Saturday, 26 June 2010

Very welcome news!

It’s almost a year to the day since I received the news: ‘you have prostate cancer, and we haven’t caught it early…’ Those words quickly became engraved in my mind as I grappled with the implications. Nothing quite prepares you for this and I remember crying out to God ‘I’m not sure I can do this!’

Just three days later we were off on a week’s planned holiday, all the while wrestling with the implications. I took to disappearing off on my own to a quiet spot by the sea early each morning to call out to God and align my mind through worship with the help of my Ipod. This was to become a vital pattern throughout the year, arresting potentially wayward and fearful thoughts by getting myself into God’s presence first! What a difference that makes! I began to realise how careless we can be, entertaining unhelpful thoughts and fears for far too long to our great detriment.

Within a few days of getting that news, a little card belonging to my grandfather who died over 50 years ago, literally fell into my lap. On it were 2 verses: Phil 4:8 Whatever things are true – honorable – just – pure – lovely – of good report – any virtue – any praise, think about these things. (bold his), and 2Cor 10:4 Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. That card now lives in my Bible as a constant reminder of God’s timely word to me., along with many other wonderfully encouraging words and promises that began to leap out at me.

Next it was hormone treatment and the possibility of radiotherapy; I say possibility because there was some concern that the cancer had spread too far. As it happened, the oncologist decided to go for it, informing me that there was a 30% chance of success. So began 8 weeks of treatment – with the wonderful diversion of Ali & Dan’s wedding right in the middle!

So to the present. On Friday Angie & I went back to see the oncologist to review my progress. It was not an easy drive to the hospital, and you may be able to imagine my response when he said: ‘The cancer is in remission, it is undetectable…!!’ I reminded him of the 30% chance he’d given me and he replied ‘Your results are as good as it gets!’ It was wonderful and quite overwhelming to hear those words! How I’d longed and prayed to hear that, and now here it was happening!

I think I am a different guy as a result of these last 12 months. I am grateful to God for each day, for Angie and every blessing that my heavenly Father gives. And I am more aware of the things that really matter. The early morning will always be God’s, a time when special help can be found, and I will not entertain fearful thoughts. Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Above all, I have found Jesus to be a wonderful Saviour, a secure refuge and a gracious healer and have discovered more of what it means to abide, dwell and live in Him. And I am grateful, very grateful!

Thank you Lord for your great kindness to me!

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Sunday, 20 June 2010

The most important thing...

There weren’t many people leaving Cape Town this week (although a few England supporters may have been tempted!) but Evan and Tracy Rogers finally manage to get visas finalised, flights arranged, and they made the journey to Norwich. We’ve been working towards this for several months now, ever since that ‘God moment’ back in January, the Sunday that I taught Evan’s song ‘Still on His Throne’ at Kings and commented that I’d love to get Evan come visit Norwich. Within a couple of hours of speaking those words, my good friend Clive Cernik, who was staying with us at the time with Heather his wife, got the message that Evan and Tracy would not be able to continue in Dubai and were wondering where on earth (literally) to go next. Well Norwich of course! And here they are. I love it when God brings a plan together!

So why are they here? Well firstly because of that ‘God moment’ – we do believe in listening to God’s whispers and taking them seriously. And secondly because worship is very important, in fact you could say that celebrating God, singing and declaring his great worth, his goodness and grace, is THE most important thing. A couple of weeks ago I was paid the highest compliment by a student who was graduating from the UEA and moving on from Kings after 3 years. During his time here I had met frequently with him and had the privilege of mentoring him a little on his journey. In saying goodbye he said: “Thanks Goff, you’ve taught me how to enjoy God more.” Why is that a great compliment? Because that is exactly what we were all made for – to glorify God and enjoy him forever! To quote John Piper: ‘In missions we simply aim to bring the nations into the white-hot enjoyment of God’s glory.’

I am sure that Evan has a thing or two to teach us about enjoying God. He is a great musician, song writer and an enthusiastic worshipper. So when their time here is up, I want us all to be able to say “Thank you Evan, you have taught us how to enjoy God more.” Meanwhile, as Evan and Tracy learn to find their way around, look out for them and make them feel at home!
You might like to check out his website:

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Sunday, 13 June 2010

An amazing discovery..

It’s been a great privilege this weekend to spend time with the leaders from City Church Cambridge. They have recently done a preaching series entitled ‘Amazed by Grace’ and Nick Green, who leads City Church invited me to speak on what it means at a personal level, to live a grace-filled life.
We started Friday evening over a Chinese meal & cheesecake, after which I spoke briefly of my own journey of the discovery of God’s grace – from younger days when although believing in God, I had a nagging sense that he was mainly frowning at me in displeasure, to the amazing realisation some years later that he actually likes me!

The discovery of God’s amazing grace towards us is life changing or it is incomplete. First, a simple definition: ‘Grace’ in this context is the underserved lovingkindness of God that sought us out and accepts as we are, all made possible through the gift of his Son, Jesus, given for us. And, of course, such a discovery changes everything!

Landmarks for me on my journey of discovery were hearing Terry Virgo speak on Enjoying God’s Grace on his co-called EGG tour, back in the late 1980’s. (still available I think - I’ll try find a link!). Next, the parable of the Prodigal Son was to make a big impact on me. When I began to realise that this story is there in the gospels to show me that God is an attentive, devoted father who, far from being remote, stuffy and irritated by me is actually animatedly enthusiastic about his children – even when they have messed up! He is the watching, waiting, running, embracing, kissing father who more than likes me – he actually delights in me!!! (see Henri Nouwen’s ‘The Return of the Prodigal'; Helmut Thielicke, ‘The Waiting Father’; and perhaps most recent & readable, Tim Keller’s ‘The Prodigal God’)

That leads me to another landmark for me, a passage in the book ‘Knowing God’ by JI Packer which has become perhaps my favourite quote outside the Bible. It’s quite long, but worth the read!

“What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him, because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters…. There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and am I glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realise this purpose. We cannot work these thoughts out here, but merely to mention them is enough to show how much it means to know, not merely that we know God, but that He knows us.”

God’s grace really is amazing!

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Sunday, 6 June 2010

Christ in you!

Listening to the news this week about the awful happenings in Cumbria, I, like most of us, was shocked. How did this happen? How could a seemingly nice guy do that?
Of course there are probably factors that I am totally unaware of in the life and circumstances of Derrick Bird, and so rather than speculate I found myself pondering the question of what I might be capable of in certain circumstances, but for the grace of God. OK, maybe not a rampage like that, but what about a cutting word or a spiteful thought, or the strong urge to punch someone on the nose.. or worse? If you are a member of the human race, you’ll know what I mean. Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount equates that with murder. It’s the same seed.

The Christian doctrine of original sin (far from meaning that when we sin, we are very original!) means, in the words of the puritan writer, Thomas Watson, ‘Adam’s sin is ours by propagation. Not only is the guilt of Adam’s sin imputed to us, but the depravity and corruption of his nature is transmitted to us, as poison is carried from the fountain to the cistern.’ In other words, if I look hard enough, I will find the seeds of every sin lurking in my heart – and that is scary!
And that of course, is why I need (and have!) a Saviour. You can argue (and the puritans did) that the more aware you are of the cancer of sin lurking in the hidden recesses of your heart, the more it will cause you to wonder at God’s saving grace and prize the gift of forgiveness and new life in Christ.

Speaking of new life in Christ, I was preaching this morning on those famous words from John ch3 ‘You must be born again’. I was struck by the radical nature of Jesus’ words. Speaking to a respectable, God-fearing man, instead of saying to him ‘Nicodemus, you need a little adjustment in your life’, what he actually said was, in effect ‘Nic, for all you efforts, your life is broken, it is fundamentally flawed and you need radical heart surgery.’

Thank God for the life-changing Gospel of new life in Jesus Christ!
How relieved and glad I am that in receiving and embracing Christ as saviour, we are not only accepted and forgiven, but a new and life-changing force invades our lives with the agenda of making us more and more like Jesus!

Christ in you, the hope of glory! Colossians ch1:27

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