Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Value or the Cost?

This is probably not the best of times to invest in the Euro.  Our 'friends in need' in Ireland are discovering that there is a big difference between knowing the cost of something and understanding its value.  They went headlong into the 'Green Tiger' economy, splashing and splurging their newly minted wealth, whilst failing to realise that the value of their shiny new 21st Century goods was pretty low whilst their cost would turn out to be immense - more in fact than they were able to pay.  And who will be the next?  No doubt other major Western economies are shivering in their designer shoes just now.

But am I guilty of making the same mistake?  Do I know the difference between value and cost?  I think not, and here's why.  The things that I really want in life, and value as 'success', do not have the same price tag on them in God's economy as in mine. For instance, I value being well thought of, and approved by the people who know me.  The Bible tells me that all I do ought to be done for the acclaim of an audience of One.  His 'well done good and faithful servant' should excite me much more than the idea of being a Christian celebrity or a famous preacher and conference speaker. But does it?  (Don't think I am going to tell you!! Aw - shame!)

And then there is that frightening verse in James chapter 1. 'Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.'  Now that is a problem.  I don't value pain, struggle, suffering and trials.  No way.  Those things bear a very meagre price tag in my store.  But hey - God says I am to 'count it all joy' (AV) when such things come my way!  Charles Spurgeon said of these verses, 'James teaches us in our struggles how to count.  He sets before us a different kind of measure from that which carnal reason would use: the shekel of the sanctuary was very different from the shekel in common commerce, and so is the counting of faith far other than that of human judgement. Write down the testing process as pure gain and instead of being sorry about it, count it all joy.'

So what does God value in me?  What precious commodity is He trying to bring to the surface?  One thing I do know, is that the very process itself cost Jesus everything.  To Him, the price of my redemption was worth paying because He uses heaven's unique value system.  And that is not measured in Euros or in pounds or in dollars, but in love, sacrifice, perseverance, faith and tears.  Are you willing to pay that price tag?  Am I?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanks Lord

I am so grateful.  I have survived a difficult and dangerous procedure in a London hospital with only an extended hospital stay of an extra 5 days due to complications and pain. Although I have to go back there in a few days to have a stent removed, I do feel that despite the fact that the war goes on, this particular skirmish is passing.  Hooray!!  And - do you mind if I say it again?  I am SO grateful.  Why?

I have a wife like no other in the world.  She is such an encouragement to me every single day.  She always comes to London with me to guide me through Gatwick airport in my opiate haze and carry the heavy bags!  Diane then remains on her own in hotels, and on this occasion she had to change hotel three times during her stay.  Morning, afternoon and evening she sits by my hospital bed.  A group of nurses were near us one evening, and one of them said to the others 'If you want to see a woman who loves her husband like no other you should look at this woman' pointing at Diane ' because she is amazing'.  Diane keeps smiling, keeps loving, keeps hoping, keeps encouraging, keeps trusting, keeps real and just keeps going!

As the Bible says in Proverbs 31 'A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long...  Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise: "Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!"'

I am also so grateful for people who love God from around the world who also seem to love us and pray for us regularly.  This fellowship of love is like being in a warm and cosy bed on a rainy day.  It means that although the weather may not have improved outside, we feel safe and cared for, and protected.  This particular admission to hospital was potentially very dangerous for me because of my medical history.  I even wrote out my funeral arrangements before I went!  Thankfully the faith of our prayer partners did not waver, nor their persistence fail. In God's goodness He heard their cry and ours, and must have a purpose for me down here yet.

Most of all I am grateful for Jesus.  Through His word and by His Spirit I am able to keep hoping too. I want you to know that hope also, leading to joy and peace in all and any circumstances. 'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.' Amen to that!