Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tears of Pain

This has been a particularly painful Easter for me. The pain of chronic pancreatitis can be beyond description - it has been likened to that of a heart attack but it keeps on going. I have known relief since having a celiac plexus block performed at University College hospital in London last September. The slow release deposit of local anaesthetic combined with steroids gave me three months of pain relief. Then in January it was done again, but was not quite so effective this time. It lasted for just 7 weeks, and so I am back on a drug called Fentanyl - reputed to be 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine!

Thankfully I now have a date to go into the UCL hospital (for the day) and have another one done, Tuesday April 8th. We are praying that this one will be at least as effective as the first, and perhaps even longer lasting.

I'm not ashamed to confess that this pain sometimes reduces me to tears - even if they are hidden and secret at the time. I was encouraged to discover yesterday that we humans are unique among the animals for the fact that we cry! Apparently, no other 'animal' (I don't feel like an animal even if I behave like it sometimes - and God's Word doesn't call me one) has the ability to shed tears like we do. This fact, like speech, walking on the moon and asking questions, are the marks of the Divine image in us and set us apart from the rest of creation.

Speaking of questions - I find it so comforting to recall that in the Easter story God's own Son cried out 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' He knows how I feel, and has sampled the salty taste of his own tears mixed with his own incredible pain. If my tears make me unique among creation, his understanding and death in my place make him unique among the 'gods'.

God gave you those tear ducts. Don't be ashamed to use them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Cry for Help

Two of the gospels tell of a moment that took place as Jesus enterred Gethsemane on the evening before his crucifiction. In both of them Jesus said "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, stay here and keep watch." At which, he went off to sweat blood alone and they promptly went to sleep.

Jesus was calling out for help. 'I feel like death' may be one way of looking at it, but 'I am so depressed I might die' may be closer. He was the son of God, fully divine, yet also fully human. His humanity was at an end of its resources. He needed company - someone just to stay up and watch out for him while he agonised over the issues he was facing.

I wonder if any of the 17 teenagers who have killed themselves in the last few weeks in Bridgend, South Wales, had approached anyone with the information that they felt so down? Is it possible that the Chief Constable of Manchester who is alleged to have taken his own life on a bleak mountainside last week actually gave out enough hints that others should have read the signals? Maybe they did.

And are there any 'Gethsemane people' who are at the end of their resources around me? I suspect that there are. The terifying thought is that I may be too dull, or too tired to recognise their cry for help. While I snooze they bleed. While they pound their fists on a rock and heave with great sighs of sadness, I snore with self-contented ease.

Of course, the disciples didn't realise what was going on. You can't blame them. It was late and they had travelled a long way and were very tired. But they failed to read the signals and missed the most profound moment in the life of Christ and possibly the history of the world.

'Lord, please forgive me for ignoring other peoples' cries for help. And also for missing your own. I was asleep when you nudged me to pray the other day, and missed the moment. I was tired when that lady phoned and so was correct but curt with her - she was hurting, and actually it was you on the line ('for as much as you do it unto the least of these...'). When I could have got out to serve you I dozed, and now I know that you needed me to be there. Thank you Lord for your mercy, forgiveness and grace'. Amen.

Have a good Easter weekend.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Child Safety Issues

The list of child safety stories in the media is huge. Haut de la Garenne in Jersey, where the possible remains of a dead child have been found (speculation is that it may be a fragemnt of a child's skull), child abuse cases in the courts in these normally peaceful Channel Islands, the missing Madelaine McCann along with the thousands of little children that disappear in Europe every year, and now the mysterious case of Shannon Matthews in Yorkshire.

One of the remarkable facts to emerge from the case of Shannon Matthews, who was abducted on her way home from school and held captive for 24 days before police broke down the door of the apartment where she was being held, is the time it took to locate her only a mile away from her home. The police, who mounted the second biggest manhunt in the history of their force to try and find her, pointed out that one of the reasons for the delay was the size of her extended family and the fact of there being over 1,300 registered sex offenders within a 30 mile radius! Of those, more than 300 were known to be paedophiles, and these are only the registered ones.

Has the world gone mad? How did so many men - and it is usually men - trade their dignity and peace of mind in order to violate innocent children? Is it the modern phenomenon of the Internet that is to blame? Or television? Well, they will have made things worse, that's for sure, but the sin of child abuse is as old as man himself. Child labour and child prostitution have been twin ills of society from long before technology took its recent giant strides.

Jesus spoke about the issue two thousand years ago. He warned that those who sin against little ones will face a court of justice much more fearful than any human judicial system. 'But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.' So it was a problem even in his day too.

Can any more be done? Only the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ one by one to as many individuals as possible so that sinful hearts can be changed and cleansed. Also, we need to pray over our children daily, and when in prayer for our communities pray for childrens' agencies and the police to have success in their fight against this evil. In spiritual warfare terms, we must see this as an attack upon a section of our population least able to defend themselves and closest to the heavenly Father's heart. It comes from the pit and bears the fingerprints of Satan.

For that reason, if no other, we pray, 'Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!'

Friday, March 07, 2008

Amazing Race

What wonderful people the Poles are! They get a bad press in the UK these days because of immigration issues, but it is such a privilege to visit them and see them in their own setting. Warm-hearted and hospitable, they welcomed us with open arms. We were able to preach in large public meetings, teach small groups of leaders and visit some very precious (but quite poor) people. The spiritual need amongst the Poles is great - there is a lot of religion about (mostly Roman Catholic) but not much evidence of New Testament life and power. In the city of Elblag there are around 150,000 people and this is the only Pentecostal church - about 200 members.

This is team member Colin Rabey (left) speaking to the church at Eblag in north eastern Poland on Saturday 1st March 2008. The interpreter is David Kantorek, oldest son of the pastor and our good friend Witold. Colin was a great asset to the team, providing Diane and I with vital carrying power, prayer support and reassuring company as we made this ministry trip. Colin had been before, and it just gave us such a boost to have his strong, quiet presence with us.
An abiding memory that I have from my four visits to Poland now are of strong, persevering faith among the people. They have suffered greatly as a nation, yet have an inspiring passion for God. Certainly if God is sending large numbers of Polish immigrants to our country we should welcome the opportunity for fellowship and evangelism amongst family-orientated, hard working people.
So, thanks for your interest and prayers. If you would like to see a few more photos of our trip, you can view them when you visit