Whose rights? A submission on the 8th amendment

Like suicide, abortion is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, not one that we can honestly recommend, if we care about women or children.

There is a tremendous sadness and loneliness in the cry ‘A woman’s right to choose.’ No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice-cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg. Frederica Mathewes-Green

We all know that no one leaves the abortion clinic skipping. Equally, I’ve never heard someone say they regretted having a child, no matter how tragic and desperate the circumstances. An abortion is always a tragedy- a tiny life is snuffed out, a woman, temporarily relieved perhaps, but left with wounds, be they physical or psychological, whether consciously or unconsciously, acknowledged or suppressed.

Rights of the Child

We all know from biology class, that a fetus, no matter how small, has its own DNA from the moment of conception, and as such, is a separate person from its mother. By making abortion, i.e. the intentional killing of a baby, legally available, we would pit women’s rights against their children’s in denying the basic human right to life the underpins all others.

We have recently strengthened children’s rights in Ireland, Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution (Children) Act 2012 in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1992), so how can we take away this most fundamental of rights?

Think about these four general principles that underpin all children’s rights in relation to abortion:
Non-discrimination means that all children have the same right to develop their potential in all situations and at all times. For example, every child should have equal access to education regardless of the child’s gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability, parentage, sexual orientation or other status
The best interests of the child must be “a primary consideration” in all actions and decisions concerning a child, and must be used to resolve conflicts between different rights. For example, when making national budgetary decisions affecting children, Government must consider how cuts will impact on the best interests of the child
The right to survival and development underscores the vital importance of ensuring access to basic services and to equality of opportunity for children to achieve their full development. For example, a child with a disability should have effective access to education and health care to achieve their full potential
The views of the child mean that the voice of the child must be heard and respected in all matters concerning his or her rights. For example, those in power should consult with children before making decisions that will affect them.

Rights of Women

Women’s right have come a long way in the last century in Ireland – I am very glad of the right to vote, and to own property, and to equal pay for equal work. However, at some point, it seems the desire for equal treatment as women became confused with the desire to become the same as men. While feminists in the 1960’s believed that legal access to abortion was a necessary evil to allow women to compete equally in a male-dominated world, in fact legalizing this evil can also be seen as profoundly anti-woman. Look at the reasons women opt for abortion, as one typical longitudinal study in the US found:
• financial reasons (40%),
• timing (36%),
• partner related reasons (31%), and
• the need to focus on other children (29%).

Note that all of these issues are social, with health issues down the list, and extreme cases at the very end. These are issues which can be resolved in much more caring and life-affirming ways than a quick fix abortion. Legal abortion actually supports anti-motherhood social attitudes and policies and limits respect for women’s citizenship; it perpetuates uncaring male-dominated society. Women come to think of pregnancy and parenting as obstacles to full participation in education and the workplace.

These attitudes translate into simplistic slogans such as ‘My body, my choice’, attempting to posit a right to abortion on a fundamentally flawed premise – that the baby is not a person. (If anything, that slogan actually suggests the right to suicide.) Each baby is a wholly separate person from its mother: with different DNA, different fingerprints, with possibly a different blood type or the opposite sex. The baby is a person living within a person and not “the mother’s body”. I find it so ironic that we fight against the violence of female genital mutilation (FGM), while at the same time fight for the violence of abortion as a right??

I believe that a woman should have the right to protection in pregnancy; she should have the right to every support necessary to give the child its life, and every support to ensure the child’s survival is she is unable to care for him/her. This includes supports such as peri-hospice care and open adoption. No woman should be left with the ‘choice’ of abortion.

Impact on society

In Ireland, we are discussing the repeal of the 8th Amendment, which by protecting the unborn child, has prevented abortion from becoming widespread here. A study has shown that it has probably protected more than 100,000 people from being killed since 1983, and that is a conservative estimate.  In all likelihood, each of us know someone whom the 8th Amendment protected.
In the same period, abortion, legalised in many countries with the understanding that it would be safe and rare, has in fact resulted in millions of deaths in England and throughout Europe. While the estimated abortion rate for Ireland is 1 in 20 pregnancies, the abortion rate in England is 1 abortion in every 5 pregnancies; i.e. 20% of pregnancies end in abortion.

http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/mapeuropeabrate.html

Access tends to be steadily expanded as abortion becomes increasing accepted and then available on demand, and then becomes seen as a ‘right’ with growing numbers of abortions as a result. In France, the number of abortions in 2013 increased by 4,7 % over 2012, from 207 000 to 217 0006, following a government decision to allow 100% reimbursement of abortions. As it stands, the average abortion rate among the 47 members of the council of Europe is 1 in 3, i.e. one pregnancy out of every three is ended by abortion; last year that meant that 4.5 million babies never saw the light of day – that is about the population of Ireland.

As a result of its policies on abortion, much of Europe is facing what is called a demographic winter.. European nations simply do not have enough children to sustain ourselves. It seems we have succeeded in raising generations of men and women who fear pregnancy and parenting rather welcoming them, despite our growing prosperity. Only Ireland is at replacement level in Europe. And once a nation falls below replacement level, efforts to reverse that trend have not yet proven successful. This parallels what is happening in China and Japan – where adult nappies outsold baby nappies for the first time in 2012.

Much media attention is directed at the ‘injustice’ of Irish women being ‘forced’ to travel abroad to access abortion. In the face of the enormous human crisis caused by abortion, this is really a ridiculous quibble. Abortion tourism happens wherever one jurisdiction is more liberal than its neighbours. Norway has recently legalised pregnancy reduction- where one child can be killed in the womb leaving the other to survive. As a result, there are fears of abortion tourism from Sweden and Denmark.
And by the way, sex tourism happens for the same reason. Airports in the Netherlands were carrying notices urging people to report underage sex tourists in Asia. Should we legalise underage sex in Europe just to prevent this?

Conclusion

Like suicide, abortion is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, not one that we can honestly recommend, if we care about women or children.

The 8th amendment is a good a law as can be imagined for protecting both women and children in crisis pregnancies. If we add to it sufficient supports for women in difficult circumstances, then it would be for the good of all.

No-one really WANTS abortion, ever.

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#100days100years

100 years is a long time! The twists of our history have given us all social and spiritual amnesia, leading us to a somewhat mythical view of our Irish history. I sense many of us look back with rose-tinted glasses, whilst at the same time many focus forward with cynical hearts. Both rob us of faith. Both rob us of His presence. Jasper Rutherford  24/7 Prayer Ireland

Nailed! Yep, I’ve been the one with the rose-tinted glasses, the one with the cynical heart. Looking back to Patrick and Brigid heart aglow for that golden age of Irish history as it became Christian, but looking ahead with fear and doubt as the winds of secularism blow.

When we discussed some kind of celebration of 1916 as a church leadership, the response was – well – MIXED. Our beloved American pastor was so up for it! But of all the Irish in the room, from both North and South, there was only one who was enthusiastic. The rest of us were reticent, unsure, dubious. What exactly would we celebrate?

I found I could not even articulate what I thought of 1916 personally. Brought up as a Catholic in a family that had been divided by the Civil War which followed, I had heard very differing stories.

My Granny, who lived with us, said no-one in her village in County Limerick had been all that impressed initially as news of the 1916 Easter Rising filtered through, although the mood changed after the executions.  She had never been in favour of the Free State herself, and she had found it difficult going back to learn the Irish language in the 1920’s so she could keep her job as a national school teacher. From Julia, she went to Síle overnight, as Gaelic names become politically correct in the new regime.

My other Grandmother, who was also a national school teacher, was apparently a true Republican, a gaelgóir who loved the Irish language, and gloried in the revival of Irish culture.  She died when I was only two, so I never knew her personally. But on the wall of the sitting room in Templemore, County Tipperary, there were only three photos:  Pope John 23rd, John F. Kennedy and Pádraig Pearse.  My mother laughingly referred to them as my Grandmother’s Holy Trinity.

And then I encountered Jesus through the Charismatic Renewal and joined a radical New Church movement, far from the Catholic fold.  Suddenly all my cultural assumptions, where I was a comfortable part of the native majority, fell apart with this new found faith and cultural identity.  To be Irish meant to be Catholic. All the rest ‘dug with the left foot’. To my mother, I had joined an American ‘born-again’religion! The only other person we had ever heard use the term ‘born-again’ was Ian Paisley -usually shouting on the TV, and he was certainly NOT a member of anyone’s Holy Trinity in the Republic back then.

In the 2000’s, we became part of a local charismatic Church of Ireland – which led to some more shifts in cultural perspective. Our Rector and his wife were from the wee North so I made my first acquaintance with Poppy Day in November, which commemorates those who have died in war – particularly soldiers in the British army.  It was strange to hear them spoken of as heroes to be honest; but stories of the loss of neighbours and friend in the Troubles were very moving.  I did lots repenting and forgiving.

Then, visits to Northern Ireland for Summer Madness started as our teenagers’ youth group went up to Belfast and then Castle Shane annually.  I had never been in the North since the 1970’s when our bus passed through Northern Ireland going to the Gaeltacht in County Donegal. I remember thinking the faces of the young British soldiers were so, so young. Just teenagers, like me.

And I bring all this baggage to the discussion of 1916 to our independent, charismatic, evangelical church today in 2016. We have at least 15 nationalities in the church, so clearly reflecting modern, multicultural Ireland.

What would the men and women of 1916 – many deeply religious Catholics- make of us, make of Ireland in 2016?  They deliberately timed the Rising to occur at Easter to symbolise a resurrection of our nation.  What would they think of a ‘nation once again’, perhaps, but one deeply and bitterly divided for so long as a result of their sacrifice?

Even though I struggle to make an overarching narrative of this mishmash of conflicting thoughts and impressions from the past, laying aside all rose-tinted glasses and and faith quenching cynicism, I have to ‘press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:14)

Despite all our past failures, in Christ,  I believe there is hope for this country; in Christ, we have a future. In the #100days100years movement of prayer, are we seeing the smouldering wicks of faith re-igniting, starting from the North, as, it is claimed, St. Patrick foresaw?

ireland by night

On refugees: a question for faith

Alyan Kurdi 3 years old: drowned escaping from Syria
Alyan Kurdi (3) drowned escaping from Syria

Triggered by the heart rending image of this small drowned boy,   it seems that the slumbering conscience of Europe has awakened in the last week, even if responses to the waves of refugees camping at Central Station Budapest varied vastly on the love/hate spectrum.

At grass roots level, there have been heartfelt reactions both for and against: from those who turned up at Munich Hauptbahnhof to welcome weary refugees from Hungary with water, food and sweeties for the kids, to those who claim that refugees rejected Red Cross aid packages because they were not ‘halal’; from those who offered  beds to refugees (over 19,000 in Ireland) to those who wondered why those beds were not offered to the homeless here. Reactions veered from compassion to fear, from empathy to revulsion.  But no one remained indifferent: that response was no longer an option.

European politicians also responded in various ways to public pressure: Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany boldly announced that they would receive up 800,000 refugees.  In Ireland, Enda Kenny raised our current quote of 600 to 8,000 over two years in response to public outcry.

Meanwh134516180_14395294459511nile, Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, questioned the policy of “Christian” Europe taking in so many Muslims, and continued to build a barbed wire fence to keep them out.  In response,  European Council President Donald Tusk suggested “For a Christian it shouldn’t matter what race, religion and nationality the person in need represents.”

But fear of being swamped remains – how will our social welfare systems cope, how well will these migrants assimilate into our culture, what about the real needs of the homeless in our own country?  What about Muslim extremists, like the Jihadis? There are so many questions.

‘Let them in, and let them work’ says the Economist. ‘A more open Europe with more flexible labour markets could turn the refugee crisis into an opportunity, just as America did 11924964_10153200897821275_1118916683368837632_nwith successive waves of refugees in the  20th century, including plenty from Europe.’ Not to mention the Irish fleeing famine in the coffin ships of the 19th century,  so movingly commemorated on the Quays in Dublin, seen here with the addition of fellow refugees from the 21st century. One of us.

‘Christian politicians won’t say it, but the Bible is clear: let the refugees in, every last one…’  Canon Giles Fraser challenged in the Guardian. Many European politicians like to claim our Christian heritage, except when it might cost them something.  Most Europeans are nominal Christians at best.

What is the true ChrisJohn.5.19tian response, I wonder. What  would Jesus do? More to the point, since He always does what He sees the Father doing, what is He doing right now in this situation?

For me, that is the real question.

 

Of the increase of His government there will be no end….

NightShineI always find it encouraging at Christmas to be reminded of just how many biblical prophecies were fulfilled in the Birth of Christ – way beyond any conceivable statistical odds!  We know that Jesus was in fact born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) over 2,000 years ago, in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) before fleeing to Egypt (Hosea 11:1) as Herod slaughtered the innocents (Jeremiah 31:15). The light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.

But this Christmas, I started to wonder about the ongoing fulfilment of biblical prophecy today.  How is the increase of his government going, since it should never end? Having done some research, I’m frankly stunned by what I’ve found. Get ready to be astonished!

Christianity is the fastest growing religion worldwide igrowth_doughn absolute growth, not Islam as the media would lead us to believe. Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the annual increase of new adherents. The absolute growth number is calculated as the annual number of new Christian converts subtracted the number of ex-Christians + number of births subtracted number of deaths (new converts – former Christians + births – deaths).

Christianity is the fastest growing religion at both parameters, both in absolute number of new converts and absolute number of new Christians due to population growth. In all, this sums up to an additional approximately 25.2 million new Christians annually:. 22.7 million due to population growth and 2.5 million due to conversions. This total growth of Christianity (25,210,195) adds the equivalent of more than the population of Australia (21,555,500) or the U.S. State of Texas (23,904,380) of new Christians to Christianity. Every year.

Christian converts are more than twice as many as converts to all other religions combined. growth_dough_conversionThe number of new converts to Christianity is more than twice the combined number of new converts to all the other tabulated religions, even if we take out those with negative numbers, such as Hinduism which is losing adherents.(2,501,396 vs. 1,090,541). And globally, around three times as many people convert to Christianity annually as convert to Islam (2,501,396 vs. 865,558)

The new converts to Christianity (2,501,396) adds the equivalent of more than the population of Latvia (2,268,000) or almost the U.S. State of Nevada (2,565,382) of new Christians to Christianity. Every year.

Currently, the largest religion in the world is Christianity with 2 billion followers of Christ; based on current trends, projections put that figure at 3 billion by 2050. This is even without any significant new wave of revival or renewal.

The number of charismatic healings and miracles being reported is on the increase. Of the two billion Christians today, there are more than 600 picisto-20141229153908-238732million charismatic-Pentecostal believers worldwide, the second-largest group of Christians after Catholics. Pentecostals and charismatic churches  can no longer be considered a small, fringe movement.  Broadly categorized as renewalist movements, these religious communities are experiencing their most dramatic growth at the frontier between Christianity and Islam in Nigeria; in the vast factory towns of China’s interior; among members of the rising middle class in Kenya; in the slums that ring the rapidly modernizing urban areas of Central and South America; in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Hindu-majority India. Blurring many of the traditional distinctions between Protestantism and Catholicism, renewalism is widely believed to be the fastest-growing religious movement in the world. And with the rise in this movement, reports of miracles and healings have been an increasing phenomena worldwide. An academic study of Iris Ministries’ work in Mozambique, an example of this movement, has found that yes, real healing is happening through laying on of hands (or Proximal Intercessory Prayer (PIP) as the academics like to call it!)

“These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;  they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  Mark 16:17-18

The number of new churches planted is increasing exponentiallchurch growth graph Togo Myanmary.  To give just one example, look at the number of churches planted by the Assembly of God in Cuba and Myanmar – both very closed cultures, Communist and Buddhist – working with local church planters. Notice in particular the rapid rise in numbers of churches planted since 1995. I found this pattern repeated in any denomination or church planting network. There are more churches of all types being planted than ever before.

It all looks to me very like what is described in Micah 4:1-2.

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways.


Now let’s look at some other ways in which His kingdom is coming in our days.  Remember, He came to destroy ALL the works of evil one, (1 John 3:8) including sickness, poverty and death (Isaiah 53:4, 61:1, 2 Corinthians 8:9, 1 Corinthians 15:16).


The numbers living in extreme poverty are dropping rapidly
, that means that fewer and fewer are living on less than $1.25 per day,  the UN definition of best_year_graphics-06extreme poverty.  The percentage of those living in extreme poverty globally has dropped from 40% in 1981 to just 14% in 2010. Some estimate that extreme poverty could be eliminated by 2030: this is the stated goal of at least one Christian NGO, Live58, as well as the hope of such well known activists, such as Bono. You can check out his TEDtalk on the subject here: http://www.ted.com/talks/bono_the_good_news_on_poverty

but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree                             Micah 4:4

War is becoming both rarer and less deadly too: so there are fewer wars occurring, and fewer Waning-of-Warpeople are dying in them.  In the graph, you can see how the death rates have fallen from around 20 million annually between 1940 and 1950 dropping to around a million in the early 1990’s to virtually none by the year 2,000.

After two devastating wars in the first half of the 20th century, Robert Schuman, the founding Father of the European Union, stated in his declaration in 1950, when launching the European Coal & Steel Community, that thus…

any war becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.

Today, the European Union has known over 60 years of continuous peace, after centuries of internal wars – and only two years of peace in the 17th century!

As it says on the inscription of the United Nations building in New York:

they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore… Isaiah 2:4

 Fewer people are dying young, and more are living longer.  Major killer diseases are being vanquished – tuberculosis, measles, and both the infant and maternal mortality rates have halved since 1990. Since 2000, the dramatic fall in deaths due to malaria means it could soon be the latest disease added to the list.  According to the World Health Organisation:war on death

Mortality in children under five, the age group, which concentrates the biggest malaria problem in terms of severe disease and death, has reduced by a staggering 58 percent.

In short, fewer people are dying untimely deaths. And that’s not only true in rich countries: life expectancy has gone up between 1990 and 2011 in every WHO income bracket. The gains are even more dramatic if you take the long view: global life expectancy was 47 in the early 1950s, but had risen to 70 — a 50 percent jump — by 2011.

Never again will there be in it  an infant who lives but a few days,
    or an old man who does not live out his years;
the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child;   Isaiah 65:20

Violent crime is on the decline.  Yes, again contrary to popular perceptions, violent crime is actually on a downward trend worldwviolent crimeide. Murders have halved since the turn of the century, while violent crimes are down by a third since the early 1990s in the USA.

In fact, the European murder rate fell 35-fold from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the 20th century (check out the amazing 2003 paper from Manuel Eisner, who dredged up medieval records to estimate European homicide rates in the swords-and-chivalry era….)

Prince of Peace! Of the increase of his government and peace,
there will be no end. Isaiah 9:6-7

Christ’s kingdom is coming throughout the earth through His church, directly and indirectly through the salt and light effect.  It’s amazing to realise just how much progress is being made. The divine kingdom predicted by Daniel, which started as a small stone, is really becoming a mountain that is filling the whole earth.

 But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth……    In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.     Daniel 2:35 &44

An interesting piece of evidence highlights this: in a landmark study of the much maligned 19th century missionaries, the sociologist Robert Woodberry made a fascinating discovery:

Areas where Protestant (conversionary) missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher fmmama1865detail2educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.

In short: Want a blossoming democracy today? The solution is simple—if you have a time machine: Send a 19th-century missionary.

What do we dream of for tomorrow?

Of the increase of His government there will be no end….

Some of my sources:

http://fastestgrowingreligion.com/numbers.html

http://thinkprogress.org/

http://www.christianitytoday.com/

http://europa.eu/about-eu/basic-information/symbols/europe-day/schuman-declaration/index_en.htm

https://www.academia.edu/2128659/The_Missionary_Roots_of_Liberal_Democracy

http://crcc.usc.edu/initiatives/pcri/ – the Pentecostal & Charismatic Research Inititiative

https://soci.ucalgary.ca/brannigan/sites/soci.ucalgary.ca.brannigan/files/long-term-historical-trends-of-violent-crime.pdf

https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/handle/2022/14131 about PIP

Miracle by Seamus Heaney

On the way to church a few weeks ago, I heard this poem read by the man himself in 2012 on Sunday Miscellany, a programme on RTE that I can remember from childhood. What a different perspective – not that of the paralytic, or the watching Pharisees, but this miracle told in honour of those who carried him to Jesus. For all of you caring for or carrying sick loved ones in prayer….

Not the one who takes up his bed and walks
But the ones who have known him all along
And carry him in –

Their shoulders numb, the ache and stoop deeplocked
In their backs, the stretcher handles
Slippery with sweat. And no let up

Until he’s strapped on tight, made tiltable
and raised to the tiled roof, then lowered for healing.
Be mindful of them as they stand and wait

For the burn of the paid out ropes to cool,
Their slight lightheadedness and incredulity
To pass, those who had known him all along.

A Song of Hope for Ruins

Crispins poem final 6

 I’ve been so moved by this photo – taken by friend Kyle Holland of the ruins of St. Crispin’s church in Greystones – that I started to meditate on several bible passages in the book of Isaiah to do with ruins.  What came out of it was a sense of His compassion for people in ruins,  which really touched me, hence the poem. His compassion changed my attitude, and has given me hope today to move into action……

It’s more a song than a poem really; I was singing away while writing (!) That’s why it’s called A song of hope for Ruins.  And I suppose it’s been written in the style of a prophecy from the Lord; that’s how it came to me initially, more as an act of creative worship.

Jesus was moved by compassion into action – that’s what I want for me too, amen.

PS. If you click on the picture, you can read the text much better. I can’t get it any bigger in the post (sigh!)

Here are those scriptures:

Isaiah 51:3

The Lord will surely comfort Zion
    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

Isaiah 58:12

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Isaiah 61:4

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations

And here’s the beautiful picture, without the poem!

10645267_581644141961364_6339229232363761546_n

Hope for the persecuted

 

N

Along with many other churches, we were interceding for the persecuted minorities in Iraq as part of our worship yesterday,  in particular for the displaced Christians of Mosul, although our prayers extended to the Boko Haram victims in Nigeria as well. We prayed for all those being persecuted and their persecutors too.

During the worship, I found myself watching a movie, as it were. It shifted my perspective completely from the heart breaking tragedy here on earth, with which I was grievingly burdened, to what was happening before the throne of God, which was as unexpected as it was joyous.  As I meditate on it today, I realise it’s all very biblical, but in the moment I was quite astonished – these were not my thoughts.

First I saw a long queue of people coming up to the throne of God. They looked Middle Eastern, from what I could see, and were wearing clean, white robes, although you could see where some had been wounded, bleeding. As each one came to the throne, our heavenly Father placed a crown on his or her head, and said, ‘Well done, well done, good and faithful servant.’  Tears rolled down my face. They were receiving the crown of life, mentioned in James 1: 12: Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Then I saw them waving branches and singing praises to the Lamb, ‘ Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! Worthy, worthy, worthy!’  They were incredibly thankful for what Jesus had done for them; they didn’t seem to be thinking of the price they had paid for their faith at all.  They just loved Him; they were ecstatic, joy filled to see his face.  In a loud voice they were saying:  ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,  to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength  and honour and glory and praise!’  Revelations 5:12

The last scene showed a huge, long banqueting table, covered in glistening white linen, with beautiful dishes and glasses of gold and delicious looking fruits in baskets in the middle of the table. And then I noticed Jesus was walking among them, and sitting down and talking with individuals here and there, and wiping tears from their eyes as they spoke, so tenderly, with such gentle attention and care.  I felt how much he valued each one of them, how deeply he knew and loved them.  And they were saying to each other,  ‘It was all worth it! It was all worth it.’   More tears rolled down my face.  It was all right. They were SAVED.

This morning, I wonder whether the fruit came from the tree of life mentioned in Revelations, which bears a different crop every month. The whole scene reminds of the wedding feast of the Lamb described  in Revelations 19:

‘Hallelujah!
    For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
    and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
    was given her to wear.’

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

The peace that passes comprehension filled my heart and mind yesterday, watching that movie. I knew that my Almighty Lord is really working all things together for good for those who love him, turning darkness into light by his amazing power.  The Wonderful Counsellor does lead and guide us to pray, to give, to act on behalf of the persecuted, so that heaven comes to earth in the coming of his Kingdom of Love day by day, but He also comforts by bringing them to the heavenly joys of  the eternal life promised and reminding us here on earth of the eternal home awaiting us.

He makes everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

We are N. Amen