Saturday, June 25, 2016

A 'Remainer' Reflects on the Referendum Vote

Change can be unnerving. Britain faces a massive change following the referendum vote this week in which a small majority voted to leave the European Union. So the UK and the EU will go their separate ways and nobody can foretell what the outcome of that choice will be for good or ill. After more than 40 years of entanglement with the European project under its various names or formats, it will not be easy to find wriggle-room and pull away. The tendrils of the EU will surely be with the UK for a few years to come while this divorce takes place. Some people fear the whole process and are worrying about what is to become of their future now.

One thing is clear - there will be no going back from this vote. The decision taken this week will now determine the UK's direction for the foreseeable future and beyond. Our children and grandchildren will feel the outcome for good or ill. So, how should a Christian react to these critical events?

Fear is never healthy or helpful in our lives, no matter what is causing the heart to be afraid. That's why the Bible tells us 'don't be afraid' 365 times - once for every day and a spare one for leap years! God is still on His throne and does not plan to vacate it soon, whatever votes may be taken on earth. The Bible also teaches us that He has a plan for us that is for our good (Jeremiah 29:11 'I know the plans I have for you', declares the Lord - 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future!'). This knowledge has been a mainstay for me through all the troubles I have seen, and I believe it can also help you to overcome fear.

This is also the time for us to increase our fervent intercession and prayer for the leaders and potential leaders of the UK. It is rightly said that evil triumphs when good people do nothing, and we need to pray for the nation now more than ever.

Our little island of Guernsey has done very well outside the EU (as one French foreign ministry spokesperson acknowledged this week) and the UK can do so too. Now, more than ever though, we need the peace of God that passes all understanding to keep hearts secure through a time of change, and a sincere trust in the living God who wants to guide us all, whether in or out of the EU.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dealing with Disappointment

Waiting is never easy. It can cause immense disappointment when you get 'psyched up' to have a major operation, for instance, and then it is postponed. That's the situation I am in now and it is really tough to handle.Our working-up visit to Newcastle went well, and after seeing people in 9 different areas in 3 different hospitals it really seemed that the op. booked to take place on June 23rd 2016 would go ahead as planned. I was dreading the surgery but really hoping for the new start it could well give me, - and then suddenly - STOP - well you can imagine how I felt. Apparently I am not sufficiently recovered from the acute attack that put me in hospital for 3 weeks after Easter to allow the Professor to proceed as scheduled. Now, instead of going for it next week, we will have to have scans in August and subject to those showing marked improvement, the surgery could take place in September.

Some few years ago I was asked to lead a seminar at Elim Bible Week on the subject of "Dealing with Disappointment"!  Well this week, in the spirit of the old saying "physician, heal thyself!" I have been dusting down my notes for that seminar and reading them again. I said then that among the weapons that we have to help us cope with disappointment is learning to trust that God is in charge and is working out some unseen but beneficial plan for us in love. I quoted the famous prayer of Reinhard Niebuhr:
'God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference'.  My disappointment is certainly in the camp of 'things I cannot change' and I need to let go and let God have his way in my life.

Another thing that can help in this fierce battle with disappointment is learning to embrace mystery, and along with it, the power of stillness and rest. It's not that I am worked up about this - amazingly I feel quite at peace about it - but that is something I have to choose and work at each day of the long waiting period.

So if you are disappointed, I hope that you might find help in what I am sharing here today, and the realisation that although these things do happen for us, Jesus is not a disappointment and he has "got our back" and is silently planning for us in love.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Trekking North for Breakthrough.

We are setting off for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north of England this evening as we prepare for a few days of tests, meetings and discussions that may well lead to a major operation in about four weeks time. This statue is of the 'Angel of the North' and we are really glad that the Lord of the north is going before us! Why Newcastle?  Well it is the only place in Britain now that offers the surgery that I need - a total pancreatectomy with transplanting of the islets of Langerhans into my liver! Wow - space age stuff eh?

I confess to being very nervous even of these few days, but I do feel a settled peace in my heart, and it is so important in life to 'follow your peace'. Getting the funding for this operation was a miracle of answered prayer in itself, and so this is just the next step in a long journey that we hope and pray will lead to a better day.

Thanks for being with us in prayer as we make this journey.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

This motivational text was used by the UK government during the Second World War in an effort to raise the people's morale at a time of great distress.  Enemy bombs were raining on some major cities and the young people of the nation were losing their lives in huge numbers at the front. There were food shortages and evacuations such as only those who have had the misfortune to live through a war can know, and the desire of the country's leaders was to try and get folk not to panic.

Recently this same slogan has returned as a decoration for mugs, tea-cloths and wall hangings, and this has had the effect of trivialising the words so that they have almost lost their power, but recently I have come to understand them in a brand new way. You see, I have found out that the fear of something can be almost as bad, and sometimes even worse, than the thing happening itself. As this has come about I have had to re-learn the wisdom of the old adage and "keep calm and carry on!"

I am facing major surgery once again, probably about the tenth time, although there have been more than thirty 'surgical procedures' each of which has been fraught with danger and pain. But, this is the big one!  An op that the professor described as 'the mother of all operations' awaits me in about a month, that has the potential to end my two decades of battling crippling pain and illness. But - I am really afraid and I don't mind admitting to it! I know that God is with me and that He will guide the surgeon's hands, but I'm only human and have had rather too much of this particular trial thank you. So, I have decided to live as if I am at war - fighting fear and the negative thoughts that assail me.  I recall the Bible verse that says 'take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ' (2 Cor. 10:5). What I face is terrifying but I am determined to "keep calm and carry on" trusting in Christ to see me through. Praising God and keeping the powder dry you might say!

Monday, May 02, 2016

Lessons from Weakness

Sorry to have missed out on blogging for a while. Things have been a bit tough for me recently. In the last month or so I have spent 3 weeks in hospital with a vicious attack of acute pancreatitis on top of chronic pancreatitis. This has also involved a tangle with ascending cholangitis (nothing to do with the colon - this is an infection of the bile ducts and/or liver) and left me with pleurisy in both lungs and a partially collapsed lung. I just wanted to say all that to show that I haven't been lazing around all day taking it easy! It has been particularly difficult this time because of the problem of physical weakness just when I need to be strong for the possible major transplant op planned for this summer in the UK. But also because I want to encourage you if you also are passing through a time of weakness for any other reason. This too shall pass.

I think it's a man-thing not to want to own up to any weakness. We blokes like to see ourselves as immune to frailty or fragility of any type and it is so hard to become dependent upon the kindness of nurses and relatives to be able to meet even the basic demands of the day or night. My time in hospital has given me insight into the awful frustration that men and women feel when they become overtaken by weakness. All I can say is that I believe that this experience will not be wasted, and that it can have a really formative effect on our soul, our faith and our experience of God. When we place our weak hand in his powerful grip then despite our weakness we can learn, develop and grow spiritually.  That's why the apostle Paul said "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).

One of the ancient prophets of Israel, a guy called Habbakuk, once went against the grain of the myth that says if you are a reasonably good person then you should enjoy success, wealth and strength. He wrote: "Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights". (Hab.3:17-19)

Saturday, April 02, 2016

The Scan that Reveals All!

Home again at last! After nearly a week in hospital I am so glad to be able to lie in my own bed again. Tho' it be e'er so humble there's no place like home! My days and nights of restless struggle in hospital were made more bearable due to the presence in the next bed to me of a dear friend. We did not chat much - neither of us were well enough for that - but as we both attend the same church and have a similar taste for peace and quiet, I enjoyed his company and know that he did mine. I hope that he is better now and can go home soon also.

During my stay it was necessary for me to be given a CT scan once again. This powerful and searching experience reveals so much to the medical team that can't be discerned by other examinations. This scan was key to understanding why my pain has got so much worse recently. It made me aware, though, if I had forgotten, that God sees who we really are, and not what we might like them to see or think about us. There is a searching and knowing process that is undertaken by God's all-seeing spirit, and He knows us better than we know ourselves. In the Psalms King David prayed "search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Ps 139:23-24)

I hope that my scan will be a step forward in my treatment and contribute to my healing. God's scan may reveal negative and unhelpful issues in our hearts, but He is still the great physician, and through the power of all that Christ has done for us that first Easter of the Christian era, "one touch from the King changes everything". Why not pray like David and invite a spiritual scan of your heart also? It might well be the key that unlocks your healing too.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A great warrior receives his reward.

This week a great warrior for the Christian faith died. Jerry Bridges, the author who challenged more than a million readers to take seriously God’s command for holiness, died on Sunday at 86. His best known book was "The Pursuit of Holiness" but to me he will always be remembered for penning the book that radically changed my life and thinking, Trusting God with the subtitle "even when life hurts". My life was really starting to hurt when I first picked up that book in 1997. It was the start of twenty years of agonising pain and frequent hospital admissions. This book, and the issues that it dared to raise, became a real source of strength to me.

Now the book represents a theology that not all will find easy to swallow or follow. But in it, Bridges asked some powerful questions like: "Can you really trust God when adversity strikes and fills your life with pain?" or "Do you have such a relationship with God and such a confidence in Him that you believe He is with you in your adversity even though you do not see any evidence of His presence and His power?".

If you don't love the Bible more than all the philosophies of men: if you don't treasure the things of God more than all the glittering gadgetry of the age in which we live - then don't ever read this book.  But, if you do read any of Jerry Bridges' work, you will be impressed with the writings of a man convinced that God is always in control, and that His ways are the best for us despite the limits of our understanding. A very humane and humble man, Jerry Bridges blessed my life and the lives of countless others I'm sure. Now he is entering the eternal reward that waits for all who trust God, even when life hurts.