Friday, June 20, 2008

Gems in Dark Places

I have been reading Job 28 recently. In this ancient explanation of mining techniques - possibly pre-Abramic - there is one clear message. Precious things come from dark places. "There is a mine for silver and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from ore... sapphires come from its rocks, and its dust contains nuggets of gold." None of the animals place any value on these things, or has any idea of the potential beneath their feet. Only man - made in the image of a creator God - sees the potential and has the will and the means to excavate it.

How does this affect me? Well, I am in a dark place at the moment. After high hopes that the dreadful pancreatic pain may finally have been defeated my old enemy is back. I enjoyed 10 weeks of freedom following the celiac plexus block of early April, but now the effects of that have worn off, and I am in need of opiates again. The word 'disappointment' may be long enough, but it's not deep enough to express my feelings.

But then - God's not finished with me yet. Nor with you. Our final chapter has not been written. And out of the dark places real gems can come. Diamonds are formed under immense pressure. They only exist where conditions are dark are hostile. Their beauty comes at a price, both for them and for the one who mines them. Those of you who know your Bibles know all this already. But when I feel discouraged, I like to remind myself of this great truth. God's promises do not depend on our feelings. "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but it appears that the Almighty has an interest in them too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Don't Write Off the Disappointed

She waved her arms enthusiastically in the air. Well, who could blame her? The healing evangelist had just called out her painful condition in front of nearly 2,000 people. He had said that there was a woman present with painful osteo arthritis affecting her knees and other joints and that God was going to heal her. This use of the charisma called 'a word of knowledge' (see 1 Corinthians 12:8) is common in the healing revivals going on around the world at the moment, and especially in America. When it happens, the sufferer must surely conclude that their moment has come. God is calling them out - He must be going to heal them!

We were standing right behind her in Bill Johnson's wonderful church in Redding, California. When Bill prayed for her she went down on the floor with a thump and stayed there for a good time. When she got up the meeting went on, but those who had been prayed for were encouraged to do something that they couldn't do before. This lady tried to flex her sore knees, and nearly stumbled once more to the floor. She struggled in obvious disappointment back to her seat. Later, when Bill asked 'who has been healed tonight?' many hands went up, but not hers.

As a pastor and a fellow sufferer of chronic pain I felt very keenly for her. I praise God for the many healings taking place right now, but I want to urge people not to neglect the need of the disappointed. We need a theology of suffering alongside our theology of healing.
  • It will bring balance to our prayers and our comments
  • It will assure the disappointed that they still matter to God and to us
  • It will hold them in God's love while they wait for God's power

So, what was happening that night? Was God calling this lady out? What for if not for healing? Well, I suppose that in such a big crowd there may have been others who fitted the description given. It may not have been her time for healing, but it may well have been a test of her responsiveness and obedience to God. It may just have been a well-intentioned mistake. What it did do was make me determined not to neglect the disappointed in my ministry. I want to find ways of reaching out to them and to continue standing with them while they wait for God. After all, in this as in other aspects of the Christian life, whilst we may be disappointed in a ministry or a meeting or a man, Jesus should not be a disappointment. I have found that He is not, and even in the heat of the battle with pain, I have proved Him to be faithful and true.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Belgian Waffles

What an absolute delight! Crunchy sweet Belgian waffles with syrup. Yum yum! Deadly but delicious. Mind you - my diet means that I could only sample one or two during my visit to Antwerp last weekend, but that was a joy. 'More Lord!' Hee hee.

The sweetness of the waffles was only matched by the fellowship I enjoyed with some wonderful people. Leo and Hazel, the pastor and his wife, are the most precious servants of God you could hope to meet. Real and loving, gentle yet determined, they have led the church through a difficult year or so. The work of the Evangelical churches in Belgium is not easy - partly due to the remnant of Catholicism in the culture, but also to the spread of secularism and materialism - but the congregation at the Philadelphia church in Antwerp is large and thriving.

I had the privilege of spending time with the leaders and also with the church. I was deeply moved by some of the great needs among the people, who are choosing to trust God in spite of their pain and disappointment. They are an example of their New Testament namesake, the Philadelphia church in Revelation 3. Jesus said of them that they had kept his commands and endured patiently. I feel that a great future is before this church, just like the 'open door' of Rev 3:8. Pray for them and for all who serve God in the challenging spiritual atmosphere of modern Belgium.

God zegene U!