Sunday, 27 December 2015

Thomas Kenny (Rest in Peace)

Thomas Kenny (Rest in Peace). My Dad- A fisherman, footballer, bowler, singer, husband, grandfather, uncle, coach, fitter, carpenter, family taxi driver, strongman, huntsman, gardener, forgiver, encourager, friend, example and hero passed away in the early hours of Christmas morning. He was ready to go and leave this old world and is now at peace.He was always great fun at Christmas time and would want those who knew him to think of the good times they shared together.He was almost eighty seven years old and the youngest of seven children born to William and Martha, after Billy, Lilly, Anne, Andy ( pre WW1) Ella and Mary (post WW1).He will be sadly missed and remembered for being a great family man and a loyal friend to all who knew him.

He did not speak much about his faith but rather preferred to sing about it! I remember as a child listening to my Mum and Dad sing 'Farther Along We'll Understand Why' among other hymns. At the local Methodist Church where we attended when I was a child, he loved it when we sang the old Wesley hymns such as 'Oh for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemers's praise' and 'And Can it be that I should can an interest in the Saviour's blood'. Though he was a Fitter in the Ship Yard in Belfast I never heard him swear once no matter how angry he got- I remember him more for his smiles and his laughter!  I also don't  remember ever being smacked, though I knew a look from him was enough for me to mend my ways if I had done something wrong!

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

 Hearing my Dad sing these songs with such passion and feeling gave me my first love for them, which was later to be increased when the words were to resonate  with my own spiritual conditional-that is, when I came to faith and was born again of the Spirit of God and could then fully appreciate the words. My Dad did come to faith himself when he was fifty. My mum and sister were already Christians at the time. He had a cancerous growth on his neck and had to go into the hospital to get it removed. I knew my Dad was worried that this would be' the end game' for him. It made us pray with intensity and I even prayed that God would give me my Dad's cancer in order that he would have time to come to faith- and if possible he would come to faith soon.Call it a miracle if you like-my Dad did come to put his trust in Christ that week and the cancerous growth was discovered to be benign!  On his death bed a few weeks ago he told us  that he had asked God into his heart and that he was ready to go to be with his Maker. 

My Dad supported me in all my sporting ventures and he often got involved with coaching and encouraging the players, as well as giving us lifts to the matches.

Old age did not come easy to my Dad. He had always been an active man, so struggling physically was irksome to him! 

With Ethel the love of his life for over sixty years.

On holiday here. He never drank alcohol and never needed it to be the life and soul  of the party. He loved to sing till late on : be it 'Galway Bay' , 'Kathleen ' or 'Danny Boy', He loved to sing and sing well he did!

 Sitting beside my hero Dad, the biggest, strongest and wisest man on the earth who I believed could sort out any problem and fix anything that was broken.

               Three generations of Kennys- my dad Tom, myself and my son Andrew jnr.

 Christmas time many years ago. Tom bringing in the Turkey. He liked to have the job of carving it!Apart from that he never did much in the kitchen. He brought home the Bacon and my mum cooked it, set the table and cleared up afterwards!

My Dad loved his two Springer Spaniel dogs, Paddy and Clyde, who he had trained well as gun dogs.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The world's greatest hymn :'My High Tower' by Paul Gerhardt

It is true that I love great hymns, and among them, I believe Charles and John Wesley have written most of the greatest. However, there is one hymn that I think I would hail even greater than any of the Wesley's, and that I offer to you now. It was originally written by the Lutheran Pastor Paul Gerhardt, who by any stretch of the imagination you could not say he enjoyed a comfortable life. It was later translated by the author Frances Bevan. The hymn is based on Psalm 62 and Romans 8, so if you are familiar with those passages you will recognise their spirit and content within the verses. The hymn is a powerful confession of faith in the midst of trouble and tribulation, and as I wrote before, Gerhardt was no ivory tower theologian and no stranger to family bereavement. I first came across the hymn in the 1970's when as a teenager I  attended a fellowship  where we sang many great old hymns put to guitar music. I hope you will find the words a blessing as they have been to me these many years. AK

Is God for me? I fear not, though all against me rise;

I call on Christ my Saviour, the host of evil flies.

My friend the Lord Almighty, and He who loves me, God,

What enemy shall harm me, though coming as a flood?

I know it, I believe it, I say it fearlessly,

That God, the Highest, Mightiest, for ever loveth me;

At all times, in all places, He standeth at my side,

He rules the battle fury, the tempest and the tide.

A Rock that stands for ever is Christ my Righteousness,

And there I stand unfearing in everlasting bliss;

No earthly thing is needful to this my life from Heaven,

And nought of love is worthy, save that which Christ has given.

Christ, all my praise and glory, my Light most sweet and fair,

The ship wherein He saileth is scatheless everywhere;

In Him I dare be joyful, a hero in the war,

The judgment of the sinner affrighteth me no more.

There is no condemnation, there is no hell for me,

The torment and the fire my eyes shall never see;

For me there is no sentence, for me has death no stings,

Because the Lord Who saved me shall shield me with His wings.

Above my soul’s dark waters His Spirit hovers still,

He guards me from all sorrow, from terror and from ill;

In me He works and blesses the life-seed He has sown,

From Him I learn the Abba, that prayer of faith alone.

And if in lonely places, a fearful child, I shrink,

He prays the prayers within me I cannot ask or think;

In deep unspoken language, known only to that Love

Who fathoms the heart’s mystery from the Throne of Light above.

His Spirit to my spirit sweet words of comfort saith,

How God the weak one strengthens who leans on Him in faith;

How He hath built a City, of love, and light, and song,

Where the eye at last beholdeth what the heart had loved so long.

And there is mine inheritance, my kingly palace-home;

The leaf may fall and perish, not less the spring will come;

As wind and rain of winter, our earthly sighs and tears,

Till the golden summer dawneth of the endless Year of years.

The world may pass and perish, Thou, God, wilt not remove—

No hatred of all devils can part me from Thy Love;

No hungering nor thirsting, no poverty nor care,

No wrath of mighty princes can reach my shelter there.

No Angel, and no Heaven, no throne, nor power, nor might,

No love, no tribulation, no danger, fear, nor fight,

No height, no depth, no creature that has been or can be,

Can drive me from Thy bosom, can sever me from Thee.

My heart in joy upleapeth, grief cannot linger there—

While singing high in glory amidst the sunshine fair;

The source of all my singing is high in Heaven above;

The Sun that shines upon me is Jesus and His Love.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Quotes of Note: Martin Luther—Master Pastor on anfechtung -trial, testing, affliction, tribulation by Dr. Bob Kellemen

Note: You’re reading Part 8 of a blog mini-series sharing Quotes of Note derived from my Ph.D. dissertation: Spiritual Care in Historical Perspective: Martin Luther as a Case Study in Christian Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding. Read Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6, and Part 7. 

So far we’ve shared quotes from Luther’s pastoral care ministry of sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding. Now we shift focus to factors that shaped Luther’s pastoral counseling: his spiritual trials and his theological convictions.
Spiritual Trials and Biblical Counseling 
Luther called his spiritual trials anfechtungen (the plural form for spiritual trials) or anfechtung (the singular form of the same word). He clearly connected these strivings to his theological development.
Bainton emphasized the importance of anfechtung, while he also provided a working definition.
“Toward God he was at once attracted and repelled. Only in harmony with the Ultimate could he find peace. But how could a pygmy stand before divine Majesty; how could a transgressor confront divine Holiness? Before God the high and holy Luther was stupefied. For such an experience he had a word. The word he used was Anfechtung, for which there is no English equivalent. It may be a trial sent from God to test man, or an assault by the Devil to destroy man. It is all the doubt, turmoil, pang, terror, panic, despair, desolation, and desperation which invade the spirit of man” (p. 42).
“I didn’t learn my theology all at once. I had to ponder over it ever more deeply, and my spiritual trials were of help to me, for one does not learn anything without practice” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 50).
“If I live longer, I would like to write a book about anfechtungen, for without them no person is able to know Holy Scripture, nor faith, the fear or the love of God. He does not know the meaning of hope who was never subject to temptations” (cited in Vallee, p. 294).
Speaking of his battle with anfechtungen, Luther wrote, “living, dying and being damned make the real theologian” (LW, Vol. 41, p. xi).
“I can say nothing about grace outside of those temptations” (cited in Vallee, p. 294).
“Theology is not learned on a peaceful path, or through tranquil reflection: it is acquired per afflictions” (cited in Vallee, p. 294).
“Anfechtung is the touchstone which teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting the Word of God is, wisdom beyond all wisdom” (cited in Vallee, p. 294).
Luther As Physician of His Own Soul
“When I was in spiritual distress (anfechtung) a gentle word would restore my spirit. Sometimes my confessor said to me when I repeatedly discussed silly sins with him, ‘You are a fool. God is not incensed against you. God is not angry with you, but you are angry with God’” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 15).
“It is not as reason and Satan argue: See there God flings you into prison, endangers your life. Surely he hates you. He is angry with you; for if He did not hate you, He would not allow this thing to happen. In this way Satan turns the rod of a Father into the rope of a hangman and the most salutary remedy into the deadliest poison” (LW, Vol. 16, p. 214).
“I was very pious in the monastery, yet I was sad because I thought God was not gracious to me” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 95).
“How can I face the terror of the Holy? The words ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness of God’ struck my conscience like lightning. When I heard them I was exceedingly terrified. If God is righteous I thought, he must punish me” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 193).
“He (the devil) can make the oddest syllogisms: ‘You have sinned. God is angry with sinners. Therefore despair!’ Accordingly we must proceed from the law to the gospel and grasp the article concerning the forgiveness of sin” (LW, Vol. 54, p. 275).

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Tozer on the Universal Presence of God

What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world-scale I do not claim to know:
but what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others.

Let any man turn to God in earnest,
let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness,
let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility,
and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.

Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there.

Let us say it again:
The Universal Presence is a fact.
God is here.
The whole universe is alive with His life.
And He is no strange or foreign God,
but the familiar Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose love has for these thousands of years enfolded the sinful race of men.
And always He is trying to get our attention,
to reveal Himself to us,
to communicate with us.

We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures.
(And this we call pursuing God!)
We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice.

Friday, 4 December 2015

'Now I have found the ground wherein' by Johann Roth and translated by John Wesley

This hymn along with many of the Wesley brothers hymns has as its subject 'the love of God'. This particular hymn was originally written by Johann Roth and translated from the German by John Wesley. The hymn is a powerful confession of God's love, referring that it had its origin before the very world's foundation and will stretch until after Heaven and earth have vanished- from everlasting to everlasting. That love is also beyond what our poor thoughts can ever think or imagine. It depth is limitless- great enough to swallow up all our sins and all our guilt! It is a sea we can swim in -without 'anxious fear' and  'sad doubt', rather, a sea of hope, of rest and of rest! It is a sea of mercy : a sea of grace. Even if the very worst of life's trials will hit us - loss of strength of health or even friends. Though they will go over our heads, His mercy will be enough! Thoughts of Romans 8 are here and Paul's grand confession that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.I like the stance that the writer takes in the last verse:'Fixed on this ground will I remain'.  In a world when philosophies change and even more our feelings and emotions, he has taken his stand on what I call a 'non-negotiable'. He has got the best deal, the best promise, the best covenant  he can get and he is not for moving- he is loved with an everlasting love. Hold on to this dear brother and sister, and if you are outside God's Kingdom today I  on His behalf invite you in. He speaks here of God's heart :

'Thy heart still melts with tenderness,
Thy arms of love still open are,
Returning sinners to receive,
That mercy they may taste and live.'

Come now into His arms and experience that great mercy that you may truly live.AK

Now I have found the ground wherein
Sure my soul’s anchor may remain,
The wounds of Jesus, for my sin
Before the world’s foundation slain;
Whose mercy shall unshaken stay,
When Heaven and earth are fled away.

Father, Thine everlasting grace
Our scanty thought surpasses far;
Thy heart still melts with tenderness,
Thy arms of love still open are,
Returning sinners to receive,
That mercy they may taste and live.

O Love, Thou bottomless abyss,
My sins are swallowed up in Thee!
Covered is my unrighteousness,
Nor spot of guilt remains on me,
While Jesus’ blood, through earth and skies,
Mercy, free, boundless mercy, cries.

By faith I plunge me in this sea,
Here is my hope, my joy, my rest;
Hither, when hell assails, I flee,
I look into my Savior’s breast;
Away, sad doubt, and anxious fear!
Mercy is all that’s written there.

Though waves and storms go o’er my head,
Though strength, and health, and friends be gone,
Though joys be withered all and dead,
Though every comfort be withdrawn,
On this my steadfast soul relies,
Father, Thy mercy never dies.

Fixed on this ground will I remain,
Though my heart fail, and flesh decay;
This anchor shall my soul sustain,
When earth’s foundations melt away;
Mercy’s full power I then shall prove,
Loved with an everlasting love.

Rothe, Johann Andreas, son of Aegidius Rother, pastor at Lissa, near Görlitz, in Silesia, was born at Lissa, May 12, 1688. He entered the University of Leipzig in 1708, as a student of Theology, graduated M.A., and was then, in 1712, licensed at Gorlitz as a general preacher. In 1718 he became tutor in the family of Herr von Schweinitz at Leube, a few miles south of Gorlitz, and while there frequently preached in neighbouring churches. During 1722 Count N. L. von Zinzendorf, happening to hear him preach at Gross-Hennersdorf, was greatly pleased with him, and when the pastorate at Berthelsdorf became vacant shortly thereafter, gave him the presentation. He entered on his duties at Berthelsdorf Aug. 30, 1722. There he took a great interest in the Moravian community at Herrnhut, which formed part of his parish. But when, in 1737, he had to report to the higher ecclesiastical authorities regarding the doctrinal views of the Moravians, Zinzendorf showed his resentment in various ways, so that Kothe was glad to accept a call to Hermsdorf, near Gorlitz. Finally, in 1739, Count von Promnitz appointed him assistant pastor at Thommendorf, near Bunzlau, where he became chief pastor in 1742, and died there July 6, 1758. (Koch, v. 240; Wetzel’s Analecta Hymnica, ii. 756, &c.)

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

'Come, sinners, to the Gospel feast' by Charles Wesley

This is one among many of Wesley's hymns that have the theme of the gospel call. Charles and John both knew what it felt like to be lost, and along with this, the struggle of trying to work their way to salvation. Their understanding of the sinner's plight, as well as one called to bring the gospel message is perfectly exemplified in this hymn. Likewise their confidence that God's invitation is for all, that the returning sinner will find a hearty welcome, along with the urgency that they can and should come now, is also clear.
 If you have by accident or otherwise landed on this website and read these words, do not let them pass you by. Rather, fly to Christ  that he would have mercy on your soul and bring you into his kingdom this day. AK

Come, sinners, to the Gospel feast;
Let every soul be Jesus’ guest.
Ye need not one be left behind,
For God hath bid all humankind.

Sent by my Lord, on you I call;
The invitation is to all.
Come, all the world! Come, sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.

Come, all ye souls by sin oppressed,
Ye restless wanderers after rest;
Ye poor, and maimed, and sick, and blind,
In Christ a hearty welcome find.

Come, and partake the Gospel feast;
Be saved from sin; in Jesus rest;
O taste the goodness of your God,
And eat His flesh, and drink His blood!

You vagrant souls, on you I call;
(O that my voice could reach you all!)
You all may now be justified,
You all may live, for Christ hath died.

My message as from God receive;
Ye all may come to Christ and live.
O let His love your hearts constrain,
Nor permit Him to die in vain.

His love is mighty to compel;
His conquering love consent to feel,
Yield to His love’s resistless power,
And fight against your God no more.

See Him set forth before your eyes,
That precious, bleeding Sacrifice!
His offered benefits embrace,
And freely now be saved by grace.

This is the time, no more delay!
This is the Lord’s accepted day.
Come thou, this moment, at His call,
And live for Him Who died for all.

Charles Wesley