From the Heart – Dr Michelle Byrne

Michelle knew from a very early age that she was a child of God. Not only by the fact that she was a regular Sunday School attender, participating in many Church processions and other activities, but having a very strong faith, in many ways based on deep personal insecurity. This feeling was compounded and made real when her much-loved dog died and it made her realise her mum would also die at some time in the future. By regularly praying the “Our Father”, Michelle became much more secure and happier.

Even as a teenager, Michelle enjoyed going to Sunday School as well as avidly watching religious programmes on television, especially “Songs of Praise”. It was after a local doctor encouraged her growing faith and took her to Flixton Fellowship, which she found to be a wonderful experience, that her relationship with God really grew. After reading the “Foundation in Faith” booklet at the age of 19, Michelle’s faith became even more real and alive.

Despite suffering from asthma as a child and a massive array of other complicated medical conditions throughout her life, Michelle’s strong faith has never wavered. She has always found that every need has been catered for by God, even during the most life-threatening situations. God runs through Michelle’s life completely and he has nurtured, supported and loved her throughout. Michelle believes strongly in “God-incidences” and believes God has been there so many times when she was desperate for help – “I gave you the gift of life – why are you surprised” is an oft-quoted saying Michelle strongly believes in. Michelle has never felt alone and trusts God implicitly, despite her poor parental relationship, on-going serious health problems and survival “against all the odds” history.

After graduating from Medical School, Michelle went to work in hospitals and a GP’s practice between 1999 and 2002 when, at the tender age of 27, she had to retire due to her medical conditions. During her working life, which she loved very much, God was still with her and she leaned on Him enormously to cope with her own illnesses as well as the gruelling physical and emotional trauma which the long hours and working conditions forced on her. At the age of 30 and having no-one else to depend on, Michelle’s faith was further reinforced when she accepted that God is the only perfect person and became even more dependent on Him to walk by her side. She also realised the real meaning of God being the Father and what a proper father should have been.

Despite her many trials in life, Michelle is happy and contented knowing that God is constantly with her, even in the most adverse of situations. She sees God’s hand in all aspects of her life.

Apart from when she’s at church, she is never happier than when she’s spending time and looking after her “Reptilian Family” 13 terrapins and tortoises who, needless to say, are all named after biblical characters!

Some of Michelle’s reptilian family.

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From the Heart – Rev. Debra Blair – Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at Debie’s early religious life and how she developed her nursing career. After life as a Nursing Cadet, becoming a Sister and working as a Bereavement Nurse, Debie then believed God was calling her to become a Priest. Here she continues her story.

As a Bereavement Nurse with extra time on her hands and weekends free, Debie got more involved in St. Mary’s church life and became a Eucharist Assistant which enabled her to set the altar, administer Holy Communion, take Communion to the house-bound and other related tasks. She started undertaking readings at church then was asked to lead an Advent Meditation session. One thing led to another and it was then suggested she go into Ministerial training. Aged 53 by this time, and having worked in Bereavement for 10 years, Debie at first dismissed the idea but, after overcoming some initial obstacles, she felt God was sending her a message that this was to be her new vocation. Coincidentally, her mum died during the year and, as a tribute, Debie and Garry (her brother) bought a bell for the St. Mary’s tower. With more time on her hands after caring for her mum for so long, it was now right to for Debie to decide where her future would lie.

Her first task was to contact the Director of Vocations who she told about all the obstacles she had had to overcome and why it had taken her a year to decide to apply again for Ministry training. Numerous interviews followed while going into the church employment process with Debie still working in Bereavement. Eventually the Bishop telephoned to say she’d been accepted as an Ordinand. After 38 years working for the NHS, Debie gave five months’ notice and left the job she still loved but which she knew she needed to move on from to the next stage of her life.

As she had several associated degrees as well as bereavement and safeguarding experience, Debie was able to complete the training in two instead of the usual three years. The training involved gaining experience of the wider church-life including going to a new church for a few months experience; evening classes and weekend study days; summer school and Easter school and learning about many aspects of the role of a Priest and Deacon. Being fortunate to have an NHS pension, Debie was able to become a self-supporting minister which meant she isn’t paid but could be called upon to work in a wider area. It was in February 2020 that she received a telephone call from the Archdeacon telling her about a vacancy at St. John’s Church in Flixton, Manchester, which had been without a vicar for over 3 years.

However, the following month, the Covid pandemic lockdown came into being which meant all job posts were frozen. Having already been “priested” and acting as a Curate at that point, after several interviews and meetings with some of the church members, Debie eventually became Curate-in-Charge at St. John’s in December 2020.

Since that time, she has worked closely with St. John’s other ministers and lay people, PCC (Parochial Church Council) members, Sunday School leaders, local community groups, hall users, schools, regular visits to the local nursing home, etc.

Her typical workload can include officiating at funerals; organising banns of marriage and interviewing couples; preparing Sunday services; producing monthly returns to the C of E; attending Deanery Synod, Chapter and Missionary Community meetings; preparing for special events such as the Festival Manchester and St. John’s celebration of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee; being a member of the Pastoral Steering Group; home welfare visits, especially to give Holy Communion to the bed-ridden; officiating at Christenings; writing sermons; organising courses such as those for Lent; preparing for special events in the Church calendar such as Easter and Christmas; liaising with another local church for cross-services; writing the introduction for the monthly church bulletin plus all the administration involved in running a modern church. She also manages to fit in time to act as ‘cover’ for other local churches when necessary as well as meeting her own Spiritual Director on a regular basis.

But the most important part of Debie’s life is, and always was, her prayer time and her continual aim of strengthening her faith in God who has guided her closely throughout her life.

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Carol’s Challenging Question – Bereavement

Who can forget the national outpouring of love, shock, pain, disbelief and deep sorrow felt by many millions of people in the UK and worldwide at the devastating news in September that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, had died. Only her closest family, friends and officials must have known that her end was near but the Royal Family managed to show such devotion, fortitude and bravery – at least in public – as they carried out their duties, knowing full-well that they were being watched on television by possibly billions of people around the world.

The public too felt grief-ridden at the news, with millions of people watching the television coverage and hundreds of thousands going to Edinburgh or London to see The Queen lying in state and paying their respects.  Although most people had never met Her Majesty, the shock and grief felt was palpable. Wonderful stories emerged of the Queen’s sense of fun, care, duty, strong family bonds and, for many people, it became a celebration of a life very well lived.  

Thanks Kristin Snippe and Paddington Bear

But the Queen’s passing would also have brought back many painful memories of their own loved ones who had died, whether recently or some time ago, for many who attended the public events or witnessed any of the coverage on television. 

Most people have to go through the heartache of bereavement of someone they were close to at some time in their lives.  It’s said that the more you love, the more painful is the grief – and the least little thing can cause people to have flashbacks to remember happy times and the people they’ve lost.

Bereavement is defined as a feeling of emptiness, overwhelming sadness and often lots of mood swings and tears.  It’s the experience of losing someone important to us and is characterised by a range of emotions as people gradually adjust to their loss.  It can be emotionally devastating whether it’s a partner, family member, friend or pet.  Grief can also manifest itself in a whole range of feelings including tiredness, anger and guilt.

Talking to someone about a loss or getting professional counselling is a major step forward in coming to terms with bereavement although, for many people, it can take months or years to accept the situation and move on.  Finding simple pleasures, exercise, walking, taking up a new hobby or participating in a new challenge can really help people to fill some of the gap after the loss of someone close. 

Bereaved friends of mine say that they accept as many invitations as possible to do something such as lunch, a trip out, etc, often because they don’t like being in the house on their own or they just need some company to take them out of themselves. Loneliness and depression can soon set in when one’s world suddenly implodes.

Graham – did Jesus ever say anything about bereavement during his brief time on earth?  What would be the Christian view be of it?

Rev Graham replies:

Thanks, Carol, for your question and those helpful definitions on how bereavement can affect everybody at various times and in different ways. You mentioned about how the world mourned the passing of the late Queen Elizabeth II who is recorded to have said, after the 9/11 disaster in New York, that “Grief is the price we pay for love”. If we don’t love or care about someone or something then we will not grieve or mourn that loss.

As a Christian Minister for over forty years, I have conducted hundreds of funeral services, particularly serving the Greater Manchester area, and have found that there are four principle aspects that may be referred to in any service. 1) Acknowledging and mourning the loss of the individual who has died. 2) Gathering together special words and feelings that reflect the love, appreciation and thanksgiving for that shared life. 3) Seeking to find and experience a comfort in the loss of a loved one both human and divine. 4) In a Christian funeral there will be a sense of hope that, having departed from the earthly body, the committed spirit of the loved one will enter into that promise of a resurrected and eternal life only made possible through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus as recorded in John 11:25

We only die once physically but it has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway that “Everyman has two deaths, when he is buried in the ground and the last time someone says his name”. When we arrange headstones for the grave, a plaque for the ashes and recall birthdays and other events, they act as an everlasting memorial for the deceased who are briefly brought back to life and we are reminded of times shared together in the midst of a continued loss and sadness with thanksgiving. 

You asked, Carol, if Jesus had said anything about bereavement. There are three specific occasions where Jesus was involved in raising individuals back to life. Such miracles towards the end of his earthly ministry revealed his tender heart of love and compassion for all people and an intention to bring comfort to their loss that reflected God’s power and love for a suffering world.

Mourning with Compassion

1) Jesus, during his travels, met a funeral procession that was leaving the village of Nain and in the coffin was a young man, the only son of a widow. When Jesus saw the procession his heart went out to the woman and he said “Don’t cry”. He touched the coffin and spoke to the dead man: “Young man, I say to you, get up”. The dead man sat up and began to talk. For those who had been mourning, that funeral was turned into awe and praise as the people acknowledged that God had come to help them. (Luke 7: 11-17)

2) On another occasion Jesus became aware of the plight of a man named Jairus, a synagogue ruler, whose daughter had seemed to have died. In his compassion he offered words of comfort to him saying: “Don’t be afraid, just believe”. Then later: “This child is not dead but asleep”. Jesus took the girl by the hand and brought her back to life. This also proved that not all religious leaders were against Jesus (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43). Thanks Dave Lowe for the photo

3) Jesus was close to the family of Lazarus and his two sisters Martha and Mary. Lazarus became ill and Jesus reassured the sisters during his two day stay that it would not end in his death.  Later Jesus became aware that Lazarus had fallen asleep (died) and, after four days, returned to comfort the sisters and bring Lazarus back to life and in the process was ‘Deeply moved in his spirit and was troubled and wept’ (John 11:30- 35).

There are occasions in life when we anticipate loss as exampled when Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem and wept over it because he was aware of its future disaster and its rejection of his love towards them. (Luke 19:41). However, there are other times when loss is totally unexpected and, in both cases during the days of Jesus’s life, he prayed and brought petitions to the Lord with loud cries and tears to the one who can heal, save and sustain us. Jesus learnt what it meant to obey the Lord in the context of his own pain and suffering (Hebrews 5: 7-9).

In the Old Testament there are incidences where prophets raised people from the dead. Elijah prayed that a young boy be raised back to life (1 Kings 17: 17-24). Elisha prayed for the woman of Shunem to be as brought back to life (2 Kings 4: 32-37) and even from Elisha’s tomb a man was raised from the dead. (2 Kings13: 20-21).

In the early church we read about Tabitha, a believer (Greek name Dorcas) of Joppa, who had died and the believers were filled with sadness. Her body was laid in an upper room and the Apostle Peter was asked to attend and he prayed alone in the presence of Dorcas and asked her to get up. She opened her eyes and, seeing Peter, sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. All the people were overjoyed and the news spread quickly throughout the city and, as a result of this miraculous act, many believed in the Lord (Acts 9: 36-43).

In Acts 20: 7-12, a young man called Eutychus was listening to the Apostle Paul preaching well into the night and he was sat near a window but unfortunately fell from it which was three storeys high and died. Paul immediately threw himself on the man and put his arms around him and the man came back to life. When the meeting ended the young man returned home and all the people were comforted with what they had witnessed.

In these brief accounts we find that, whenever grief and bereavement occurs, there will always be an offer of compassion and healing from the Lord to our situations as we exercise personal faith which is a witness to those without faith. 

Mourning with Thanksgiving

As we enter into everyday living here on earth we will encounter the loss of close family members as well as friends, neighbours and work colleagues. Jesus would have had similar experiences, losing Joseph his father who may have died when he was young yet very thankful for the continued love and support from his mother Mary and others close by right up to his death on the cross.

Jesus would have grieved for the loss of John the Baptist, a close family member, who had been beheaded by Herod at the request of his wife Herodias (Matthew 14: 1-12). Jesus in all his travels and interactions with people was aware of those who were ill, in need of healing and had lost loved ones. He always sought to offer them love and compassion with a sense of thanksgiving for each individual.

Thanks Pro Church Media

Many leaders and prophets knew about loss such as Nehemiah, who grieved about the destruction of Jerusalem but was thankful for the favour of the King and God (Nehemiah 2) The Israelites mourned the journey of exile into Babylon yet found comfort from many psalms such as Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” and in verse 11, “You turn my wailing into dancing, you remove my sackcloth and clothe me with joy”.

Mourning with Comfort

Any form of a funeral service represents a rite of passage from this earth to the next. For the Christian such a service represents a promotion into the everlasting presence and glory of God. We can never bring back to life those we have lost but in celebrating, mourning, sharing thanksgiving and finding a comfort, we may be able to acknowledge the passing of a loved one’s life and enter into the experience of Placement as touched on in one of my earlier blogs ‘Loss Adjuster’.

When I am asked to take a funeral service, I will arrange to see the family as soon as possible. One of my first questions is to ask if the loved one had been poorly for a while or have they suddenly died? We then confirm details around the service and exchange words that will be contained in the eulogy/life story. There is a growing realisation that such loss will get worse before it gets better leading up to the service and then well into that sense of Placement. It is a growing acknowledgement of what is being experienced is their time to die, having had time to live and so we begin to come to terms with their loss long term.   


In the Christian tradition, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in world history. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was permanent and he didn’t die a second time but ascended into heaven (Mark 16). In life we are born, live and die and experience many changes that will bring us great joy and deep sadness.

So “Grief is the price we pay for love” and it involves strong and emotive feelings that may result in actions that can cause severe paralysis and an array of emotions that can easily get out of hand. The disciples of Jesus will have mourned his death and were confused about his resurrection and ascension. They encountered death and persecution for their faith in the gospel of Christ alongside the early church fathers and members of local congregations.

Jesus is the first fruit of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor 15: 20) and Jesus’ resurrection ensures our eternal life: “Because I live, you also will live” (John14: 19). In all the days we walk this earth we will in one form or another experience bereavement but we can be assured that, as Jesus wept for those he loved, he weeps for us today in all our joys and sadnesses.


PS – Just after publishing this post my best friend John Noble, for over sixty years, died after a long illness. He was an influential Broadcaster, Evangelist, Humourist and Poet. He leaves behind Sandra, Sarah and Emily. May he truly rest peacefully in the arms of Jesus.

(Bring your thoughts and prayers to God for those who you have lost and give thanks for those still with you as you listen to this moving song Bring Him Home by Coln Wilkinson from Les Miserables)


Premier Lifeline – National Christian Helpline Tel 0300 111 0101

CRUSE Bereavement Care – Tel: 0808 8081677.

MIND – Tel: 0300 123 3393 email

Carers UK Helpline – Tel: 0808 808 7777

Bereavement Help and

At A Loss –

BEAD – Bereaved Through Alcohol and Drugs –

The Compassionate Friends – Tel: 0345 123 2304

Dying Matters –

The Good Grief Trust –

Samaritans – Tel: 116123 or

SANDS (Child bereavement) Tel: 0808 164 3332

Child Bereavement UK – Tel: 0800 0288840.

Childline – Tel: 08001111.

NSPCC – Tel: 0808 800 5000.

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Crime and Punishment



How can God forgive Terrorist?

Child Abuse

Carol’s Spiritual Question – Is the Church Too Pompous?

If I was looking through the windows of some churches, particularly those of the Roman Catholic faith, I would feel very intimidated by the pomp and ceremony on display there.  Apart from not knowing the norms and values of the people within, or what sort of welcome I would receive, I would probably find all the robes, religious relics and some of the acts of worship far too bizarre for my personal taste.

Thanks Emmanuel Ikwuegbu

In the past, the church was a very strong influencer on people’s lives and congregations lived in awe and fear.  The masses would hang on to every word spoken and questioning faith or rebuking anything a priest said would be tantamount to heresy!  Nowadays people are not prepared to be so subservient and many church congregations have dwindled apart from the new people’s churches and gospel worship establishments which are on the increase.

Fortunately I go to a church where the vicars are very down-to-earth, friendly and approachable and everyone is made to feel valued.  While they follow the traditional Christian conventions and wear their collars during the services, there is no “holier than thou” or condescending demeanour and the congregation have a strong fellowship and team spirit.

If we consider how wealthy the church establishment was in the past, and how much land and property it owned, it makes us wonder where it all went to and how what remains could be better-used in our modern-day society.  For instance, why are churches not more dual-purpose?  There are so many homeless people, asylum seekers, etc. living on our streets or in costly council-provided accommodation, why not make more use of empty or only partly-used church buildings? Or sell them off and donate the money to help the poor in society?

Why do we need the top hierarchy of the churches living in sumptuous palaces and luxurious houses with all the trappings of wealth?  Why do we need all the glorification and icons? After all, Jesus lived a very simple life and didn’t need all the robes and accoutrements to get his messages across – apparently he deplored it!

So, Graham, as a Minister of Religion, how do you view all the ‘pomp and circumstance’ which goes with some churches today and what do you think God would make of it all?

Rev Graham replies: Thank you for your question, Carol, and a quick answer would depend upon what Church tradition a person may align themselves to and what those of no church or religious persuasion thought.

Union Hall church today

In my early years, I grew up in the family home that was connected to Union Hall, an independent church in Hulme, Manchester, before its redevelopment in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

My mother was the caretaker/cleaner of the church and in my parents’ bedroom there was a door that opened up into the church hall and another larger room that was used on Sundays and midweek as the sanctuary and as children we would often play there. Such a space contrasts sharply to cathedrals in Manchester, Coventry, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s in London which are consecrated and the alter and sanctuary set apart from other areas within the church building. 


In Psalm 84 we read about God’s dwelling place and His desire to co-dwell with His people, just as the sparrow and the swallow dwell in God’s creation. In all our places of worship, both large and small, God wants to grace us with His presence and bring a blessing to us.

In Exodus Chapters 25 – 31 we read of the instructions given to Moses concerning the Covenant (Law), Tabernacle (place of consecrated worship) and Priesthood (administers of the Sacraments). The Old and New Covenants between God and His people are restorative actions following the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden where God dwelt harmoniously with them and all creation.

The Law/Ten Commandments, housed within the ark, were given to Moses to regulate people’s living in a holy and ordinary manner. The Tabernacle was a dwelling place that, during the wanderings in the wilderness, represented God’s movable co-dwelling with His people. The Priesthood, which Aaron and his sons were called to, were to represent a Holy God to a sinful people and the vestments they wore, as found in Leviticus 8, were reflected in the celebration of sin offerings. 


To one degree or another, when we enter a simple place of worship or a magnificent cathedral both seek to represent an intention that a co-dwelling may exist between a Holy and Almighty God and a worshipful people. If a place of worship is considered pompous then it is in danger of detracting itself from the important purpose of providing a space for personal confession, worship and teaching for Holy living. Conversely, if a neglected building is trying to represent the presence of God, it will be in danger of stifling any healthy attitude of confession, praise and worship. An environment, attitude and form of worship will help or hinder any sense of co-dwelling and worship to Almighty God.

In the UK we have the Royal family who are good at certain aspects of pomp and ceremony which may inspire, irritate or serve to separate people rather than bring them together. I’m sure Jesus would favour the belief that the church and its leaders and followers should be more inclusive under the sound of the gospel than exclusive in all its activities.

If the church is labelled pompous, there is a feeling that it doesn’t fully connect to the reality of ordinary people and therefore may be classed as distant and irrelevant to modern living and lose the opportunity to share the core message of Jesus who would not be considered pompous but very much connected to ordinary people.  For all those in positions of power and influence, the spirit they convey is often more important and may act as a soft spiritual power compared to a spirit that is cold and distant.

Thin-line Presence 

In both grand and basic buildings, they may be classed as acceptable if their main intention is to lift a believer into the presence of God in various forms of worship, liturgy and teaching rather than acting as a form of entertainment with those leading being the main focus. The cross in any church acts as an icon to reminds us all of Jesus’s redeeming work on that cross.

In the New Testament we are taught to have an attitude of Christ and to imitate his lifestyle. He was willing to descend from heaven to live in a servant form to bring honour and glory to God (Philippians 2 6-11). Jesus had no home, income or status of his own apart from being the Son of God within the Trinity. He was despised and rejected and sent to the cross as a result of the ruling and pompous religious authorities of his day. On the cross he was given a criminals’ garment to wear and many believe that, during his crucifixion, he may not have worn any cloths at all! 

John the Baptist, as a result of his forthright views and opinions, died a martyr as he prepared the way of the Lord and was very different to conventional priests, clothing himself with animal skins and having a diet of locusts and honey. The Apostle Paul was raised in a Jewish family and adhered to all the Jewish laws and ceremonies and went on to become a rabbi. After his encounter with the risen Lord, he lived a simple life travelling and helping to establish the early church while being persecuted and imprisoned.

Earthly Tensions

As the early Christian church established itself, there existed a growing dilemma between serving God and securing an earthly power base. Jesus, Paul and many early church fathers spoke out against areas of compromise that existed within the church during the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

Thanks Manuel -Filipe

The church has, and often does, seek to govern in a worldly manner which reveals itself in how Canonical law, worship and sacraments take place or don’t take place. The Holy Spirit of God is the true power within and alongside the church. A priest who represents God wearing elaborate garments or simple tee shirts has to humbly convey a sense of the God’s Spirit so that people are uplifted to truly worship God with thanksgiving.

The church is, and always has been, in various stages of flux that includes both decline and increase. It is required to constantly be in an attitude of penitence, forgiveness, humility, renewal and confident in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than in its own human structures and aspirations. The Kingdom of God will be fully established in God’s time that will represent a restoration of the perfect Garden of Eden where a creator God is happy to co-dwell in the presence of a forgiven, worshipful, created believer.


As I mentioned at the beginning, Carol, depending on a person’s experience of worship and those without any Church or religious persuasion, it may be concluded that all churches can be pompous and off-putting or humble and uplifting in their own particular setting. To differentiate between the two it will be helpful to identify certain hallmarks:

  • Does it radiate a sense of the otherness of God?
  • Is there a thin-line presence between heaven and earth?
  • Is there a sense of self-promotion that represents a misuse of spiritual power and influence?

In my retreats and study times, I often attend Mirfield Monastery in West Yorkshire where there exists the hallmarks of a majestic consecrated abbey that conducts its life and witness in a very simple monastic form as referenced in one of my blogs Ironically Iconic. In Genesis, we find a perfect situation where the creator and the created have friendship and presence together without the help of a third party as represented in the role of a priest. That special relationship is broken and the ‘shame of nakedness’ entered human life with God giving Adam and Eve animal skins to cover themselves!

In a restored Garden, Heaven and Eternal space, the Christian hope is that we will not require any further laws, tabernacles, vestments and sacrifices to draw us near to God. The true pomp and circumstance will be found when we abide in the very presence of God Almighty 24/7.


Listen to this majestic hymn about the greatness of God Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken by John Newton based on Psalm 87: 3

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Is God relevant to our life and modern times?

Carol’s Spiritual Question – Is God Relevant To Our life And Modern Times?

Life has changed in so many ways since Jesus’ time on earth. There have been so many technological, scientific, medical, cultural, religious and other changes and life has become far more complicated than thousands of years ago.  One only has to think of the ability to put men on the moon; send rockets to Mars; the ability to communicate all around the world in seconds; create babies through IVF; and all the other medical and scientific advances that have been made and so much more.

In the past, people were far more prepared to believe in the supernatural, or worship idols or gods, whereas these days we like to think that we’ve advanced and demand more specific proof.  People are far more questioning than they were even 50 years ago, particularly from people who were once regarded almost as saints, including doctors, police officers, teachers and scientists and, dare I say it, even priests!  I well remember the fear and deference such people instilled, particularly among the often poorly-educated working-class.

So many people these days don’t have a belief in a Christian God, or any other faith for that matter, and some atheists actively discourage others to believe.  One of the most powerful arguments against there being a God is that a good God wouldn’t allow bad things to happen.  That’s very hard to argue against in any rational and persuasive manner.

These days, many people don’t seem to care much about life after death and just live every day as it comes.  It seems to be mainly the older generation who still attend church regularly and stick to their traditional religious beliefs and habits.  This is borne out by the statistics which shows church attendance decreasing all the time and, in some areas, is almost a thing of the past.

Graham – with all the developments that have taken place over the centuries, why do some people still need God in their lives?  Why do you think He is still relevant to us when people are now so much more self-reliant and less prone to needing an invisible friend?

Rev Graham replies:

There are many sub-questions, Carol, contained in your overall question and I will not be able to give a complete answer to them all. I believe the nub of your question relates to how relevant is the presence of an eternal God in a contemporary world? Yes our modern world is more technical and advanced than centuries ago but it does not mean that it is more wise or knowledgeable. I think we have to be careful to conclude that, just because church attendance has declined, that people are devoid of any faith in an invisible God.

There are over 11 bible verses that speak about God being invisible such as (John 1: 18), ‘no one has seen God at any time’ but, as in the case of the Apostle Paul after he was physically blinded, the Lord opened his eyes spiritually and he went on to reflect to the world the reality of the invisible God he personally met after being an enemy of Christ (Acts 9)

In my book “Blog 51: Insights to Daily Living” (2019 and a second edition 2020 in black and white or colour ) one of my blogs: I’m not religious but I’m spiritual touches on some of your observations, Carol, and how people are thinking and believing in our modern time.

Private Faith

The faith of any individual is very private and personal. It can be argued that some aspects of the Western church have abandoned support and guidance for the individual in the face of secularism and the rise of other world faiths. When we compare the Roman Catholic church, it seeks to uphold the teachings of Christ and the doctrines of the church in an uncompromising manner. Such a stance can help an individual who might be unsure of their faith when questioned on aspects of the teachings of Jesus and church doctrines. What they can do is confidently refer to church teachings as a basis of their own faith and as a form of answer to the challenging questions asked of them.

By comparison, many of the free Protestant churches and the Anglican Communion, since the Reformation, have allowed philosophical and political pressures to challenge and change various aspects of their understanding of Jesus’s teaching and church doctrines. Then, when a person is asked on certain matters what they believe, they struggle to answer in a collective manner because the church, rather than holding to an uncompromising position, has allowed itself to change and accommodate to modern thinking that has undermined its strength and collective belief. 

As a result of these different stances, some people have left the church that does not accommodate modern and secular-related issues while others are happy to hold on to positions which maintain and strengthen their faith. Conversely, many people have left churches because it seems that the views of the world have become more important than the teachings of Christ and long-standing doctrinal beliefs.  Such churches have declined in attendance because of their compromise with secular and other world faith positions. Either way the church has to be true to the teachings of Jesus and people have to decide in their own ways to join, support or reject such teachings to accommodate their personal and private beliefs and lifestyles.

The purpose of our website, Carol, is to raise awkward questions and find answers that hold on to the teachings of Jesus and church doctrine but also try to accommodate modern thinking so as to embrace the Christian faith rather than reject it.

Choices and Consequences

Photo by Karl Gimblett

When we think of a bygone era of faith, we may be tempted to believe that everyone who attended church was a very godly and devoted Christian! In reality it is not to dissimilar to today, only in a different guise – people are more real in what they believe or do not believe which is evidenced by church attendance or no attendance.

As society in general has changed over the years, it may be argued that it is freer from the previous constraints of certain religious laws and practices which I’m sure Jesus himself would not have approved of. A person with faith will always seek to encourage people to embrace faith and live a life that models Christ. Equally, those without a Christian or spiritual faith will want to persuade people to live a moral and upright life but without any reference to a guiding and constraining deity.

Church History

At this present time we may say Western Europe is more secular than spiritual but, as any study of church history records, situations can change, especially if they are fanned by the prayers and faith of believers and God’s Holy Spirit that can renew and revive. So, in all our debating and thinking, we have to remember that church attendance and personal faith is, and always should be, considered separately with the emphasis more on personal faith than church attendance.

When people break away from the disciplines of faith they tend to becomes more self-seeking and confident in their own theories and practices and find that they want to become more god-like themselves. This tends to lead to a moving away from any organised faith and undermine any existence of a personal and invisible God. 

Within human nature, there is a tendency that exists in all religions, philosophies and political debate that one group is completely right and the other is terribly wrong. Lots of people drift in and out of church or some form of organised religion while holding on to their own form of faith or no faith. As Christians, we have to be humble is our quest for truth, to seek wisdom and to hold on to Holy Scriptures that anchors us in the forever challenging world of faith, belief and unbelief.

Making Peace

In my many years of pastoral care and support with individuals and families, I have observed that many young and old people, when realising they are going to die, will seek to make peace horizontally with family and friends and vertically with their creator, universe or just themselves as they realise the limitation and value of human and divine relationships.

It does seem that, in our western and secular world, the existence and worship to God is considered irrelevant and meaningless. However, we have to remind ourselves and each other that the world is God’s – He has created it and daily sustains it. The Holy Spirit of God dwells in the market place, in the corridors of power, in palaces, hostels, entertainment venues and freely within the country and seaside and speaks to that spark of the divine that lives within us to encourage and offset current views of unbelief.

In concluding my responses to your question, Carol, I find the thought of an invisible friend very heart-felt and so true. It is in the heart of all human beings to act as their own god and have their own say on life’s decisions and journeys but that is not wise or the complete picture. Scripture brings out on a number of occasions how God is active and powerful, even in an invisible form, but is able to sweep over individuals and nations as in times of revival.

Recently we have witnessed the example and legacy of the late Queen Elizabeth II who allowed the Lord to fill the God-shaped hole in her heart and, as a result, the Queen today will be experiencing the reality of the resurrection to eternal life and the visible presence of God Almighty.

Listen to this great hymn Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise which challenges modern thinking that all ‘religious worship and liturgy’ is just a whole lot of ‘Mumbo Jumbo.’ We all live by faith and do not have a complete understanding of all that is around us both materially and invisibly. As we wear those spectacles of faith, we are able to see and believe the reality of God through Christ ‘image of the invisible God’ (Colossians1: 15-20) that offsets doubt as we daily walk, talk and pray with our invisible friend in a modern world which is so reassuring.

Check out this powerful worship song: The Greatness Of Our God by Hillsong Worship


Previous Questions

Super Power

Is the Bible trustworthy?

Care for the Planet

The Return of Christ



Which is the Real God

Is Satan still around?

Is being Good Enough?

Carol’s Challenging Question – Child Abuse

It’s really hard to contemplate how a fully-grown adult can wield power over an innocent baby or child and maim, or even kill, that child.  No-one in their right mind can imagine how angry the perpetrator must have become to even contemplate such an action.  However, we are all humans and, once the red mist descends on any given emotional situation, actions can become uncontrollable and it is feasible that injury or death could be the outcome.

Photo – Pixabay –

The definition of child abuse is any physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or neglectful action towards a child. It is a deeply complex subject which is experienced all over the world. The reasons for it are many and varied – an abuse of power; substance and alcohol misuse; poverty; unemployment; part of domestic violence in the home; varying parenting styles; economic recession; parental stress, etc.

It is not only experienced in poorer homes or with young, inexperienced parents or carers. Children from all walks of life – whether from wealthy background, in foster care, in an educational, sports or church setting, youth movement or other child-related environment – have been the subject of ill-treatment – often hitting the news headlines when tragedy has resulted from abuse.

The harm that can emanate from child abuse is well-catalogued.  It often affects the person for the whole of their life, sometimes causing untold mental health, emotional and physical agonies. Often it can lead to self-harm and even suicide. Thanks to the bravery of people who have reported such crimes, often quite late into their life, society is now much more aware of what can happen and better prepared to believe what a child says.

Most of us want little ones to have a happy, stable and enjoyable childhood and it is abhorrent to think that some children are suffering in any way behind closed doors. However, we know abuse happens and it is useful to be aware of some of the signs that a child could be experiencing: unexplained change in behaviour or personality; becoming withdrawn; seeming anxious; becoming uncharacteristically aggressive; lacking in social skills and having few friends, if any; poor bonding with a parent, sibling or carer; the child having knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age; running away or going missing; always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body.

We’ve all seen on the television or read in the papers about the shocking actions of some professionals whose appalling behaviour has harmed the very people that they are employed to look after. People such as doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, social workers, nursery assistants, sports coaches – and even priests! – who are all respected and put on a pedestal by our society for the work they do.

Graham – Jesus said “suffer little children to come unto me”. I have absolutely no doubt that He didn’t mean this literally. As I often wonder about many issues, why does God allow such things to happen, especially affecting innocent children and what should a Christian’s approach be when we hear of such despicable behaviour?

Rev Graham replies:

In all that you have outlined, Carol, child abuse happens because people feel that they will, in one form or another, get away with the actions they commit and are eager to fulfil their desire even at the cost of getting caught and being punished. As to why God allows such things to happen and what should a Christian’s approach be when we hear of such despicable behaviour, I will try to answer in my own way.

The State of a Nation

It may be argued that one way of assessing the health of any nation is to see how it treats the old, infirm, young and vulnerable. If child abuse is prevalent within a nation, then one may conclude that it is not a happy or healthy nation. If people grow up believing that there is no difference between actions that may be considered right or wrong in certain situations, then they will seek to gratify their own desires in a physical, sexual, relational or material manner. At the heart of a person is self-centredness that can take us to dark places which not only causes individual distress but has a massive impact upon families and society.

When we think about God allowing or not allowing things to happen, we have to appreciate that God in His wisdom and planning allows human beings to have a free-will that enables them to act, for better or worse, in a way that affects communities where they live. Conversely, if people’s actions are considered evil in the sight of God and society then they have to take self-responsibility and accept a rightful punishment for their actions and not to blame God or anyone else.

Ethics and Laws

Photo by Mikhail Nilou  

At the heart of any nation, throughout the world, there will be certain Ethics and Laws that are agreed upon which act as a means of control, guidance and help for people to live together, promoting peace and harmony. To combat areas where people break a law or violently offend people’s property or person, there has to be some form of punishment and retribution for any offender and some form of re-integration back into society for those who have completed a custodial sentence.

Within community, there has to be some form of collective thinking that helps it to fuse and stay strong together. Alongside the thinking there has to be a collective will or heart to conform and contribute to the welfare and success of a nation, recognising the need for laws and rules that promote harmony above anarchy. The vision and sight that people share is also important. For instance, if people have eyes of selfishness above selflessness, then people will see with a selfish eye and think and act in a selfish way that will undermine the rights of others which, in extreme cases, can include child abuse and murder and not be seen as a crime or deficit to society.

Christian Tradition

Central to the Christian tradition is the teaching about forgiveness and a requirement that justice must take place to uphold those who have been offended and those who have broken the law. Such punishment has wavered from the death sentence to other types of custodial sentences. It can and has been argued that, the more severe a sentence, then there is more of a likelihood that people will not commit crimes! There is a parallel between crime and punishment in that in some countries in the world the punishment of classified crimes are so harsh that the rate of crime overall is very low because people are afraid of the consequences of the crime they may possibly commit.

If society is based on everyone doing their own thing then in the short and long term it will only act as a recipe for anarchy and the ultimate end of that community as it has been known. In the Old Testament we find that many generations ‘did what was right in their own eyes’ (Judges 21: 25) which caused chaos. We also we read of people offering up child sacrifices in an attempt to appease the gods they worshipped. Many societies have and continue to practice slavery in various forms which includes young children to mature adults with each one treated like a commodity to be used, exchanged and even thrown away.

A New State of the Nation


Thanks Kardina Grabowska Pexels,com

In the Judo/Christian tradition we are called to have a new heart that seeks, in acts of worship, to show love, compassion and kindness to all peoples within society and without any prejudice. ‘I will give them a new heart to know me: they will be My people and I will be their God’ (Jeremiah 24:7). ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36: 26).


The Apostle Paul says that we should “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12: 1 – 2) which will cause us to live our lives in a different way to how people live around us.


We are encouraged to embrace a different spirit ‘Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground’ (Psalm 143: 10). When we live by a different spirit it will produce in us and society different fruits. The fruits of the spirit in individuals and society can change evil behaviour into Godly actions that will benefit all peoples (Galatians 5: 22-23).

In the Old Testament we find that we have a template for Godly living as found in the Ten Commandments which Moses received from God. The codes help people to live a different life from those around them that can result in a safer and better community for all. In the New Testament, Jesus built upon those Commandments in his teaching of the Beatitudes that also offers society different attitudes to live by.

If individuals live a Godly life that includes daily confession of their short comings before the Lord, then life would be better for everyone because there would exist greater respect and love for each other that would reduce unloving and harmful actions. In exercising self-restraint and following spiritual and societal laws, there would be a breaking of the cycle of offending in the context of how much child abuse takes place today. 

Some of the building blocks of Western Society include a promotion of self-determination and no accountability to a God. This compares to Christian communities that realise we have all fallen short from God’s perfect life and it is only in Christ and God’s forgiving grace that we are able to think, act and live a different life full of contrast to life without God’s grace.

Loving and supportive, not lustful or envious. Sharing and caring, not taking and robbing. We are respectful and do not take advantage of each other. We are truthful and not deceitful. We reflect the love and compassion of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and do not promote self-pride, gain, wilfulness and excess.

Any society will reflect its own ethics, morals and laws that are enshrined within them and to be upheld, monitored and enforced in a respectful way and, if they are not, then such a societal model will fail and crumble.

Restoration, Reconciliation and Healing

Today in the Western world we have primarily turned our back on the Judo/Christian teachings and therefore cannot expect godly examples from High Priests, professionals, ordinary, young and mature people and so evil actions are certain to take place. The good news is that, even in a fallen world, God is in the business of restoration, reconciliation, healing, renewal, forgiveness and so much more.

For the person who has committed the worst crime ever, it can be said that, after completing the appropriate punishment for the specific crime, renewal and some form of restoration can be possible for the good of society and the individual. This ensures that the ethics of forgiveness and restoration exist alongside punishment and correction for any wrong committed which will only strengthen any society and reduce the stains that can exist from offenders and those offended.

Take Away

Today there exists ‘cycles of abuse’ that continue in any community because, so often, the one that abuses another has, at some stage in their lives, been abused themselves. God loves all peoples and He is particularly close to the orphan, widow and broken-hearted. In a perfect world no child should feel vulnerable and experience any form of unloving actions that are classed as abusive. In turn those who grow up with experiencing any abuse should not want to abuse others.

Carol – In relating to all the problems you have highlighted, I am reminded of that verse in 2 Chronicles7: 14 that, if My people turn from their wicked ways, then an alternative philosophy and lifestyle in Christ will bring a change of heart, thinking and acting for the good. As we embrace the love of Father God, Jesus the Son of God and the Holy Spirit of God, may that cycle of abuse be exhumed, ensuring that the sanctity and value of every human being from birth, right through to a person’s last breath, is upheld.


As we require God’s healing may this powerful worship song minister to us: Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship


Premier National Christian Helpline

Premier Lifeline is open 9am to midnight every day of the year. Our telephone number is 0300 111 0101 (Landline Rate – included in call packages where landline calls are included). 

Association of Christian Counsellors – Tel 024 7644 9694 email: If you need a counsellor please use this link to our Find a Counsellor search facility

Counselling Directory If you require support remotely you can find a therapist offering online or telephone services.

BACP – British Association Counsellors – – 01455 883300BACP

Police – dial 999 if you think the child is in immediate risk of harm.

NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) Tel: 0808 800 5000 or


Childline – Tel: 0800 1111 Samaritans helpline   116 123

Local doctor/teacher/priest or other trusted person.

Local Social Services Care Teams.

Child Law Advice (free legal advice and information service) Tel: 0300 330 5480.

Previous questions


Asylum Seeker/Refugees



Crime and Punishment



How can God forgive Terrorist?

From the Heart – Rev. Debra Blair – Part 1

From starting as a Nursing Cadet to becoming a Sister then transitioning to become a Priest, Rev. Debie Blair tells us about her life and faith.

Debie’s mum, Iris, had a strong influence on her early religious life as she was very involved in the running of the Christ Church mission in Davyhulme.  Debie always believed in God and, at the age of around 9, joined another mission church nearby so, with her best friend, went to both churches every Sunday.  As a teenager she particularly enjoyed visiting the Christian summer school in Scotland for two weeks, not least because of the joyous singing and many other church activities.  Debie’s mum and brother were so involved in Christ Church that, when funds for the later church were being raised, Iris ensured her family’s name was etched on a brick!

As much as she loved church life, Debie temporarily left church at age 14 when she started accompanying her dad, Daniel, to Manchester City’s Maine Road ground – and even got a job in their souvenir shop, attending many concerts there and actually meeting singer David Cassidy.  She also got involved in playing football and was a member of the Manchester United Ladies’ Team until they disbanded.

Debie knew she didn’t want to stay in education so, at age 16, was sent to college to gain qualifications to go onto SRN (State Registered Nursing) training.  Her mum said she wouldn’t last a week – she actually retired 38 years later!!  By the age of 21, Debie had completed her initial nursing training then realised there was something missing from her life so decided to go back to church, trying various denominations –  including the Jehovah’s Witnesses – but chose St. Mary’s C of E in Davyhulme.  Their services fitted in with her shift work and she got confirmed there with her brother, Garry, at age 25.  That year she also got promoted to being the youngest-ever Ward Sister at Wythenshawe Hospital – as well as getting her first mortgage!                                               

Debie never let the grass grow so, after completing an opthalmic course, she then did a nursing degree which led her to become a Relief Sister and eventually a Hospital Manager when nearby Withington Hospital was closing down.  A masters degree in Health Care Ethics soon followed.  Despite a gruelling work schedule plus carrying out her teaching role  – often working over 70 hours a week – Debie maintained her daily prayer time but eventually realised the pressure of maintaining targets and living a very distorted work-life balance was becoming too much, decided she had to try something different so she could enjoy a personal life too.

Coincidentally, Debie saw an advertisement for a Bereavement Nurse and, though it was on a much lower salary, she got the job which was a new post which left her work-free at weekends.  Working under the jurisdiction of the Coroner, she could develop the role and, having acquired safeguarding experience as well as having worked in Accident and Emergency previously, she found she had many personal tools she could call on.  One of the major privileges she found in the job was learning about other people’s faith experiences and situations.  Part of the job was liaising and giving support to bereaved families at the hospital and within local nursing homes; supporting people when identifying bodies in the mortuary and in the lead-up to inquests, as well as doing follow-ups on major incidents in addition to the myriad amount of paperwork which had to be completed for every case.  Liaising with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and facilitating hospital bedside marriages also fell under her duties.

While dealing with death was obviously Debie’s primary role, she found her own faith grew.  She would often call in the hospital chapel before attending tragic incidents and working with the Hospital Chaplaincy Team, funeral directors and the mortuary staff strengthened her faith even more.   Debie also helped to set up an annual Memorial Service for adults alongside the Chaplaincy Team.

With extra time on her hands and weekends free, Debie then got more involved in St. Mary’s church life and she became a Eucharist Assistant which enabled her to set the altar, administer Holy Communion, take Communion to the house-bound and other related tasks.  She started undertaking readings at church then was asked to lead an Advent Meditation session.  One thing lead to another and it was then suggested she go into Ministerial training.  Aged 53 by this time, and having worked in Bereavement for 10 years, Debie at first dismissed the idea but, after overcoming some initial obstacles, she felt God was sending her a message that this was to be her new vocation.  Coincidentally, her mum died during the year so she found she would have more time to focus on her studies. 

It was now time to decide where her future would lie.


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The Power of Prayer

Carol’s Challenging Question – How Can God Forgive Terrorists?

I recently visited the Glade of Light memorial to the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena bombing which took place in May 2017.  No-one who has seen it can fail to be touched by the poignancy and complete waste of life and pointlessness of the killer’s actions that tragic evening. I’m sure other similar memorials to such disasters throughout the country conjure up the same feelings of senselessness.

Who can forget the almost unbelievable sight, played out ‘live’ on television, of the 9/11 ‘plane crashes into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in 2001 which killed almost 3,000 people?

Who in their right mind can countenance any act of vengeance so horrific in the name of advancing a political, religious, racial, ideological cause or any other distorted belief?

And how many ‘near-misses’ have there been where other lives would have been lost or devastated had it not been for the police and security services intercepting the plotters’ evil plans?

Terrorist attacks have not changed World or Governmental policies or methods of dealing with such incidents and in fact have just ensured that security of public buildings is toughened up, with increased surveillance and improved inter-security service intelligence and co-operation.

I have no doubt that those people perpetrating such attacks have been brain-washed to believe that their actions are justifiable in the name of whatever organisation they belong to, or even ‘lone wolf’ operators acting independently who firmly believe their skewed doctrines and view of the world.

Many people, and particularly those whose loved ones have been killed or seriously maimed by terrorist activities, would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to forgive the attackers involved.  Indeed, some of them may have lost their religious faith or beliefs because they do not understand how God can allow this type of incident to happen.

So, Graham, have you had any personal experience of people whose lives have been devastated in this way?  Also, how do you think it’s possible for God to forgive such terrorists?

Rev Graham replies:

Thank you, Carol, for your question about the relationship between God and a terrorist and whether or not God is able, or would want to, forgive them. It is said that two wrongs do not make a right and it may be also said that two rights may produce a wrong!!

Life gets very complicated but there are three aspects to Christian ethics that differ from world philosophy and religions that include: Justice, Forgiveness and Love. As Christians we have the human and divine characteristics of Jesus Christ living within us by the presence of the Holy Spirit which can be found in his teaching to his disciples and exampled in the Lord’s Prayer.

Righteous Indignation

In using the term terrorist, it has become quite derogatory and has different connotations depending on whom you are speaking to and what actions and feelings have been evoked. You mentioned, Carol, the events related to the Glade of Light in Manchester that acts as a memorial to the 22 people killed by a bomber who believed he was completing a noble and righteous act on behalf of Allah and the terrorist group he represented. One person’s terrorist action may be seen as humanitarian or as a sacred act on behalf of God which does not require forgiveness but perhaps praise!

However, for those who lost their lives and loved ones, they can only see it as an act of horror and one in which justice and punishment has to take place rather than any act of retribution.


In the broadest sense we may say that a terrorist is someone who seeks to use violence and intimidation to promote their own political and ideological aims. This may take place during peace times or to non-combatants during a war, seeking to produce individual and community feelings of fear. Within most societies, anyone who trespasses against another will have to face justice and imprisonment that sends a message to individuals and communities that justice and punishment has to be seen to take place to maintain law and order.

I remember working as a youth leader at Proctors Gym in Hulme, Manchester, and on various occasions we had local gangs from Moss Side visiting and wanting to create fear and terror. As staff, we had to lock the building and call the police to ensure the safety of all attending. Sometimes we also acted as peacemakers during fights and incidences amongst individual gang members. 

When I worked as a Project Worker for Adullam Homes in Bury, Greater Manchester, I often visited prisons and interviewed individuals who wanted supported accommodation upon their release from custody. In conversations, I found that many were truly remorseful for the criminal acts they had committed and some found it hard to forgive themselves for what they had done to others.

A number of individuals were proud that justice had been served upon them and so ‘if they had done the time for the crime’ then they could confidently move forward in life. There were other individuals who, for whatever reason, had not been able to forgive those who had trespassed against them and felt that they had been served a life sentence that included anger, loss, sadness and an inability to move forward in life.

Thanks Sora Shimazaki

Forgiveness that includes saying sorry

Many people I have worked with take a view that life is Amoral, in that there is no right or wrong and all that exists is a form of jungle law where only the strongest survive and thrive in an evolutionary process. I found working with such individuals very difficult because there was no moral compass to compare actions and reactions that related to justice, consequences and resolutions.

Within such a moral framework the person/persons offended had little opportunity to find peace regarding the offence received and the person who has offended felt and expressed little sense of remorse or wrong-doing. Such an attitude is very dangerous for any society as, in the long term, it may form a recipe for anarchy.

Acts of terrorism and wars do result in the shedding of blood. When people have transgressed upon us, we are encouraged to forgive their wrong-doing as we have been forgiven before a Holy God for our own shortcomings. For the Christian, it is only through the shedding of Jesus’ blood that we are able to repent and say sorry for our own sins before God and therein receive a supernatural sense of being forgiven, upon which we are then able to forgive others (Ephesians 1: 7, Hebrews 9: 22). 

It is said that we reap what we sow and, if we sow to unrighteousness, then we reap a harvest that will be different to fruit that is in-keeping with repentance and one that represents the fruit of God’s spirit. (Matthew 3: 8). To be able to feel forgiven and then offer forgiveness is a very liberating experience and something which we imitate as part of God’s amazing character which can be found in the following bible verses.

Nehemiah declares that ‘you are a forgiving God‘ (Nehemiah 9: 17). We read that ‘the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving’ (Daniel 9: 9). The character of God is one of being ‘kind and forgiving’ (Psalm 86: 5) and we have the reassurance that God ‘forgives all our sins’ (Psalm 103:3).

Love and Placement

In life, accidents and incidents happen that produce devastating consequences in which we may find it hard to forgive. Life and hope has been taken from us; we have no space in our minds and hearts to forgive. However, when we have received the everlasting love of God into our hearts through Jesus Christ, we then can have an assurance that all our own trespasses have been forgiven. In a miraculous way we find a grace to forgive those who have deeply grieved us as expressed in the famous prayer of St Francis of Assisi

Lord make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

In the experiences of life at home, work and within community, it is important to maintain justice for all peoples that are oppressed and experience injustice. We then try to move on to a place of compassion and understanding after we have apologised for anything we have done against another. This helps us to forgive those who have transgressed against us and move into an area in our hearts and minds that can be called ‘Placement’.

It is a very important area that will be a separate place where all the unforgettable hurts and troubles that have affected us may reside. We have heard it said so often “I have forgiven but I will not forget“. When true justice has completed its course and forgiveness is shared, then we have to try to let go and move on.

Pastorally I have worked with many individuals who have encountered all manner of losses which have been very hard to bear and comprehend. So, Carol, in answer to your question, can God forgive the actions of an individual terrorist and group? I would say a big Yes, because his character is one of wrath, justice, forgiveness and mercy. However, the person or group, as outlined, have to confess to their actions, be contrite and seek forgiveness and then believe that God mercifully forgives all our sins.

When we think of the most hideous crimes ever committed and all those that are taking place at the moment, it begs the question how can God allow them to take place and then forgive them? In an ironic manner, God must have allowed or invented it as a way to overcome pain and suffering and used it as a means of salvation in that, through the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross, he cried ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23: 34).

If we do not embrace forgiveness towards those who have terrorised us, it will ultimately make us very angry and unwell.  There are many things in life that we cannot fully understand but we can know, in a full measure, the justice, forgiveness and mercy of God Almighty.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirt will comfort us as we mourn and accept our losses and begin to move forward with fresh hope, faith and placement.


Police – dial 999 in an emergency where there is a real and immediate threat to life or property. Dial 101 in non-emergency situations where callers will be transferred to their local police force.

Report any terrorist-related suspicious activity or behaviour on 0800 789321 or use the secure online form at (Action Counters Terrorism).

Advice from the National Police Chiefs’ Council if you suspect any act of terrorism -RUN, HIDE, TELL

Victim Support – Tel: 0808 1689111 or if you feel you, or someone you know, needs support.

Crimestoppers – Tel: 0800 555111 –

CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development) 

Help The Persecuted

Christian Aid

Salvation Army

Previous questions


Asylum Seeker/Refugees



Crime and Punishment



Carol’s Spiritual Question – Is Being Good Enough?

When we are involved in religion, much emphasis is given to following the 10 Commandments and trying to follow in Jesus’s footsteps by loving our neighbour and showing forgiveness, compassion, patience, humility, gentleness and generally being good members of our community and society. 

As we know, being a Christian is a very hard act to follow, especially when we are tempted to do something we know we shouldn’t or retaliate in a very un-Christian manner.  We know there have been millions of very good and very bad people in history and there are many levels of both of these characteristics in human beings.  However, as humans, and as much as we may try not to, almost everyone falls by the wayside at some point in their lives.  We believe God forgives us when we are truly sorry for our misdemeanours and we hope we learn the lesson not to repeat whatever it was.

Graham – with all the temptations that can influence our lives these days, how do you think we can become better people more acceptable to God?

Rev Graham replies:

Thank you for your question, Carol, about the relationship between personal goodness and our acceptance before a Holy God. The first challenge is to try and determine what is good and, secondly, how we may find acceptance before a Holy God?

In the creation account ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good’ (Genesis 1: 31). In Genesis 3 the serpent (the Devil) tempts Adam and Eve to eat from the tree that gave them a knowledge of good and evil which resulted in a broken relationship with God and an expulsion from the garden of Eden. 

Thanks Markus.

In the study of Christian Ethics; goodness has two main senses: Morality and Goal

Goodness can be viewed as subjective or objective that has a moral or non-moral aspect to it. Subjectively, those who would consider themselves as Hedonists (pleasure seekers) equate goodness as a search for personal pleasure that transcends any moral code of morality which could be restrictive.

A Humanistic point of view may see goodness as an evolutionary process that changes over time and should not be constrained by any religious writings. Those of a Religious persuasion may say that a particular course of action is good because it is viewed as the will of God. However, such a view is problematic as it is only God who knows what His will is or isn’t and if that is good or not! Subjective moral goodness will depend on a person’s own value system which will vary from person to person.

Objectively, it can be said that any moral goodness is attached to certain actions and qualities that is ascribed to people or an object and, in so doing, is considered and described as good and spiritual. Christian theism opposes subjectivism in that, if we call God good, we might merely be expressing a personal opinion that is looking for God’s approval. A Christian views the concept, creatures, actions and objects of God as a reflection and mirror of the very goodness of God.

Teleological goodness is the pursuit of an end goal that a person or thing fulfils, in a specific form or manner. As individuals we may have a goal of attaining fame and fortune but, in time, such achievements will only fade and pass away. A more complete goal, from a Christian perspective, is to know the indwelling presence of a creator God while alive on earth and then one day look forward to meeting face to face.

There are many areas that Christians and non-Christians agree upon in regards to what constitutes goodness – for example shared human qualities, virtues and morals that are found in ordinary life and have been known as Natural Law. Plato and the Stoics considered God as a model for all human goodness.

Thanks David Clode

Jesus conveyed to His followers the character of God in His words; “be perfect, (good) therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5: 48). The goodness of God is identical to his eternal and unconditional love and, in the Jewish law, imitating God’s attributes so as to ‘be holy as I am holy’ (Leviticus 11: 44) affirms a moral goodness in God.

God Is Good!

Close by to where I live is a bookshop that is called Taste and See – it derives its name from the bible verse found in Psalm 34: 8 ‘taste and see that the Lord is good.’ The intention of God is for us to live a good and upright life acceptable to Him. However, God knows that we are a fallen race as proven so many times in bible stories and therefore we require assistance to be able to measure up to God’s standard of goodness which is only possible through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

God’s goodness is unmerited and a free gift of grace for all to accept and receive. Many believe that we can attain some form of goodness by good works but we all know that it is impossible. The apostle Paul sums up this dilemma very succinctly: “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7: 15).

Moses spent time with God and was given the Ten Commandments to act as a moral compass for good living, yet it didn’t provide inner power to fully live them As a result of all the good intentions of the kings, priests, prophets and ordinary believers in the Old Testament, the Lord decided that a New Covenant was required to fully defeat the power of sin and evil and put a new heart and spirit within that to enable our sanctification and holiness to exist on a moment by moment basis.

Jesus Bridges the Gap

In his travels and teachings, Jesus shared the Beatitudes which offered different attitudes for people to live by that could be considered good and acceptable to God. The clear message of the gospel points out that it is only through the incarnation of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that any human goodness may be attained as we imitate the love, gentleness, patience and humility of Christ who is the Word of God and the Image of the Father.

Any form of Christian ethical goodness is only based on a revelation of Jesus as a bridge across the gap between a holy God and sinful humanity that imitates God’s character through love, hope and faith and will always be distinctive from anything compared to it. In seeking to be a better person we have to accept that we are not a good person before God which is the legacy we have inherited from Adam and Eve. If we see Jesus as our Saviour and Redeemer, then in confession of our short comings we may find forgiveness from a Redeeming God that brings acceptance as shared in that lovely worship song: I’m accepted, I’m forgiven by a good and loving God by Roger Mayor.


Objectively and subjectively we have a desire to live a moral goodness that has an end goal. After becoming a Christian, the process of sanctification should never be considered as optional or compulsory. As we imitate Christ, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit who is the ‘other self’ of Jesus. Sanctification can be seen as a harvest of the collective fruits of the spirit active in a Christian life of worship and service (Galatians 5: 22 -23).

We should not strive to be good or do good works so as to feel personally accepted before God. It is in Christ, and with the aid of the sanctifying Holy Spirit, where we find a measure of goodness and acceptance each and every hour, day and year, as exampled in Christian saints gone by and in the powerful witness of God’s living and flourishing church.

So Carol in conclusion the more sanctified we become our vision of God will be clearer and we will radiate God’s love and grace accordingly. The ultimate goal of goodness cannot fully exist in a fallen world, its completeness will only be fulfilled in the kingdom of God to come and any growth in personal humility will be a sign of our moral progress for all people to aspire to.

Thanks Pooyan

So may goodness and love (God’s sheep dogs) follow us all the days of our lives until we dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Super Power

Is the Bible trustworthy?

Care for the Planet

The Return of Christ



Which is the Real God

Is Satan still around?

Carol’s Spiritual Question – Is Satan still around?

As children, we hear about the Devil as being a bad, scary being and I think for some people, especially those of a religious persuasion, this sub-conscientiously carries on into adulthood.  The Bible is full of examples where Satan tried to undermine God and Jesus in many different ways and also how he tried to influence people to do bad things throughout the ages.  Arguably, he has influenced people to leave the ‘straight and narrow’ and make bad life choices from time immemorial which has caused many very bad occurrences throughout the world.  Many evil people in control of countries may possibly have also fallen under Satan’s power leading to wars, corruption and the myriad of other monstrous and immoral acts which go on.

Non-religious people would say that it is up to each individual how they live their lives and that the Devil is just a construct to frighten and manipulate naive people.  Each person has their own perception of what is good or bad and this is often based on childhood socialisation.  Some believe scaring people with thoughts of the Devil is just a means of mass control.

Graham – part of your theology training would have covered the subject of the Devil and his works.  How do you explain your belief of his existence to a modern-day audience who, because of mass communication, technology and developments in science, are now more sceptical of such a supernatural being?  How do you know that Satan is still around?

Rev Graham replies:

Thank you, Carol, for your question, asking if Satan is still around and exists in our modern world! I guess we all have been taught from childhood that in some form or another good and bad exists. How we assess the existence and reality of evil and good as represented by Satan and God will vary according to our religious, philosophical and humanistic point of view.  

As a Christian, I believe in the existence of an evil presence, as taught in Holy Scripture and witnessed by many personal testimonies of people who have suffered and experienced evil in a number of different ways. Such a view compares to philosophical, humanistic and scientific thinking that is based on intellect and reason and would dispute personal faith and superstition that is seen to use the concepts of evil and good to control human thought and behaviour.

In my theological training as a preacher and teacher, combined with over forty years of pastoral care within the church and community, it is clear that there is an existence of an evil force at work either implicitly or explicitly.

In the Bible there are many references to supernatural agencies and activities that seek to oppose the will and purposes of a Holy God as exampled in Psalm 91 where the Psalmist seeks protection from evil. In 1 Sam 16: 14 – 23 we read that the ‘spirit of the Lord departed from Saul and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him.’

In the mystery of faith, evil spirits are under the complete control of God and it is very hard to understand why God allows evil to exist and act in opposition to his own will on earth. At this point I think it will be helpful to think about the Names, Character and Tactics attached to evil and how an End Game is predicted. 


In Genesis 3 we read of a Serpent who represents a force contrary to God’s perfect will. The Tempter successfully changes the actions of Adam and Eve to disobey God’s command ‘not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge’ and in so doing gave the Devil ‘a power of attorney’ over their lives.

This evil force has a personal dimension to it as found in the discussions with Adam, Eve, Jesus and other people in the Bible.  The serpent is also known as Satan, Adversary, Lucifer Day Star, (Isa 14: 12 – 15) Beelzebub the Prince of the Devil. (Mat 10: 25) the ‘Ruler of this World,’ (John 14: 30) and the ‘Prince of the Power of the Air,’ (Ephesians 2:  2) all working against the plans and purposes of God, especially in the life and ministry of Jesus.


It has been said that Satan is like a malignant reality, a cancer that exists and will grow if left unchecked. In Isaiah 14: 12 – 14 and Ezekiel 28:12 – 18 we read of a symbolic account of the fall of Satan from heaven because of pride and, as a result, seduces many to follow him. In 1 John 3: 8 we find that ‘the devil has sinned from the beginning,’ and there are lots of common ground between all the writers in the bible about there being a force of good and a force for evil. The devil in 1 Peter 5: 8 is described as ‘a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’ and in character is very cunning and ‘disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11: 14) and darkness.

The influences and activities of evil are not necessarily obvious and therefore it is very hard to explain, describe or even believe in Satan’s existence in a modern world which adds to any confusion or sense of naivety. In trying to define evil, Satan is very plausible and would want us to believe that good is evil and evil is good and that there is no distinction between any forces of good or evil.


In the early chapters of Job (1 and 2), we read how Satan was present among a heavenly host and asked to test the righteous Job which God allowed him to do. In the Old Testament there are a number of references to Satan who works against those who follow God such as Joshua the priest. (Zechariah 3: 1 – 5)

In the New Testament, Satan has his minions who exist in waterless places, (Matthew 12: 43) are objects of worship, (1 Corinthians 10: 20 – 21) seek the possession of people, (Mark 1: 34) cause suffering (Matthew 12: 22 – 24) and have great strength and possess animals (Matthew8: 32)

In Jesus’s early ministry (Matthew 4:1) the devil failed in tempting him to follow his way instead of his Father’s way and then subsequently left Jesus for a season. Many Christians and non-believers are deceived into thinking that Satan is not a reality and is just part of a superstitious age and way of thinking. However, as noted in Jude 9, all Christians and archangels are in conflict with Satan and it will never cease until we enter into the presence of God in heaven.

Paul, in (2 Corinthians 2: 11), suggests that we should not be ignorant of Satan’s designs for he wants to gain an advantage over us. Encouragingly in(1 John 4: 4) it reminds us that ‘greater is he that is in us than he (Satan) that is in the world.’ God is faithful and will protect us and not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to cope with but in our testings will provide a way of escape. (1 Corinthians 10:  13) In the book of Ephesians (6: 11 – 17) we are told to ‘put on the whole armour of God’ and to stand against all the fiery darts of the evil one. Jesus, when he was approaching the time of his crucifixion, was affected by the words of Peter which he discerned as coming from Satan. (Matthew 16: 23

Overall we find that Satan tempts people at all times to thwart the plans and works of God as witnessed in the lives of the believing Ananias (Acts 5: 3) and Elymas (Acts 13: 10) who was ‘a child of the devil’ and didn’t believe. We have a reference to the church in Smyrna (Revelation 2: 9) who are likened to ‘a synagogue of Satan.’  There are those who are said to dwell in ‘Satan’s seat’ (Revelation 2: 13) and seek to disrupt all missionary and church work. (1 Thessalonians 2: 18)  

In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13), Satan seeks to snatch the good seed that is sown in the heart of people responding to the gospel message. We have the example of Judas (Matthew 26: 21 – 25) who was used by the devil to try and undermine Jesus in Passion Week and Satan was allowed by God to shift Peter, with Jesus praying for him to resist. (Luke 22: 31 -32)

End Game

The main purpose of Jesus was twofold: 1) To destroy all the works of the evil in exorcisms and prayer. 2) To defeat Satan through his work on the cross and cut off ‘the power of attorney’ Adam and Eve had given to the devil.

Satan has limitations and can be defeated. He only exercises power as allowed from God which can be hard to comprehend and reason why. Indirectly we can find that the efforts of Satan can cause the plans of God to succeed where otherwise they wouldn’t. Satan is ‘a malignant reality’ and, in his hostility to God, needs to be contained.  As Satan seeks to trick and deceive us, James tells us to ‘resist the devil and he will flee from you,’ (James 4: 7) and in (Hebrews 4: 15) we find that Jesus was in all points tested and tempted in every way just like we are, yet without sinning.

Satan faces judgment where an everlasting fire awaits him and all his angels (Revelation 20: 10) and his final defeat will be at the end of the age.  In our modern world, many people would say that there is no room for a concept of Satan and may be more inclined to take a neutral stance over the forces of good or evil. However, when things happen, the media and people in general are very quick to describe such actions as evil or miraculous from an evil force or a good God.

Humankind is free to believe and act in whatever way and form they choose. Is Satan real today? Think about the spirit of the age we live in which promotes itself as a ‘god’ over any biblical God who is seen as irrelevant and meaningless.

As a Christian, it’s important to discern the spirits that are active in our home, church, work and community life and stand against the character and tactics of the devil knowing he is a defeated entity. Through personal faith, prayer and action we can be guided by the help of the Holy Spirit to promote and take forward all the plans and purposes of a good and Holy God for the healing and blessing of everyone.

Super Power

Is the Bible trustworthy?

Care for the Planet

The Return of Christ



Which is the Real God