Bible Blog Evangelism

The Shelter of the Most High – New Year, Old Hope – a Personal Testimony

As we reach the end of another year, and enter a new one full of hopes, fears and promises, it is always a good time to look back and give thanks, and to look forward with anticipation. I am sitting in Heathrow airport about to board a plane to Kuala Lumpur, for a wedding and hopefully on to Australia to visit my daughter Becky. I feel immensely privileged and excited to be involved in all of this and yet on Sunday morning when I heard of the Air Asia flight coming down in the sea of Malaysia it brought back all my old fears of flying. So I have been reflecting a lot, as I do at this time of year anyway, and I have decided to do something which I have been asked to do several times and yet have always refused. This is a very personal story and telling it may open some doors I don’t want opened. But I hope it will be helpful to others. This is my testimony of Gods grace over the past three years.

No Healing?
Two years ago I was speaking at a conference on Faith and Science, organised by the British Council in the most Northerly town on the British mainland, Thurso. As I was preparing to give my talk, the speaker before me, a middle-aged scientist, announced that he did not believe in God because he had never met anyone who had been healed in answer to prayer. I ripped my talk up, told him ‘you have now’ and related the following story.

In October of 2011 I had finished conducting the wedding of Steve and Claire, a lovely young couple in the congregation, during which I had felt really unwell. I asked Annabel my wife, to drop me home on the way to the reception when, much to my annoyance, my son asked us to go back to the church, because he had left his IPhone there. As we waited for him to collect the phone, out of the car and collapsed in a pool of blood just outside the doctors surgery. The local newspaper reported ‘minister saved by IPhone’, which whilst not strictly accurate did indicate one of many providences which God used. If I had gone home and collapsed at home then I would not be here today.

Without going into all the details I was taken to hospital where they discovered that I had two bleeding ulcers, one over a main artery. In the words of one of the doctors, I was ‘gushing blood’. After several ‘endoscopies’ (how I hate that word!) they were unable to stop the bleeding. In fact I lost so much blood that they gave me 24 pints of ‘blood product’ (the normal body only has 8) and, as a result I almost drowned in my own blood. The surgeon had to cut me open and try to save my life. I was in and out of a coma for several weeks, caught numerous infections, could not breath (lungs went down to 30% capacity), developed e coli of the lung and for good measure almost died with pneumonia. Each time I appeared to be getting better I relapsed and each time that happened it appeared as though my prospects were getting worse. At one point my wife was told by one doctor ‘there is nothing we can do now, its up to David’, which of course caused her to despair, as at that point I was lying in a coma. What could I do?

Prayer for Healing
Of course many people were praying for me. But there are different kinds of prayer. When I hear of a friend who is ill I will of course pray for them. But there is a kind of prayer which goes beyond that. It is the ‘burden of the Lord’. Perhaps best summed up by a man who wrote me and told me that he was woken at three in the morning and could not go back to sleep until he had cried out to the Lord for me. I heard this testimony afterwards from several different people – what was astonishing was that it came from people who did not really know me, as well as close family and friends. From the Malaysian Baptists to American Pentecostals, English Catholics and Scottish Presbyterians! My favourite was actually the two atheists who wrote me a card saying they were praying for me. When I recovered I could not resist thanking them and then asking ‘to whom’?!

The Free Church clerk of Assembly then sent out this e-mail to all our churches –
In the light of the most recent posts regarding the serious and worsening physical condition of Rev. David Robertson, a request has been made that the whole church pray earnestly to God on David’s behalf at the same time on this coming Lord’s Day at 10.30am or 12 noon (this would embrace churches that start at 10.30am, 11am and at 12 noon). Along with him being a family man, our brother in Christ and a loyal servant of the Free Church, we also appreciate the intense role he has been fulfilling as an effective defender of the Christian faith in our secular society. Please pray for David, for his healing, his family and his church. Pray that God will be glorified in and through this dark experience that we are facing as a church.

The churches responded. You can call it coincidence. But from that weekend on I began to get better. How one interprets that will depends on your pre-suppositions. The non-theist will just simply state it was the doctors and the science (perhaps with a bit of luck) which healed you. At least some of the professionals involved disagree. After getting out of hospital when I phoned my surgeon to ask him if he would be willing to come to a thanksgiving service, his wife said ‘of course’. I told her that she had made my day because her husband had saved my life. Her reply? “That’s not what he says. He says there was nothing he could do and that it was God who intervened”. He told a nurse that in 30 years of surgery he had only come across two people he would regard as miracles and yours truly was one of them! When I was leaving the ward, one of the doctors said ‘you are a very lucky man’; to which the staff nurse responded ‘no, he has been well looked after’, as she pointed upwards. All I know is that with a haemoglobin rate of four, the medical staff do not understand how I am a) still alive and b) not severely brain damaged.

Speaking of which (and yes I know all the jokes about ‘how can you tell’?), the experience was not just one of physical pain and suffering. For me it was a deep and profound spiritual experience, and not in a pleasant way. In some ways the spiritual blackness was harder to bear than the physical pain. The week I went into hospital Solas had just had a major paper on Same Sex Marriage published. It was headline news in the Scottish press because my co-author was Gordon Wilson, former head of the SNP. All hell broke loose. To be honest it was the cumulating of an on-going spiritual battle that had been raging for weeks.

In hospital there were things that happened and darkness of the soul that even today I cannot really talk about. I was on a lot of strong drugs that were psychotic. I became severely delusional. I was still able to write – even though I was in and out of a coma. They took my laptop away after a blog from me appeared in the local newspaper. I have no idea how that happened but apparently I am the only person to have successfully blogged from ICU! Once my laptop was taken away I wrote everything down on numerous scraps of paper – and even one occasion on the bed sheets. My wife kept some of them. They make interesting reading! I had the usual delusions of grandeur. E.g. I thought Colonel Gaddafi was after me, my wife was having an affair with the President of Columbia and the nurses were Real Madrid supporters who were torturing me by refusing to let me what the Barcelona game and had thrown me out of the ward. I guess one aspect of my character showed when I told her this and she held my hand and very gently said to me “David, you are wired to machines, you can’t move…can you possibly, possibly think you might be wrong” To which my reply was ‘can you possibly, possibly think that YOU might be wrong”! I think the worst thing I wrote was ‘I want to see Justin Beiber’! I hope I was confusing him with Justin Brierly, the host of ‘Unbelievable’, a programme on Premier Christian Radio which I have been on a few times. Another favourite is the time I requested that all members of the church should have a time of prayer and fasting between 3pm and 4pm. I guess I thought that even Presbyterians could manage to fast for one hour!

The trouble with these kind of delusions is that they are not like dreams. Even when you come out of them it takes some time to work out what is real and what is not. I was soon able to work out that I was not the King of Norway, and that MTW missionaries were not drug smugglers, but other ‘memories’ were harder to erase. The mind is truly an amazing and powerful thing. When I began to get better one of the consultants told me that my mind was both my strongest friend and worst enemy. He said my mind showed a determination and strength that greatly aided my recovery, but that on the other hand because of that strength, sedating me was like sedating an elephant! I just refused to be put down and to let go.

I will fear no evil
Another lesson in all of this was the reality of spiritual evil. I had a couple of experiences that I don’t think I can talk about in any detail, but suffice to say they were ‘hellish’. Six months after being discharged I returned to the hospital to meet with the psychologist to assess whether any psychological damage remained. She had come to see me in the main ward before I left to warn me that it would take me a year to recover psychologically. I asked her what she meant. She was talking about concentration levels, fears (what the bible calls ‘the terrors of the night) and panic attacks. I told her that the previous week I had taken an hour to read a page of the Spectator magazine, which would normally have taken me five minutes. ‘That’s what I mean’. “Ah, but wait a minute, today I read a book”. “What? A whole book? What kind of book?” “It was an Os Guinness book, on philosophy, about 220 pages” “You’re a freak!”

I have no idea why, but the Lord had protected and kept my mind and heart. That is not to say I did not have any fears or dark moments, I did and sometimes still do. But overall according to her I was remarkably psychologically healthy (I have been tempted many times to refer to her reports when I have been abused and mocked on some atheist websites as ‘delusional, mad and in need of a psychologist!).

I asked her on my final visit to her if I could explain something and get her honest opinion. I told her a little about what I considered to be the dark spiritual experiences. I asked her what she thought of them and whether she would regard them just as products of a mind which saw and felt the worst things in spiritual terms, or whether there could be any basis of reality and fact in them. I asked her not to patronise me, and not to tell me what she thought I wanted to hear. I was just genuinely curious as to her real professional opinion. She told me that the spiritual explanation made as much sense, if not more so, than any. She said this, even though I think she was not a believer, and she had a colleague from Norway present in the room as an observer.

Pray Psalms
I certainly did know the terrors of the night. There were times I could not pray. One time especially Annabel remembers when I told her I was in hell and could not pray. I asked her to pray and she couldn’t because the blackness was so great. Instead my family just prayed the psalms. Ahh, the psalms! What a treasure trove of wonderful medicine for the soul. How can any Christian survive without them?!

The ICU in Ninewells hospital is deep in the basement. It is a depressing place without natural light where most of the patients are dying. My son said that it was like going down into Sheol, the place of the dead. And then they read Psalm 139, ‘yea though I make my bed in the depths of Sheol, you are there”! Every day they came in and read and prayed. My good friend Dr John Ellis laminated some of the psalms for me and stuck them to my bedside table so that when I went to sleep and when I woke up they were there. When I began to recover, because of the darkness of the experience and the anxiety, I used to watch this version of Ps 91 every night to help me go to sleep –

I think the staff got to know it quite well. In fact one of the interesting side effects of my illness was the impact it had on some of the staff. I guess my families despair and faith being worked out spoke volumes. Sometimes the nurses would ask questions. One even requested to shower me and each time we were in the shower (amazing actually how I was completely naked and yet unaware – I had lost 30% of my bodyweight and was just glad to be able to sit there and be cleaned!), she asked me about how to pray and how to read the bible. I remember the morning one doctor came in to my room, asked the ward doctor to leave and closed the door. My immediate thought was ‘oh no, he’s got something bad to tell me”. But instead he told me a little about himself and then asked me what the point of life was!

Family suffering and support.
Another lesson I learned is that often the suffering of the family is worse than the suffering of the patient. Annabel was an absolute rock. Her love, practicality and spiritual strength were used to full capacity! I used to chastise her for not being with me which of course was unfair. She was with me every day and had to endure the nightmare far more than myself. As did my children. Someone magnanimously flew my oldest daughter over from Australia because I was close to death. She was here for a month – I don’t remember her being around except saying goodbye to her at the very end. Apparently she would come in every day and every day I would ask her in astonishment what she was doing here! What she did do was reorganise my study and catalogue all my books! That was an act of faith that I was going to get better.

My youngest daughter went through a tough time as well – although she told me when I got out that when they were told it was 50/50 whether I would survive the weekend she thought ‘good, Dad’s got a 50% chance of survival”. My son saw me in some of my darkest moments. I don’t know how I know that, but I do know that at one point, in the very depths of blackness, he was there. I don’t recall my parents or sister being there at all but they regularly came down from the Highlands. As did my best friend, David Meredith. Again I don’t recall him visiting but when I got out and phoned him, his wife answered the phone and was so thankful. She said he had been in a depression for six weeks and had spent some of the time preparing my funeral!

When I got out and made a quite remarkable recovery the chief nursing staff spoke to me and agreed that there was little support for families whose relatives were in ICU for a long time – so we set up ICU Steps – which is a support group for relatives and those who have recovered and are trying to cope with life outwith the hospital. It meets in St Peters and is proving to be very useful and helpful. A good fruit from a bad situation.

Gods Amazing Provision
Of course I am going to talk about Gods’ amazing provision. There is so much to be thankful for. The NHS, the doctors, nurses, medicines, the physios, community nurse etc. I find it somewhat sad that some of my atheist friends mock this and think that you cannot be thankful to God and to ‘science’ at the same time. But I am thankful to God for science, as I am thankful to him for all the means he uses, including doctors and nurses.

When I first got home for a couple of hours one Saturday it was an incredible feeling just to drink in fresh air. That is a feeling that I rarely lose. Likewise with the other simple things in life – water, food, music and Talisker! When I bound up the stairs in our house I sometimes remember how delighted I was the first time I managed to crawl up after being home for a couple of weeks. And food. I was ‘nil by mouth’ for several weeks. I remember the first time they allowed me to eat something. It was one small of Ambrosia creamed rice. I hate Ambrosia creamed rice! But that first small spoonful tasted like nectar!

I know that God delights in the details as well as the big stuff. Sometimes it is the wee tokens that speak so much of his loving and gracious provision. That first Saturday I got home for two hours, my Zimmer got me into my seat and I sat down and waited for Annabel and EJ. Where had they got to? There were whoops of delight coming from the hallway, where they were opening a massive hamper. At the very moment I arrived home there was a parcel delivery of this large hamper of goodies from Marks and Spencer. This had been ordered by a friend in the US who knew that I was ill but had no idea if, and when, I was getting out. And yet his hamper arrived at precisely the moment I crossed my own threshold. But that was not enough. Also at the time a large bunch of beautiful flowers arrived – again ordered by someone who had no idea I was going to be coming home at precisely the point they arrived. They had no idea. But Someone did. Coincidence?!

Let me mention one other extraordinary example. The month of November was my most difficult month. And it was hard for the congregation of St Petes. We had our congregational weekend away, normally a joyous occasion and yet that weekend the news from the hospital was not good. Yet the Lord was looking after his congregation. The preachers for November were Sinclair Ferguson, Os Guinness, Richard Bewes and Luis Palau. For those who know the evangelical world that is an extraordinary group of preachers to have at any time, let alone one of such crisis. How did it occur? Was there a rallying call, a cry for help to the wider evangelical church to which they responded? No. As it ‘happened’ I had arranged for all four to come for various reasons. I was very much looking forward to having a months rest from preaching and being ministered to by these brothers. I had of course no idea that I would be ‘resting’ in hospital. But again the Lord knew. Our times are in his hands.

The Beauty of the Bride of Christ
Just before I collapsed St Peters was going through a growth spurt. New families and individuals were coming each week. One of them, who had just started coming to church the Sunday before my collapse, confessed to me afterwards that they wondered why they had come when it looked as though the person who was instrumental in bringing them was going to be out of the picture. But then she said, “we realized it was God’s church not yours” Amen to that. What a valuable lesson to learn.

The Tuesday after the Free Church organized prayer I was lying in the High Dependency Unit, tubes everywhere, unable to sleep or move, still ‘nil by mouth’ and slavering over the massive bowl of fruit given to the man in front of me, who did not want to eat it. I could not watch TV, read, nor listen to anything and so I was just reciting in my mind Ephesians (how thankful I was that I had memorized a lot of Scripture) and preparing sermons (I had been doing a series on it) and praying. This never happens to me but I had a very strange experience. I don’t know how to explain it. I did not hear an audible voice but I did have a strong impression and I believe it was from God. I will tell you about the second part later but the first part was simple “this will be a real test of whether St Peters is your church or mine”. It was a test the church passed. The leadership stepped up, the people prayed and worked together and the Lord blessed his people.

The church continued to grow. After I came out I was sitting with my sticks beside a couple of ‘new’ girls. “Hi, how are you doing? Are you visitors here?” “No, this is our church, who are you?” “I’m actually the minister”. “Wow, so you’re the guy we’ve been praying for”! The Lord will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

And it was not just the local church. There were so many cards – real cards, not e-mails or electronic messages. I haven’t replied to them but they remain in a box in our living room as a memorial of the wonderful worldwide family of God. Everywhere I go in the world I meet people who say – we have been praying for you. The body of Christ can at times be ugly but when she is beautiful, she is really beautiful. I know of no family or community like it. It was quite ironic as well, that people who had a really strong dislike of me, or were upset at things I had said or done in the church, wrote and were genuinely concerned. One lesson I learned was that everyone loves you when you are dying. David Meredith called me one day and said, “you must be getting better – the hate mail has started again!” One of the most spiteful and hurtful comments was from someone who posted in public – `’I preferred him when he was nearly dead!” Some people think that I enjoy the ‘rough and tumble’ and that the abuse, hatred and bile I attract, is somehow water of a ducks back. That is not the case. I hate it. It leaves me with a sick feeling in my stomach – and again I retire to the psalms to express how I feel. The psalmist knew what it was to have friend and foe alight attack him.

Great Faith
One of the major problems that so many people have, Christians and non-Christians alike, is that they do not grasp what faith is. I’m sure there are people who think my story is that I, or others, had enough faith and therefore God rewarded that and healed me. X hours of prayer equals Y healings. That is not how the God of the Bible works. And that is not faith. It’s also why prayer is not open to laboratory experiments.

The best example of what real biblical faith is came from my son, Andrew. One day he came home from the hospital and wrote the following Facebook post: An update on Dad: There hasn’t been much said in the past few days because things haven’t been going well. His sedation was increased on Sunday and they’ve had him asleep since then. The damage to his lungs is still severe and today mum was told by the doctors that it’s 50/50 whether he’ll live or die. I write this with great anguish and a heavy heart but not without hope. There is still a hope that he’ll make it through this, but there is a better hope he has and we have. A hope that does not waver and is 100% certain. That is the hope of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. Jesus has already removed Dad’s biggest problem, it’s not the deterioration of his lungs but something more deadly… his sin. Christ has saved him from that. Tomorrow I go down with Becky to Dundee, knowing that this may be the last time I see my Dad… till Christ returns and “everything sad is made untrue.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Is that not extraordinary? Such wisdom in a 24 year old! It’s easy to write about faith in a theology essay. It’s easy to talk about faith when everything is going well. It’s easy to tell someone else that if only they have enough faith then they will be healed. But all of that is just hot air. It IS faith to be able to write that after visiting your dying dad. Incredible. Beautiful. And True. Faith is not blind. Faith is not wishful thinking. It is absolute trust in the beautiful Christ.

God Wins
At the Thurso conference mentioned above I finished off my story by telling them of my sons words. The scientist responded “but that’s not fair. If God heals you that is an answer to prayer and if he did not heal you that is an answer too. That means God wins every time”. He was so right. Of course God wins. I don’t feel I have a divine right to life. Every moment I live on this earth is precious. But it is still only a preparation for something greater. We live in the Shadowlands. At the same time as I was in hospital another Free Church minister was also seriously ill. He died. As it happens he was the Thurso minister and at the conference his wife came up to speak to me afterwards and thanked me. Of course it was a really hard providence for her and her family to endure. I can really empathise, as I know that it could so easily have been my family. I don’t have a right to live. But there is a reason and purpose to every providence of God. His time had come. Mine had not. But it will.

Go tell my Word
Now to part two of my ‘word from the Lord’. As I was lying there I began to become aware of just how seriously ill I was. And the fear of death (which I have always had) came back to me. And then I ‘heard’ this. “You will get out of here. You will live. And when you get out you will teach my word. For how long is not your business. Whether for five months, five years or fifty years is my business”. I have no doubt about that experience. It was not delusional. I was not in a dream. I was not on psychotic drugs. It was a clear mandate. And I know that God spared me for my family and to share in that great task of spreading his good news.

Magnificent Obsession
I really wanted to finish my response to Christopher Hitchin’s God is not Great. I called it Magnificent Obsession and it is the one thing I have written that I want to give to everyone – not because of the brilliance of its author but rather because of the beauty of its subject! I think my encounter with death really helped me in writing it. David Meredith puts it well “The book has the feel of being written by a man who almost died and has discovered what is really or who is really important. Dragons have been slain, elephants in the room exposed and becoming a disciple of Jesus becomes totally logical and liberating”! I don’t expect Magnificent Obsession to be a ‘classic’ book endorsed by my peers, or lauded in the Christian press. I don’t really belong to any network and I can’t be bothered with the whole publicity stuff and I know that the secular press are not going to buy into a book about Jesus that sticks to the Bible. However I am just happy that thousands have read it and people have been brought to Christ because of it. In some ways it is my testimony. Magnificent Obsession is like The Dawkins Letters in that both were accompanied by strong spiritual warfare and turmoil. I’m not sure I’m ready to write another book!

Just as my experience helped me write the book I think I have also benefited in another way. Just before I left, my surgeon, Mr Shimi, came to see me. He and I got on well. Apart from being a great surgeon he also took a real interest in his patients and I appreciated his care and concern. We used to discuss/argue quite a lot. On that day he was asking me why he should let me home – by then I had developed a DVT and he still considered me a risk. I told him that I could not get fresh air or a good sleep in hospital. He smiled and said ‘you are very clever, those are the only two reasons I would let you go’. He told me that because he knew my family would look after me and they had promised to put a bed downstairs and the community physio had agreed to come (isn’t it wonderful by the way that our National Health Service provides such care) he would let me go. Actually he added one other reason – he said that because I belonged to a real caring community of Christian faith he thought I had a great support network. Anyway as we were talking about going he said to me “David, you have a great advantage now in your work. You deal with the deepest and most profound questions known to man, and you have been right to the edge. Now your ministry will change”. These were wise words. Incidentally Mr Shimi is a Saudi Arabian Muslim, married to a Roman Catholic. I have nothing but respect for him. I loved his response when he came to the thanksgiving service we held in St Peters. I told him “Mr Shimi, you looked quite at ease here”…”it was a very interesting service, David, but I think I would have some theological differences with you”. “Mr Shimi, you are a liberal Muslim from Saudi Arabia, I am a bible believing Presbyterian preacher – I would hope that we would have some differences, or I would be out of a job!”

Sally Magnusson asked me on the BBC about my near death experience. She wondered if I had had the kind of going to heaven, meeting St Peter at the pearly gates and being turned back. I said no and she smiled, “that’s a shame, you could have made a fortune on the New York Times bestseller list”, referring of course to the plethora of ‘I went to heaven and met Jesus” books that seem so popular. Well, that’s not my testimony and even if I was caught up ‘to the third heaven’ I doubt I would be permitted to tell. Even if I were how could I possibly tell a more wonderful story than that told in the Bible? The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me. I have nothing to add to that. Everything else is just a footnote.

Sally also asked me if the experience changed my theology. I told her that I did not think so. Before I almost died I genuinely believed in the afterlife, heaven and hell, Jesus and so on. Despite, or maybe because of, the dark spiritual experiences I still believed all of it. However, I said, there was a difference. Before I knew it in my mind, now I KNOW it in my heart. For me I feel the fragility of life, the nearness of eternity and the hopelessness of life without Christ. The dark valleys and depths of spiritual experience have not completely gone. The battles are fierce but the beauty of Christ is more evident. I have discovered the delights of John Flavel, the puritan, who feeds my soul more than anyone else I have ever read.

The Word of God is my meat, drink and medicine. That by the way is why I am so strong in defending it – especially from those Christians who thinking that they are making it more palatable, water it down and distort it, in order to ‘reach’ the modern generation. No. Just as I fight the ‘traditionalists’ who want to imprison Christ in an idealised box of their own making, so I will fight to the end those who distort the Word of God and thus take away from the beauty and glory of Christ. Whether it is ‘conservatives’ adding to the Word of God, or ‘liberals’ taking away from it, to me makes no difference. They are both poisoners of the pure word. And I plead with the Lord that he will never allow me to use deception or distort the Word of God.

I am also determined to continue my battle against the increasing secularisation of our society. Not because the secularists attack the Word of God and mock Jesus – what else can you expect non-believers to do? ‘Liberal’ Christians damage the Word of God. Atheist and secularist philosophies damage those made in the image of God – all human beings. As GK Chesterton pointed out, once you cease to believe in God, you also cease to believe in humanity. I am a committed anti-fascist, anti- totalitarian and I believe that no matter the ‘nice’ words said, if our society moves away from its traditional Christian roots, then we will end up with an increasingly illiberal, confused and authoritarian society. I won’t keep silent.

The Lord promised me years ago that he would send helpers to build his ‘temple’ and he has certainly fulfilled that. For the past year it has been my joy to work with Sinclair Ferguson, whose wonderful bible teaching is now part of the ordinary diet of the Lord’s people in St Petes. I love the worship on the Lord’s Day. It is an oasis in the midst of the chaos.

I have no idea how long I will live. But the Lord does. Meanwhile – although life is often hard and wearisome, yet it is also rich and full. I savour every moment with my family, my church family and every good gift that comes from the Father of lights. When I first became a Christian I was visiting a group of hippies and glimpsed through the ‘grass’ smoke a poster on which was written, “All I have seen, teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen”. Amen.

Till the day breaks and the shadows flee…

David Robertson
Hogmany 2014

Footnote: I am still in Heathrow – as I finished this last night I felt a bit faint and was in a cold sweat. Ironically exactly as I felt before my collapse in 2011. I thought I would just eat something and had some cheesy chips and a small beer. Which was really dumb! I then thought I would try and walk it off. As I result I woke up in the middle of the concourse, having fainted and vomited. An ambulance was called as I was violently sick several times. However after they conducted the usual tests I was found to be ok – but we had missed our flight. So now we are sitting praying that we get on as standbys to this mornings flight. It was a real scare – especially for poor Annabel – but also for me. And again another reminder that I am weak and fragile. O Lord preserve and use us all for your glory!

Here is the shorter Christian Today version of this. –


  1. Thanks for the testimony. We’ve been remembering the first anniversary of a similar healing.
    I encourage our folk to dwell deeply and well on these experiences because it doesn’t take much of everyday life to make them seem distant and unusual instead of reminders of the everyday closeness to God that we have in Christ.
    Blessed new year, safe travels, and if you’re ever near Mount Gambier in Australia I’d love to buy you a coffee.

    1. Rejected & Isolated Born-Again Believers by Other Melbournian Believers in Melbourne.
      Mum & I are true born again Christians from Melbourne Victoria that love Jesus & have lived in complete isolation for over 8yrs now. We don’t have any family or friends. We have been calling so many different Christian churches in our area as well as other areas in Melbourne in regards to supporting my bedridden mum with her illness as well as I having contacted different Mission Organisations in giving us support & they the so called Christians made so many petty excuses that their church was too far to come & help us & they only help their own flock. Mum & I tried reaching out to them & wanting to become a part of them, but they wouldn’t hear if it.

      Mum & I can’t take their abuse, lies, false doctrines, & sociopathic behaviours of these so called Aussie Melbourne Christians. Mum & I are all alone on this Earth, even though we have one on one with God, but it’s not enough without the support of our brothers & sisters in Christ!! Where are they? My mum as well as myself have more of the Bible memorised than most of the so called Aussie Christians we have known even read….Our mobile phone never rings…After we beg those Melbourne Christian churches to give us support as we have all the time in the world. But get this, their excuse is always the same”They are 2 busy!” You want to blame me & my mum for staying away from a pit if vipers…Tell you what, mum & I live in the Belt Buckle of the Bible Belt… Put Ecclesastes 4:10 into action & show pity(MERCY)!!

      Not the liberal relative thinking that they say it means let him die. Our only prayer now is”God show mum & I one true Melbournian believer that knows you” And doesn’t lie like a drunk drinks. Mum & I need a place to belong with fellow Christians here in Melbourne…But until there are true genuine born again Melbournian believers that truly love God & their brother & sister & also Worship God of the Bible, & not verbal a empty Platitudes with Schizophrenic derision of everything good….

      Mum & I read our Bible, as well as we separately spend time alone with God on our own rooms, we both don’t need these so self rationalising abuse from the so worldly Melbournian so called Christians.

      Kind regards,
      Peter & Natalie Capaldi.

      1. Peter and Natalie, I am sorry to hear about your situation….drop me a private e-mail and I will pass it on to some people I know in Melbourne…I am sure there are many fine Christians there…and organisations that will help….

      2. Sorry to hear that experience. I pray since you wrote this that the Lord heard your cry and put people in your life to support you and encourage you, whilst waking up the church in Melbourne to their purpose as the body of Christ.
        Delighted, also, that you share the name of the biggest Whovian ever and the Twelfth Doctor!

  2. Can I first of all condone you for the willingness to take the risk you have in sharing in your post David? I could share similarly of myself and family member’s experiences, but events have taught me sometimes that keeping the heart guarded and the tongue reigned in is the wiser choice. This in no way takes away form the courage you have shown in what you have expressed.

    There were a few things that stood out to “the spiritual explanation made as much sense”. Recently in circles I mix with, I have been approached a couple of times with folks saying either they envy what religious people have because of the peace it gives them or because they see something in others that they want to have.

    Then with what you mention “prayer is not open to laboratory experiments”. Scientifically, I am led to believe by one more qualified than I that various explanations can be given for what may be considered to be an answer to prayer. On the other hand, considering it took 400 years for answer to prayer in one instance of the bible, I imagine it being difficult to disprove prayer working. Who is going to wait around 400 years to show something is observable and repeatable, say. It seems to me that we are left with wht is empirical reality. I’ve known power and peace when in the act of praying either myself and others and that’s good enough for me. When someone is adamant about prayer not working then I think that in their heart of hearts its because they see something in it. which takes me to “what faith is”. Isn’t one aspect of faith (as in Christian faith) being a gift? Something that is given without it being earned?

    Of course “the beauty and glory of Christ” [without].. adding to the Word of God, or… taking away from it” ultimately is found in Christ. I’ll let this be my last word (s’cuse pun). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1)

  3. As you said it was not easy to write this testimony but I sure appreciate it very much. It is very encouraging and could only marvel at God’s ways. All thanks and praise to Him. Thank you for your commitment to stand for the faith. Thank you for pointing out the danger of watering down the Word of God but distorting it in an effort to reach the modern generation which becomes more secularized. I recently had a discussion with a minister whose church was in process of appointing a female minister. He was not aware and doubted my explanation that Paul in 1 Tim 2 based his argument for male ordination on the unchangeable creation ordinance of men and women being created differently with various complimentary roles yet both sexes are fully equal in worth, value and dignity as both have been created in the image of God. His explanation alarmed me i.e. that we should adapt to culture and society around us – so we should not operate against culture but flow with it. His acceptance of female ordination is further based on the view that gender equality has been wrecked by the Fall but repaired by Christ and so gender roles are now completely interchangeable. Another important reason for her appointment is that she would draw people with her soft and warm approach which was apparent in the screening process – which is pragmatism I would say. It is clear that he don’t understand that society is being secularized increasingly. I would not be surprised if he would later accommodate the ordination of homosexual ministers and same-sex marriage because that is the direction in which society is flowing.

  4. Dear David –   What a perfect way to spend time waiting for your flight. I was thrilled to read the full account of your illness  and again giving thanks to the Lord for sparing your life for such a time as this – both for the Church and the Nation.

    Many times I have been going to send you this little bit of info from when you were ill, from the Parliamentary Prayer Scotland Team.   However, it has never quite reached the email stage … until now.  We have committed to  pray for your regularly, ever since the Faith and Politics Conference.  Even more now as you are such an effective spokesman  with the Secular and Humanist Societies.    Also this year as Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland – wonderful to be in that recognised positon of authority to have an even greater impact.

    When you took ill –  on that  Monday morning, as always I started the day with my quiet time and was led to John  Chs. 14, 15 and 16.  I underlined these verses as I read them – John 14 – v 11 – Believe me when I say that I am in the Father  and the Father is in me, or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.  v. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father  v 14 You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it v. 30 “I do exactly what the Father has commanded me” Ch. 15 v 7/8, v 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go  and bear fruit – fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Ch. 16 v 12, v 20 You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy,  v 23 My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name,  v24 Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.  v26 In that day you will ask in my name..

    I was quite overwhelmed at the number of times ‘Ask in my name and you will receive’ but felt I could not ask for anything unless I knew it was in accordance with God’s will. So that was my prayer, ‘ Lord would show me what to ask for ‘ and left it there.   About 11.00 a.m. your Church email came through telling just how ill you were –  I wept and cried out to the Lord that your voice would not be silenced and you  would be restored – then immediately I was reminded of my quiet time earlier and  then knew this is what  I could ask for with confidence, believing it had been God’s preparation  earlier that morning.  

    Just before there was the call to an evening of prayer to anyone in Dundee etc. at St. Peter’s – I had been praying and saw in the Spirit, a rainbow over your bed – and the impression of another praying friend and myself standing at the sides of your bed and arching our hands over the bed in the shape of the rainbow. 

    We had been praying in Edinburgh at our weekly prayer day, and on the journey home in the  car – one of the team had an email saying to pray for you between 3 – 4.00 p.m! it was just after 3.00p.m. and also there would be a prayer meeting for all the Churches at St. Peter’s that evening. We prayed as we travelled and one of the team had the Lazarus scripture ‘This sickness is not unto death’  …  so  we claimed that afresh for you.  That evening two of us came up to Dundee. I prayed out these words into the gathering and  afterwards a couple from your church, the lady has difficulty walking – came up and said. The Lord woke me last night with the same words ‘This sickness is not unto death’.   Then she shared, she and her  husband live near Ninewells and can see it from their flat – and on the first day or so of your illness they had been praying and then looked over towards the hospital and a rainbow was over it.   Because of that – I did not come and ask if we could come and pray over your bed – a. because of being such a stranger really and b. not wishing to intrude.  I felt that was confirmation enough for the four of us then to pray there and then for you…. claiming God’s faithfulness and resisting the evil one.

    To think you only had 30% lung capacity – it truly is a miracle.   God galvanising you and preparing you to be ‘your utmost for His highest’. 

    May the Lord anoint you afresh…John 16 v13 … and empower you with His wisdom to speak His words of truth into every situation presented to you. May 2015 be one of rich blessing for yourself, family, Church and Nation.

    Fresh strength, deep joy as you meet up again with your precious daughter.

    In the bond of love in our Lord and Saviour,




      1. You know – I’ve had a tough time with church in recent years that I am beginning to emerge from. It is hearing genuine sharing like this which encourages me and reminds me that church is every bit about 2 or 3 people being together as a large gathering on a Sunday. On a personal note thank you David and Anne, what you have shared has been affirming for me.

        I guess I still have this thing that where there is so much beauty that can be had in Christ, why is the expression of it so often a shadow of that and BS. I guess going by the scriptures it has always been that way and that for all of us we face choices?

        On a wider note and again something in the ether, I was reflecting on a comment made here by someone saying that prayer doesn’t work and receiving a personal insult because of what they said about my “beliefs” (which would apply to anyone who affiliates themselves with Christ). Meditating on this, this morning I am experiencing joy and peace, the thought for anyone who is insulted because of Christ “great is their reward in the kingdom”. It occurred to me or should I say reminded me that if someone mocks you with contempt because of Christ then you are doing something right and you’ll be rewarded. The trick now is to ensure that it is because of Christ and not down to the ego writing cheques the body can’t cash (gotta love Top Gun)!

        Another thing that came to my mind with opposition was a leader in SSS confiding in me (again their name omitted for the sake of their reputation with their peers). Describing people leaving SSS from different “atheist” – “religious” persuasion he expressed a concern about a “perceived anti-faith stance” and of the danger of SSS alienating itself as a “fringe atheist movement”. I do like the guy and my advice to him was to get out of SSS for the sake of his own reputation. Rightly or wrongly, I’m not convinced that SSS will have the amount of influence that have enjoyed for much longer. Though I do have to say, for a small group, they have punched above their weight and it would be interesting to see if some lessons can be learned from that.

        One the issue of prayer, I don’t know for how anyone can be so sure that prayer doesn’t work when hearing of the empirical reality of testimony like yours and a spiritual reason being as good as any as described by the nurse you knew.

        It seems to me that it takes a stronger faith than I have been given to believe in prayer not working!

      2. Thank you for sharing this testimony.

        I came across your blog as a link on another blog who listed “The Wee Flea” on its reading list. I picked it out of curiosity because of its title. Within a couple sentences of reading your blog I was shocked because you mentioned Dundee and I thought, does he live near me? No, it turns out, but it piqued my interest to read your testimony.

        It’s a fearsome and awesome testimony and my heart resonates so strongly to your phrase “Beautiful Jesus.” We have no mastery over our Master and His plans for us but when our Master returns we rejoice. I rejoice and bless you, your family & your church in the work the Lord has for you in the Name of Jesus. I pray for much fruit. “…that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”
        ‭‭Romans‬ ‭7:4‬ b NIV‬‬

        Though I don’t know you, I know you and love you in Jesus, the Beautiful One.

        My encouragement to you is the encouragement the Lord has given me from Romans: “regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

        For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.””
        ‭‭Romans‬ ‭1:3-4, 16-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬.,16-17.niv

        Thank you & God bless you & your work.

  5. In the last few weeks I’ve discovered the writings of John Flavel. I’m reading Keeping the Heart at the moment. It is the most encouraging, spirit-lifting writing that I’ve ever come across.

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