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Saturday, 24 January 2015

My thoughts...Your Thoughts...

Last week I concluded my blog with the words, This may be the last blog for a while. I wrote this with the hope that this week I would be offered a bed at Harefield Cardiac Hospital in order to have open heart surgery. But instead, on the day before the date of admission, the 'phone rang with the message that there were no beds available, and with it another appointment for admission a week later. This sort of delay is very common here in the UK, where we have the public-funded National Health Service. All it takes is for someone to go down with cardiac arrest, and he goes in straight away as an emergency patient for treatment, leaving the routine patient, such as myself, standing by the wayside.

It is so frustrating! I get hyped up for the procedure, only to be told that someone else had jumped the queue. Then to add to this, there is always that dreadful possibility that I could be settling in my bed at the ward, just hours away from the operation, when the Doctor approaches with the instructions that I must leave and go home straight away, untreated, as another emergency admission had just taken place. Such is the day-to-day running of a small cardiac hospital just outside the Greater London area and the Home Counties of the South East of England, an area in the UK with the most dense population. But again, if the Doctor were to ask if I would be willing to give up the bed for another with a life-threatening condition, most likely I would give in, maybe with the proviso that I would be given special priority at the next call.



I was surprised when I saw the hospital for the first time last Autumn. It is a lot smaller than I had imagined, and under the same Trust as its sister cardiac hospital, the Royal Brompton, in Central London, where my late father had a pacemaker fitted. In a situation like this, I wish that Harefield had a much bigger hospital, with many more beds, more skilled surgeons, doctors and nurses, and more operating theatres. Yet these two are among many hospitals dotted in the Greater London area, most of them huge institutions each housing hundreds of in-patients, along with its constant flow of out-patients. When considering the addition of many more sick people taking prescribed medicine at home, it goes to show that our nation's health isn't that great. And that is the paradox. We live at an era where we enjoy the forefront of scientific knowledge and technology. We have explored the genome, found suitable drugs to tackle illness, we have learnt how to eat the correct kind of food, we have discovered that a sedentary lifestyle without proper exercise isn't good for us. We have seen the debilitating effects of smoking and excess drinking. Yet the National Health Service is bursting at the seams: Patients at Accident and Emergency have to wait in corridors, even remaining in ambulances that had brought them to the department, Government funding always making the News headlines, the fight between private and public investments - all proving that there are more sick people than what the N.H.S. can handle or afford.

Yet we read for example of Abraham, who lived up to 175 years, and was still fathering children in his old age. Yet there is no indication that he ever felt ill, let alone visit a hospital. Then Moses lived to 120 years, and apparently never suffered an illness in his life either. Sure enough, Job did suffer a life-threatening illness, yet he pulled through to live to 140 years, fathering children in the process - without any doctor's appointments or being cared for at a hospital ward. There is even a tradition that the Apostle John lived to a good old age. Just what was it about living in a tent on the backside of the desert? Plenty of sunshine and little, if any rain? Does our cool temperate climate affect our health? Or could our poor state of health be the outcome of life's modern stresses, anxieties, worries, especially on income, job security, level of education, household budgets, unexpected expenses, debt, marriage breakdown, an uncertain future? At least, since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, there has been, for example, no Divine in-group/out-group division within the whole of modern society, for God has always had his arms open to anyone who would come to him through faith in Jesus Christ, with the churches continuing to invite all unbelievers to repent and believe the Gospel.

But on the flip side of the coin, reading whether one is a victim of an in-group/out-group culture had a negative effect on me when reading the Old Testament. In the last few months my daily Bible reading is in the process of covering the entire section the Jews refer to as the Torah. That is the first five books of the Bible. For an example, in Numbers chapter 31, God instructs Moses to sent Israeli troops to take vengeance of the Midianites for allowing their women to seduce the men of Israel to worship their god Baal (Numbers 25.) After slaying all the adult men, the Israeli soldiers brought all the women and children to the Hebrew camp. Then in anger, Moses ordered all mothers, along with all the boys to be slain. Only virgin girls were allowed to live. So I visualised women screaming in front of their sons as they met their end, and young boys screaming for their mothers as they too were killed. It must have been a dreadful spectacle, and I must admit of being rather upset over this throughout the day.

This ties in with an event which took place several hundred years later, when God through Samuel orders King Saul to slay the entire population of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15) including children and infants (v.3), along with every livestock they owned. So imagine a stout Israeli soldier about to leave a house as the young couple lies dead on the floor of the lounge. But as he leaves, he hears a cry coming from a side room. He turns to see a eighteen-month old girl crying her eyes out, in her hand is an uneaten piece of bread her mother had given her. The soldier takes his sword and thrust it through her tiny body. Of course, she knew nothing about the sins her ancestors committed hundreds of years earlier, neither would she had known the difference between worshipping Baal or Jehovah of Israel. But her unfortunate situation of being one of the out-group does not seem to affect a gangster or Hell's Angel motorbike rider, three thousand years later, who after growing up into a life of violence, gang rivalry and bloodshed, becomes radically converted to Jesus Christ and is gloriously saved, and becomes a son and ambassador of the Lord, and whose seat is guaranteed in Heaven, while the soul of the Amalekite toddler remains lost in Hell forever. At least so that how it looks.



Such a situation I find very upsetting. Those poor boys and girls, so young and innocent of the sins of their ancestors, simply were unlucky enough to be born of the wrong parents, of the wrong time in human history, and on the wrong side of God's national division. From this perspective, I have a good idea where atheists like Richard Dawkins are coming from. He accuses Jehovah of the Old Testament of being a sadistically cruel, megalomaniac, a proudly jealous bully who endorses infanticide, and I have to agree, after reading the Old Testament, I would find it virtually impossible to argue against him. As a result, I have wondered how could I love a God like that? Even as a matter of interest, the Israelis who had fought the Midianites had shown a far greater degree of mercy towards women and children than either Moses or God himself. Try and counter Richard Dawkins with such reasoning, especially when the atheist reminds me that the Midianites were cousins of Israel, both stemming from their father Abraham.

I can imagine you thinking right now: the Midianites and the Amalekites were wicked sinners who sacrificed newborn babies to the fires of idols. Fair enough. Also the Hell's Angel killed someone in a bloody fight. The fact is, we are all naturally under sin. The Apostle James says that whoever keeps the whole Law but stumbles at just one point has become guilty of all (James 2:10). In other words, we all stand guilty before a holy God, not a single person in a billion years can plead innocence. So what's the difference between a Jewish Pharisee, an Amalekite and a Hell's Angel?

Then again, I'm thinking as a human thinks. I see the love the mother has for her child. A natural human re-action. But to complicate things further, when Jesus Christ was on earth, he had shown compassion towards children. When mothers brought children for him to bless them, he blessed them (e.g. Matthew 19:13) and has declared that unless one becomes like a little child, he will never enter the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:16-17) and such are the Kingdom of God. But while he was here, he was ministering to Israel, and not to Gentiles, as so demonstrated when he spoke to the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28.) So even in his day, the in-group/out-group between Israel and the rest of the world was still standing. How did Jesus have felt towards non-Israeli children?

On the face of it, it looks like God has been grossly unfair to the point of sheer cruelty throughout human history - allowing Abraham to live to 175 years, ordering an Amalekite toddler to be slain, saving a wild, murderous gangster, the latter because he was fortunate enough to be born after the Cross. How would he have fared had he been born during the days of King David? Then again, consider a child born in the far East, where Hinduism, Buddhism or even Islam dominate. What would be his eternal fate then? Or even a French, Spanish or Italian who had never understood the true Gospel of Christ. How would they fare at God's judgement throne? Again, human thinking, human reasoning, human emotions. But concerning human thinking and feelings, God had this to say:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
As the heavens higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9.

God's ways of thinking and acting will always be higher than ours, as his wisdom is greater than our wisdom and reasoning. Looking at the slaughter of the Midianite mothers and their sons, this took place at or near the Hebrew camp. Every single day the Levitical priests offered bulls, rams and calves as guilt, sin and fellowship offerings, and as such, there might have been the possibility of the sins of these people had been covered by these sacrifices, allowing their souls into paradise. It's just a thought of course, but the same reason might have been behind the order King Saul had received from Samuel, to slay all the livestock belonging to the Amalekites. As without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22) - the slaying of these beasts could have been the way for these children into paradise. The fact that King Saul had disobeyed the order and allowed the beasts to live, does not shorten God's power in making atonement. Rather, King Saul paid the price of losing his kingdom to a rival youth, the shepherd David.



Going back to the hospital appointment, it does look to me to be unfair for a routine patient who had never abused his body, having to stand at the wayside in order to admit an emergency patient whose condition was brought about my heavy smoking and excess drinking. It's unfair, but I suppose I could see myself as a "health pharisee" looking down on the "health abuser" - yet it is the latter who enters hospital before the former. A reflection of God's grace?

At the time of this writing, another appointment for the procedure has been set for the coming week. If I am put aside again, then I'll continue with normal living - going to work, looking after my wife, writing blogs. And so I'll continue until the day a bed is assigned to me.

Watch this space. The presence or absence of next week's blog will say everything.

3 comments:

  1. Dear Frank,
    I am so sorry to hear that your procedure was postponed, which must be both frustrating and anxiety-provoking. But as you know, God's timing is always perfect.
    As you say, His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, and as difficult as it is to understand in human terms some of His commands and actions regarding His enemies and even children, we must take His Word as a matter of faith. I guess the simple answer is that due to our sin nature, none of us deserve anything but eternal punishment in hell, and whatever blessings we receive are due to His mercy and grace. But we won't fully understand until we reach glory.
    Praying that your procedure goes well & for a speedy and complete recovery.
    God bless,
    Laurie

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  2. Your comments about the health care system in England supports what I have observed here. In our region we have several groups who have access to wholly free medical care and others who are not. Groups who have have insurance that covers all the expenses go to the doctor more than those who don't, and when they go they are more likely to be diagnosed as having a problem. Diabetes, heart conditions, adn many other diseases are far more common in the groups that receive free healthcare than in those that do not. It appears that free healthcare makes people feel they don't need to take care of themselves. Information is only valuable if it is used.

    I find that Dawkins and other's hypocrisy appalling. They approve the abortion of thousands of babies daily, simply because their births would be inconvenient, yet condemn God for ordering the execution of people who have developed a culture that approves murder and rape on a wholesale basis to prevent the spread of that culture..

    I'll be praying for you about the surgery.

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  3. Hello Frank,

    Not sure why my first comment did not post but will try again. If it is something where comments need to be approved first then feel free to delete one of them.

    Just wanted to say that I am sorry that your necessary surgery was postponed.

    May you experience the love of God in a very special way. Just knowing that you are embraced by the triune Godhead in such love makes any situation sweet.

    You are loved, accepted, praise of His glory, and complete in Him. The love that embraces you can never be severed. You are highly favored. I pray God to give you a special revelation of that love that will be with you during this time.

    What a wonderful reality to know that we go to bed so loved by the Father where we wake up so loved and walk so loved all day. It is a love that is beyond comprehension. A God who delights in us. A God who cherishes us so much even in our frail bodies.

    You are in my prayers Frank!

    Blessings,

    Dave

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