There is the reality of the deathbed conversion, and we should never underplay it. Nor should we necessarily be downcast if we do not observe it. Who knows what occurs during the last hours of a person’s life? Searching for God, recalling earlier-heard truths, memories of Christian teaching and testimony, who knows? The dying thief is our exemplar (Luke 23:43). But we should also beware of creating false hopes in ourselves and others. We do not always know how God works, except that it is forever in love, according to his purposes and sovereignty. Conversion is not our business, it is God’s. It is he who has said, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’ (Exodus 33:19). Our task is to be true and faithful. Nevertheless, the death of someone with uncertain saving faith and undecided eternal destiny should cause us to, ‘Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near’ (Isaiah 55:6) and prompt others to do the same. But can we doubt that we are going to be astonished by some we meet in heaven?
At the same time there is a great thankfulness to God. I am thankful that I had a father who I knew and who I knew well. I am thankful that I had him there for so long – 50 years. I am thankful that for most of that time he was fit and well, especially as I was growing up. I am thankful that he was a moral man who brought me up according to the ten commandments, as best he knew how, and disciplined me so that I would not end up a fool. Although he never taught me the gospel, not knowing it, he never stood in my way but supported me as best as he knew how in seeking to be a Christian and a minister of the gospel. I am thankful that he had a long life and that God gave me many opportunities to testify to him and towards the end to read the Scriptures with him and pray with him too. The last time my boys gathered at his bed and I asked him to say something to them he told them to hear the Bible and listen to what it said.
As far as I'm aware my earliest memories of my dad go back to the time before I was five. My first is of him wet shaving in the kitchen of the first house we lived in. Shaving especially wet shaving is a fascinating process for a young boy to watch. Whiskers themselves are fascinating at that age as is the removal of them. Singing and whistling are in there too, which my dad did plenty of – and quite well. He loved to croon. There was also the concern over hot water. My parents were always very alert to danger and I know they were concerned about that. In my mind's eye I see the plastic cup of hot water into which my dad would dip his shaving brush and in my head I remember learning the word scald and at some point differentiating it from the word scold.
The other main memory from the first house is the day of my fourth or fifth birthday. I recall being at the table with friends from school who were there for the party when we heard someone entering by the side door of the house. “Hello” rang out my dad's inimitable voice. All the kids were afraid or pretended to be. I remember being amazed. Why would anyone be afraid of my dad?
There is also a vague memory of a Christmas in the first house and being given a Scalextric (racing car game) and my dad spinning me some yarn about Father Christmas. (I remember my mother telling me that my dad and the man next door played with the Scalextric most of Christmas morning!).
The other memory find us in the kitchen of the house we moved into after my sister was born. Again it was my birthday but I am definite this was my fifth. It is not the party I recall, though, but my dad coming home with this box containing a green scooter which he proceeded to assemble before my gazing eyes. His favourite colour was green.
There are loads more memories, of course, including being taken to see Godzilla and The Guns of Navarone when I was far too young but those are the first few. He would often tell me that if I didn't work harder at school I'd “end up on the ash carts”. He found it odd when things that came naturally to him – like a sense of direction, arithmetic, dribbling a ball – didn't come naturally to me. My dad was a big man, six foot two inches, with long legs. He almost never had much hair. He was generally patient but could lose his temper with us at times. He hated lying but believed it was permissible in some cases – but only as an act of kindness. He loved to sing, as I have said, and was a fine yodeller. He liked most types of music including jazz. I remember watching the Oscar Peterson show with him sometimes. Glenn Miller was his all time favourite. He always felt that not being able to read music was a great disadvantage but he was musical enough to sing with a band or in a choir. Sometimes when singing he would forget the words and inadvertently repeat himself. He loved to dance as well and loved a smooth floor and good musicianship.
He was a natural at most sports and loved soccer. He played football and baseball at a decent amateur level and was a good swimmer. His racing dive was legendary. He would watch any sport on television, especially golf or snooker. He usually read two newspapers a day (from back to front) but avoided books as he tended to get so absorbed so that they took over his life. When he was reading the paper it was often difficult to get a response from him. He wanted us to be sensible, thoughtful people who enjoyed life and persevered with the things we set about doing.
He had a good sense of humour and liked jokes and puns. He was quite a good story teller too full of anecdotes. He was careful with money but generous at times too. He liked to gamble, especially on horse racing but even on one armed bandits. He drank bitter weekly and whisky at Christmas. He liked his food and was never a fussy eater. He had a healthy appetite. Marriage was a lifelong commitment never to be questioned. He saw his chief duty to us as a provider and guiding hand.
It is staggering to think at this vantage point of a whole life gone. How quickly the years have somehow passed. It won't be long before we're all in the grave.
My dad belonged to a boys brigade as a boy and possibly heard the gospel but was put off by some wrongdoing that appeared to be going on in the Baptist church he attended. He hated hypocrisy and most forms of deceit, especially of the religious sort. Being a man of great moderation and a strong will he found it difficult to think of himself as a sinner and that probably hindered any spiritual progress. A certain self-confidence of the “I'm no worse than the next man” didn't always help either. But who knows God is very great and it may well be that in those final years and months he came, like mother, to accept the truth. In the latter years he would sometimes say to me, quite seriously, “how do you know I don't believe anyway?” Will not the judge of all the earth do right?
Well, I was walking through the jungle just the other night
Among several incomplete series on this blog is one on Rock ' n' Roll tracks (See RnR). This one I like for a good beat and good words.
American Mizzell had a brief and unspectacular career in the late fifties and early sixties then became a preacher with a restorationist group. Jungle Rock resurfaced in the seventies. My own favourite version is by The Replacements. More here.
I heard a big rumble and I thought it was a fight
Stopped for a listen and I had to move my feet
It was a jungle drummer doin' a knocked out beat
Jungle, jungle rock
It was a knocked out beat and I had to move my feet
It was a Jungle, jungle rock
Well, I moved a little closer just to get a better view
I saw a chimp and a monkey a doin' the Susie Q
A 'gator and a hippo was a doin' the bop
And the big black drums was making me hop
A fox grabbed a rabbit and they did the bunny hug
And the old grizzly bear was a-cuttin the rug
The Camel was jitterbugging with a kangaroo
And everything moving with a ring-dang-doo.
A married couple from Wales have scooped a share of a £91 million EuroMillions jackpot but a national newspaper asks – is it the worst thing that could have happened to them?
“We may not be as rich” as those who win the lottery “but there’s every chance we may live longer, happier lives as a result”, Julia Hartley-Brewer, a Sunday Express reporter wrote.
She cites a survey of 30 of the biggest jackpot winners and said it branded the lottery “Britain’s biggest marriage wrecker” when it found that a third of respondents said their lives had been blighted by their new found fortune.
Families had fallen apart, marriages had ended and envy had destroyed friendships, the survey reportedly revealed.
The comments follow a spate of real life stories from lottery winners who have admitted misery because of their windfall.
Earlier this year Callie Rogers, 22, who won close to £1.9 million as a teenager in 2003, revealed that she is now facing bankruptcy and the money she won hasn’t made her happy.
She is currently holding down three jobs to support her two young children and she told a reporter that her life was now a “shambles”.
In 2005, after a suicide attempt, she said: “Until you win such a large amount of money at such a young age, you don’t realise the pressures that come with it.”
Michael Carroll, a former dustman, won £9.7million in 2002 but claimed it had made him miserable.
After he won the jackpot, his wife Sandra left him and took their baby daughter with her. Mr Carroll turned to cocaine, was jailed and was later served with two anti-social behaviour orders.
In 1999 Stephanie Powell won £7.2million, but her family life began to break down as a result.
Her partner Wayne Lawrence walked out on her, claiming the stress of her riches as his reason.
The article also cited research published this summer which warned that the lives of lottery winners could be cut short due to excessive alcohol-fuelled partying.
In 1999 Phil Kitchen, a jobless carpenter, won £1.8 million but two years later was found dead in his £500,000 home after drinking himself to death.
In July a report by the think-tank Theos argued that the National Lottery was penalising the poor.
Theos Director Paul Woolley said: “The Lottery might have created a new source of funding for projects that would otherwise have remained un-funded, but this has come with a high price tag for Britain’s poor.”
The report found that skilled manual workers are most likely to play in Lottery draws, with over 67 per cent taking part once a month compared with 47 per cent of professionals and managers.
According to the report, the average Lottery player spends £142.88 each year but among those with salaries of £15,000- £20,000 the figure increases to £174.53.
#1 Did you know that Ryan Giggs dad is a black man? Danny Wilson, a Welsh man with West African (?) roots, was a rugby league player.
It's also worth noting that Giggs has played in every Premier League season so far, scoring at least once in each season. See more here. I notice there is a shot of him playing for England schoolboys - what was that all about?
I haven't really followed this story but I read here
The news that we have been waiting for for so long has now come. What an answer to prayer!
Maryam and Marzieh have been released from prison in Tehran. The conditions of release are not yet fully known but I expect we will hear more soon. These two young women refused to deny God, despite this meaning they could have faced a death sentence. Their story has impacted Christians across the globe and brought a new level of boldness and determination as we share the gospel.
This is just the beginning of another episode. Both Maryam and Marzieh have suffered physically and have incurred enormous legal costs. I expect the cost of defending themselves will have been high, and as both Maryam and Marzieh have suffered physically they will probably need expensive expert medical help over the coming months. I expect various organisations will launch appeals soon to allow Christians to give.
1. Stick to the main thing - Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above Of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love
5. This is serious - Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave; Remember I’m the sinner whom Jesus came to save.
7. The ministry of warning - Tell me the old story when you have cause to fear That this world’s empty glory is costing me too dear.
I have been noticing recently how incredibly tangled headphone wires become when you put them in a pocket. It strikes me as a clear warning against believing what evolution teaches. It's probably related to what someone recently described to me as the perversity of inanimate objects, also known as Flagle's law.
Flagle's Law of the Perversity of Inanimate Objects
Any inanimate object may be expected at any time to behave in a manner that is entirely unexpected and totally unpredictable for reasons which are completely unknown or thoroughly obscure.
More laws here.
Come, every pious heart,
That loves the Saviour’s Name,
Your noblest powers exert
To celebrate His fame;
Tell all above, and all below;
That debt of love to Him you owe.
He left His starry crown,
And laid His robes aside;
On wings of love came down,
And wept, and bled, and died:
What He endured, O who can tell,
To save our souls from death and hell!
From the dark grave He rose;
The mansions of the dead,
And thence His mighty foes
In glorious triumph led;
Up through the sky the Conqueror rode;
And reigns on High, the Savior God.
From thence He’ll quickly come,
His chariot will not stay,
And bear our spirits home
To realms of endless day;
There shall we see His lovely face
And ever be in His embrace.
Jesus, we ne’er can pay
The debt we owe Thy love;
Yet tell us how we may
Our gratitude approve;
Our hearts, our all to Thee we give;
The gift, though small, Thou wilt receive.
Majestic sweetness sits enthroned
Upon the Saviour’s brow;
His head with radiant glories crowned,
His lips with grace o’erflow.
To Christ, the Lord, let every tongue
Its noblest tribute bring
When He’s the subject of the song,
Who can refuse to sing?
Survey the beauties of His face,
And on His glories dwell;
Think of the wonders of His grace,
And all His triumphs tell.
No mortal can with Him compare
Among the sons of men;
Fairer is He than all the fair
Who fill the heav’nly train.
He saw me plunged in deep distress
And flew to my relief;
For me He bore the shameful cross
And carried all my grief.
His hand a thousand blessings pours
Upon my guilty head:
His presence gilds my darkest hours,
And guards my sleeping bed.
To Him I owe my life and breath
And all the joys I have;
He makes me triumph over death
And saves me from the grave.
To Heav’n, the place of His abode,
He brings my weary feet;
Shows me the glories of my God,
And makes my joys complete.
Since from His bounty I receive
Such proofs of love divine,
Had I a thousand hearts to give,
Lord, they should all be Thine.
John Wesley preached a lot about money. And with probably the highest earned income in England, he had the opportunities to put his ideas into practice. What did he say about money? And what did he do with his own?
John Wesley knew grinding poverty as a child. His father, Samuel Wesley, was the Anglican priest in one of England’s lowest-paying parishes. He had nine children to support and was rarely out of debt. Once John saw his father being marched off to debtors’ prison. So when John followed his father into the ministry, he had no illusions about the financial rewards.
It probably came as a surprise to John Wesley that while God had called him to follow his father’s vocation, he had not also called him to be poor like his father. Instead of being a parish priest, John felt God’s direction to teach at Oxford University. There he was elected a fellow of Lincoln College, and his financial status changed dramatically. His position usually paid him at least thirty pounds a year, more than enough money for a single man to live on. John seems to have enjoyed his relative prosperity. He spent his money on playing cards, tobacco and brandy.
While at Oxford, an incident changed his perspective on money. He had just finished paying for some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a cold winter day, and he noticed that she had nothing to protect her except a thin linen gown. He reached into his pocket to give her some money to buy a coat but found he had too little left. Immediately, the thought struck him that the Lord was not pleased with the way he had spent his money. He asked himself, Will thy Master say, “Well done, good and faithful steward?” Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?
What Wesley Did
Perhaps as a result of this incident, in 1731, Wesley began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living expenses 28 pounds, so he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds, so he had 32 pounds to give to the poor. In the third year, his income jumped to 90 pounds. Instead of letting his expenses rise with his income, he kept them to 28 pounds and gave away 62 pounds. In the fourth year, he received 120 pounds. As before, his expenses were 28 pounds, so his giving rose to 92 pounds.
Wesley felt that the Christian should not merely tithe but give away all extra income once the family and creditors were taken care of. He believed that with increasing income,
what should rise is not the Christian’s standard of living but the standard of giving.
This practice, begun at Oxford, continued throughout his life. Even when his income rose into the thousands of pounds sterling, he lived simply and he quickly gave away his surplus money. One year his income was a little over 1400 pounds. He lived on 30 pounds and gave away nearly 1400 pounds. Because he had no family to care for, he had no need for savings. He was afraid of laying up treasures on earth, so the money went out in charity as quickly as it came in. He reports that he never had 100 pounds at any one time.
Wesley limited his expenditures by not purchasing the kinds of things thought essential for a man in his station of life. In 1776, the English tax commissioners inspected his return and wrote him the following: “[We] cannot doubt but you have plate for which you have hitherto neglected to make an entry.” They were saying a man of his prominence certainly must have some silver plate in his house and were accusing him of failing to pay excise tax on it. Wesley wrote back: “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.”
Another way Wesley limited expenses was by identifying with the needy. He had preached that Christians should consider themselves members of the poor, whom God had given them money to aid. So he lived and ate with the poor. Under Wesley’s leadership, the London Methodists had established two homes for widows in the city. They were supported by offerings taken at the band meetings and the Lord’s Supper. In 1748, nine widows, one blind woman, and two children lived there. With them lived John Wesley and any other Methodist preacher who happened to be in town. Wesley rejoiced to eat the same food at the the same table, looking forward to the heavenly banquet all Christians will share.
For almost four years, Wesley’s diet consisted mainly of potatoes, partly to improve his health, but also to save money. He said: “What I save from my own meat will feed another that else would have none.”
In 1744, Wesley had written, “[When I die] if I leave behind me ten pounds ... you and all mankind [may] bear witness against me, that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.” When he died in 1791, the only money mentioned in his will was the miscellaneous coins to be found in his pockets and dresser drawers.
What had happened to the rest of his money, to the estimated thirty thousand pounds he had earned over his lifetime? He had given it away. As Wesley said, “I cannot help leaving my books behind me whenever God calls me hence, but in every other respect my own hands will be my executors.”
What Wesley Preached
Wesley’s teaching on money offered simple, practical guidelines for every believer.
Wesley’s first rule about money was Gain all you can. Despite its potential for misuse, money in itself is something good. There is no end to the good it can do: “In the hands of [God’s] children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. it gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame: yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!”
Wesley adds that in gaining all they can, Christians must be careful not to damage their own souls, minds, or bodies, or the souls, minds, or bodies of anyone else. He thus prohibited gaining money through industries that pollute the environment or endanger workers.
Wesley’s second rule for the right use of money was Save all you can. He urged his hearers not to spend money merely to gratify the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eye or the pride of life. he cried out against expensive food, fancy clothes, and elegant furniture: “Cut off all this expense! Despise delicacy and variety and be content with what plain nature requires.”
Wesley had two reason for telling Christians to buy only necessities. The obvious one was so they would not waste money. The second was so they would not increase their desires. The old preacher wisely pointed out that when people spend money on things they do not really need, they begin to want more things they do not need. Instead of satisfying their desires, they only increase them: “Who would depend anything in gratifying these desires, if he considered that to gratify them is to increase them? Nothing can be more certain than this: Daily experience shows that the more they are indulged, they increase the more.”
Wesley especially warned against buying too much for children. People who would never waste money on themselves might be more indulgent with their children. On the principle that gratifying a desire needlessly only tends to increase it, he asked these well-intentioned parents: “Why should you purchase for them more pride or lust, more vanity or foolish and hurtful desires? ...Why should you be at further expense to increase their temptations and snares and to pierce them through with more sorrows?”
John Wesley’s third rule was Give all you can. One’s giving should begin with the tithe. He told the one who does not tithe, “Thou doest undoubtedly set they heart upon thy gold” and warned, “It will ‘eat thy flesh as fire!’” But one’s giving should not end at the tithe. All of the Christian’s money belongs to God, not just the first tenth. Believers must use 100 percent of their incomes as God directs.
And how has God directed Christians to use their incomes? Wesley listed four scriptural priorities:
1. Provide things needful for yourself and your family (1 Tim. 5:8). The believer should make sure the family has the necessities and conveniences of life, that is, “a sufficiency of plain, wholesome food to eat, and clean raiment to put on” as well as a place to live. The believer must also insure that the family has enough to live on if something were to happen to the breadwinner.
2. “Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content” (1 Tim. 6:8). Wesley adds that the word translated raiment is literally coverings and thus includes lodging as well as clothes. “It plainly follows whatever is more than these is, in the sense of the apostle, riches - whatever is above the plain necessities, or at most, conveniences, of life. Whoever has sufficient food to eat, and raiment to put on, with a place to lay his head, and something over, is rich.”
3. “Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17) and “Owe no man anything” (Rom. 13:8). Wesley said the next claim on a Christian’s money was the creditors’. He adds that those who are in business for themselves need to have adequate tools, stock, or capital for the carrying on of the business.
4. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). After the Christian has provided for the family, the creditors, and the business, the next obligation is to use any money that is left to meet the needs of others.
In giving these four biblical principles, Wesley recognized some situations were not clear-cut. It isn’t always obvious how the Christian should use the Lord’s money. Wesley accordingly offered four questions to help his hearers decide how to spend the money:
1. In spending this money, am I acting like I owned it, or am I acting like the Lord’s trustee?
2. What Scripture requires me to spend this money in this way?
3. Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord?
4. Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just?
Finally, for the believer who is still perplexed, John Wesley suggested this prayer before a purchase:
“Lord, thou seest I am going to expend this sum on that food, apparel, furniture. And thou knowest I act therein with a single eye, as a steward of thy goods, expending this portion of them thus, in pursuance of the design thou hadst in entrusting me with them. Thou knowest I do this in obedience to thy word, as thou commandest, and because thou commandest it. let this, I beseech thee, be a holy sacrifice, acceptable through Jesus Christ! And give me a witness in myself, that for this labor of love I shall have a recompence when thou rewardest every man according to his words.”
He was confident that any believer who has a clear conscience after praying this prayer will be using money wisely.
How the middle class are shoplifting to keep up appearances
Middle-class shoppers who have been hit by the recession are stealing hundreds of millions of pounds of expensive food in an effort to maintain their high standard of living, according to a new survey.
Quality cuts of meat, fresh fish and high-priced cheeses are being taken by mostly middle-class women from speciality food and convenience shops, where thefts have risen sharply in the past year. Thousands of retailers have found that luxury foods are being stolen for individual use rather than to be sold on.
The information comes from more than 42,000 shops in Europe with combined sales of £262 billion, who were questioned by the Centre for Retail Research, an independent organisation, for Checkpoint Systems, the retail security specialists.
They found that shoplifting in Britain has increased in the past year by nearly 20 per cent to almost £5 billion, £750 million more than in 2008, keeping Britain at the top of Europe’s shoplifting table. Clothing and fashion accessory shops were hardest hit, with branded designer goods high on thieves’ shopping lists, closely followed by DIY stores.
Neil Matthews, vice-president of Checkpoint Systems, said that he was astonished at the rise of middle-class shoplifters. “We are not simply looking at your traditional shoplifters here. We are seeing more instances of amateur thieves stealing goods for their own personal use rather than to sell on than before,” he said.
“This is epitomised in the recent uprising of the middle-class shoplifter, someone who has turned to theft to sustain their standard of living. I suppose people want to carry on with their lifestyle but cannot afford the expensive cheeses, fresh cuts of meat or nice fish that they used to be able to afford and now they just take it. This is the first year we have seen a huge rise in theft of these items and we are being told it is for their own consumption rather than to sell on.”
He added: “The UK’s retail industry has seen its largest ever increase in shoplifting over the last 12 months, and it comes at a time when the industry can least afford it.”
The report, which surveyed more than 1,000 retailers worldwide with sales of £514 billion, found that 43.5 per cent of all stock that went missing was stolen by opportunistic thieves and organised gangs, but employee theft was on the rise. Britain is behind only the Irish Republic in Western Europe for the most dishonest staff.
On the Thursday we went up to see Kenwood House and then in the evening I took him to Heathrow. It was nice to meet Mr Clarke and one of his daughters briefly when they dropped in with Joel's case.