God gets Bill gets God
I told you I have a brother. His name is Bill. He learned to play chess at an early age and as a hobby it dominated most of his life. He studied chess, talked chess,
played chess and probably dreamt about chess. He played in clubs and tournaments, he played over-the-board and postal with players all over the world. He played against
computers and would spend hours analysing moves. He taught his wife and daughter to play chess. He taught others to play chess at evening classes. His lounge had wall to
wall bookcases filled with ... chess books. You get the picture?
Suddenly - he was getting rid of his chess books. I assumed he was clearing some of the old to make way for new but no - he said he had become a Christian and didn't
have time in his life for chess. I've painted a picture for you but it is only by knowing Bill that you can appreciate the significance of this statement. Obviously
the man was mentally ill. Some cult had influenced him. He had been brainwashed and was no doubt going to give away his family home and savings.
I had to rescue him!
I smile now when I think back but let me tell you that as a registered nurse I have encountered various mental illnesses. I was genuinely concerned for Bill's
mental health. As adults we have never spent a lot of time together but we were constantly in touch and at that time would perhaps actually see each other once a month.
Following his phone call I visited him more in the next couple weeks than I had probably done in the preceding two years! In talking to him I found a dramatic change
in that he was excited, happy, motivated and enjoying life. I couldn't figure out why he was like this. There were no signs of mental illness. He had not been 'captured'
by a cult. He had not become some sort of fearsome religious fanatic.
Bill did get rid of all his chess stuff. His shelves were reduced in quantity and were now filling with Christian books. His life became dominated by church activities.
I have always had great love and respect for my brother and at nine years my senior he taught me many things as a child. I was still willing to learn. Now he tried to
tell me about God and Jesus. I listened but for everything he said I had an alternative point of view. We didn't argue about these things but he was frustrated that I
couldn't "see the truth" and he eventually stated that it was pointless trying to convince me by means of intellect. The way I saw it, he had his beliefs and I had mine. End of story!
I DID NOT become a Christian.
The subject was dropped from our general conversations.
Lancaster and an old Morris Minor
More about Bill. He and his wife Margaret mentioned they were going to a Christian weekend event at Lancaster which is about 25 miles away from home. Bill asked me if
I would like to go along to any of the events which were actually spread over three days. He said he hoped I would learn some of the reasons of why he was a 'believer'.
We discussed it and taking his word that I would 'enjoy' it I agreed to go to a church service that he said would be 'different' to the sort of service I had previously
been familiar with. I was to go in my own car so that I had no need to linger on for other activities.
A few days before we were due to go Bill phoned me and asked if I could take some passengers as there were a few people he knew who wanted to go but had no transport.
I thought that this was probably a ploy to ensure I was still going but I didn't mind.
I was punctual in arriving at Bill's home and collecting my passengers. There was one other car on the outing - An old Morris Minor belonging to one of his friends. It
was full of bodies.
Let me clarify that the Morris Minor was not some restored and lovingly cared for vehicle that would be seen on veteran rallies and parked amongst other highly polished
gems in a mown field.
It was just a very old car that was still dragging itself from A to B when required.
Off we went, travelling northwards on the M6 motorway. The little car began to have difficulties. It was misfiring, losing power and overheating. They pulled onto the
hard-shoulder in a cloud of smoke and steam and I stopped my car to see if we could help but the poor old Minor was obviously very unwell.
It was thought that once the car had cooled it was in with a chance of restarting and proceeding slowly to the destination.
Bill suggested that I continue with my passengers and save the required five or six seats in the church for him and his group.
I was happy to continue as I didn't want to disappoint my passengers but I argued the wisdom of saving seats. Surely the church service would be over by the time they
got there? Only during this conversation did it become clear that the church service would last about three hours. Had I known that I would never have agreed to go.
I'd been conned!
How could anyone want to spend three hours in a church service?
Not wanting to let anyone down we did as suggested and saved the seats. The rest of the group arrived some 30 or 40 minutes late.
Bill was right about the service.
There were ministers from different denominations and they weren't wearing their uniforms - they were very casually dressed. Music was provided by a variety of instruments
and the songs were modern and lively. There was dancing in the aisle and everyone there seemed to be having a really good time. I enjoyed it all and three hours soon passed.
We came out to the poor little Morris which had more or less 'died' on the doorstep. My brain was in gear thinking about how we were going to get the car and its passengers
home. I have towed vehicles on many occasions and there would be no difficulty in towing the Minor back home but to attempt towing with both cars full of passengers was out of the question.
While I was stood apart from the others contemplating how best to ferry people home and get the Minor home I saw three or four ministers come from the church and approach
our group who were being nice to each other and probably having 'Godly' conversation at the stricken car. Obviously they had been informed of the difficulties encountered
by the latecomers.
These ministers and several others put their hands on the Morris Minor and were praying about it!
They could not be serious?
I was amused but impressed that these people put their Christianity 'where their mouth is' so to speak but what a ridiculous situation.
I know a bit about psychology and the power of the mind - I understand how a mind (and therefore body) can be influenced by 'prayer', rituals, incantations, magic potions,
hypnosis and all manner of things but I also know that what they were dealing with here was a machine. They had no chance of having any effect!!!
However ... The passengers squeezed in and the Morris Minor started. Then it was declared that we would return home on the motorway - very foolhardy I thought. They drove all
the way home without any misfiring, overheating or problems of any sort. Incredible.
To me, as a non-Christian at that time, the fact that the car started and drove without problem was obviously a coincidence but that didn't stop me being impressed.
What impressed me the most was the fact that when those people prayed over the car they expected results.
They expected God's intervention.
I DID NOT become a Christian.
Christians, Christians everywhere.
I seemed to be exposed to Christians everywhere I went. New people I met turned out to be Christians. Even intelligent people turned out to be Christians! How could this be?
I saw a local GP pray with his patient. What was going on?
I met Ann ( now my wife). A Christian.
During a visit to a local scrap yard and waiting for the proprietor I saw a rough looking 'skinhead' sat amongst a pile of metal with a mug in one hand and a book in the
other. Feeling a need to show that I'm a sociable fellow and not worth mugging I said, "Hi". He glanced up from his book with a brief acknowledgement of my right to life and
returned to his book. "What are you reading?" I asked.
"Bible" he replied and waited as though I may have something else to say but I was stunned and speechless. I had stereotyped that lad and got it all wrong. He returned to
his reading and I remained quiet.
Bill's wife Margaret died of cancer aged 44. I've been with many people during their last days / hours of life. Some people drift away from consciousness days before they
die, some appear to look forward to a release from pain, others die in fear. I realised that I have never seen a Christian approach death with anything other than peace
and acceptance. By "Christian" I mean true bible-believing Christians, not the people who simply choose a tick box on a form.
My on/off girlfriend Ann (a challenge in herself) had regular contact with a married couple who purported to be Christians. One of them was a lay-preacher.
They surprised me in that rather than explain their beliefs to me with any patience I was an object of disdain.
They believed that Ann should not be associating with me and I was verbally described as 'Beelzebub'.
These people had much to say but did not appear to conform to anything I thought Christianity was supposed to be about - an example of this is that they were supportive
of an adulterous relationship between a particular couple.
As far as I could see my moral standards and certainly my manners were superior to theirs.
The woman was particularly vocal and I recalled from my childhood that there was something in the Bible about women keeping their mouth shut so what did I do? I started
to browse the bible looking for 'ammunition'.
I was confronted with thees, thous, veils, blood and sheep and was astounded when I happened by chance to read some of Ecclesiastes - What's this doing in the Bible? Ann
gave me a 'Good News' Bible which with it's modern English was a great help. (I appreciate that some are not in favour of this version)
I began to ask questions. Jesus said, - "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" Matthew 7:7 NKJV
All these events were happening over a relatively short time period. I had seen the effect of Christianity on Bill, Margaret, Ann and others. I liked what I saw.
My questions about the miseries and sufferings of the world, famines, diseases, birth defects, man's inhumanity to man, etc. were answered maybe not 100% convincingly to me
at that time but they were answered.
Those of you who are Christians will recognise that seeds had been sown in words, actions and lifestyles.
I wanted some of the 'good feelings' I could see others enjoying but I was under a misconception. Like so many who don't understand I thought I should make a decision to
believe or not to believe? The sort of decision I could make about buying a car after weighing up the pros and cons.
It doesn't work like that.
Bill had told me that it was a simple matter to invite Jesus into my life. This sounded like I would be trying to convince myself of something that deep down I wasn't sure
I drifted along for a period as what I can only put into words as being a half-believer. There is no such thing of course.
Jesus said, "He who is not with Me is against Me". Luke 11:23. NKJV
No middle ground. I was still an unbeliever but there was lots going on in my head.
There are some events that I will mention briefly that brought the truth to me. I can't recall the exact chronological order as 1994 is a long time ago. Also, I cannot write
in detail as some events could cause unnecessary embarrassment to myself and others.
I said an occasional prayer in private.
I remember a time I was sitting in my car at traffic lights, feeling frustrated with all manner of things, I challenged God out loud. Something to the effect of, "Alright God,
if you are really there, listening to me, prove it. Give me a sign. I think it's unreasonable for me to say 'strike that tree with lightning' as I don't think you'd work like
that. How about some very unlikely coincidences? Give me some things that others will only see as coincidental but I will recognise."
I was about to drive a section of road with several sets of traffic lights. I travelled this road regularly and the lights were a pain in the neck, usually causing me to stop
several times. It would be extremely unlikely to drive this section of road without being stopped.
My chat with God continued,
"How about all the traffic lights being on green for me? Nobody else will notice but I will. If it happens I'll take this seriously and we'll talk more."
This is how I was. There was no way I was going to accept Christianity without personal evidence.
"Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." John 20:24. NKJV
Now you are wondering what happened aren't you?
The first lights were on green.
The second lights were on green.
The next lights were on red but changed to green as I was close to them.
This is getting exciting!
The next lights were on green when I first saw them but they were quite some distance away and I knew they wouldn't stay green for the length of time it would take me to reach
They did stay green and I was surprised.
I thought to myself that it had seemed they were on green for an unreasonable length of time. Was this coincidence or was God in control?
The next lights were on red - I had to stop. What an idiot! I had actually been talking out loud while driving - challenging God - stupidly considering that I may get some response.
I was disappointed. I didn't get my green lights but in retrospect I know from that moment my life filled with 'coincidences'.
God sent me to Thailand.
I didn't know at the time that this was God in action and I will not go into detail but suffice it to say that I had only once been abroad. That was a trip to Spain and it was
a disaster - one of the most miserable experiences of my life for a number of reasons.
I had not the remotest interest in leaving the UK again and if I had ever considered taking an overseas holiday Thailand would not have been on my list due to the unpleasant
experiences of two people I knew.
A Christian man I know was arranging to go to Thailand. He had been once before.
For reasons I didn't understand at the time I asked if I could go with him. This plan was not financially good for me but I had an inexplicable inner feeling that I should
look after him.
At the time I did not recognise the Holy Spirit in action.
We went separate ways at times while away. Our hotel was close to a seedy area of Bangkok. I was befriended by a woman in a bar who volunteered to arrange a taxi and show me
all the popular tourist attractions. A sensible price was agreed and a pleasant day was had despite seeing enough gold leaf statues and temples to last me a lifetime.
The same lady and same driver took me to see performing elephants and crocodiles and we also visited a restaurant in the evening. I met this woman's proposed son-in-law. An
Englishman. A pleasant man who went to Thailand on holiday three years earlier, liked it, stayed there as a teacher of English and now had a well paid job as a manager in the construction industry.
I had a few adventures both with my Christian travelling companion and when off adventuring on my own including a frightening night time car ride where I was sure the outcome
was going to be my murder so as to take my credit cards.
I'll try not to digress.
The lady and her (to be) son-in-law thought I was a nice guy and so they invited me to stay a weekend at 'her place' about an hour out of Bangkok. I went.
I was exposed to lots of 'real' Thai people and the way they conduct their lives.
I was awakened at about 05.30am to the sound of beautiful music being broadcast from speakers at the village temple. My hostess was busy preparing food ready for the groups of
Buddhist monks who walk around early each day and are given all they need by the villagers and it so happened that there was some special event at the temple this particular weekend.
Would I like to go? Certainly.
The majority of Thai people are Buddhists and unlike most English are serious about their religion. Even our taxi driver had frequently and alarmingly taken both hands off
the wheel so that he could turn to face and make a respectful sign each time we passed a roadside shrine - and they are plentiful!
Situated almost in forest at the edge of the village the Buddhist temple was large but not touristy.
I felt and indeed I was very conspicuous as a 'farang' (foreigner) but I was treated no differently to anyone else. I had been provided with a dish of food that I was to
place on a long raised area where the monks were to sit.
I sat with hundreds of others on floor mats.
The monks filed in and took their places and there was much 'hom homming'.
This was all interesting to me but there came a time when everyone bowed their heads and were obviously participating in Buddhist prayer. Something inside me was squirming
and I felt very uncomfortable.
I began to pray - silently. With sincerity in what I was doing I repeated our Lord's Prayer over and over again until that part of the ceremony was complete.
Then everything felt ok again.
Again - no details for you but my Christian travelling companion was at this time and without realisation getting into ever deepening difficulties.
Towards the end of our second week all became clear due entirely to my Thai friend's understanding and honesty in informing me of events I didn't understand.
My companion was alerted and all ended well. Thank God!
Or was it all coincidence that I felt a need to go with him and happened to meet a woman who genuinely became a friend and then saved the day?
I work in a private nursing home and as a nurse it sometimes happens that a relative will offer a gift. This happens a lot at Christmas when we get chocolates and maybe the
odd bottle of wine to share between staff and these gestures are appreciated and perfectly acceptable.
Sometimes a gift may be offered at a personal level and things start to get into a grey area with regard to ethics and morals.
The nurse could be seen as being rewarded for special favours.
Sometimes - money may be offered. My response is that if the person wants to give money they can make a donation to our 'Resident's Fund' where it will be used towards outings
There was an occasion when a relative of a recently deceased resident handed a £50 cheque to me.
The cheque was made out in my name.
Saying that I couldn't accept it I explained the ethics of the situation and suggested she make the donation to the home for the benefit of all. She countered the ethical
argument using the fact that the resident had died and so the money could not be seen as a 'bribe' or similar.
She also went on to say that she had given a £100 personal cheque to a more senior member of staff and that person didn't have a problem with it. She suggested I discuss it
with the other 'beneficiary' and I would be reassured that it was ok.
I took the cheque and indeed did speak to my superior. I asked if we were perhaps going to cash the cheques and then donate the money but she said no. She was certainly
cashing her cheque for herself and suggested I did the same.
I felt uneasy about this and although £50 would have made a big difference to me at that time I let the cheque stay in my 'in tray' at home. I looked at it day after day
knowing that I could really do with the money but day after day I figured I could manage yet another day without it.
The cheque was there for weeks and I even started wondering how long I would be looking at it before I finally decided to cash it. How long would it be valid for?
A day came when I was really desperate for some cash.
When I say desperate I mean it. I was just £50 short to pay an important bill and the consequences of being late with my payment wouldn't have been good!
I still felt uneasy but I could cash the cheque the following day.
I decided to pray about it.
I asked God to make it clear as to whether or not it was ok for me to have this money.
The following morning I had a clear answer in my head ... I tore the cheque up and I felt really good about doing so. Although that money meant a lot and would have made a
massive difference to me I had got rid of the temptation.
A couple of days later I received a plain brown envelope in my mail. It contained a £50 cheque from National Savings.
Some old Premium Bond had made me a winner!
God had made me a winner.
This 'coincidence' (of answered prayer) really struck home with me but of course when you try to share this sort of experience with non-believers they take the stance that
had I retained the cheque I had been given I would have had £100 instead of £50.
As already stated I'm unsure of the order of many events of this time. There were so many 'coincidences' happening in my life.
If I had a need for something - it was provided.
I have 'coincidence' stories about being provided with everything from a couple of elastic bands (they were vital at that moment) to being provided with a house (always
God speaks clearly
At work one day I realised I still had one big problem nagging away at me.
I had in my care a lady who was totally dependent on others to meet all her needs. She had come into care some eight years earlier after suffering a stroke and being unable
to cope at home despite people calling in to help her.
She was still mentally alert, cheekily full of fun and a pleasure to know.
Within a relatively short time she suffered more severe strokes, each leaving her more disabled than before. She became what the general population would describe as
She could eat and drink but was taking only just enough to maintain life. She wasted away to become a very frail hunched-up bedbound body.
She did not speak but would make animal-like sounds. Although I would talk to her when feeding her I don't believe she had any understanding. She had become a shell -
She went on like this for years. Her family visited less and less - the sight of her was distressing to them. She had a particular friend - a lovely lady who visited
frequently and she too could see no 'quality' to this life.
I too was distressed.
I was sat at her bedside in the privacy of her room. Feeding her slowly one teaspoon at a time for fear of her choking.
With each spoonful that went in more than half was expelled by a constantly rolling tongue.
I was thinking about the number of years I and others had been doing this day in day out. Why?
The question everyone asks at some time, how can a loving God let this be as it is?
I felt frustration. I felt anger.
Out loud I said, "Where are you now God? What are you doing for (this lady)?"
I do digress now just to tell you that as I am writing this I am crying.
To write of this experience is to re-live it and I am filled with emotion.
A voice answered me.
Not an audible sound but a voice in my head.
This was an 'ordinary' voice - not some deep thunderous movie type voice.
Just bear with me a moment while I try to demonstrate something.
As you are reading this to yourself whose voice do you hear in your head?
When I do it I hear my own voice.
I always think in my own voice.
If someone were to suggest I read it to myself in a Scottish accent then I would hear Sean Connery's voice in my head. No matter how hard I try I cannot hear a voice in my
head that I have never heard before.
The voice that instantly answered me was 'ordinary' but I had never heard it before. It took me totally by surprise by the spontaneity and volume but mostly by the 'attitude'.
For those of you who have ever watched the TV series, 'Dad's Army' I can best describe the voice as having the attitude of Captain Mainwaring speaking to Pike and
saying, "You stupid boy!"
In answer to my question, "Where are you now God? What are you doing for (this lady)?"
The voice said, "I put you there!" as though it should have been obvious.
That really is the point where I knew with certainty that God was very much in my life.
Many people have their own gods, idols such as money, fame, etc. Others say they believe in a deity but they make their own god who satisfies the criteria of what they
decide their god is like. It is usually all-forgiving so they can live as they want.
The true God of the Bible is just.
Through Moses God gave us the LAW to show that we can never earn our way to salvation by complying. The penalty is death but if we repent and accept the sacrifice of
Jesus who died on the cross to pay the price for our sins THEN we can be forgiven.
"it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement". Hebrews 9:27 NKJV.
Those who believe that they have been basically 'good' and so will be able to argue a case for their forgiveness on their judgement day have a faith contrary to what the
Bible makes clear about the justice of God.
Jesus said, "He who is not with Me is against Me". Matthew 12:30 NKJV
Those who are not with Jesus are to spend eternity in the 'lake of fire' with wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Thankyou for reading to this point.
If you don't yet understand you need to start looking at evidence and asking questions.
A good place to start is at a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, Bible-teaching church.
I may write more later.