Hope beyond failure

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion for ever.  (Psalm 73:26)

So true.

My body is breaking down. It’s the chemo today, but it fits with the trend. I’m not getting any stronger, faster, or fitter. I keep wearing out.

My spirit waxes and wanes. Today I ache and groan. Misery clouds the sunshine. Who knows about tomorrow?

I cannot depend on my flesh or my heart. They’re unreliable. They’re weak. They’re fickle. They’re false.

God is the one I can trust. He will not let me down. It’s not that I keep hold of him, but that he doesn’t let go of me.

fingerYet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
(Psalm 73:23)

Thank you God.

Looking ahead… without fear

I’m starting to look ahead. What does 2013 hold? What work can I do? What ministries can I be involved in? I’m keen to be serving God, but I’m not keen to repeat much of the hyper-busyness of the past. The past couple of weeks I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of activity. I’ve been up and about, connected with a few friends, and taken on various tasks. I’ve caught up with a number of people for some serious discussions about personal and pastoral matters. I’ve enjoyed a Bible study with some blokes at the local pub and a time of honest discussion and prayer around a fire in our backyard.

Last weekend I spent a few hours teaching at a local theological college on the topics of church planting, preaching and sharing what we believe. It was so encouraging to be able to talk about these important things with a group of ministers and students in training. I followed this with an abbreviated program for our ministry trainees at church. On Friday I joined in a training workshop on strategic planning and team leadership and I attended a prayer meeting for teenagers with some other parents. Today I’ve been at a men’s convention looking at the nature of our identity as Christian men. During the week I attended our church staff meeting and began to discuss potential plans for getting more involved again with the team. I followed this by talking through possibilities with our lead pastor. We worked on some strategies for ministry, pastoral care, and future planning. It’s been invigorating! The cancer’s taken a back seat and it’s felt like I’ve been getting on with life again!

But… the past few days I’ve had increased pain in my chest. I find the pain difficult to interpret. Is it evidence of the chemo doing it’s job? Is it the cancer becoming more active? Or is it something else, such as bruising around the surgery sites, or an infection in the lungs, or something entirely in my head and I don’t need to worry about it? The one thing I do know is that it’s a timely reminder that all is not well. As I’ve begun thinking and planning for the future, I need to remember that important little phrase… deo volente or God willing.

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.  (Proverbs 16:9)

Experiencing the symptoms of the cancer raises my levels of anxiety. I know that this won’t help and it could make things worse and it’s something I need to deal with. But I don’t deal with it alone. My loving and competent wife helps me to stay grounded and focused with her wise words and practical help…

“Let’s take your temperature. I’ll check your blood pressure. How about you let me listen to your chest. I suggest you relax a while and take a couple of panadols. You’ve got a scan next week and then we’ll have a better idea of what’s going on.”

Even more importantly God helps me in my weakness. As I walked home from the conference today, holding my chest, concerned about the pain, God spoke to me. Words from the Bible. Words that I’ve previously sung many times. Words that seemed apt for me this day. They were first spoken through the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel, reminding them that God had acted to rescue them. How much more true are they for those who’ve been saved by Jesus Christ. I need not fear, for whatever happens to me, God has already redeemed me, and I’m secure in his protective custody.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
IMG_2782I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour  (Isaiah 43:1-3)