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Throughout the New Testament, whenever we read of Jesus in Heaven, we read of Him sitting down. Sitting in the place of authority and greatest honour – at the right hand of the Father. It’s a place that Jesus alone deserves because of what He accomplished at the cross. He defeated the devil and all his evil angels, publicly putting them to shame, opening the way for human beings to be rescued from sin and guilt, and bringing us into relationship with Himself. After rising from the dead, He returned to Heaven, where He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, indicating that His redemptive work is done.
But there is one occasion in the New Testament where Jesus stands up in Heaven. A man called Stephen was on trial for being a believer in Jesus. At the end of his trial, Stephen - by the power of the Holy Spirit – looked into Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. This so angered his accusers that they dragged him out of the city and brutally stoned him to death. Why did Stephen see Jesus standing rather than sitting? And is there any significance in that?
In Psalm 116:15 it says: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints’. Jesus knows all things, including what will happen in the future. He is the only one who can accurately predict the future. Therefore, He knew that Stephen was about to be killed for his beliefs, and I think He was on His feet ready to welcome Stephen into Paradise. Jesus cares when His loved ones die. In John 14, He promised to prepare a place in Heaven for everyone who truly believes in Him. At the right time He will come for us if we love Him, and welcome us Home.
What a huge comfort this is! To know that Jesus Himself gets ready to welcome us into Heaven! This is amazing. What a wonderful Saviour!
This truth certainly comforted me last Friday morning when I learned that a little boy whose nickname was Dr Joseph had died. I have no doubt whatsoever that Jesus was on His feet with wide open arms, ready to welcome him Home. Dr Joseph had bravely battled with leukaemia for most of his eight years. He radiated his love for Jesus to those around him. When other children were admitted for painful treatments, Dr Joseph talked with them and calmed them down. Because he had endured those same unpleasant procedures, the children were comforted and given hope. And now Dr Joseph will never suffer or be in pain ever again, because he is with His Friend and Saviour, Jesus.
A family friend has written this glowing tribute to Dr Joseph.
A couple of weeks ago I spent the evening with my friends Andrew and Kay. We laughed together, shed a few tears together, and had a special time talking about our little ones. These times of sharing so freely are rare and precious. So even though the evening was bitter-sweet and painful at times as we remembered baby Peter and Two and Three, we enjoyed it.
Read Andrew and Kay’s moving story of their beloved firstborn son Peter.
Guarding the Treasure by Linda Finlayson is a new release from Christian Focus Publications. It is part of the ‘Defenders of the Faith’ series for children. Linda has a lovely clear style that children will enjoy either reading alone, with an adult or as part of a group activity. I thought the book provided a wealth of information, and is a fantastic resource for parents, home-schoolers, Sunday School teachers and children’s workers.
Each chapter outlines chronologically the history of how the Bible has been preserved and accurately translated for the people from the earliest time of its writing right up to present day. Included at the end of most chapters is additional complementary information, which sheds extra light on the chapter. This information could easily be adapted into fun craft activities and helpful quizzes by children’s workers or Sunday School teachers. At the very end of the book are appropriate maps from the different time periods covered throughout the book, a comprehensive glossary and a bibliography.
The book opens with an account of the newly-translated Balangao New Testament being delivered by aeroplane to the Philippines in 1982. From this thought-provoking beginning, Linda introduces some of the main writers of the Bible, outlining their stories. In the next chapter, she explains in simple terms how the Early Church Fathers agreed, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, which writings to include in the Canon of Scripture. In the fourth century, the monk Jerome saw the need for people to have access to the Bible in their own language, and carefully translated from the original Greek into the commonly-spoken Latin. This translation is called the Vulgate. For hundreds of years, monks faithfully copied out the Scriptures by hand. Then came the Reformation and the urgent need for a new translation of the Bible for the common people, since only bishops and priests read Latin. In the late eighteenth century, a new need arose: the Bible was readily available in English to anyone who desired to own or read it, but God laid on the hearts of men like William Carey the need to translate it so that people in other countries could read it in their own language. The book ends with Cameron Townsend founding the Wycliffe Bible Translators, a mission organisation which continues its great work of Bible translation even today.
Guarding the Treasure is an excellent book, very well researched and put together. Although it is written for children, people of any age would greatly benefit from reading it. I can highly recommend it.
Last Friday, I visited the Holocaust Centre near Laxton with Reindeer Writers, my local ACW writing group. As I walked from the car park to the centre, I entered beautiful rose gardens, in the middle of which was a hexagonal monument with the names of the extermination camps from World War II engraved on each side.
The gardens were very peaceful with the trickling sound of a water feature and the gentle scent of a multitude of white roses, each with a plaque commemorating the name of an individual or family who perished in the holocaust.
Our visit began with a couple of short videos outlining the cold-blooded organisation and brutal terror of the Nazi extermination and concentration camps, and how the Laxton Holocaust Centre was founded. We were then free to wander around the museum.
The centre aims to show how wrong genocide is, whether it be in Nazi Europe in WWII, Rwanda in 1994, or Darfur in this century. At the beginning of the exhibition, I was interested to see a gallery of famous Jews. I had never before realised that Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Artur Rubinstein, Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein were Jewish. It is frightening how prejudice can completely blind people to a person’s worth. Einstein’s written works in physics were burned by the Nazis simply because he was Jewish and, therefore, considered a threat to the Nazi regime. This is utter madness. Yet it happened… and made perfect sense to educated, reasoning people at the time.
The Nazis’ attitude towards children was interesting. I saw a photo of a maternity hospital with an SS banner proudly displayed over the cots. It was part of the Lebensborn (Spring of Life) Programme. In this programme, young women with appropriate racial characteristics were selected to conceive children by SS officers in Hitler’s relentless request for a master race. (Hmm, designer babies. Does that ring any bells today?) Not only that, but Aryan-looking children were kidnapped from occupied countries including Poland and Norway. These little ones were then indoctrinated and raised as young Nazis. Aryan-looking children were desired, so they were favoured by the Nazi regime.
But what about Jewish children? Or children from non-Aryan backgrounds? Their lives were of no consequence to the Nazis. If small starving children forced to live in the ghettoes were caught stealing food, they were shot.
As I pondered on my visit, I could not help but be saddened by the fact that seventy years on, we still have not learnt to value the lives of those who are perceived as being a little bit different to us. Tragically, a form of ‘selection’ still goes on. If someone is smaller and more dependent than us, we feel it gives us the right to choose whether or not that person has worth and should be allowed to live. Currently 180,000 abortions are carried out every year in England and Wales. If it was wrong to exterminate human people in the Holocaust (and it was), surely it is also wrong to abort human people in the womb?
I have just been speaking to my friend David, who lost his beloved mother a few days ago. He was particularly touched at her funeral, when he heard a precious memory that his brother shared.
Some twenty years or so ago, David’s brother visited their mum with his wife and eight-month-old son Nathan, in Scotland. While there, baby Nathan became ill and was taken to the local hospital, where he was diagnosed with a hole in his heart. The doctors recommended immediate surgery. Sadly, baby Nathan did not survive the operation. But every year since, on the anniversary of his death, David’s mum has sent flowers and a card to Nathan’s parents.
I have never met David’s mum (although I am confident I will do one day), but I have gathered over the time I’ve known David that she was a special woman, one of God’s true saints. I admire and love her for having the courage to remember baby Nathan every year, and show her support of his parents in such an obvious way.
As I speak to parents grieving over lost little ones, whether it be a recent loss or from many years ago, I hear the same thing over and over again: their families and friends don’t know what to say or do, so say and do nothing. I’m sure David’s mum felt like that too when she lost her baby grandson. But rather than ignore his death (as so many others would do in such a situation), she courageously chose to remember him.
Do you know someone who would be comforted by receiving a card or some flowers from you? Why not emulate David’s mum, who did not hesitate to ‘weep with those who weep’.
I think this interview with John Piper is very helpful on the question: what happens to infants who die? It can be a difficult, painful question for those of us who have suffered loss of a little one at any stage from conception onwards. Pastor John shares some biblical principles that are both comforting and clear.
You can also read a transcript of the interview at Desiring God Ministries here.
After that terrible, thundery Friday afternoon on 12th May 2006 when I lost Two and Three (and consequently all hope of having children of my own), I turned to my library of books for comfort. My Bible was my first port of call. As I’ve said earlier in this blog, for me it was vital to give God glory rather than blame Him and become bitter. So I purposefully echoed in my heart Job’s words after he lost all of his children (along with his home, all his possessions, his money and his health):
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.
I also turned to godly Christian writers who I respect and look up to, one of whom was Elisabeth Elliot. Although we have never met, her books have had a huge influence on my life and I consider her one of my spiritual mothers. Within one of her books was an article that comforted me greatly: A Tiny Treasure in Heaven. She shares the heartbreaking loss of her daughter and son-in-law Val and Walt when Val miscarried a wee daughter in her fourth month of pregnancy. Many years later, they still remember how ‘beautifully formed’ she was; tiny but perfect, fitting into the palm of a hand.
Article used by kind permission of the author, Elisabeth Elliot.