In some ways, the last seven days have not been as eventful as Annie and I had hoped that they would be. There were a number of things that Annie would loved to have done while Anna was staying with us, but she was simply too weak and too sick for most of them. But you know something, in spite of that, we had a wonderful time with Anna and all three of us were really sad to say goodbye to one another as Anna flew back to Czech Republic yesterday morning.
The rest of yesterday was a blur. Annie continues to take the pills she was prescribed and for now, that is stemming the nausea. We also got the results of the recent blood tests Annie had and they all came back clear. We were especially pleased to hear that the sickness was not related to any kidney problems – this test came back clear. Of course, clear blood test results is all within the framework of the bigger picture but we continue to do as we have have testified and have done: take each day as a gift from God. Yesterday, the news of the clear blood tests was good news for that day and we thank the Lord for it.
After dropping Anna off, the rest of the day was filled with visitors and Annie was really pleased to have enough health to enjoy them. One of the young women from Manor Park came round bearing more gifts and bringing encouragement. I was working from my desk at the time but the soundtrack of higher pitched laughter coming from the kitchen assured me they were having a good time!
Yesterday evening we joined the hungry few in the UK that celebrate Thanksgiving! With Annie’s American roots and my love of turkey, we’ve used Thanksgiving as an annual opportunity to share our home and meal table with others and give thanks to God. Yesterday we had the privilege of being invited to the home of our dear sister, Debbie and her family. Debbie’s husband, Larry, is out in the US at the moment visiting churches and sharing what the Lord is doing through the GLOW ministry. We missed him being there (his laugh, his stories and his jokes especially!) but we did not miss out on anything else! The food and fellowship was a real treat and it was great to be able to reflect on God’s goodness again. It was especially good to have Annie there as well; and the 30 minutes of the Dolphins and Cowboys game I got to watch was the cranberry on the frosted cupcake!
give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
On the subject of thanking God in all circumstances…
When we were considering Anna’s visit a few weeks back, we had chatted to her about the possibility of Annie being in a very sick state of health. We were more than happy to have dear Anna with us but we were not sure if she would enjoy her stay if Annie was so sick. Anna blessed us with her assurance that her enjoyment and purpose was to be with us, to assist us; not to be entertained by us. Anna has only recently become a believer and yet what a lovely illustration she gives us of what biblical fellowship looks like.
I reflected in a previous post about the bad attitude Christians sometimes have towards fellowship. Some Christians suffer the neglect of it, refusing to meet with other Christians because of the demands and pursuits of this world; others suffer the abuse of it, choosing to fellowship on the condition that it delivers what they want. In all cases, I think the wider-church suffers as a result.
We met Anna for the first time this summer and she ended up living with us for a month. During that time I was reading through the Old Testament book of Ruth. The book of Ruth opens with the sad account of an Israelite woman, Naomi, who fell onto really hard times. Naomi lost her husband and two sons, leaving her with two – non Israelite – daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. As a widow without sons, Naomi’s social status and security plunged to the lowest depths possible and while most things were now out of her control, she determined that her bitter lot in life would not curse Ruth and Orpah. She lovingly insisted that they returned to their home nation to perhaps find husbands and start over.
Then comes this beautiful verse which really initiates the turning point in this bitter widow’s life.
Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. – Ruth 1:14
As far as Ruth was concerned, Naomi might have been a poor widow, but she was numbered among the people of God and that counted for everything. Naomi belonged to the nation on whom God’s hand rested and rescued, delivered, redeemed, blessed and provided. Ruth had no doubt: the people of Israel worshiped the one true God and their history was filled with the proof of it. In Ruth’s mind it was better to be the lowest and poorest among God’s people than it was to be the loftiest and wealthiest elsewhere.
“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
Ruth’s decision to stay was a good one, a great one, a significant one, a beautiful one, a lovely one. Her determination to stay with God’s people not only blessed her, but it blessed Naomi and ultimately formed part of the wonderful history of the gospel! Read the rest of the book for yourself today!
Anna’s decision to stay with us – even though times might have been hard – was such a blessing to us. We have only known Anna for a few months, but her fellowship with us is deeper than blood; it’s as deep as the wounds that Jesus bore on the cross to bring us into a relationship with Him. It increased our joy and strengthened our faith in Jesus. It reminded us that no matter how hard life gets, it’s always better, always greater, always more beautiful, always more lovely, always more wonderful, to be with Jesus. Better is one day in His presence than a thousand elsewhere, even if that one day is hard and the thousand are filled with the pleasures of this world.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, – Philippians 3:10
When you look at the life and ministry of Jesus in the gospels, you see that He achieved some of the most beautiful things in the thick and the mess of the most broken. I am reminded that in life and ministry where there is brokenness, there can be great gospel opportunity and radiant gospel beauty.
So, Christian brothers and sisters, let’s not only avoid getting into the habit of not meeting together (as Hebrews 10:25 instructs), but let’s prayerfully determine to avoid abusing fellowship by basing it purely on what suits us most, on what looks like the safest, most comfortable, least problematic option. How can we sincerely pray for the advance of the gospel in a lost and broken world if we turn our faces away from the first whiff of discomfort and difficulty among God’s own people? How can we love our enemies if our experience of loving others is based only on loving those who give us something back in return? How can we serve the poor, the broken, the needy, the lost if our experience of service is based only on serving ourselves?
Jesus brings beauty out of brokenness, He brings majesty into the mundane. He really does.