her friend’s suffering have any purpose, and, if so, what would that be? As Christians our main purpose is to glorify God. While we can see that a healing would glorify God, could his suffering also not glorify God? I look at their rock-solid faith and I’m amazed (I know I shouldn’t be) at it and Who it’s inspired by; I see evidence of God’s Holy Spirit in him and in my friend as they go through this. I know theirs is not an airy-fairy feel-good, warms-the-cockles-of-my-heart kind of faith. It’s not the kind of faith that wheel-spins in vain in the mud: it’s got traction; it pulls them through because it’s engaged with God. It glorifies Him because God’s strength is shown in their “weakness” of suffering.

When my friend’s friend dies, I have no doubt that he’ll go to heaven and be with the God he has served so faithfully for decades, because he is in a right relationship with God. He’s getting promotion from this world to a world of glory. He’ll be no longer susceptible to suffering, pain and death. His promotion will depend on the Boss. What right have we to demand that God should heal him? Whose sovereignty is it anyway?

Does this mean I’m callous? I don’t think so: I’ve literally cried over their pain and because the happiness of their friendship will be cut short, and I still pray for healing.

I pray God will heal him and that, if it is not God’s will to heal him, that He will grant him:

1    unshakable CONFIDENCE is his salvation;
2    CONTENTMENT with his life;
3    the CONSOLATION that his salvation and God’s Grace afford in this life;
4    physical COMFORT in his suffering;
5    COURAGE to live each day trusting God.

Am I demonstrating a lack of faith? Am I hedging my bets? I don’t think so.

I do not doubt God’s ability to heal him physically; I don’t know if that is God’s will: there is a difference.

The leper in Matthew 8:2 illustrates what I mean: “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean’.” He exercised faith in Jesus and recognised the supremacy of God’s will in this.

Are we going to accuse Paul of a lack of faith because he was not healed from whatever it was (some think, malaria) that he suffered from?

” Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. T.hat is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” [2Cor12:7] He wasn’t healed the way he would have wanted to be; and note the reason for the suffering: to keep him dependent on God and to glorify God.

Did Daniel say “Chuck me into the furnace and God WILL rescue me from it”?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’.”[Daniel 3:16]

Daniel considered the possibility that God might NOT rescue him, but he still demonstrated faith: “God CAN rescue me IF He wants to; but EVEN IF He doesn’t I’ll still listen to Him rather than to you.” Our faith must be an EVEN IF faith as well as a BECAUSE faith. Our faith must be in God and not in our own faith (which I have just learned is called “fideism”).

So, if someone who has had prayer for healing is not healed outwardly/physically (which is what we tend to mean – and God understands that), we mustn’t think it’s due to a lack of faith and heap guilt onto that person or on those who are praying for him or her. Who made us the judge? It’s God’s decision whether He will heal, not ours. It’s His agenda, not ours that must count; if we don’t respect that we are denying His sovereignty.

Like the vet, God knows when it’s our time to die. God is the loving, almighty, sovereign Lord – not a genie in a bottle.

 

To read the quoted Scriptures in their context, click on the links below:

Hebrews 9:7
http://biblehub.com/niv/hebrews/9.htm

Matthew 8:2
http://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/8.htm

2 Corinthians 12:7
http://biblehub.com/niv/2_corinthians/12.htm

Daniel 3:16
http://biblehub.com/niv/daniel/3.htm

This is again a somewhat unusual posting. My Mom died on 19 June this year of congestive heart failure. Bluntly, in spite of treatment she died from drowning in the fluid collecting in her lungs. Many funerals deal with only the deceased and the family, and, to most intents and purposes, sideline God. Mom forbade a eulogy: below is the second half of my.tribute. Gloria soli Deo.

Right and wrong were very clear to Mom; as clear as black and white, with no shades of grey. And she was respected.

One thing that was always central to her life was the church. If she could help it, she wouldn’t miss, especially communion. If communion was at 08h00 and she had to sing in the choir at 10h30, well then, we went to two services. (We thank those of you who made her feel so welcome here, especially Yvonne, who became more like a daughter to her.) Her faith, she said, carried her, and at times when I was feeling pessimistic, she would say: “Have faith,” just like someone might say, “Have more common sense.”

Mom was stubborn – which in her later years she admitted. Sometimes stubbornness is a pain; sometimes it’s a virtue: Mom had a stubborn sense of duty. That manifested itself in the way she looked after us. When I was still very small, we were quite poor, but she always made sure that we looked clean and smart, especially our school uniforms. She also had a sense of duty towards God. She had her daily Bible readings from the lectionary (very Anglican!). Her faith was stubborn, and that’s really what carried her for years, but especially in more recent months, as she was walking through the “valley of the shadow of death”. I don’t think she was at all frightened about dying. As the hymn says:

Jesus lives! thy terrors now
Can, O Death, no more appal us;
Jesus lives! by this we know
Thou, O Grave, canst not enthral us.
Hallelujah!

Jesus lives! henceforth is death
But the gate of Life immortal;
This shall calm our trembling breath,
When we pass its gloomy portal.
Hallelujah!

Jesus lives! our hearts know well
Naught from us His love shall sever;
Life, nor death, nor powers of hell
Tear us from His keeping ever.
Hallelujah!

That’s what kept her alive; and that’s why she could die without fear. And that’s is why we could let her go. Granted, it was terrible watching her suffer; but death was more than the mere relief from discomfort and really difficult breathing.

In church, on the Sunday before she died, I had a vision, which is extremely unusual for me. It couldn’t have lasted more than a fraction of a second, but it was so powerful that it left me wobbly, physically and emotionally.

Imagine a picture in a frame. To the left is Mom. Then there’s a river. On the right of the river is a grassy field. On the upper right is an “empty” cross; between the cross and the river is Jesus, facing Mom and beckoning to her and calling, “Come!”.

So she has taken up His invitation and she is home with her Saviour.

I’ll close with the words of an sms from a close friend:
“Farewell to her, Amazing lady. Present with God breathing [the] fresh air of heaven.”

This is rather different from my usual postings.

Ever since just before Resurrection Sunday (Easter) my Mom had been in and out of hospital. She had water on the lungs and shrunken heart valves; so she had a bad circulation of badly oxygenated blood, and so felt she could not breathe. Because of her age, her frail condition and the state of her blood vessels she could not go through with the five operations that would have prolonged her life, or at least enabled her to be more active.

She had always been very independent and fairly active, doing her own housework past the age of 90. We all knew, when she turned down the operations, that she would have little time left, maybe two years at most . In simple faith she accepted that. However, none of us realised she would go so quickly.

Seeing her suffer, struggling to breathe, even though she was on oxygen, was very hard.

In church one or two Sundays before she died I had a vision (although I’m not a “vision person”. Mom was on the left bank of a river. On the other side was a grassy field. On the upper right was an “empty” cross; between the cross and the river was Jesus beckoning to her and calling, “Come”.

On the day she died it was so bad seeing her suffer, and the vision had given me such assurance; so that night I prayed for Jesus to come and fetch her.

About an hour later we were called to the hospital. By the time we had got there, she had gone. I smsed (texted) my God-sister to give her the news. She replied:

“Farewell to her, amazing lady. Present with God breathing [the] fresh air of heaven.”

The next morning I woke up with this short poem:

 

I cried –

Until you died.

O what pain

That we should gain

The green fields of eternity!

 

John 11:25

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

To read ths excerpt in context go to: http://biblehub.com/niv/john/11.htm

{This is a parody of the Natalie Imbruglia song Torn, to which I was listening sometime before Good Friday 2013.]

I know of One, who lived this life
He was born, he walked around and he was crucified
They say that he was born to die

Well, he wasn’t who they thought he’d be
He came down here
Came to set helpless captives free
To reconcile God and men

There was nothing else; he had to die
The only way to justify
All separation’s gone
The Temple veil is torn

It’s a step of faith
That is why I kneel
He was mocked and shamed
Hanging naked on a cross

The Law could never change
Had no power to heal
The lamb was slain and I can see
The sinless One was torn
He took on all my sin, in my place was torn

So the only way I can respond
Open my heart to what is there
Accept forgiveness now

It’s washed upon  my soul
And now I’m his; that’s how it is
I don’t miss my old life much
There’s just so many things
I am thankful for, reborn

It’s a step of faith
That is why I kneel
He was mocked and shamed
Hanging naked on a cross

The Law could never change
Had no power to heal
The Lamb was slain and I can see
The sinless One was torn
He took on all my sin, in my place was torn, torn

There was nothing else; he had to die
The only way to justify
All separation’s gone
The Temple veil is torn

It’s a step of faith
That is why I kneel
He was mocked and shamed
Hanging naked on a cross

The Law could never change
Had no power to heal
The lamb was slain and I can see
The sinless One was torn

It’s a step of faith
That is why I kneel
He was mocked and shamed
Hanging naked on a cross
He took on all  my sin, in my place was torn, torn

NOTE: Clickable Biblical references take you to the English New International Version translation. If you want a language other than English, click on the appropriate flag at the top of the page the link takes you to.

Matth 2:4  After assembling all the chief priests and experts in the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they said, “for it is written this way by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are in no way least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
To read this in its context click the following link:  http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/2.htm

Micah 5:2  But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/micah/5.htm

Matth 27:24ff   So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged  Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/27.htm

Mark 15:15   So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged1  Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/mark/15.htm

Luke 23:23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.
To read this in its context click the following link:  http://niv.scripturetext.com/luke/23.htm

John 19:6(b) Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/john/19.htm

Tacitus: Annales XV (A Roman historian whose writings Annals, Histories and Germania make very interesting (and demanding!) reading.)
(This translation is taken from Tacitus,: The Annals and Histories, edited by Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Regius Professor of Greek, Oxford University
“Christus … suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus …”
To read more about this click the following link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ

Isaiah prophesies Messiah’s death: 53:3ff
He was despised and rejected by people … we thought he was being punished,  attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds,  crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well;  because of his wounds we have been healed … but the LORD caused the sin of all of us to attack him. He was treated harshly and afflicted … He was led away after an unjust trial … he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded. They intended to bury him with criminals …
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/isaiah/53.htm

Philippians 2:8  He humbled himself,  by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/philippians/2.htm

Psalm 22  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? …       people insult me and despise me. all who see me taunt me; they mock me and shake their heads. …. “Let the LORD rescue him!  Let the LORD deliver him, for he delights in him.” My strength drains away like water; all my bones are dislocated; my heart is like wax; it melts away inside me. the roof of my mouth is as dry as a piece of pottery;  my tongue sticks to my gums. … I can count all my bones;  my enemies are gloating over me in triumph. They are dividing up my clothes among themselves; they are rolling dice for my garments.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/psalms/22.htm

John 6:15  Then Jesus, because he knew they were going to come and seize him by force to make him king, withdrew again up the mountainside alone.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/john/6.htm

Josephus: The Jewish War [Slavonic text]
“Many of the common people flocked after him and followed his teaching. There was a wave of excited expectation that he would enable the Jewish tribes to throw off the Roman yoke. …When they saw his ability to do whatever he wished by a word, they told him that they wanted him to enter the City [i.e. Jerusalem], destroy the Roman troops, and make himself king; but he took no notice.”

John 19:24  But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out immediately.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/john/19.htm

Luke 4:17ff …. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, … “because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” … Then he began to tell them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read.”
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/luke/4.htm

Luke 7:22 So [Jesus] answered them, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news proclaimed to them…”
To read this in its context click the following link:  http://niv.scripturetext.com/luke/7.htm

2Corinthians 5:19 .…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/2_corinthians/5.htm

Hebrews 4:15  For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/hebrews/4.htm

2Corinthians 5:21  God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/2_corinthians/5.htm

Matthew 27:50    Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Just then the temple curtain [“veil”] was torn in two, from top to bottom.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/matthew/27.htm

Luke 23:44  It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 because the sun’s light failed. The temple curtain was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And after he said this he breathed his last.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/luke/23.htm

Mark 15:37 But Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last. And the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/mark/15.htm

Josephus: The Jewish War [Slavonic text]
“In the days of our pious fathers this curtain was intact, but in our own generation it was a sorry sight, for it had been suddenly rent from top to bottom at a time when by bribery they had secured the execution of the benefactor of men – the one who by his actions proved that he was no mere man.”

Hebrews 10:19  Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the fresh and living way that he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in the assurance that faith brings
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/hebrews/10.htm

Eph 2:18  It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/ephesians/2.htm

Eph 3:12  In union with Christ and through our faith in him we have the boldness to go into God’s presence with all confidence.
To read this in its context click the following link: http://niv.scripturetext.com/ephesians/3.htm

[The latest James Bond film has just been released in South Africa.We as Christians are called to undertake an entirely different sort of mission which calls for faith, courage and the energising of the Holy Spirit.]

Though my bones be dry or ache,
Though the earth tremble and quake,
In the midst of it all
Even though the sky should fall,
Let me hold on fast to Your Word
Let me be not shaken – but stirred.

Ezekiel 37
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord….”
To see this in context click: the following link:
http://niv.scripturetext.com/ezekiel/37.htm

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.
To see this in context click the following link:
http://niv.scripturetext.com/psalms/46.htm

For those who don’t know, the latest James Bond film is called Skyfall.
For info about Skyfall click the following link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skyfall.