Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween again

Here are some thoughts on Halloween I posted about 12 months ago, in the form of a kid's talk at church.

Anyone here scared of spiders?

Hands up who wants to tell me what they're scared of?

I've got a scary joke book here. [visual aid: scary joke book. Read random joke]

I heard a programme on the radio this week where a lady said she was scared of lettuce.

Anyone scared of Pumpkins? [visual aid: Pumpkin]

Anyway it's Halloween time so there are a lot of pumpkins about, I hope you kids are going to be OK and that your parents will make sure that there are no pumpkins in your house or anywhere in the garden.

The Bible talks about scary stuff. Jesus actually met some of the things we're scared about. I can't tell you if he met any pumpkins, maybe after church some of you will be able to let me know about that. But he did meet a lot of other scary stuff. There was the time where he met a man who was full of demons.

(Insert summary of Mark 5:1-20 here. Punchline: 'You see how Jesus is much more powerful than even 2000 scary things?')

I guess if you see something scary today, which is Halloween, especially if something scary dressed like a pumpkin comes to your door, you get a choice of at least two things.

1. You can go out for pizza with your family. The pumpkin won't know where you are and will go to the next house. We do that quite a lot at Halloween, even though we sort of like pumpkins.

2. You can say hello pumpkin, have a lolly. Did you know Jesus is more powerful than any pumpkin, or any powerful thing in the whole world? Happy Halloween.

We may still go out that evening!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

John Chapman on John Chapman and preaching

I'm working to produce a DVD to go with John Chapman's latest book, Making the Most of the Cross. It's an interview between John and Kel Richards.

The first bit of interview between Kel Richards and John Chapman is here, 'On dying'.

The second bit is here, 'And what's the best thing about the Christian life'.

The third bit is here, 'Jesus our Saviour and Substitute'.

This is the last bit, where Chappo talks about himself and preaching. Yes there's more, and if you want it you'll have to wait until the DVD comes out!

Kel: John let’s get to know you a bit. Are you a Sydney boy, were you born in the bush? Where did you come from?

John: Well first of all let me say I’m a five generation Australian and I came from convict stock. My great-many-times-back granny was transported to the colony for passing dud fivers in the Strand. For that she got 10 years. Her husband made the fivers but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him. He, gallant and all as he was, followed her to the colony. 10 years later and four boys she died.

He was a proper villain; he abandoned the boys and went home to England. The boys were brought up in Governor Macquarie’s NSW boys’ orphanage. They were taught to play cricket and 4 of them represented Australia in cricket. So I—my forebears had a bad beginning but they came good.

Kel: And you have rich blood in your veins—from those people.

John: Well there’s plenty of it. I’m always giving it at Pathology.

Kel: Now your childhood, where was that?

John: I grew up at Oatley and I was schooled there at an intermediate high school at Sutherland and then at Sydney Tech High.

Kel: Now you ended up going into teaching but before you went into teaching you became a Christian.

John: In my last year at high school—in my third year at high school—the boy I sat next to, Dick Tischer, became a Christian, and he began to evangelise me.

I deeply resented that, because he had hardly ever been to church but I’d grown up at church. So I thought—I mean if you go to church all your life you think you are a Christian. It’s nearly impossible to believe you’re not. But I knew nothing about Christianity.

I remember the first time it dawned on me that Christ died for me. It was a terrific shock to the system. I was at church and the guy preaching the sermon said ‘Do you know that Jesus died for you?’ I nearly answered him. And for the life of me I couldn’t work out why he died for me. And then the man said, ‘Do you know why?’ And again I nearly answered him.

And I realized for the first time that Christ had taken the punishment my sins deserved. I remember walking home from church that day and saying ‘Well you don’t have a leg to stand on, because up till now you thought it was about being good’.

But even I could see the stupidity of God saying to me on the day of judgement ‘what are you doing here unforgiven?’ and I say ‘Well I’ve lived a fairly decent life.' Cause He’d say ‘Do you think I’m mad? Why do you think I let my Son die?’

Well that was a big revelation and Dick Tischer was the one who really did that for me. And then I dug my heels in and went on for 12 months knowing I wasn’t Christian but not becoming one, because I didn’t want to have to admit that he was right and I was wrong, which again was stupid.

At 17 I turned to Christ, that was the best decision. I have never regretted that, not for a split second. And it changed the whole course of my life. I personally think for the better.

Kel: John Chapman, young Christian, finished high school, became a teacher. Why a teacher?

John: Neither of my parents had finished their primary education. They were highly intelligent, but badly schooled. They didn’t think they were intelligent but they were.

I made all the decisions about my high school career, because Mum and Dad didn’t know anything about high school. Wasn’t their fault. And so I would ask Dad questions like ‘I’ve got to make a decision about whether I do Ancient History or Mechanics.’

Well Dad would look very wise and then he’d say ‘What do you think would be a good thing mate?’ And I’d say ‘Well I think I ought to do Mechanics’ and he’d say ‘Well seems good to me mate.’

So it took me years before I realized that I’d made all the decisions about my schooling. When I finally matriculated with English, Double Maths, Applied Maths, Physics and Tech Drawing, I wanted to do Ancient History.

Well there was no way anyone was going to pay for me to do Ancient History at a University, with Double Maths, Applied Maths, Physics and Tech Drawing. So I became a Manual Arts teacher, by default. I quite liked that, it was good fun and most of the boys liked it because they—it wasn’t like formal education.

Kel: But you didn’t spend most of your life as a teacher because you switched—still as a young man—to full time ministry. How and why?

John: I—Kel it is an interesting thing but when I left teachers college I decided that if I didn’t do exams I’d never study properly.

So I started doing the ThL course that you did for ordination, simply by reading the textbooks and sitting for the exam. So by the time I went to Moore College I’d 8 of the 10 subjects completed.

It’s not a very good way to teach yourself theology. You don’t learn theology by reading books, you learn theology by talking about it with other people, with other Christians about what the Bible means.

Kel: Discussing and debating...

John: Yeah. That’s the way you really learn. And although I had quite a bit of knowledge I wasn’t well educated theologically. I did some time at Moore College, all too little, and then I was ordained. I worked in the North West, in Armidale Diocese for ten years and then I came back to work in Sydney.

Kel: And you came back to work in Sydney as an evangelist and that’s what you spent most of your life, most of your years doing isn’t it?

John: Yes. When I look back on the Armidale days—I was called a youth director and then I went bald, so they changed the name to the Director of Christian Education. And—but I was really evangelising most of the time. And I came to work in the Department of Evangelism in Sydney, yes.

Kel: I was working for a radio station in Armidale when you were the youth— when you came to speak at our Baptist youth fellowship.

John: Yes.

Kel: And you did an illustrated talk. The drawings were awful but I still remember the talk.

John: Yes, I saw Owen Shelley do work at a children’s mission one afternoon and I came away and I thought to myself, I could do all that. So I started running children’s missions and they ran exactly like Owen Shelley had done that one. He may have done other things on other days but I never did.

Kel: Well you spoke about the conversion of Isaiah being in the temple and the great vision, and his mouth being touched by the hot coals and all the rest, awful pictures but a wonderful story.

John: There you go Kel, and that you can still remember it is highly flattering!

Kel: Now, evangelist for many years, you came to Sydney to be an evangelist.

John: Yes. I pioneered in Sydney a form of evangelism that we’d done in the country in Armidale. We’d ask people to host a meeting in their home, ask some of their non-church-going friends if they’d like to come and talk with me about Christianity. And I would give a short talk and then they would ask questions and I would try and answer them.

Kel: Now your years in the department led you to spend the rest of your life preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible, both here and overseas.

John: Yes. Yes, I had a lot of experience here doing that, and I got some invitations to England and I went to America on a couple of occasions.

Kel: Did university missions, did all kinds of things.

John: Yes.

Kel: When you look back over those years, was that a really rewarding, rich time, having the opportunity to stand in front of that many people and tell them the gospel?

John: It was interesting, when I went to England the first time they put me on a bigger platform than I had ever been on in Sydney.

If you pay for an air ticket to bring somebody half way around the world they have to be good don’t they by definition, so I suddenly became good overnight by definition, and what surprised me was that I could do it. They thought I could do things which I never thought I could do.

Adrian Lane, who is an old friend of mine, was the president of Sydney University’s EU. He said, “We want you to come and mission at Sydney University for us.” I said no, you ought to get a graduate to do that for you. He said, I should have thought I’d get an evangelist.

And I said yes, they’re not mutually exclusive, you know that? And he said, no, but you’ve got to go for the best evangelist; that’s what I’ve done. So there was a long argy-bargy about that. And because I’d never been to a university I thought they were all terribly clever, but they’re just like the fellowship kids at church. They are intelligent but they don’t know much about life. And he said, they’re just like the fellowship kids.

And when I thought about it I said, yeah that’s what they are, I could do that. And so I began with Paul Barnett at Sydney University, then I missioned several times with Phillip [Jensen], the students at Oxford and Cambridge University invited me to give a series of lectures for them, and I suppose in terms of university mission that’s the sort of pinnacle, they are the great universities of England.

Kel: And you’ve invested a lot of your life in teaching other people to preach, haven’t you?

John: I’ve tried to. I’ve tried to set myself as a model that other people could copy. If you take a preacher like Phillip [Jensen], he’s almost unique, isn’t he.

Kel: Yes, only he can do what he does.

John: And when people try to copy what he does, they muck it up nearly every time. He is such a clever communicator. And my dear friend Dick Lucas in London is like that. He breaks all the rules but you remember the sermon, ‘cause he’s good. And he, he can see when people are losing interest, and he changes his tack immediately.

I think I’ve heard Phillip making up illustrations on his feet. And I think, no that’s not one of yours, you’ve made that up for this occasion, you’ve got to be cracking to do that haven’t you? I’ve never been guilty of that in my life. I’ve often thought of a clever thing on the way home in the car. But never on the deck.

Now I thought, I ought to preach sermons which, when I’m gone, they’d say well there wasn’t anything marvellous about that, I could do that.

And I’ve tried to do that all the time. And I remember one day at the Bible college the kids came racing back they said, do you know Rico Tice preached one of your sermons? I said Did he? They said Yeah. I said was it good? They said it’s not the point. I said it is the point! Was it any good? They said, it was great Chappo. Well, I said how’d you know it was mine. They said it’s in the back of Setting Hearts on Fire. I said man, if it’s in the public arena, it’s in the public arena. It belongs to anybody.

What he didn’t know was I’d pinched it from somebody else! And I’m good for a pinched sermon from anywhere, they’re so hard to put together.

Kel: I was struggling to put together a talk once and I came to you and asked, I said, I don’t know how to explain this, and you gave me an illustration. And at the end you said Kel, bear in mind anyone will give you an outline, only a friend will give you an illustration!

John: [Laughs] That’s right! Well Kel I tell you what I was in church at Bingara one morning and I heard my dear friend Peter Chiswell preaching and it was such a good sermon that I repeated it at Inverell in the afternoon, and it was a broadcast service and he heard it.

And he wrote to me next week and said here are three more outlines, and I know you don’t mind pinching them from other people. And I was always glad to get an outline from him, they were always good.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Music Typewriter

Music Typewriter:

Behold the neatest typewriter you'll see today: the Keaton Music Typewriter
that types musical notes on blank sheet music.

The typewriter is so rare that less than a dozen are believed to still
exist (and you can get one for a mere $6K on Etsy): Link
- via Notcot

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Chappo: Jesus our Saviour and Substitute

The first part of these bits of interview between Kel Richards and John Chapman is here, 'On dying'. The second part is here, 'And what's the best thing about the Christian life'.

Kel: John let’s talk about your new book, Making the Most of the Cross.

John: Yes, nobody thinks more highly of my work than I do, brother.

Kel: (Laughs) No-one happier to talk about it than you.

John: No!

Kel: Can I say one of the things that really struck me about the book is that you spend half the book on the cross and half on the resurrection, and you say we shouldn’t think of them as two separate events, they’re two halves of the one event.

John: Yes.

Kel: What do you mean by that?

John: When Jesus dies, there’s a sense in which his death is like everybody else’s. But there’s a sense in which it’s absolutely unique. What Jesus did when he died on the cross, I could not do. That is, I cannot bear the punishment for the sin of the whole world, because I’ve got to bear my own punishment. But Jesus, who is sinless, takes upon himself the sin of the world. OK. So far, so good.

In other parts of the Bible it says, the wages of sin is death. If you sin, you will die. So if your sins are dealt with, shouldn’t we expect the opposite of death, that is, undeath—resurrection. So because Jesus is—in terms of the old prayer book—a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, how do you know that it worked? Because he rose again from the dead.

In fact if he doesn’t do the opposite to death, it didn’t work.

Kel: So when God raises him from the dead, he’s saying, I accept the payment, it has all worked.

John: Yes. That’s exactly right. It says lots of things. Like the death of Jesus says lots of things.

Kel: Well let’s unpack the different things that it says. Talk about the death and then we’ll talk about the resurrection.

John: Yes.

Kel: In the first place, it’s about salvation, and you say in your book, that’s even in his name. Someone said that the name of Jesus, translated out of Greek into Australian would mean something like ‘God to the Rescue’.

John: Yes.

Kel: Does it mean that?

John: Yes. It means exactly that. And, when I became a Christian at the age of 17, which is too far back for me to calculate now, but we used to talk about ‘being saved’.

It’s dropped off the vocabulary of most people, they don’t like it, because it always appears to them to be radical and fundamentalist nonsense. But it’s a good description of what happened to me. It says in the Bible of people who put their trust in Jesus that they were ‘delivered from the coming wrath’. [See 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10] The judgement of God is real, and our age of course never thinks about death. If you want to bring a dinner conversation to a crashing, grinding halt, just whisper to your hostess, have you given any thought to your death lately? See how that goes down.

Kel: (laughing) You won’t be invited back, will you John.

John: You’ll be struck of the Chrissy card list, brother. But you see, the Victorians, they were so close to death, and every Victorian novel’s got a deathbed scene, and then a scene on the wake. Most people are not with their loved ones when they die now.

Kel: It’s all in hospitals, it’s all medicalized.

John: And they’re removed away, you’re in the way as it were.

Kel: Yes.

John: And our age pretends it’s never going to happen. Which is the great fad of everybody trying to look younger.

Kel: So we need to face the fact that there’s something we need to be saved from.

John: Yes. You see, I am not ready to meet God unless I’m forgiven. If I stand in the presence of God unforgiven, and he says, what is this man’s track record like? they say, in terms of loving you and serving you, he was careless.

Now when you are forgiven, and God says, what is his track record like, they say, there’s nothing written against him.

They say, how is that possible?

And Jesus says, I erased the record when I died for him. And there’s a verse in the Bible which says exactly that. [Colossians 2:14 ?]It comes from the root word ‘to wash away’ and it says, the record of our sins are washed away. It’s why we can be right with God. And Kel, it’s very good. It’s good to know that you’re right with God

Kel: Fixed up forever.

John: Yes. I was surfing once in Avoca, and the waves were breaking further out than I normally—I body-surf—you can’t actually see my full extent here.

Kel: I’ll try to imagine it.

John: Well you’ll have no trouble imagining it. I caught one of those brilliant waves, you know you’re rocketing, I was going to say, like a dolphin but I think more like a whale in my case. I’m coming towards the shore, the waves are curling up round my cheeks, and it was just brilliant.

There is no fool like an old fool, is there. I thought I’ll go one more time.

So I swam out. I’d been treading water I suppose for about five minutes, and I looked around and the beach had drifted quite a long way away, and I said to myself, old man, you’d better get closer in to the beach.

So I turned around and I swam carefully for as long as I could; I flipped on my back to catch a breath, and I looked and the beach seemed just a little bit further.

At that stage I looked over my shoulder to see if I could see New Zealand, I didn’t want to waste time going in the wrong direction.

And a head bobbed up in front of me in the surf, he said you alright mate? I said no. He said d’you need a hand? I said yeah. He said, Gimme your hand I’ll drag you in.

And we worked together for a long time and the feet hit the bottom, it’s a lovely feeling. Mind you they’re only there for a split second and the next wave lifts you up, it doesn’t matter.

He said to me, old man, you’re too far out for an old man like you. And I made the understatement of the century I said to him, well actually I wasn’t out that far when I started.

But you see, can you imagine anybody being so stupid as to say, no I don’t need help, I’m alright, I always swim out here.

Kel: So Jesus is that rescuer.

John: Yes

Kel: He’s the ultimate life saver

John: Of course!

Kel: You also say, because there’s a whole lot of things that the cross accomplishes, you also say what’s important it’s that Jesus being a substitute. Talk to us about that for a moment.

John: Yes. Jesus substituted himself in my place.

Tell you what, I was at the doctor’s on Monday, and driving home past the little church at Condell Park there’s a notice up and it says Jesus did a trade. He traded his life for yours.

See, somebody’s got to take the consequences of my sin. I’ve done them. They’re there. Something’s got to be done. And I can take the punishment, or I can accept the gift that Jesus did when he took the punishment.

So you can say, I should’ve been there on the cross, but Jesus is there taking my place.

I often say when I’m teaching little children, say in side your head while I say it out loud, Jesus Christ died for me. Jesus Christ died for me. You’ve got to be an important person if God lets his son die for you. You see and that’s what he did, he substituted himself in place of me.

We’re used to that idea. Parents always substitute themselves for their children, when they’ve committed crimes, by paying their fines. You see, we’re used to that idea.

Kel: You said to me once, that it’s only the star of the movie who has a stand-in to take the risks.

John: Yeah.

Kel: And God has seen us as being that important that he sends his own stand-in.

John: Yeah. And a very good one he is too, I might say.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

And what's the best thing about the Christian life?

This is more of an interview I'm transcribing, between John Chapman and Kel Richards, from a bit earlier this year. Check yesterday's piece of brilliance, On dying.

This starts in on the Christian life and somehow transmutes into a meditation on the possibilities and deep desire for the new creation.

Kel: And what is the best thing about the Christian life?

John: Ah brother, it’s all good. It’s all good. I remember hearing a bloke telling us about becoming a Christian, he was asked that question; he said, the whole box and dice!

See what could be better than to know your sins are forgiven? What could be better to know that you’re friends with God?

When I was a boy my father hardly ever called me by my Christian name. The only time he ever called me John was when I was in deep trouble. And I always went to ground when he called ‘John’. He called me Ned and I would call him George, neither of which were our names, but they were intimate names of affection—

Kel: Friendship names

John: Yes. And it just said ‘I love you’. I care about you.

And I can’t think of anything better than to be able to call God Father. Paul says when we cry ‘Abba Father’, it is the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And to have God as a loving, caring Father—I know that some people have had fathers who aren’t—but ‘Father’ is a big word, it’s not a little word, it means more than ‘my father’, and to have God as Father, oh man, that is really something.

It’s great to know that God keeps guiding you through life, he said ‘I’ve got my hand on you for good. I’m going to see that the best things happen for you’. [See Jeremiah 24:6] Well that’s, nothing wrong with that is there? And the retirement benefits are great.

You see to look forward to the new creation—there’s a lovely poem in Isaiah [Isaiah 11], it says, ‘In the new creation the lion will eat straw with the ox’, that’s very good news for the ox isn’t it? He normally gets eaten by the lion.

And best of all, ‘the child will play at the nest of the viper.’ My observation is that people spend hours seeing that their kids are not in danger. But in the new creation you won’t need to worry, there’ll be nothing’ll hurt them. Nothing’ll destroy them.

This is a wonderful world. I’ve been on the top of Niagara Falls in high spring, on the Canadian side there’re all tulips and two enormous magnolias. The daffodils grow wild on the edge of the fall. And there’s always enough mist blown up for a big rainbow. It’s perfect. It’s just lovely.

I’ve been in the Western plains of New South Wales, where ninety percent of the scenery’s sky, the horizon’s about that far off the ground, and at night time the whole thing’s a blaze of lights. And like a little child I’d say to God ‘Do it again, do it again’, it’s so beautiful.

I was at a performance of the Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Royal Shakespeare Company and I laughed so much I fell out of the chair onto the floor. And I thought, it is so brilliant, people are so clever.

In the aftermath of the opening of the Sydney Opera House I went to a concert where Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra played Beethoven, and Kirsten Flagstad, that great soprano, the German soprano, sang ‘Elizabeth’s Greeting’ from Tannhauser. When she came onto the stage she was like a battleship in full dress. And I thought—the orchestra began to play—and I thought, there is nobody who can sing above that din, I’ll never hear her.

And suddenly a voice rang out, like a canon and as clear as a bell, and there followed the most brilliant twenty minutes of music making I’d ever heard. And I was beside myself. I didn’t have enough limbs to clap and stamp with. And the guy in front looked around, I said ‘Shout, shout, she might just do it again!’ And it’s brilliant.

But it is all so mucked up, isn’t it? I saw the other night on television a million Soviet soldiers were killed in the Siege of Leningrad. A million! That’s like one in every twenty Australians! And you say to yourself, Oh, if only I could get rid of that rotten part.

One of the old ladies in this village had her purse snatched, it had five bucks in it! And the damage that’s been done to her is like a million bucks. She’s frightened to go out of the front door, that’s wicked, do that to a poor old thing.

And it’s both breathtaking and horrifying at one and the same time.

And when I think about the new creation, brother, it’s just like the sunset and the rainbow and Kirsten—I know Kirsten Flagstad’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but you’ll have a cup like it. And you say, gee this is a marvellous world.

I remember when I was diagnosed as a diabetic, I was on the brink of going to England and I said to my specialist, I was planning to go overseas. He said, to where? I said to London. He said ‘this may surprise you, they know about diabetes in London.’ And you say to yourself… do you know they’re doing experiments now where they’re activating pigs’ livers to create insulin, I think in a decade there’ll be a cure for it. And you say, isn’t that brilliant? That people put their mind to that?

And I want that world that’s just brilliant without the wretched parts to it. And being a Christian I think has helped me to be a realist. I used to be a romantic, but it’s helped me to be a realist, and say, we have mucked this world up properly. We really have mucked it up. With terrific potential, we use it for terrible evil. Why am I like that?

And Kel it sounds like a sermon coming on doesn’t it?

Kel: A build-up to it certainly

John: Yeah! Quite a good one, I think I’ll make a few notes cause I tend to forget things these days.

Kel: They’ll give you a copy of the tape, then you can jot them…

John: Oh good.

The whole interview links in part to Chappo's new book, Making the Most of the Cross".

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

On dying

Here's part of a conversation between John Chapman and Kel Richards on the subject of growing old and dying.

Kel: John Chapman, I get the impression that getting older, aging and sickness, is not a lot of fun.

John: It depends. If you’re sick, it’s no fun being sick, everybody knows that. And it often is associated with growing old isn’t it. Your parts do start to fall apart. You gather up specialists like some people gather stamps. I always keep saying the next book I’m going to write is called, Another Year, Another Specialist.

But I lost two last year, which you may think is careless.

There are fun things about growing old, because people’s expectations lower. They don’t expect you to do much, and that’s quite nice, because if you don’t want to you don’t have to.

And if you do anything which is out of the ordinary, they’re quite surprised and you feel good about that.

But chronic sickness is no fun whichever way you look at it. And I think you’ve got to be a non-realist to pretend—you know those sort of people who say, ‘my granny got run over by a bus this morning praise the Lord’.

And I want to say, for goodness sake wake up. And if you’re honest, you do spend a lot of time going to your doctor…s, of which you’ve got, you know, many, and a lot of the time of the elderly is spent in just putting all their gear on, to start with.

Kel: If someone said to you, Chappo, I know there are some people who handle chronic sickness well, and some who handle it badly; I want to handle it well, how can I approach chronic sickness and handle it sensibly?

John: Kel, the more I think about growing older, is, it’s hard not to be self-centred, because you do spend a lot of time looking after yourself and getting ready to face the day, and I think it’s hard for your world not to sort of creep in and diminish. You’ve got to work hard at being concerned for other people, I think. And the people who seem to me to handle their sickness well have got an eye out to help other people.

I think it helps to know that you’ve got God with you. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live without the hope that comes for knowing that you’re right with God.

Kel: If someone said to you, Chappo, why is there such sickness in the world, what’s the answer?

John: The Bible’s answer is that when we turned our back on God and said, Leave me be, God said alright. I’ll leave you be. But he keeps warning us that all things are not right. You see, if you lived in a world where nobody got sick and nothing ever went wrong, and it was all Pollyanna-ish and, and —would you worry about God? You wouldn’t. You’d say, I’m in heaven now.

And you would be.

And because I’m not in heaven now, I live in a world that’s just ideal for me, because every now and again it says, ‘Oops! Everything’s not right.’ And if you say, why isn’t it right? Well you say, you turn your back on God, that’s what you ask for. Now we’re all caught up in that bind, so the world in which we live is an ideal environment for people who are not right with God. It keeps saying, all is not well.

Kel: It’s a poke in the ribs to say, ‘Pay attention’.

John: That’s right.

Kel: It’s not working.

John: That’s right. And sometimes it’s a big poke in the ribs. It’s a poke in the eye with a blunt stick. And you say to yourself, you know, did I do something for this to happen? And the answer from the Bible is, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus says neither, but you want to see what I can do? Watch this. And he heals him. [See John 9]

Kel: For those of us who turn from our way to God’s way and give our lives to Jesus Christ, we in effect get the same message Jesus gave to the repentant thief, 'you will be with me in paradise'. [Luke 23:43]

John: Yes.

Kel: As you get older, how important is that hope?

John: One of the things that was interesting to me when I came to live in a retirement village was, I was surrounded by lovely Christian people. They had their trust in Jesus, there was no two ways about that, they’d come to terms with their sins, they’d put their trust in Jesus, they knew what it was to be forgiven. But because nobody had taught them about death and life after death, they weren’t looking forward to dying, and they certainly weren’t looking forward to the new creation. Now when I read the Bible stories about the new creation, they’re so exciting!

One poem in Isaiah says, they will beat their swords into ploughshares, their spears into pruning hooks [Isaiah 2:4]. Imagine a world…you can’t imagine a world without war! For as long as I’ve been alive we’ve been at war with somebody.

And to say there’ll be a time when there’ll be no war—it’s breathtaking.

Kel: And in that world with no war there is also no illness.

John: Well, then you get to the New Testament, He says, no more tears, no more pain, which is good for the elderly I can tell you, no more crying, no more death. You see, death’s a terrible curse isn’t it?

In this village where I live there are people whose spouses have died between selling their house and moving in. Now it’s a big enough trauma to sell your house and move. But to have your partner die on the way, that’s a terrible tragedy isn’t it.

And you would think it was all 'Pollyanna' if it wasn’t for the fact that that’s exactly what Jesus does...

So they’ve had the funeral, they’re carrying the coffin out, the widow’s son of Nain, Jesus says young man I say to you arise and the bloke sits up in his coffin. [Luke 7:11-17]

Now Kel I’ve done hundreds of funerals, and it’s never occurred to me to give that a try, enough trouble at funerals without importing idiots aren’t there.

Can you imagine that?

The bloke sits up in his coffin!

So when Jesus says in the new creation, there’ll be no death, well you say, well he can pull that off, can’t he?

Kel: Well in fact foolish people talk about the fact that, I want to die a good death. Every death is a bad death, every death is a reminder of sin.

John: Oh absolutely, and Kel, we ought to make a distinction between dying, and the process of dying. My observation is that the process of dying can be no fun at all. I mean, I’m a born romantic from ways back. I want to go to bed one night and wake up in heaven. But the chances of that happening are fairly slight, aren’t they.

Kel: So, talk to us about Jesus for a moment, because Jesus actually does our dying for us. What does he do, how does that work?

John: The Bible says that when Jesus died on the cross, he took the punishment which I deserve and you deserve, and Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. The sin of the whole world, he took on himself, so that he can give to us the gift of forgiveness.

It’s like as if when you turn to Christ, you get a certificate that says ‘The bearer has borne all his sins’.

And you say, well, where’d you get that from? It was given to me by Jesus. Well that’s OK if he wants to give it to you, he’s certainly earned it. If he wants to give that to you as a gift, that’s his business.

Now you see, to know that I’m right with God is terrifically stabilizing in a world which is changing.

The thing about the elderly is they’re always complaining about the fact that it’s changing. When decimal currency came in I said to my ancient mother, how are you getting on with the decimal currency?

She said, isn’t it a fool of a thing John? Wouldn’t you think they’d have waited until all the old people died before they changed things? Which I think is brilliant.

Kel: She didn’t say she was going to go on using the old money because she liked it?

John: Well she converted everything back to pounds, shillings and pence so she knew how much it was costing.

But you see, to know that you’re right with God, it’s marvellous. And to know that when you get there and you meet him face to face, eyeball to eyeball on the day of judgement, he’s going to say, how good it is to see you old friend. I mean, you can’t think of anything better than that can you?

Kel: No, you can’t indeed. In fact TC Hammond used to say, they said to Hammond, what’ll it be like when you die? And he said oh the moment after I die, I’ll hear Jesus say, Father, this is Tom, I died for him. Hard to think of anything better, isn’t it?

John: Yes!

Kel: Talk to me about old people for a moment. We tend to think that as people get older they will think more about God, they will think more about their relationship with God. Do they or don’t they?

John: Well Kel I used to believe before I was converted that if you were a good person you’d probably be right with God. Now the funny thing was I wasn’t all that good. I laboured under the misapprehension that when I grew old, I’d be ever so terribly good to make up for lost time. That’s stupid. When you get old, you don’t become a different person. You’re the same person who was always there, only it takes you longer to do things. Why I thought I’d be able to catch up I’ve no idea. See, when you become old, you don’t become different.

One of the nice parts about living in this [retirement] village is, collectively, we’ve got an enormous amount of knowledge. If you want to know how to do something, there’s somebody here to teach you. And, that’s the nice part about living with a hundred and twenty, hundred and fifty people. Amongst us all, we’ve got a massive amount of skills. You want to learn to use the computer, the computer club’ll spend time, and they’ve got it, to do with you. If you want to play chess and board games, there’s someone who’ll play with you in the living, in the sitting room.

Kel: So if old age is just like the rest of life, then older people, even though death is approaching, don’t give any extra thought to God.

John: Don Howard used to tell a story of a man he visited in Burwood East. And he urged this man to turn to Christ, he was fit and well. And he said Don I don’t need God.

Don said I visited him in hospital where he was lapsing in and out of consciousness. And Don said you don’t have a lot of time left, you should turn to Christ. And he said you don’t think a fit man like me is about to die do you?

Now you see, if you’ve spent a lifetime of saying no, why would you suddenly say yes? There’s no more new information to have. I’m a sinner; Christ died for me; I need to repent; I need to trust him. If I don’t believe that when I’m seventeen, there’s odds on I won’t believe it at 37.

Kel: Or 77.

John: But at 77 I’ve said no so many times, I hardly need to think about it. And that’s why as you get older, you’ve got to take great care. See it’s possible to have been mistaken. And if you’ve been mistaken for a long time, you really start to want to to dig your heels in and pretend you’re right when you know you’re wrong. But the people I admire are the people who say, I’m stupid, I’ve been wrong.

Kel: So can people do that at any age? Is it possible that at any age to say ‘I’ve got it wrong, I’ve offended God, I want to come back.’?

John: I preached one day at Holy Trinity Adelaide. On the way out a lady said to me, I am 87, and this day I’ve told God I’m going to stop fighting him, and I’m going to put my trust in Him. I said well gee you’ve only just made it sister haven’t you. I said, You were lucky to have stayed alive. She said yes, and I think I’ve been foolish. And I said well, I agree with you. Yeah.

[This is part of an interview that Kel Richards did with John Chapman earlier this year. I'm transcribing it for a DVD. More to come!]