we are not great

In a fortnight, our blog will have been running for six months. This current post is the 76th and the blog is getting closer to 100,000 hits. To put that figure into the context of the web-sphere, it’s not that great a deal. The now very famous ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’ Youtube clip alone received 2.6 million hits in nine-months; a further 10 million the following month and by the following 12 months had reached 92 million hits! If you’ve seen the clip you’ll appreciate what I mean when I say that 56 seconds of pain (someone else’s!) and laughter can go a long way! If you’ve not seen the clip (where have you been!?) be my guest; click the link above and add your number to the millions (at the time of writing this, that clip’s hits is at 443 million!)

100,000 hits will not be a great deal, but Annie and I would be lying if we said we don’t find enjoyment and encouragement reading the many comments we receive or even seeing our WordPress map tell us which countries of the world our visitors have come from. Annie and I have always loved travelling the world but cancer has cancelled any plans we have of booking flights anytime soon. And so somehow, pulling our chairs around our computer and looking at the stats map is like looking out the window of an airplane at however many thousand feet it needs to be to see the landscape! We’ve had visitors from every continent (unless you count Antarctica as a separate continent!); countries from Mexico to Malaysia; Iraq to America. We even received a letter in the post recently from somebody we have never met, in Israel. We don’t get time to write anything back on the comments but we do enjoy reading them; and I have to say, the pleasure and encouragement we get reading our few comments must be far more beneficial and enjoyable than reading the comments that the authors of the Charlie chomping clip receive!

I’ve said before, this blog is not a project or even a platform. It’s not written with ulterior motives or ambitions. Yes, we get enjoyment and blessing seeing its reach and reading the comments but that’s not our motivation. This blog is just one window into the lives of two people following Jesus their Risen Lord (read ‘Master’) and Saviour (read ‘Unique Hero’) wherever and through whatever He leads them. The impetus for starting this online account of our journey has been cancer. The impetus for starting our journey with Christ (which began long before this blog did) can be best summed by the words of the english minister and author of the hymn, Amazing Grace, John Newton:

“I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.” – John Newton

If God should choose to heal Annie of cancer and we should choose to continue this blog, although the content of the posts might be very different (and perhaps the visitors, fewer!) the chief aim of our words would always be to sincerely declare that profound truth that John Newton crystalised in no less than 12 words. We receive some very kind comments both via the blog, in letters and in person, but the plain and simple fact of the matter is that Annie and I are nothing without Jesus. And honestly, some of the comments may be well meant but are simply not true of us. We’re not strong, we’re not always faithful. Without Jesus we are two lost and broken individuals. For sure, life with cancer makes you very aware how frail and weak and mortal you and your loved ones are; but the sun never sets without Annie and I realising how selfish and sinful we can be and how lost we would be without the forgiveness and grace that God gives us through His Son Jesus. If all our sin and shame was aired on this blog, I’d suspect fewer visitors or more complaints or both! Speaking on behalf of us both from this side of the cancer fence, please don’t for one minute think that terminal illness somehow makes you purer. Jesus is what makes this difficult journey special and remarkable.

This morning I began the day reading through the Old Testament book of Lamentations. Actually that’s not entirely true; I began the day with a wretched cold and a cup of green tea laced with honey which made me feel nauseous; and while I intended to read the book of Lamentations straight through, I stopped half way at chapter 3 verse 26.

It doesn’t seem to be the most popular book in the bible through which we might devote to God the beginning of any day – least of all a day with a stinking cold. In the Hebrew bible, they refer to Lamentations as ‘Ekah’ which means ‘How’. It emphasises how much suffering the people of Israel had gone through as a result of their disobedience and rejection of God and the consequent…lamenting. In around 587bc God allowed judgement to fall upon His own people in Jerusalem (an historical fact; go visit the British Library with this book some time this Spring) in the form of the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar. The first three chapters of Lamentations gives the reader much to horror at and the writer much to lament over.

If you sincerely read these chapters you too will ask the question ‘How?’. How could God allow such terrible suffering? It leaves many people deciding: ‘If that’s what God looks like, I’m better off an atheist!’ It leaves some to look for a different, user-friendly version of God; it leads others to try and create their own domesticated God of the Bible by a process of trimming out all the difficult bits of His nature; mopping the bloodshed of Easter up so that it doesn’t put people off their chocolate eggs; a blissful blasphemy. Annie and I don’t want to belong to any of those categories. That isn’t what Christianity is. When Jesus said…

 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

…He wasn’t describing a brand of Christianity or the Christianity Platinum package: He was describing what it truly, biblically means to be a Christian; following the Son of God not on the basis of how I feel, not just when it feels good to follow Him…following Him regardless because He is God and He is good and His way is perfect.

In the last couple of years I remember seeing and hearing two popular media figures (Chris Moyles and Jamie Oliver) both talk about how unexpectedly impressed they were with ‘church’ after either attending or seeing a contemporary Christian worship service in action. They both commented on how moved they were by the sincerity and joy of the worshippers. In fact, much media time was given to one of those encounters. There is a uniquely – and yes, exclusively – sincere joy and peace that can only be found in those who by faith trust and obey in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only conqueror of the grave. But that doesn’t mean life is always easy. That doesn’t mean the way always appears clear and perfect or that as followers of Jesus we always have the specific answer to why God allows something so difficult to happen in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Biblical Christianity doesn’t exclude lamentations.

Why did I only make it half way through Lamentations? At verse 21 of chapter 3 the writer uses one key word which unlocks the door to one of the most wonderful verses in God’s Word. The word is ‘But’

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. – Lamentations 3:21-26

God is good and His way is perfect. He has historically proved it by His substitutionary death on the cross for sinners like Annie and I; He alone has paid the price we owed, suffered what we deserved and died that we might have life, even eternal life. If folks really grasp the implications of what we are sharing here, on this post and throughout this blog, I wouldn’t be depending on that 100,000 hit-marker to arrive any time soon! But for as many people as will visit this blog and read these posts, we want them to know – not just about us, but about themselves too:

“We are great sinners and Jesus Christ is a great Saviour!”

It’s our prayer – even as I write – that as we trust and rejoice in Jesus through this brief and momentary spell of suffering, that it might reach further than the constraints of time and geography. That it might be used by God as a demonstration of the gospel which transforms lives for eternity.

In sincere love, two sinners saved by grace

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6 thoughts on “we are not great

  1. Thanks again, Ryan and Anne, for your blog. It is always of great encouragement to me. ‘We bear one and anothers burdens’ and you can take comfort that you are not the only ones ‘suffering’ at this time. I have taken great comfort and encouragement from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 when I haven’t been so well.. Christ’s power certainly is made perfect in our weakness and the supreme example of power over weaknesss can be found at the cross (2 Corinthians 13:4). As a result ‘we are more thans conquerors through Jesus Christ who loved us!’

    May God continue to bless you both and the body of believers.

    In His Name,
    Simon

  2. Really found this verse encouraging…

    ‘But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. – Lamentations 3:21-26

    Thankyou for that! We are trusting and praying you are both feeling His comfort, strength and steadfast love today,

    Much Love, Naomi.

  3. Pingback: Friday, April 6th – Saturday, April 14th 2012 | Broken Chariots

  4. Glad to be able at last to read your blog, when we are saw the title, ‘We are not great,’ we imagined that you were talking about your state of mind and the struggles you were facing but it was so good to realise that you were talking about Jesus and our need of HIm,. How true that is, we find ourselves desperately crying out for His help, strength and wisdom, day by day. No, moment by moment. We can do nothing, that is of any true, eternal value without HIm.

    Lovely to note that media figures have been impressed by the Church, but we trust that the reality of God and their deep need for a Saviour would bring them to their knees in repentance.

    Thank you for your encouragement as we go off to share a little of your story with our dear Mongolian friends.

    Love Gill and Mark.

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