Saturday, September 22, 2007

Seat of Power

I was in London this week. I went back there to see the consultant who has been in charge of my medical case during these last 3 years - during which I have travelled by air to the UK capital for medical treatment 40 times. Early in the morning last Thursday I had the privilege of speaking to the capital's population on a breakfast radio show about my book Braving the Storm, and then off I went to Harley Street to see the man himself. The result is that Diane and I will be going back this coming week for me to be admitted to the University College London Hospital for a couple of days for a procedure called a 'coeliac plexus block'. Apparently in two thirds of cases where it is given it can be effective in reducing pain and the need for opiates.

Whilst waiting for my train back to Gatwick Airport I went by underground to Westminster and saw the sights there. It was quite moving to be at such a historical location, and one where such influence is exerted over so many lives. There was a real sense of being somewhere very special and there were tourists there from all over the world.

One thing that struck me is how many politicians and leaders have come and gone over the centuries, and yet the grand palace of Westminster goes on as if they had never been there. There are statues of Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli, Jan Smuts, and now even Nelson Mandela! Kindoms rise and kingdoms fall. now it is Gordon Brown's turn - but for how long?

I'm really glad to belong to a Kingdom that will never end, where the leader is someone who loves me and cares about my needs. We don't have to worry about future changes in leadership because Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever, and the 'government is upon His shoulder'! We can relax and trust in that fact.

His throne is the real seat of power.

Friday, September 14, 2007

One Painful Altar

The scene was a mountain side where the unthinkable was about to happen. Abram, the patriarch of the Jewish people, and a firm believer in the one true God, was about to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar. This was not what believers normally did! Only the pagans sacrificed their children in this way. What could he be thinking about?

This heart-rending picture taken from Genesis 22 tells of the anguish in a father's heart, and yet his willing obedience to God. Isaac was the son of God's promises, born out of due time, and to become the father of all that God had said He would achieve through Abram's descendents. Yet, here on this bleak mountainside, opposite what has since become known as the Mount of Olives, his number was up.

What had driven Abram to this extreme? God had spoken commanding him to offer up his only son whom he loved dearly. And now, this scene is speaking to me. I am at the moment in the process of offering up to God the most precious posession I have after my wife and son. My ministry, and the church I love with all my heart. It seems that He is calling me to do so - not with some boring job that I could do without anyway - but with my precious children in the Lord. For a preacher not be able to preach - well Mount Vesuvius has nothing to compare with the growing undergound pressure! But now to have to let go and let someone else take the ministry, that is a real Isaac on the altar situation.

Wonderfully, in Genesis Isaac did not die. God was not finished with him yet, nor with Abram who became Abraham the father of nations. I know in my heart that God's not finished with me yet either, but this altar stands right in my path at the moment. Pass me that knife.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mountain King

They are some of the most moving words in the whole of the Bible. The prophet Habbakuk worked and ministered at a time when the spiritual, social and political life of God's people Israel was at its lowest. Before there would be any kind of awakening or renewal there would first have to be a 70 year period of exile and banishment. Things were pretty tough when Habbakuk
spoke or perhaps sang these words:

Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries
don’t ripen,
Though the apples are worm–eaten and the wheat fields stunted,
Though the
sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m
joyful praise to GOD. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior
Counting on GOD’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength.
I run
like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!

This statement of faith was wrung from lips that were more used to complaining. The whole of Habbakuk's prophecy is built around his complaints to God about the unfairness of all that was going on around him. He could not understand how God would allow His people to suffer at the hands of an ungodly heathen nation - the Babylonians. In chapter 2 God told him to write down a vision - and though its fulfilment would be delayed - to wait for it with hope and confidence for it will surely come.

I have my complaints too. I feel like Habbakuk in some small way. It seems so unfair to be in so much pain after so long, and following so much surgery and medical intervention - not to mention healing prayer! Yet, here we are. Now the doctors are telling to me to rest for at least 3 months and to return to London for more procedures. My heart is in the work of God at the church that I have the privilege to serve, and that is all I desire to do. Yet now, through nothing of my own doing, even that is denied.

Then the words of Habbakuk's final prophecy hit me. He shares my mystified sorrow at what is, yet he is rejoicing in the One who rules over all. The God of the mountain makes no mistakes and so the prophet see himself as 'king of the mountain' - dancing on the deadly heights. And this is the secret. Paul the Apostle knew it when he suffered under house arrest and in prison for years on end - and we are blessed by his writings during a period when he must have felt so frustrated. No situation is wasted with God, and even barren-ness is not empty. Out of our unfairness flows His promise of Romans 8:28 that God works every situation for the good of those who love Him and follow His way.

God of the mountain and the valley, help me to rejoice in You today.