Saturday, October 08, 2016

Simply the Best

I was sipping tea, still in bed, waiting for the 8am news to come on my local radio station. Out of my tiny radio came the glorious chant of Tina Turner singing "Simply the Best". Wow, I always love the refrain of that song, if not all the lyrics. Then came the news and within seconds I was in despair for the world in which we live. One of the presidential candidates hoping to be elected to become 'the leader of the free world' as some describe the office, Donald Trump, has exceeded all the dismal things he is alleged to have done. I listened to a scandalous and disgraceful recording, which he has now said was a true record of what he felt about women in 2005 and for which he has apologised. The other candidate, of course, Hilary Clinton, will be delighted with this piece of dirt-digging by her team and is crowing her horror, whist overlooking claims that allege that she should be in jail and not on the presidential trail for her past wrongdoings.

This came on top of another story which reported that two leaders of a growing and well-supported political party in the UK were reduced to a bout of physically slugging it out at the European parliament. This unseemly joust ended with one of the MEP's in hospital - the one offering himself as leader of the party!  Is there anybody worthy of being followed any more? Are the two US presidential candidates 'simply the best' available in the USA? Does UKIP have a future in government if its leaders behave this way?

I mentioned the lyrics in Tina Turner's famous song, as some fail to charm me, but I am very taken with these lines "You're simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone, anyone I ever met.' For me, these words speak of Jesus Christ, the one I follow without fear of being disillusioned. There was not one ounce of corruption in him that his enemies could point out, however deeply they dug. The record of his life, penned by a man who watched him closely for at least 3 years night and day, was that he - Jesus - was without sin (1 Peter 2:22).

Now that's simply the best and he gets my vote! But we need to pray for America and Europe in their leadership famine, and ask God to raise up leaders worthy of respect.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Some Action at Last!

We are so grateful for the praying and caring of so many dear friends and supporters. Many of you have been aware that I have been waiting for a long time now to hear about a treatment plan that involves a very major operation including an element of transplantation. We have been to Newcastle three times in the last year and most recently went for scans and tests. Anyway, we had a really helpful conversation today with the Professor who leads the team and he is really hopeful they will be able to operate before Christmas.  I know we have been at that point before when we actually came within a fortnight of an op-date, 23rd June, when it was cancelled because of concerns about safety in the light of how very ill I had been over Easter etc. This time, the delay is because there are question marks over whether my liver will be well enough to sustain the Islets of Langerhan (that control insulin) once they have been recovered from the removed pancreas, as they plan to transplant them into the liver.

So, we have to go back to Newcastle once again quite soon for liver tests (Diane always comes with me as I don't think I would make the trip without her help, and I certainly could not face anything traumatic without her at my side). Sincere thanks to those of you who have helped us on all these trips in all kinds of ways, not least of all, prayer and intercession.  We are still holding on to our promise text from 1 Peter 5:10 "After you have suffered a little while our God, who is full of kindness through Christ.. will personally come and pick you up.. and make you stronger than ever". We feel that is what God has said to us and it is the basis of our confidence, because the promises of God are "Yes" and "Amen" to those who trust him. I know that may appear naive to some, but it has sustained us through some very low times as I set out in my first book "Braving the Storm" which is still available from me or Amazon if you have not read it yet.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

When Waiting is the Hardest thing to do.

Just about everything in the old prophet's life had let him down. 'Habakkuk' is a tough name to be landed with anyway (imagine how that would have gone down when you were at school!) but the passing of the years had not been kind to him. Surveying all his assets one morning and recognising the reality of his loss, he penned words that have given generations to follow a language to express their pain, their determination and hope.

 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." (Hab. 3:17-18)

Habakkuk was a man waiting for better days - which he knew were coming because of the promises God had made him - but in this 'in-between time' he knew that he had to keep his spirit clear of resentment and find rest for his soul. Bitterness due to his loss would only be like eating his own skeleton and would leave him a shapeless jelly, unable to make good decisions or to cope with the pressure of the day. So he wandered up to the high place where he had created a space to stand before God and he cried - not in anger or regret, but in worship and surrender.

It's a funny day for me today. I am still waiting for the surgical team in Newcastle to make a decision as to whether they can help me or whether the massive surgery might be too dangerous for me.  All we seem to do these days is wait! But in the waiting I was so encouraged to read these verses in today's page in the reading notes Encounter by Scripture Union where Alison Lo looks at these very verses in Habakkuk and sums them up so brilliantly. "Amid the raging storm, the prophet has grown from restless doubt to deathless faith; from protesting anger to quiet contentment".

Lord - grant me that attitude today, that grace to sustain me in waiting, and that calm assurance in knowing, in the midst of the barrenness, that You are silently planning for me in love. Amen

Monday, August 15, 2016

Going for Gold

The amazing efforts of all medal-winning athletes and sportsmen and women is filling our TV screens and dominating our newspapers at the time of writing. Rio 2016 is proving to be a good year for our Team GB, now second in the long list of medal winning nations. But repeated over and over is the mantra that these Games are only the tiny summit of a huge mountain of training, preparation and commitment. I was listening to an interview on BBC Radio 4 this morning and heard a remarkable few sentences from one of the coaches working with the British Cycling team and Sir Bradley Wiggins in particular. He said that without commitment of the highest order, none of these participants would go home with a medal.

Commitment is what gets them up every morning long before the rest of us, to train, exercise and prepare. Then, after a full days work in most cases, it is their high level of commitment to achieve their Olympic gold, that gets them out to train in the evenings also. It must be a lonely road in order to prepare properly for these few days of competition, as others may not share or appreciate the single minded devotion to their sport that they must show.

One of the early leaders of the Christian faith urged those who follow Christ to recognise that they are in a race or are competing to win in life.  Winning may not have the glamour of the Olympic podium or win the applause of others, but it will only happen when a life is lived with a clear-cut commitment to a cause outside of oneself. Maybe we need a commitment check-up right now?

We have seen the look of utter exhaustion but also of ecstasy on the faces of medal winners as they meet the goal for which they have been committed for so long. I wonder what our faces would reflect if we are truly committed to do God's will and serve his purpose in our time? In fact, I wonder what our churches would look like where a majority shared a level of commitment that would not settle for second best?  I may be down at the moment, like Mo Farah in the final of the 10,000 meters, but I am determined not to stay down! The glint of life's greatest gold beckons me on!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Honey from the Rock

"He's as hard as a rock!" is a well-known comparison and descriptive phrase. So is "between a rock and a hard place" as a way of saying that times are tough and options are very limited. Living as I do, on an island made of fabulous granite rocks, I am well aware of their enormous hardness and impervious make-up. Can anything good flow from a rock?

In the ancient hymnal of the Jewish people there is a song/psalm which suggests that rocks can be more than a good foundation - they can also be the source of sweetness and joy!  Psalm 81:16 portrays God speaking "with honey from the rock I would satisfy you". Each day I enjoy reading the daily devotion in the Psalms written by Timothy Keller and his wife Kathy called 'My Rock My Refuge' and this is the set Psalm for today the 19th July. New York pastor Timothy Keller is known for his ability to connect a deep understanding of the Bible with contemporary thought and the practical issues we all face in our lives. Mr Keller says that this idea that sweetness flows from hardness crops up several times in the Bible.  Samson experienced this when he killed an attacking lion and then, some time later, was able to eat honey from the carcass (Judges 14:18). For Christians, the significance of the cross is that out of the hardness of being crucified, as Jesus was, life and forgiveness flow to satisfy the needs of all who believe.

This concept of receiving honey from an impossibly hard place has sustained and helped me for a long time now. I am "between a rock and a hard place" in the circumstances of my long battle with serious illness. But, despite that, I feel the comfort of knowing that God is with me and wants daily to feed me with the spiritual nourishment of hope, peace and the joy of forgiveness, no matter how hard the rock gets.

Your rock will be very different to mine, because each of us is unique, but be assured today that God wants to slip you something really good even from the very thing that threatens to flatten you.

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.