The Natural Man’s Response To God!

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Can a man in his natural human state decide he wants to be born again? Can he come to Christ of his own accord or according to own “free will”? Or does it require a special act of God to renew his heart, quicken him or make him alive, so that he can respond freely and willingly to God?

Toward the end of this message Michael shared about his mother’s life and testimony, and some excerpts from the eulogy that he shared at his mother’s funeral service on Friday 13th December.We have included here the transcript from Emma’s speech.

Patricia was born in the home of her Granny Girvan in 39 Bryson Street, Belfast, on the 12th of July, 1945, just as the men were returning from the field.

For the next 12 years she lived at the Central Fire Station, or the HQ, where her father James Webb served as fireman. Then, when he retired from the Fire Service, they moved to the Braniel, where he worked as a caretaker at Gilnahirk Primary School. Patricia had a very happy childhood, along with her siblings, Maud, Alfred, and her remaining living sister, Edris, who lives in Melbourne.

Our parents met in 1964 when Patricia was 19, when, and this may be a bit of a surprize to some, she was handing out Gospel Tracts with members of the Coleman’s (or Coal Man’s) Mission.

This first encounter took place on Gresham Street, and in fact my mum left behind a couple of Pocket Sized New Testaments, and each of them have an inscription. One of them says, “Best Wishes Christmas 1963….May God Bless you and may you have a happy Christian life.”

I recently asked my mother how all this came about. I mean I had heard she professed to be a Christian, and she had one of those little “Jesus Saves” lapel badges, but the thought of her standing on a street corner handing out Gospel Tracts intrigued me. So I wanted to know how she came to faith. She also told me on several occasions that she was just reading the Bible and the words just seemed to “leap off the page”. So on this occasion I asked, “But what exactly were you reading?” She said that it was probably John 3:16, and she could even have been reading from one of these New Testaments, that I have with me, the words. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

What is amazing about this is that we all know how “good” a person Patricia was, and yet the truth of the matter is that no amount of “our good deeds” would ever earn us a a place in heaven. We would need forgiveness of sins and God’s gift of perfect righteousness. Therefore it would take a special act of God, something that the Methodists call “Prevenient Grace”, or what is also known as “Irresistible Grace”, that brings you to the place where you realize that without Christ you are hopelessly lost. God does a work within the heart, regenerating or making it come alive, and provides us with the faith to believe and know that we are saved!

My mother told me that after this encounter she went into work the following day (she had left school at the age of 14 and worked in Charles Burkes, until she went to work in Anderson & McCauley), where she told her workmates, “I got saved!” Perhaps this is why the inscription in her other New Testament says, “Best Wishes from George, Norman, and Jimmy 1964 Romans 10:9”, which says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” So what I’m saying is that Patricia made a public confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Like I said, my Dad met Patricia on Gresham Street, but he was asking directions to a good Church. She actually thought that he was speaking in some foreign language, when in fact he was only speaking with a Geordie accent, as he asked, “De ye’s knaa weza chorch aroond heor?”

Alan said that he had been praying that God would find him a good Christian wife. So to cut a long story short, Alan married a good Christian wife, who was also a good mother, a good cook, one who prepared all our lunches for school the night before, always had homemade cookies ready for when we came in from school, or from our paper rounds. In fact even concerning her wake this last week, she had commented to Philip, “If I had known I was going to die so soon, I would have prepared more food for all the people who would be calling to the house!”

Patricia told us before she died that she was always a bit of a homebird, and yet when Ninfa and I got married over in the Philippines, mum and dad showed up, unexpectantly, just the day before!

Deborah wanted to add to that that her mum was always there for her, continually throughout Deborah’s recent spells at the hospital over the past 5 years, cooking for Deborah’s husband Gilbert, and their two daughters, Sophie and Emma. But I might add that Patricia also thought they did an awful lot of “horsing around!” And by that I mean the four-legged variety. Now, perhaps Emma would like to say her little piece that she has prepared:

“Granny Pat always knew how to make everyone smile. When I was younger, I used to sing around granny’s house. I used to always say I was a bad singer and that I would never make it into the school choir but granny would always say my singing was beautiful and that it didn’t matter if I didn’t get into choir, my singing would always be amazing. We used to have a dog called Lucy and I remember granny used to joke around and tell me that she was going to take Lucy home with her because she loved her so much.

In the evening when I would visit grannies house for dinner, she would always say it was our ‘Party Night’ and we would watch You’ve Been Framed while we ate chips from the chip shop. She would get me a wine glass and pour Ribena into it, pretending it was wine.

When Halloween came around, granny would get the outfit box out of her roof space. She had this Miss Piggy outfit that she would put on with the matching mask which always made me laugh. I would always try the dress on after granny and it would be far too big for me.

When we were younger, we used to visit Tullymore Forest park in Newcastle. Granny and grandpa would usually come down to see us and I remember one time, granny helped me ride my bike and told me not to be scared of falling off!

Another day while we were caravaning in Wales my great aunt Edris woke from her sleep and shouted at my sister Sophie, “Sophie Jayne, I caught you on!” Granny loved that story and would relate it over and over again.

I even remember the small memories like when granny and I went shopping together, when she taught me how to bake shortbread and many other things, when she made my birthday cake every year, the day we went to get Heidi for the first time, all the parties she hosted, when she dressed up as Mrs Claus on Christmas day. Granny and I made so many other memories that I couldn’t even put into words. I love my granny so much and it will be hard to see her go, but I know she will not be in anymore pain.” Well done Emma for getting up and saying all that!

I think we all agree that Patricia was incredibly brave in facing this awful thing called cancer. When she was first diagnosed only three months ago, having gone into hospital with a possible appendicitis. Well they removed the appendix but at the same time pancreatic cancer was discovered!

She said it was like being handed your death sentence! And yet, her philosophy concerning death was almost a quote from 1 Peter 1:23-25. She said, “Sure we are all like plants – we grow, we wither, we die!”

After she first got the diagnosis I asked my mother what on earth goes through your mind now? And she said, “Sometimes I just burst into tears!” I think it would be incorrect to say that Patricia had no fear of death, because we all know that not one of us wants to die! But Patricia had incredible courage to face and overcome that fear. In fact right up to the end she was more concerned about us than herself. I know she would have loved to attend the wedding of her granddaughter Ashley to Harrison. Thankfully she saw them both and talked with them the week before her passing. But she insisted that her death was not to overshadow the wedding in any way! In fact she even prepared 200 pieces of shortbread in advance – wow!

Sharon wants to keep on with the family tradition, learning the recipies that Patrica gleaned from her mother Isabella Maud Webb and others. Perhaps Sharon has inherited the trait also of playing little tricks on people. She said that Patricia once plucked off the stalk of a tomato and stuck it in the corner wall of her grandson Peter’s room, and told him that him he had a great big spider in his room! This freaked Peter out.

I’d like to bring this eulogy to an end by quoting a text from the Book of Revelation 21:1-4

1.Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

2. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

3. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

4. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

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