Friday, February 12, 2016

Nature's Sign of Hope

A good friend reminded me this week of a precious promise in God's Word found in the book of Job. "For a tree there is always hope. Chop it down and it still has a chance—its roots can put out fresh sprouts. Even if its roots are old and gnarled, its stump long dormant, at the first whiff of water it comes to life, buds and grows like a sapling" (14:7-9). Wow! I feel a bit like that tree - getting older and certainly cut down by pain and serious illness - but God is the lord of renewal, breakthrough and hope and he still has plans for my life. What a source of comfort and encouragement at the end of a very difficult week with its struggles and pain. Hope is such an important commodity in a pretty desolate world. It gives the ability to endure all kinds of trials and to 'hang in there' long after you've been cut down and set aside.

I received in the post yesterday a copy of a DVD and accompanying group leaders' manual on the subject "The Biggest Question" about why a God of love allows suffering. It features interviews with many folk with powerful stories to tell. You can see part of it here.
If you would like to see more, or order a copy of the DVD and/or the notes, especially for a small group you may be part of, you can find out more at I do hope you might find it helpful, and as my strength allows, I would gladly receive your emails at

Friday, January 22, 2016

I was jogging along and then this thing came up ahead of me!

A major hurdle in my twenty year battle with serious illness has been passed this week. On Wednesday we heard that the local health authority has granted funding for a major transplant operation to take place in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of the UK. After turning me down twice this was a much welcomed turn-around and has brought a ray of hope to keep me running in this hurdles' race.

Initially I will be travelling to London again next week for further treatment. After that I will need a preparatory operation which will probably be done in Guernsey. There is at least a six week wait for that, and I will need a month after it to recover. Then, or perhaps before, I get to go up to Newcastle for a week of intensive assessment and 'working-up'. If they find me suitable then I will approach the final hurdle that will be the major op itself. This will involve removing my pancreas, spleen, duodenum and part of my stomach, and then transplanting the tail of the pancreas containing the 'islets' into my liver, so that it can continue to produce insulin there if all goes well. If I am still running after that hurdle I will be looking towards the finishing line!

Seeing life as a hurdles' race is a helpful analogy for me. The Bible speaks about running the race of faith and going into training for success in that race. I sincerely hope you will never have to run the particular race that I have run, but then I probably could not have hacked yours!  We are each called to our own individual race, but the important thing is not to give up! "let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus"... I really hope I can keep doing that as each of these hurdles comes along!

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

When I read these words on New Year's Day, I wept.

Early on New Year’s Day I was looking through my favourite version of the Bible for inspiration after a difficult Christmas period. I had been up to A & E over the special season, including on Christmas Day itself, and in touch with my GP twice in the space of four days or so. I endured the usual diet of overwhelming pain, fever, the rigors, extreme nausea – all the signs of a classic flare-up of my old enemy chronic pancreatitis. I say “old” because it was Christmas 1995 when I was admitted to hospital in Cardiff for the first of what would become over 100 such admissions in the last two decades.  Twenty years of frustration, struggle, and the loss of my ministry due to no fault of my own. It’s starting to get to me as you might well imagine.

And then I came across this promise of hope. God, speaking to His people Israel in the Old Testament, promised them that “I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). Wow, that really hit home to my discouraged heart. Years ago, when we lived and worked in Africa, we were hit by a small locust swarm one evening. With the sound of an approaching express train it descended on a large bush in our garden and stripped the lot in seconds. When it lifted, like a swarm of hornets into the air, what had been a large and fruitful shrub was left a desolate collection of bare branches.

Maybe you have faced the hordes of locusts too. Whatever length of time has gone by, you probably can’t forget the sense of grief and loss you feel at opportunities denied you, relationships gone sour, loved ones taken away in their prime. The ‘not fairness’ of life takes its toll on us all, whatever the cause of the pain.

God knows our distress and hears our cry, even in the dark of the night. The Bible says in typically pictorial language that He keeps all our tears in His bottle. He must need a tanker for mine! I don’t know if the locust swarm will leave me in 2016 though I sincerely hope it does – but if not, this promise of God keeps me going as I start a third decade. “I will restore to you [place your name here] the years that the locusts have eaten”!

I don’t know how, or when, but I do know who will achieve this, and I’m holding on to Him for dear life!

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Momentary troubles

I have chosen this photo of Diane and myself with Maggie, our much loved little grandchild, during our visit to see the family in Jersey last weekend. That was the high spot of this Christmas season but it has gone downhill quite a lot since then.

I think I want to apologise, really, that I haven't been posting faith-building blog posts recently and have fallen a bit behind, but the fact is I have been - and am - quite ill.  Things began to go down a bit for me, health-wise, the day before Christmas Eve. Since then we have been in A & E twice and the doctors surgery, seeking help with a real flare-up of chronic pancreatitis. Sadly, there is not much that can be done other than hit it on the head with very strong antibiotics and heap up the morphine pain relief in the hope of getting on top of the appalling pain. That has not been successful yet, but we live in hope.

We continue to await news of our application for funding of the huge operation that could fix this all for me, but which, as far as now anyway, the States are not willing to finance. We are being told that we should hear something in January, so we need to hold on some more. Diane's dearly loved sister is seriously ill and needs constant care.  Of course, in the light of the huge toll of human suffering that there is in the world our tiny microcosm of need is minute. But to me, it all seems a bit overwhelming. The house is full of food and I can't stand it at all!  Everyone is bursting with Christmas cheer and I am far from being a bah humbug type, but it doesn't touch my deepest need.

What does touch me deeply, though, is the real point of Christmas.  Emmanuel means God is with us, in the pain, in the sickness, in the bereavement, or whatever you are facing.  And these amazing words put it all into the correct perspective: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor. 4:17).

So, if Christmas cheer leaves you a bit cold today, or even disappointed, I want to recommend a relationship with the living Christ who alone gives hope to live by and if necessary, to die for!

Happy Christmas!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

In the Shadow of the Cross

Diane is not really that much shorter than me - she was sitting down! What matters in this picture is that the shadow of the cross is over us both. At the very centre of our relationship, and the heart of our faith, is the cross - the symbol of the death of Jesus Christ and for centuries a sign of all that Christ accomplished for us at Calvary. It is also a reminder that there is a cross at the apex of our Christianity.  It is an invitation from Jesus to come and die to our selves, our own ambitions and desires, and to live a new life of trust and obedience to Him.

I think that it is easy to forget this important fact.  We tend to think that we deserve happiness in life and the fulfillment of all our dreams. Now it is great to have a dream and hold on to it, but Jesus achieved so much by laying down His life on the cross so that His vision of bringing forgiveness and life to us could be achieved. We can never equate our own suffering with that of Jesus on the cross with its barbaric cruelty and pain, but He does call us to "take up our cross and follow" Him. We are not guaranteed a pain-free walk of faith in this life and the cross reminds us that whatever we go through God has suffered more, and with every cross there comes a resurrection if we trust in Him.

Thanks to all those who are praying for us at this time. I am due to return to University College Hospital in London next week (2nd Dec 2015) for the 11th time this year.  The plan is to let them clear out my pancreatic duct of debris and stones and then to do a nerve block all around the pancreas in the hope of giving me some relief from the appalling pain of pancreatitis. We are also waiting to hear the outcome of our appeal for funding of a major transplant operation by the States of Guernsey which has the potential to bring this nightmare to an end, but is very expensive. So far the early signs are not good - but hey, as I said there is a cross at the heart of our faith and our trust is in God. Anyway - one touch from the King changes everything!

Friday, November 13, 2015

What kind of prisoner? A very moo-ving tale!

In the ancient Bible book of Zechariah believers are called "prisoners of hope" (Zech. 9:12). I like that description of those of us who dare to believe that our lives are held in higher hands than our own. In fact, that kind of prisoner is one that would not choose to go completely free!

Near our home in the Channel Islands there is a herd of traditional Guernsey cattle. They are large, intelligent, beautiful creatures who lead the world in the production of golden, creamy milk. Having said that, I would not want to be confronted by a stampeding group of them in a country lane and so I 'm grateful to the microscopic strand of wire that effectively keeps them in the field. Attached to a battery this flimsy barrier is effective because these huge beasts are prisoners of their painful memories. 'Once bitten twice shy' means that they learned very early on not to push past these boundaries. So effective is this that even if the battery was disconnected for long periods, the cattle would still stay in place. The sting of past pain is sufficient to prevent them from going free.

Many of us have been stung in the past and are left as prisoners of pain today. Some might say that we have become mature and discerning by our brushes with pain, but it is hard not to feel like a prisoner when your life is curtailed by things you cannot do and places you cannot go due to the pain or other reminder of life-limiting experience. But with God's help even those of us held captive by pain can become prisoners of hope!

I was, therefore, so helped and challenged this morning by my reading of that Old Testament prophecy and especially the second part of the verse. "Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you". It appears then that God is planning to restore to his people that which they have lost while prisoners of anything less than hope. This is reminiscent of another passage where God promises to restore to us "the years that the locusts have eaten" (Joel 2:25). Now that is good news!

So - what kind of prisoner are you?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

When Understanding Fails

This is not an easy weekend for a number of my close friends- nor for me really - as a young couple that we love set off for distant shores and leave us. It's always tough to say goodbye to people you care about but there's an added dimension here. They came to our church and island home to lead the youth work and serve God among us a couple of years ago and now they are moving on, feeling that God is leading them. Those left behind are struggling with letting their dear friends go and also understanding what God is doing and saying in all this.

Farewells are not the only struggles we face when trying to understand the will of God. Bereavement is heaps more difficult, as are serious long-term ill health or troubles that do not yield to persistent prayer. God knows it's hard enough to go through stuff so surely it would help a lot if we could get some explanations.  That's what is at the heart of the "Why Lord?" kind of praying we all do a lot of these days. But maybe we are not helping ourselves when we demand answers to life's tough dilemmas. Of course we want to know more - that's part of being human and made in the image of God - but the Bible teaches us that this is not helpful reasoning or praying. In the ancient book of Isaiah the Lord says to his people Israel "Do you question who or what I am making? Are you telling me what I can or cannot do? I made Earth and created man and woman to live on it!"

If the "Why Lord?" prayer is proving unhelpful or at least unfruitful, is there any alternative? Well, I was watching a video yesterday by the US Bible teacher Joyce Meyer and she said something I wrote down. "I need to live by your promises Lord and not by your explanations." She went on to argue that in all the circumstances of life God is calling us to trust him more. We need to let him be God and get on with the work of running the universe without having to interpret or explain himself to my couple of kilos of grey matter that is called a brain. If the heavens and the Earth aren't big enough to contain him, why do I think my cranium offers him an alternative!

So in the middle of all the stuff I am facing, as well as the loss of dear friends, I choose to trust God and stand on his promises. My baptismal verse comes back to me with force: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:3). It would be nice to have explanations, and at the end of the day we will have them, but till then let's take our stand on something more solid and confess "He is Lord".