Saturday, November 28, 2015

In the Shadow of the Cross

Diane is not really that much shorter than me - she was sitting down! What matters in this picture is that the shadow of the cross is over us both. At the very centre of our relationship, and the heart of our faith, is the cross - the symbol of the death of Jesus Christ and for centuries a sign of all that Christ accomplished for us at Calvary. It is also a reminder that there is a cross at the apex of our Christianity.  It is an invitation from Jesus to come and die to our selves, our own ambitions and desires, and to live a new life of trust and obedience to Him.

I think that it is easy to forget this important fact.  We tend to think that we deserve happiness in life and the fulfillment of all our dreams. Now it is great to have a dream and hold on to it, but Jesus achieved so much by laying down His life on the cross so that His vision of bringing forgiveness and life to us could be achieved. We can never equate our own suffering with that of Jesus on the cross with its barbaric cruelty and pain, but He does call us to "take up our cross and follow" Him. We are not guaranteed a pain-free walk of faith in this life and the cross reminds us that whatever we go through God has suffered more, and with every cross there comes a resurrection if we trust in Him.

Thanks to all those who are praying for us at this time. I am due to return to University College Hospital in London next week (2nd Dec 2015) for the 11th time this year.  The plan is to let them clear out my pancreatic duct of debris and stones and then to do a nerve block all around the pancreas in the hope of giving me some relief from the appalling pain of pancreatitis. We are also waiting to hear the outcome of our appeal for funding of a major transplant operation by the States of Guernsey which has the potential to bring this nightmare to an end, but is very expensive. So far the early signs are not good - but hey, as I said there is a cross at the heart of our faith and our trust is in God. Anyway - one touch from the King changes everything!

Friday, November 13, 2015

What kind of prisoner? A very moo-ving tale!

In the ancient Bible book of Zechariah believers are called "prisoners of hope" (Zech. 9:12). I like that description of those of us who dare to believe that our lives are held in higher hands than our own. In fact, that kind of prisoner is one that would not choose to go completely free!

Near our home in the Channel Islands there is a herd of traditional Guernsey cattle. They are large, intelligent, beautiful creatures who lead the world in the production of golden, creamy milk. Having said that, I would not want to be confronted by a stampeding group of them in a country lane and so I 'm grateful to the microscopic strand of wire that effectively keeps them in the field. Attached to a battery this flimsy barrier is effective because these huge beasts are prisoners of their painful memories. 'Once bitten twice shy' means that they learned very early on not to push past these boundaries. So effective is this that even if the battery was disconnected for long periods, the cattle would still stay in place. The sting of past pain is sufficient to prevent them from going free.

Many of us have been stung in the past and are left as prisoners of pain today. Some might say that we have become mature and discerning by our brushes with pain, but it is hard not to feel like a prisoner when your life is curtailed by things you cannot do and places you cannot go due to the pain or other reminder of life-limiting experience. But with God's help even those of us held captive by pain can become prisoners of hope!

I was, therefore, so helped and challenged this morning by my reading of that Old Testament prophecy and especially the second part of the verse. "Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you". It appears then that God is planning to restore to his people that which they have lost while prisoners of anything less than hope. This is reminiscent of another passage where God promises to restore to us "the years that the locusts have eaten" (Joel 2:25). Now that is good news!

So - what kind of prisoner are you?