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RUNWAY TO ETERNITY

A friend on mine, by the name of Dr John Dempster, lives in Inverness, Scotland. He writes a weekly piece called Christian Viewpoint for a group of local secular newspapers. He also very kindly sends me a copy.

I asked his permission to share some of these and he replied saying that as long as it states First Published in the Highland News Group of Newspapers then I have permission.

Remember these are written for a group of secular newspapers. Pray that they will bless the readers who may have no other Christian input in their lives.

This week his piece is called

Runway To Eternity

Every evening for 43 years regardless of the weather Robert Flockhart stood in the street in the heart of Edinburgh and despite considerable opposition in the early days, uncompromisingly preached the Christian message. This month sees the 150th anniversary of his death in September 1857.

On the day he died, Flockhart had a visit from Dr Thomas Guthrie, a well-known Edinburgh minister. The dying man’s face was ‘radiant’, Guthrie tells us. ‘I’m sorry to see you laid low,’ he said to the invalid.

Born near Glasgow in 1778, Robert Flockhart had joined the army as a young man, and served overseas. He led a dissolute life until his conversion to the Christian faith while he was in India in around 1810.

He was an undoubted eccentric, and may have had mental health issues, and he acknowledged that sometimes he spoke unwisely. But the genuineness of his faith was beyond question, and living in Edinburgh following his discharge from the army he set up a school, visited hospitals and prisons and preached in the open air outside St Giles Cathedral with passionate sincerity.

Guthrie confesses that in saying he was sorry to see Flockhart laid low he was speaking out of his sense of regret that he was shortly to lose a friend. It would have been more appropriate, he admits, to congratulate Flockhart that with God’s help he had served Jesus Christ well, that ‘his fight was so nearly done, and the crown so nearly won.’

He goes on ‘It would be difficult to convey any idea of the delight expressed in the look and the tone with which he quickly replied “I’m going home, I’m going home.” The scene was worth a thousand sermons and would have given birth in the coldest heart to the wish “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.”

Is this a faithful record of what really happened, or simply an over-dramatised Victorian death-bed scene? Well, at the weekend I was talking to a friend whose father had just died in Edinburgh at the end of a long and fruitful Christian life with a confidence identical to Flockhart’s. As well as the inevitable feelings of loss, my friend spoke of his sense of triumph that his dad could say with the Apostle Paul in the Bible ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’ ‘Life isn’t a dead-end,’ my friend went on. ‘It’s a runway!’

The Christian faith which gave joy, purpose and hope to my friend’s dad is the same good news which inspired Robert Flockhart. It begins with a warning – that we are by nature far from God, alienated from him, lost. But God forgives us and draws us to himself when we quit trying to sort out our own lives, and instead allow him to set us free. Flockhart describes abandoning all his attempts to make himself good enough for God in the picturesque phrase ‘I let all my doings fall to the ground.’

He used the picture of sewing with needle and thread to describe the message he preached. You can’t sew with thread alone – the needle must go first and prepare the way. Similarly, he said, it is the piercing, unwelcome message of human sinfulness which prepares hearts to receive God’s forgiving love.

Another picture describes what we receive when we are open to God. ‘In tropical countries’, Flockhart said ‘I’ve seen trees whose fruit seemed as if it wanted to drop into your mouth, it was so rich and ripe.’ For him, reading the Bible was like sitting in the shade of a fruit-laden tree while God said ‘Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.’

God’s forgiveness is one fruit. Another is God’s loving acceptance of us. Yet another God’s presence in us, helping us live for him. There are many such fruits: the one we eat last of all is a forever spent with God.

My friend tells me that that last day he shared with his father – walking in the late summer sunshine, eating together, visiting in hospital, watching television – couldn’t have been more perfect. Then in the evening, as they chatted at home about something inconsequential, my friend’s father collapsed. He died in hospital shortly afterwards.

Death does not come to all of us so easily, and yet Christian faith enables us to approach it with confidence and hope. Last week an old man found his fingers placed around the final fruit. ‘I saw him come to the end of the runway. I saw him take off,’ my friend told me, his eyes filling with tears. ‘And I miss him, of course I miss him, but John it was thrilling.’

John A. H. Dempster

First Published in the Highland News Group of Newspapers

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About housesitters

ABOUT Christian House Sitters Christian House Sitters is a Worldwide ministry that started in order to provide holidays for Christians and sitters for owners who needed a reliable Christian to look after their home, pets and garden. House owners do not pay anything to have their property listed. House sitters are only charged £25 per year and in return for this some enjoy numerous holidays each year. All fees from membership go to sponsor food for children at the Home of Peace Children’s Home in Kenya. This only supplies about a quarter of what is needed to feed the children so we urgently need sponsors. All funds go via our Registered Charity TLC Children’s Trust Charity Number 1156786 website http://www.tlc-childrenstrust.org N.B. Joining Christian House Sitters does NOT commit you to sponsoring a child or giving any support beyond your membership fee to these children. Although naturally if you want to support that would be greatly appreciated. We have some regular sponsors and other people who give an occasional gift. All are greatly appreciated. ABOUT RAY & MARILYN We are Marilyn & Ray White. A fun loving Christian couple who have been in Christian work for over 30 years. Marilyn was born in England but moved to Zimbabwe as a baby. At the age of 16 she moved to South Africa. Ray was born in South Africa and grew up on a farm. We met in Johannesburg and got married in 1966. Ray worked in business for many years then he worked for YfC in South Africa then went on to Bible College and Pastored a church. In 1982 we moved from South Africa to England. In addition to his theological training Ray trained in Psychology and since moving to the UK he has lectured in Psychology, counselled for the NHS and opened a Christian Counselling Centre. Marilyn is also a trained counsellor and manager. In addition to the counselling we trained Christian counsellors both in our local area and by invitation in other areas of the UK. In total over 700 people completed the training courses. Many are serving the Lord by working in or through their local churches. We also ran a secular Stress Management business. We are now semi-retired and focus our time and attention on Christian House Sitters and Ray also serves as a member of our Church Leadership Team. Ray also has an active preaching ministry and runs Christian seminars on subjects such as stress management for church groups. He has written two books. A Christian book that is a very practical workbook on Christian commitment as applied to real life. The book looks at how we can surrender ourselves more fully to God. This is looked at under the headings of Physical, Mental, Social and Spiritual commitment. The book is called Let’s Get Serious. He has also written a secular book on Stress Management called Stress Overcoming this Potential Killer. (Ray was previously Chair of the International Stress Management Association UK). News Update This book has now been released as an e-book as well A few years ago we did a 2 month House Sit in France. Whilst there we felt the Lord leading us to set up a Christian House Sitting service. Since then we have done a number of other house sits. We believe this site will benefit many Christians around the world. Feel free to contact us (BUT please no spam) NOTE: If you want a fast reply the best way to contact us is via the contact page on the Christian House Sitters website www.christian-housesitters.com God bless you, Ray & Marilyn

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