Category Archives: Witnesses

The Power of the Third Rail: Jim Shaw’s Story, A Review

The last time I saw Jim Shaw was at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Lackey Clinic. Back in 1995, Dr. Shaw had a God-inspired vision to meet the needs of people who lacked good medical care, in the greater Williamsburg, Virginia area. Looking back, the Clinic has been a resounding success.

But the path was never easy. Not too long after Lackey Free Clinic got started, Jim Shaw ended up on the other side of the doctor’s office, so to speak, as he began his extremely difficult, 18+ year fight against cancer. His short book, The Power of the Third Rail: A Testimony of Life and Hope in Suffering and Ministry, tells the story.

Dr. Jim Shaw likened those years of his life to a three-railed, model train set. One side rail was his medical ministry, growing the outreach of the Lackey Free Clinic, and the other side rail was his battle with multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer. But the center rail, which powered the train, represented the power of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, the source of strength to guide him through the challenges of both ministry growth and suffering from cancer.

Jim Shaw had grown up in the Episcopal Church, even acting as an acolyte, but he had no depth of faith. Not knowing much about the Bible, he took an Old Testament class in college, designed by that school to help bolster faith in the modern world. Ironically, however, this class inadvertently destroyed whatever shaky faith he had growing up in a church. In this class, the supernatural acts of God, the parting of the Red Sea, the tumbling walls at Jericho, etc., were explained away, convincing this young man, destined for a career in pulmonary medicine, to turn off his mind “to the Bible as truth.” His scientific inclinations had led him to conclude that the Resurrection of Jesus simply could not be believed.

He married, and soon began his graduate studies in medicine, eventually doing research in pulmonary medicine. But his career put a huge stress on his growing family. His wife, Cooka, sought to bring Christ into the center of the family life, but Jim Shaw would have nothing of it.

Yet Cooka kept praying.

By the time the Shaws came to Williamsburg, the power of prayer began to soften Jim Shaw’s heart. Through the loving friendship of friends at our church, Williamsburg Community Chapel, Jim Shaw slowly began to have some of his intellectual questions answered. He read helpful books by C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and Frank Morrison. But these books were not enough. He eventually encountered a new picture of Jesus, as a real, flesh and blood person, from meeting Father Joseph Girzone, author of the book, Joshua: A Parable for Today, and this helped to prod Jim Shaw to eventually put his faith in Jesus.

The Power of the Third Rail, which I was able to read in one or two sittings, walks the reader through the ups and downs of trying to start, and eventually grow, the Lackey Clinic, as well as chronicling his long-term struggle with cancer. Aside from the Lord Himself, the one real standout hero in the book is his cheerful and supportive wife, Cooka. What an incredible love did they have for one another!

At times, Jim and I wrestled with each other on certain matters of faith. But after having read his story, I am encouraged to know that for the things that really count, Jim Shaw and I shared the essentials of knowing the reality of Jesus Christ.

I remember years ago, in the early days of his Lackey ministry, sitting with Jim at a dinner on a men’s retreat, with him telling me of his grand vision to get the Lackey Clinic going. I kept thinking to myself, while it sounded like a great, noble idea, I was not convinced that anything that impactful could really take off. I am glad that I was wrong, as evidenced by the hundreds of patients who have continued to receive expert medical care over the years. Dozens of medical professionals and other volunteers, supported by generous donors, who care for those who fall through the cracks of the U.S medical system, have made it happen, with all the praise and thankfulness going to God.

I also remember, during those years, Jim and Cooka sitting in the back of our church, with Jim harnessed up with a halo neck brace, designed to immobilize his body from being shot through with piercing pain. I really wondered how long Jim was going to make it. To think that he left this world, to be finally cancer-free, only just a couple of years ago, astounds me as to how God proved faithful to him, to have him serve His purposes on earth.

The most profound lesson I learned, in this book from Jim Shaw, is that it was his time reading and studying the Bible that energized his walk with Jesus. Jim’s life exemplified the teaching by the former, pastor emeritus of our church, Dick Woodward: to get people into God’s Word, so that God’s Word can get into them.

So, if you want an encouraging, short read as to how one can meet God, in the face of the twin challenges of ministry and physical suffering, go get a copy of The Power of the Third Rail. Thanks, Cooka, for getting Jim’s story into print!

Jim Shaw was a reader of Veracity. You can read his obituary here. Veracity blog founder, John Paine, wrote a brief tribute to Jim shortly after his death. For more information about Lackey Clinic, and how you can help, and carry on Jim’s legacy, here is their website.

THEOCAST (Evangelical Discretion Is Advised)

In his Veracity video interview, Clarke Morledge described his theological leaning as, “Reformed with a small ‘r’.” What in the world does that mean? Is it about the mode of baptism, or is there more to it than that? Clarke?

Our church is currently working through Wayne Grudem’s foundational   Systematic Theology.  Grudem describes his theological perspective as ‘Reformed.’ The glossary in his indispensable text defines Reformed as, “Another term for the theological tradition known as Calvinism.” Who am I to disagree with one of Evangelical Christianity’s foremost 21st Century theologians, but I’m not sure that Reformed = Calvinism.

These and many other potentially thorny topics are the subjects of a new blog and YouTube channel. Theocast is, “Four broken men and their humble attempts to explain infinite grace with finite minds. Simply just adding to the ongoing (2,000-year) conversation about biblical and theological matters from a reformed perspective.”


These four pastors are sharp. If you watch their About Us video, they describe their goal to give everyone access to discussions you don’t hear in ‘normal’ conversation. They have gone to great pains to do so, and they do it very well.

If you’re a little worn out listening to shallow conversations, give these guys a try. You may not agree with their perspectives and opinions, but you will probably learn something interesting.


Lady Jane Grey: A Protestant Martyr

Though the legendary 1833 portrait, by French Romantic artist Paul Delaroche, is somewhat sensationalized, the story of Lady Jane Grey’s execution reveals a young woman with great faith in Christ.

The history of the Reformation was written largely by men, about men. But women often played a crucial role in the spiritual turmoil of 16th century Western Europe. What led to the execution of Lady Jane Grey is one of those stories.

King Henry VIII made it his life goal to obtain a male heir to the English throne. He finally had one son, Edward, who did succeed him. But Edward VI suffered terrible health problems, and he died at age 15, in 1553, after serving as king only since the age of 9.

Anticipating the worst ahead of time, Henry VIII had made provision that his oldest daughter, Mary, would succeed Edward VI, in the event Edward’s illnesses might eventually shorten his life. But young Edward VI had other ideas of his own.

Edward VI had been raised by Protestant tutors, and he firmly held to an evangelical faith. His older half-sister, Mary, was a devoted Catholic. Edward VI did not want England to be ruled by a Catholic queen. He did have a cousin, not too much older than himself, who might be a better fit for Protestant England. Lady Jane Grey had received an education similar to Edward’s, sharing his firm Protestant faith.

Edward’s adult Protestant advisors had steered the Church of England away from Roman Catholicism, in a more Reformed, Protestant direction. Edward feared that Mary would undo these changes, and he had good reason for his fears. He trusted that Lady Jane would keep England on a Protestant course, so he made arrangements for Lady Jane to succeed him, upon his death.

Mary I, Catholic queen of England, who cut short the reign of Lady Jane Grey.

Lady Jane Grey became queen, once Edward die. But the political bickering erupted, and she did not remain queen for long. The young teenage queen had become a pawn in the hands of those who sought great power and influence. Mary, recalling her father’s wishes, asserted her right to become queen. In less than a couple of weeks, Lady Jane Grey had been deposed, and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

However, this is where the story takes on a more spiritual, rather than political, significance. Lady Jane Grey was directly opposed to Mary’s Catholicism. Viewing Lady Jane as a threat, Mary sought to have Lady Jane executed. But in hopes of persuading Lady Jane to disabuse herself of her Protestant ideas, Mary sent her personal chaplain, a man named Fecknam, to go see Lady Jane Grey, to see if she might recant and return to Catholicism. John Foxe, in his Book of Martyrs, recalls the record of the conversation that took place.

            Fecknam.–“What is … required of a Christian man?”

            Jane.–“That he should believe in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three persons and one God.”

            Fecknam.–“What? Is there nothing else to be required or looked for in a Christian, but to believe in him?”

            Jane.–“Yes, we must love him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and our neighbour as ourself.”

            Fecknam.–“Why? then faith justifieth not, nor saveth not.”

            Jane.–“Yes verily, faith, as Paul saith, only justifieth.”

            Fecknam.–“Why? St. Paul saith, If I have all faith without love, it is nothing.”

            Jane.–“True it is; for how can I love him whom I trust not, or how can I trust him whom I love not? Faith and love go both together, and yet love is comprehended in faith.”

When Fecknam quizzed Jane on the subject of the Lord’s Supper, she responded with equal firmness:

            Jane. The sacrament of the Lord’s supper, offered unto me, is a sure seal and testimony that I am, by the blood of Christ, which he shed for me on the cross, made partaker of the everlasting kingdom.”

            Fecknam.” Why? what do you receive in that sacrament? Do you not receive the very body and blood of Christ?”

            Jane.–“No surely, I do not so believe. I think that at the supper I neither receive flesh nor blood, but bread and wine: which bread when it is broken, and the wine when it is drunken, put me in remembrance how that for my sins the body of Christ was broken, and his blood shed on the cross; and with that bread and wine I receive the benefits that come by the breaking of his body, and shedding of his blood, for our sins on the cross.”

            Fecknam.–“Why, doth not Christ speak these words, Take, eat, this is my body? Require you any plainer words? Doth he not say, it is his body?”

            Jane.–“I grant he saith so; and so he saith, I am the vine, I am the door; but he is never the more for that the door or the vine. Doth not St. Paul say, He calleth things that are not, as though they were? God forbid that I should say, that I eat the very natural body and blood of Christ: for then either I should pluck away my redemption, or else there were two bodies, or two Christs. One body was tormented on the cross, and if they did eat another body, then had he two bodies: or if his body were eaten, then was it not broken upon the cross; or if it were broken upon the cross, it was not eaten of his disciples.”

Fecknam was unable to persuade the 16 year old teenager to reconsider, and finally gave up.

After this, Fecknam took his leave, saying, that he was sorry for her: “For I am sure,” quoth he, “that we two shall never meet.”

            Jane.–“True it is,” said she, “that we shall never meet, except God turn your heart; for I am assured, unless you repent and turn to God, you are in an evil case. And I pray God, in the bowels of his mercy, to send you his Holy Spirit; for he hath given you his great gift of utterance, if it pleased him also to open the eyes of your heart.”

Two days later, Lady Jane Grey was led to the scaffold, where she recited Psalm 51. She handed off her prayer book to another person, and then received the blindfold. Unable to see, she was not able to reach out to the executioner’s stone block. Fecknam himself is said to have assisted her, in placing her hands on the block, as she laid her neck upon the stone. The axe ended her life just moments later.

A Tribute to Dick Terman


In just a few weeks, Dick Terman, a dear friend and mentor of mine, will be moving away from Williamsburg, Virginia. I want to tell you about him.

Dick Terman grew up in the Midwest, in a Christian family. His grandfather was a Free Methodist pastor, and strict promoter of “Prohibition,” the 18th Amendment, that sought to ban alcohol in America. Dick describes his grandfather as a caring man, but boy, could he be strict. Dick remembers his grandfather (rightly) scolding him once, from the pulpit! As a kid, Dick took only a casual interest in spiritual matters.

When Dick was in high school, he was active in the Boy Scouts. However, he had trouble. Another boy in the troop loved to pester and irritate Dick. One day, on a troop hike, the boys were hiking the perimeter above a steep gravel pit. The thought crossed Dick’s mind that he could push this pestering boy off this high ledge. It would only take a few seconds, a strong shove, and Dick’s problem would be gone.

Dick restrained himself. But the angry temptation that filled his heart, scared the wits out of Dick Terman. He could have gotten rid of this bothersome boy, by pushing him over a hundred foot drop, to the boy’s death.

Dick could have been a murderer.

Dick had come face to face with his own sinful nature. He knew he had to get right with God. So, Dick kneeled in prayer before his Maker, admitted his need for a Savior, and gave his life in submission to the Lordship of Christ. Continue reading

Parking Space 23, and The Story of John Knox

(Editor’s Note: I have been trying to get an avid Veracity reader to write this blog post for several years, as he has personally been to Scotland to see “Parking Space 23.” But alas, in this, the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation, I could wait no longer…)

If you go to Edinburgh, Scotland, today, you might have trouble finding the grave of Scotland’s greatest Protestant Reformer of the 16th century, John Knox. Hidden away, underneath the asphalt of parking space 23, lies the body of one John Knox, who paved the way for the Reformation to transform the country of Scotland. A plaque embedded in the pavement reads:

“The above stone marks the approximate site of the burial in St Giles graveyard of John Knox, the great Scottish divine who died 24 Nov 1572.”

Why would John Knox’s grave be found in a parking lot? Just imagine if the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. were bulldozed over, and converted into a parking garage.

In much of secular Scotland today, the Christian faith of the Reformation era is largely forgotten. Yet John Knox is unquestionably the founder of modern Presbyterianism, as he resolutely preached his way throughout Scotland, moving this northernmost segment of the British Isles away from Roman Catholicism towards a Protestant faith. Within a few centuries, the Scottish church would become one of the greatest missionary sending communities of all time, establishing Christian witness over all the world.

Was there something about Knox himself that contributes to this historical neglect? Though a fiery evangelist, with a great love for the Gospel, John Knox was also known to be rather severe. Was it because he acted as a bodyguard to another Scottish preacher, for a time? Was it because he suffered for two years of oppressive prison labor, aboard a French galley ship? Was it because he actively opposed the idea of having a woman as a secular ruler?

Yet it might be time to restore John Knox, Scotland’s greatest Reformer, from this historical neglect.

The film Knox explores these questions, and tells his story. Here is the trailer:

For a review of Jane Dawson’s recent scholarly biography of John Knox, consult the resources at the Gospel Coalition.

%d bloggers like this: