Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Step Out and Let God Step In

I've been inspired by reading Robby Dawkins' book to "step out and let God step in".  So, I'm off to town, where I intend to trundle round on my scooter, and let the Holy Spirit guide me.  I have in mind to approach people by asking if I can pray for them.  I don't have any expectations.  I'm going to do it anyway.  Watch this space.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

This is a record of my current best understanding of this long-standing question, answered from my perspective as a disciple of Jesus.

To fill-in the implied sub-text of the question: Does God allow bad things to happen to good people?  Or, even, does God even cause bad things to happen to good people?  I think yes to both.

I think that sometimes God actively causes bad things to happen to good people in order to teach them a lesson.  But He does so with love, and in their best interest. Indeed, it's precisely because He loves them that He does it.  Spare the rod spoil the child.  And it pains Him to do so.

Aside from that, I think that God passively allows bad things to happen to good people.  Could He intervene?  Absolutely yes.  So why doesn't He?  Because He has given us free will.  Free will means that people can choose to do bad things to other people.  And anyway, if God did intervene, where would He draw the line?  Would He stop a dagger stabbing someone?  What about a bullet?  How about a dose of poison?  A cigarette?  Doughnuts?

But what about those bad things which seem to just happen, apparently unattributable to the actions of bad people?  Does God also passively allow these bad things to happen to good people?  Absolutely yes.  Although a more accurate way of putting it would be not that He allows it, but that He doesn't stop it,
despite being able.  But why doesn't He intervene?  Well, it's more appropriate to consider the question, "What would happen if He did intervene?"  How would that work, in practical terms?  A coach-load of children about to fall from a mountain road due to a tyre blow-out.  An Alpine village in the path of an avalanche.  Cancer.  Surely it would be acceptable and entirely appropriate for God to intervene in cases such as these?  Free will has no bearing here, right?  Maybe so, but where would it end?  Would He drain the ocean to stop a swimmer drowning?  Warm the climate to reverse a mountaineer's hypothermia?  Position a huge pile of straw to cushion the landing of a jumbo jet with engine failure?  Seriously, it would be a truly weird world - utterly impractical & unworkable.

I think that sometimes God actively causes bad things to happen to good people to punish them.  But He does so only as a last resort, having tried to dissuade them from incurring His wrath by warning them of the consequences of their wrong choices.  And it pains Him to do so.  How does this differ from teaching them a lesson?  Punishment is to deter others, to inspire fear, to give assurance of His integrity and consistency.

I've been discussing at what happens to good people, but is there such a thing as a bad person?  Yes, I think so.  People who know the Gospel and yet repeatedly and persistently refuse to turn away from sin and towards God.  Does God passively allow bad things to happen to these bad people?  Absolutely yes.  He sometimes even writes them off, allowing them to indulge in sin.  Does God actively cause bad things to happen to these bad people?  No, I don't think He does, per se.  But I do think He does sometimes cause the destruction of bad people, as a last resort.  But this is like killing part of Him, and He hates it more than anything.  Some of those bad things which seem just to happen, apparently unattributable to the actions of bad people, serve this purpose.

I don't have the energy to add Bible references, but I believe what I've written to be Biblically justifiable.  I may add the references when I have the energy & time.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Conner & Cayden

These brothers were featured in the good news article at the end of a recent episode Russell Howard's Good News.  Watch this video, but be careful, because, as I was watching, something got stuck in my eye.  Both eyes, in fact.  My throat, too, thinking about it.


Even two instances of typical American schmaltz couldn't ruin it for me.  What a beautiful, heart-rending, life-affirming, and inspiring story.


If you want to read more about them, here's an article from their local newspaper:

http://www.nashvillekidstriathlon.com/assets/docs/16.%20Tennessean%20Article%20cayden%20connor.pdf

Friday, 9 March 2012

Prophet or F%$*wit?

It's Friday (well just Saturday, technically) now. Back on Tuesday I was praying to God about a friend's situation. A relative of hers had been terminally ill for some weeks. She had previously asked me to pray that his suffering would be minimised, even if his life would end sooner because of this.

Now, a
recent development looked likely to shorten his life further still. He lives a considerable distance away, so it's somewhat of an ordeal to visit. The last time she was there, collecting her husband from visiting his father, the aforementioned, terminally ill, relative, in hospital, she had declined the opportunity to pop-in one last time that trip prior to driving home. This was because her two young children were in the car, and the complications that would have entailed.

So we were now in a situation where my friend was wondering if she might now never get a chance to visit him again. That she might have wasted the last opportunity she would ever have to be with him. And the guilt and regret that goes with it.

I felt inclined to advise her to make the trip to see him as soon as possible, just to make sure she got that chance, lest he died before she got another chance. However, I didn't want to be overly dramatic, and risk upsetting her unnecessarily.

So I prayed to God, once again,
that his suffering would be minimised, even if his life would end sooner because of this. That God might assess the situation, taking into account his loved ones and those who loved him, as well as the man himself, and help minimise the trauma to all concerned. But I now added my concern for my friend about seeing him again before he died, and asked that God might give her that chance, if He felt it appropriate.

I wanted to know how to advise my friend regarding the urgency involved. So I hit upon the idea of asking God when the man might die. Which I did. But then I realised I didn't know how God would communicate his answer, since nothing immediately "happened" to give me an answer. So I spoke, silently in my head, just as I was already praying, each day of that week, starting with that day, Tuesday. I'd clarified that, for the the purpose of this prayer, the day ran literally, from midnight to midnight. Once I got past Sunday I was planning to add a catch-all of "after Sunday". But I didn't get that far. When I got to Saturday I got an REM eye-flickering, as I'd had when I first conversed with God. I backtracked to Thursday, then Friday, then Saturday again, just to check, and once again Saturday was confirmed to me by God.

Once I'd finished praying, I realised that this was going to sound pretty strange, potentially, to my friend. And I kind of wished I hadn't asked so specifically. But, anyway, I had. And, now I knew, I had to tell her. So I did. She was fine with it. Whether she places any value on it I have no idea. But she hasn't made any adverse comments to me, and she's still speaking to me normally.

Since then, her husband was called out of work to travel to see his father straight away, which he did, on Wednesday. My friend followed him there today. Although her husband has advised her not to see his father, saying it would be better for her to remember him as he was.

This presents a slightly new quandary. So I have since been praying similarly to before, but with the added proviso of asking God to consider what's best for my friend - to see him in a state that may upset her and possibly, with hindsight, wish she hadn't, or to take her husband's advice and not see him, and possibly, with hindsight, wish that she had. Specifically, I suggested to God that an ideal solution might be for him to rally round for a period, and be coherent and relatively comfortable, in order that her husband suggests that she does, in fact, visit. That way she would get the chance to say goodbye and tell him that she loves him etc.

So there we have it. I've been told by God that my friend's father-in-law will die on Saturday, ie today. And I've asked God that he might provide a situation whereby my friend would get chance to see him and speak with him one last time. It's 01:26 now. I didn't mean to set this up as a test, but a test it surely is. My thoughts are with my friend, and her husband, and her father-in-law, of course.

Conclusions

My friend, Trude, asked me what I conclude from all of this.

I conclude:
  • That God is here - I know this because I've conversed directly & unmistakably with Him.
  • That Jesus was His Son - although He didn't address this issue directly, what He did do and continues to do has blown me away to the extent that it's a now a given.
  • That the Holy Spirit exists, and is a pathway to communicating directly (okay, through Jesus) to God, and also to healing, because I've been filled with it, twice now.

Nutter Alert!


I know. I know! I sound like a nutter. Like I've been suckered-in, in a state of vulnerability and desperation, that I've been brainwashed. None of which is true. I absolutely did not imagine any of this. I was fully aware of what was happening, to the extent that I was observing it happening and thinking "wow, this is some weird shit!". I didn't expect it to happen. I didn't necessarily even want it to happen. I just did it as an experiment, an experience - "I'm here so I might as well give it a crack". I was sceptical to the last. But always open-minded.

I still don't have any answers to the thorny questions about Christianity. I still don't know or care about what happens when I die. I'm the same person. I'm not sure what on earth I'm supposed to do next. But it'll all fall into place. I do feel more serene (cliché alert!). I'm not weird, deluded, do-gooding, bible-thumping, or preachy. I'm still just me. Just that I talk to God now, and he talks back, is all.

My Second Healing

The next day, Thursday, I'd asked the minister of King's Church, Simon, if I could crash a cell group (aka home group) as I wanted to further explore the sermon he had given, specifically the PEACE acrostic.

My First Cell Group

The host hadn't planned anything much, and happened to ask me, "You haven't been a Christian long, Roger, is that right?"

"Six days," I replied. So he asked me what that was all about. So off I went, again. Everyone was rapt.

Then we decided to continue round the group, with everyone telling their testimony of how they'd become Christian. Really interesting. Normal people talking with sincerity about things that had actually happened to them. I didn't doubt their veracity for a moment.

Group Prayer

Anyway, back to the point. At the end, we did a group prayer. Just a kind of an open-channel, anyone chip-in with anything you want to pray about, type prayer session. The host opened the prayer asking for God to fill us with His Holy Spirit whilst we prayed. We each had people to pray for, and various other bits and bobs, so off we all went with it all.

The Healing

Anyway, during this time I was just buzzing, like I was filled to overflowing with electricity. Really powerful stuff. And I kept jolting, which I would never normally do. And despite having my eyes closed I felt like my eyes were looking into a huge void, like an endless black cavern. Crazy feeling. Really surreal/supernatural/unexplainable, like nothing I'd ever felt before. No God-chat this time, but definitely God/JC/HS stuff goin' on!

Next day, I'd clearly been healed another chunk. Like first time was 30% towards 100% normal health, second time was another 30%.

I could ask God for another chunk of healing, but I'm happy to wait. I did think it might happen the next Thursday in cell group, but it didn't.

No More ME?

Since my first experience I feel like I haven't got ME any more. I know: deluded, brainwashed, should be certified, dangerously optimistic. But it's how I feel. I've just been different. When I am forced into daytime sleeps they really are sleeps. Pleasant, refreshing sleep. Not horrible, feel-like-I'm-dying ME-crashes. And my body just feels like it's deconditioned, not an energy-less wreck.
For three weeks now I've felt like this. I'm still not right, but it's all different. I'm a work-in-progress, though, so need to see what happens over the next few weeks. It really does seem like I'm on the mend, though.

I now find myself wondering what I'm gonna do for a living, now. Don't fancy going back to my computer engineering business. Time for a change of direction, methinks. But I'm not rushing into anything.

My Third Deal With God

Poor Me

The following Wednesday, I'd been in bed since the previous evening, shivering, despite being wrapped in many layers plus hot water bottle, and generally feeling like I was dying (aka man flu, I know). It got to late afternoon, and I realised there was no way I would be going to my Alpha course that evening.

The Deal

I prayed to God, "God, me again. This Alpha course tonight - I'd really like to go. Not for me, although I do very much enjoy it. But, rather, because I feel I'm going to be asked to recount my experience of Saturday, and I strongly believe it will be really beneficial for people to hear about it. Especially coming from me, the sceptical, gobby one. So if you agree, then please go ahead and make me feel better."

So? Did It "Work"?

An hour and a half or so later, just before the Alpha course session started, I suddenly became well enough to go. Right at the last minute. Coincidence? Maybe. But there's more.

Right at the end of the course, ten minutes after we should have finished actually, I'd forgotten all about telling people about my experience. Nobody had made any mention about anybody's experience on Saturday. We weren't even on a related subject. When, suddenly, Sarah, one of the leaders, who was present when I spoke at the Sunday evening service, piped-up "Tell everyone about what happened to you on Saturday, Roger." I felt like it would be preachy, and inappropriate, and a bit "me, me, me", and also that there wasn't time. But everyone said not to worry about the time, that the end would be once I'd told my story. So off I went, with a slightly condensed version.

I see this as God nipping-in at the last minute to get me to tell my story to people that needed to hear it, just as I'd suggested, but forgotten about. Coincidence? Maybe. But I really don't think so.

Thanks, God

I prayed to God, as I walked home, "Thanks for that, God. Nice one. Mission accomplished. I expect to be ill again now, which is fine, coz the deal was just for the Alpha course. Thanks again." But he didn't let me become ill again, neither that night nor the next day. Maybe my virus would've been over anyway. Don't think so though.