Failure and success

Run to win

Run to win

I have been running a lot. Only on treadmills, I admit, as I’m not dedicated enough to knock myself out running and freezing at the same time.

The truth is most of us spend a lot more of our lives running than we think. We are usually found either running away from something or running toward something.

We usually make mistakes at both ends.

Instead of running away from our fears or difficult situations, we should stay and face them. The only way to conquer fear is to look it straight in the face and ask God to show himself as the one whose perfect love casts all fear out. It is not easy, it is a process, and we desperately need God’s help and the help of others, but in the end it’s always worth it. Sometimes I think my whole life has been a process of overcoming different kinds of fear.

Facing the assault

Facing the assault

I admit it. I was wrong.

I really had thought spending the winter in south-western Michigan would mean escape from 35 years of relentless snow. Until well into February, I was right. The total snowfall had been negligible. And so when the forecast called for six to eight inches and everyone started to panic, I called it Michigan snowmageddon and mocked the locals who were rushing to the supermarket to clear the aisles of bread and milk and cancelling every event in sight. Even without a snowblower, my superior level of fitness and a trusty shovel would be enough to face any challenge a feeble American winter could throw at a battle-hardened Canadian.

The doorway to divine power

The doorway to divine power

Thirty-seven years ago, with the help of a brave band of a dozen university students, I started a church in the cathedral city of Durham in northern England. At the time, the situation looked totally bleak. Everything was ranged against us. We had no money. Hardly anyone even had a job. I had been falsely accused of being involved in a cult. The university launched an inquiry, and I was nearly thrown out of my PhD programme. All the pastors of the town were upset with me for overturning the ecclesiastical applecart, fearing that my new church would steal their members, which was never my intention.

I had given up my scholarship, funded by the Canadian government, in an act of faith that God would provide. I felt he had called me to do something significant in England, yet I had arrived at a place of desperation where it seemed I had hit a brick wall. There were moments when it looked pretty dark.

Times of testing

Times of testing

I hate the thought of being tested.

I spent a morning this week going through a battery of medical tests, and have more to come. My new doctor loves the idea of preventative medicine, which seems to involve his patients utilizing all available diagnostic services, in the good cause of forestalling worse to come in the future. It has nothing to do with my age, of course.

James 1:2-4 tells us pretty clearly that testing is not only from my doctor, but from God. In fact, he says, testing leads on to maturity and the state of lacking nothing.

And there you go. I thought the prosperity gospel had it all figured out that endless financial blessing is what leads to me lacking nothing. Evidently not.

"The gates are open!"

"The gates are open!"

Retracing some steps this week unlocked a remarkable memory.

Elaine and I were visiting our friends James and Libby, who pastor a church in northern Indiana I have preached in from time to time.

James’ dad was a fine Christian gentleman who used to take me out for breakfast when I visited. His first name was Moses, but his brothers had teased him over it so he went by his middle name, which I always thought was Jay. In reality it was simply J. He had been born Amish and that’s how his birth certificate (if he had one) came out.