Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Poland - Here we Come!

This is the church in Elblag, Poland where we will be travelling this week to share God's Word with the folk there at the weekend. The Pastor is called Witold Kantorek and in the picture he is standing in front of the beautiful church building they have built in that town. We will fly from Guernsey to London Gatwick, and then direct to Gdansk where Witold will meet us with his car.

There are hundreds of thousands of Polish people coming to the UK and other parts of the EU since the once Communist country joined the Union last year. The links between our two nations have probably never been stronger since the Second World War. The Poles are a strongly religious nation (mainly Roman Catholic of course) and the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches are growing there too.

The great thing about mission is that it is a two-way street. For years we have been sending teams with relief supplies to Poland and now the tide is turning. Polish people are revitalising the Catholic church in the UK and I hope that a similar effect will be seen in the Protestant sector too. I will be speaking to Witold about the large number of Poles in Jersey and the UK and seeking ways that we can evangelise them.

So, it's off to Poland we go, in search of fellowship, their renowned hospitality, and the opportunity to minister in Jesus' name. Please pray for us as Diane and I and Colin Rabey from Shiloh Church in Guernsey make the trip. I would be particularly grateful for your prayers for my health as we set off on this journey north and eastwards.

Djin Kuje (Thankyou in Polski)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Life in the Fast Lane

Time to slow down! It is amazing that major road accidents could happen in an environment where the over-all speed limit is 35 miles per hour - but they do. Just last weekend a young driver in Guernsey had to be cut out of his Volkswagen Golf with two broken legs after a horrendous pile-up, and two more young people were seriously injured when their vehicle hit a granite wall. In both cases it seems likely that speed was a factor, even if not the main one or the only one.

Where were they going anyway? The islands maze of roads only really go round and round, and if they had taken more time they might have avoided the danger of being dead on arrival. Speed just seems part of our culture. We rush about and dash around like mad things, just to squeeaze out another few seconds from the day.

And that's the daft thing, of course, because it doesn't matter who you are, none of us can eek out more than 168 hours in any one week. That's your lot, rich or poor! So - let's slow down and enjoy the ride. Let's take in the view, and notice the little things. Let's be grateful for the privilege of time anyway, and spend it with care. After all, when it's gone, it's gone!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Flickering Flames

I came across a remarkable verse or two in Isaiah 50 this morning. It took my breath away. Standing in front of the mirror of God's Word I felt exposed and vulnerable. I decided to do something about it. I want to be a doer and not only a hearer of what God says. Here's what it says:

'Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.'

What really bothered me about the passage (Is 50:9-10) was when I read again in the Amplified Version:

'Who is among you who fears the Lord, who obeys the voice of His Servant, yet who walks in darkness and deep trouble and has no shining splendour ? Let him rely on, trust in, and be confident in the name of the Lord, and let him lean upon and be supported by his God. Behold, all you who attempt to kindle your own fires , who surround and gird yourselves with momentary sparks, darts, and firebrands that you set aflame!—walk by the light of your self-made fire and of the sparks that you have kindled ! But this shall you have from My hand: you shall lie down in grief and in torment.'

I saw the light! My own 'self-made fires' are just so inadequate to light up my path. In the darkness of my current situation - and it is very dark - the advice from God's Word is to 'rely on, trust in, and be confident in the name of the Lord'. Now that's quite a challenge. I am guilty of lighting my own lamps and setting my own torches in place all the time, and they simply will not do. I need to exchange my flickering flames for the blaze of His words if I going to find out His ways. And I don't want to 'lie down in grief and torment' either - I've had quite enough of that already thank you very much.

So, you guessed it. I've made up my mind once again to go God's way and to wait for Him not to try and organise my own future. And with that - I sent off a few emails!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Dangerous Ground.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has started a bushfire of outrage and criticism in British political circles with his call on BBC Radio 4 for Muslim Sharia law to be accepted alongside British law in the UK. Dr Williams said the UK had to "face up to the fact" some citizens did not relate to the British legal system. He said adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law could help social cohesion. For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court.

It is understandable that a major leader of Britain's Christian community would want to find ways of building bridges of understanding and tolerance with its increasing number of Muslim neighbours. It also makes sense for an archbishop to be concerned about the place of religious 'conscientious objection' in a secular legal setting that is legislating for areas such as abortion, human fertilisation and sexual equality. What is not acceptable is for a Christian leader to fail to acknowledge certain facts that are pertinent to the life of the wider church in areas where Sharia law is already practised. In parts of Nigeria, for instance, and other places in sub-Saharan Africa, Christians find themselves in real difficulties because of the spread of Sharia law. Under it, the rights of non-Muslims to give evidence against Muslims are discounted, as are the equal rights of women under the law, both Muslim and Christian. In similar ways to Old Testament practices, the evidence of a woman is not admissable in court, except where it is corroborated by a man, or in some cases by another woman.

Basically, the problem is that the imposition of Sharia law in those parts of the world is seen as part of the dominance by Islam of its surrounding culture. It is a refelction of the desire of some Muslims to extend the 'caliphate' or rule of Islam across the earth. Not content with dealing with matrimonial issues and matters of the family and inheritance, exponents of Sharia law would want to see it expand to encompass all of life as part of their conviction that the whole world needs the teachings of Islam. The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks for the Church of England in part of the UK, but he also has a role as a titular head of the Anglican communion which is being sorely affected by the practise of Sharia in many places overseas.

It is also a mistake for the Archbishop to presume that the practise of Sharia law is an evolving and increasingly enlightened affair, such as some might regard the development of Christian theology and ethics. There may be one or two educated Islamic jurists who argue for modernisation and mercy, but Sharia law is basically a system of regulation, similar in style and content to the Old Testament, and rigid in its interpretation and penalties. The European court of human rights has declared it to be incompatible with democracy.

All three British political parties have spoken out against Dr William's opinions, whilst acknowledging his right to hold and express them. What we as Christian must beware of is forgetting our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith in many Islamic countries around the world and who may feel betrayed by the position taken by this Western church leader. We also need to pray for him in his vital position of leadership, and for them as they struggle for the faith against such violent and oppressive opposition. We should also pray that the liberties we enjoy in this country to celebrate and proclaim our faith will be protected, from militant secularism on the one hand, and the spread of fundamentalist Islam on the other.

Take care, Dr Williams, you are treading on dangerous ground.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Pearls of Great Price

I visited some friends in Guernsey not long ago who had been out fishing for ormers. Now these shell-fish, molluscs, are related to the abilones that are found in Australia and South Africa. In Guernsey hardy individuals wade out into freezing sea-water at low tide six times a year to turn huge rocks over and search for these highly prized gastronomic delicacies. My wife and I really love them. Once the shell is removed, you beat them with a hammer on a stone pavement so as to make them softer to eat, and then bake them slowly in the oven with butter, tomatoes, onions and herbs. Yum yum! Well our friends had taken pity on us because I am not well enough to go ormering by myself and they had kept six of these fabulous molluscs back for us to enjoy. Amazingly, when they were cleaning them and removing the shells, a beautiful pearl fell out of one them, which they eagerly held up for me to admire. They planned to mount this very rare example on silver and give it to their tiny grand-daughter to keep.

Pearls are mentioned in the Bible. Twelve gates to the city and each one of them made from a pearl. That’s what John saw in the Revelation 21:21 as he gazed by faith and by special invitation of the Lord at the eternal city that is to come. In other words, symbolically every entrance into the life of the heavenly city will be through a pearl. Now what is a pearl? Well basically it is a healed wound. When oysters are bred for pearls, a wound is made in the shell, and then a tiny grain of sand inserted. The irritant settles into the wound and then all the healing resources of this remarkable creature set to work and surround the intruder. As the layers build up over time, the grain of sand becomes a pearl, an object of exquisite beauty and value. Yet no wound, no pearl!

So God does not waste our wounds and neither should we. My irritants can become his pearls.