Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer."

As part of my daily devotional practice over the past few months, I have been reading a chapter or two from Mike Mason’s book The Gospel According to Job. This morning’s reading was especially helpful to me in light of my present circumstances. For those of you who have been reading my personal blog, you will have known that I have been experiencing severe pain in my lower torso and left leg for over two weeks. Job’s words in 30:20 have been my cry as well, just as I know that they are the cry of God’s persecuted children worldwide. I hope that you find these words a blessing as I have.

True Prayer
"I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer." (30:20)

In the Bible we often read of people "crying out to the Lord." But what does it mean to "cry out"? Does it mean to express oneself demurely to God, with polite restraint, using the well-worn, time-honored phrases of the conventional prayer meeting? Or do the words "cry out" suggest more the sort of sound a man might make whose legs have just been caught up in a piece of machinery? "Surely [God] will save you from the fowler's snare;" sings the psalmist (91:3). A snare is a leghold trap, a contrivance designed to catch an animal and hold it until it dies of shock or starvation, condemning it in the meanwhile to hopeless struggle and horror. Is this not the sort of situation that might bring a human being to the point of crying out to God?

There is no true prayer without agony. Perhaps this is the problem in many of our churches. What little prayer we have is shallow, timid, carefully censored, and full of oratorical flourishes and hot air. There is little agony in it, and therefore little honesty or humility. We seem to think that the Lord is like everyone else we know, and that He cannot handle real honesty. So we put on our Sunday best to visit Him, and when we return home and take off our fancy duds we are left alone with what is underneath: the dirty underwear of hypocrisy.

Why do we flatly refuse to bring real emotions to our prayer meetings? Do we think that the public humbling of ourselves before the Lord should always be a pretty and an enjoyable thing? Do we think the Lord is only honored so long as our own public image and personal dignity are in no way compromised? But the truth is just the opposite: only when we ourselves are prepared to lose face can the Lord's face begin to shine through. It is for Him to exalt us; our part is to humble ourselves. "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14).

Even in our private prayers, let alone in our public ones, we Christians have a way of tiptoeing around the throne of God as if He were an invalid or a doddering old man. But who do we think we are kidding? The Lord always knows exactly what we are feeling. He knows all there is to know about us. There is not a shadow of doubt or anger or hate in our hearts but God sees it. So why not just lay all our cards on the table? Real prayer is playing straight with God. If we have never cried out to the Lord, perhaps it is because we have not realized the true horror of our situation. We need to be careful that we do not grow so preoccupied with maintaining our spiritual equilibrium that we regard it as unseemly to cry out to God.

At bottom, probably what we are most afraid of in prayer is that no answer will come, and that then we will be left worse off than before. But true prayer has two parts: first there is the crying out, and then there is the waiting for an answer. If we are the sort of people who insist on having instant answers, then we shall certainly lack the courage to cry out. Though we might continue to go through the motions of prayer, we will have given up on the real thing.

Towards the end of the book of Jeremiah, the nation of Judah was on its last legs. It had been conquered by the Babylonians, and most of its people had been led away into captivity. Only a small remnant was left under the puppet governor Gedaliah. But when Gedaliah was assassinated by a rebel, suddenly even these survivors were in peril, for everyone knew that a brutal reprisal could be expected from the Babylonians. So what were they to do? What they did, surprisingly, was to go to the prophet Jeremiah and beg him to consult the Lord for them. Furthermore they bound themselves to obey God's Word no matter what. Their situation was desperate. They were crying out. Jeremiah agreed to pray for them.

At this point, we read one of the most astounding understatements in the Bible: "Ten days later the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah" (42:7). Imagine! Ten days later! Who could possibly wait ten days under such circumstances? Did the Lord not understand that this was a dire emergency? After ten days, naturally, the people had already made up their minds to ignore God's answer and to do exactly what they felt like doing: run like crazy down to Egypt. When the pressure was on, they performed the first requirement of prayer admirably: they cried out to the Lord. But for the second half of prayer they had no stomach. They could not wait for an answer.

[Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job. Crossway, 1994: 309-310. Available to order from The Voice of the Martyrs]

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The latest news

shootingpain It’s been a while since we did a thorough update on my health and that’s not because things have been uneventful.  So here goes….

While my haemoglobin and energy levels have been excellent, I have been experiencing a great deal of pain in my left hip and leg for the past two weeks.  We wondered if perhaps it was unrelated to my cancer and just a matter of something being out in my back. However, Dr. Sauls, our main doctor, suspects that lymph nodes in my torso are pushing and pinching a nerve that is sending this shooting pain down my leg.  Hence, he has increased my prednisone levels to see if the nodes will shrink down and next week we will be perhaps looking at radiation treatment.  He has ordered an MRI for next week as well to see if he can see where the problem really is. 

In the meantime, I am on increased painkillers and daily seeing a chiropractor to deal with the pain.  Mornings are horrendous, I must say. The pain is sometimes almost unbearable.

So, we would very much appreciate your prayers in the coming days.  This has been quite a discouraging turn of events I must confess.  It really feels sometimes like we never get a break for very long and we would like to get off of this rollercoaster.  Pray that the Lord will keep our spirits up and close to His at this time.  He has been faithful and we want to be faithful to Him even when we don’t understand what He is doing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A real pain in the butt

It has certainly been an entertaining week for the Penner household, if entertaining is the right word. As I mentioned in my blog on Sudany, I have had some considerable shooting pain in my lower back and left leg (a pinched nerve obviously than made even sitting a real pain). It got much worse in the past few days. Much worse!!

On the other hand, my energy level has been great and I have been able to go to the office every day this week (and plan to go in for the remaining two days).  

So, here I was with great energy levels but incredible pain.  It just didn’t seem fair.

I have to admit that for a few minutes yesterday I was slightly annoyed at God; why does it always seem that there is some health issue that I am having to deal with?  If it isn’t cancer, it’s shingles, or cracked ribs or back pain or low hemoglobin levels.  I guess I was just tired of never being able to say that I am doing “fine” without some condition being put on the comment.

But God is God and I am not. He is also my Father and I know that He is control of my life, even when I don’t understand the “why” of everything that happens to me.  So, we walk by faith.

Anyway, the back pain is finally letting up after having gone to the chiropractor every morning this week.  I am hopeful that the rest of the week will be a little less a pain in the butt (quite literally).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Back feeling a bit better

The back is feeling a little better this evening. The pain diminished over the afternoon. Please pray for a good night and that I won't have the same problem tomorrow. I have meetings tomorrow with staff and potential donors for the mission. Would be nice not to have to hobble and wince through them.

Please pray

I am asking for your urgent prayers for severe lower back pain that I have been experiencing since last night.  It started a few days ago, but last night the pain began shooting down my left leg and this morning I am in considerable pain.  There’s just no relief from it.  Thanks for praying.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Woo hoo and praise the Lord

My blood tests today showed that my hemoglobin level continues to be really good (for me) and so no transfusion again this week and another two week break until my next appointment. Woo yoo!! And praise the Lord

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The blessing of uselessness

With the decline of my health over the past year, one of the issues that I struggle with is a sense of uselessness since I can no longer do many of the things that I used to be able to do in my service for the persecuted around the world.  Watching my colleagues do things that I once did and found so much pleasure in is hard.  It is easy to feel…useless and unneeded.  I don’t say that to sound whiney.  I think many who go through suffering often feel this way, especially if they have lived active lives.

This morning, however, I read the following during my devotion time from Mike Mason’s The Gospel According to Job.  I hope you are as blessed and challenged by this as I was.


“Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
When God’s intimate friendship blessed my house.” (29:4)

Suffering, like the enemy who causes it, is a many-headed beast, and one of the heads is called Uselessness. A sufferer’s existence can seem so pointless, so stagnant and unworthy. Little wonder that Job’s mood in this chapter is one of intense nostalgia as he longs for “the good old days” when not only was he blessed by God, but when God’s blessing enabled him to bless others. Such feelings are perfectly human and understandable. We all want to be useful and productive. But one of the things we learn from the many set-backs of life is that God, in His wisdom, has a use for uselessness. The Lord Himself seems to be fond of standing around and doing nothing. When we imitate Him in this, the Bible calls it “waiting on the Lord.” But just think of how God waits on us! For thousands of years He has waited for mankind to turn to Him. Right now it is just as though He were standing on a street corner outside our home, hands in His pockets, whistling a gospel tune, waiting for us to keep our appointment with Him. Are we too busy with more pressing matters? Being useless, it seems, is not an important enough activity for us, and so we leave it to God.

Of course it is true that, as Jesus taught, “My Father is always working” (John 5:17). But to our human eyes God’s work often looks like idleness. His methods can appear so lackadaisical, so they involve pain on our part. Suffering puts us out of commission (at least from our perspective), so that we can no longer work, no longer contribute, no longer do much of value. Without this intense feeling of uselessness, suffering and even dying might not seem half so bad. Perhaps it is even true that the very soul of suffering is not so much pain itself, in all its forms, as it is the simple humiliation of having all our plans brought to a standstill, the indignity of being made to stop and wait.

How interesting it is that when the Lord appeared to Moses, and later to Joshua, to each of them He said the same thing: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5; Josh. 5:15). Why should you take off your shoes in the Lord’s presence? Because without shoes you are not going anywhere. You might try to walk, but you will not get very far, especially in the hot sand and sharp rocks of the wilderness. Taking off one’s shoes may not be quite as drastic as cutting off one’s feet, but it amounts to the same thing. Barefootedness means immobilization, and so it is a symbol of submission. Being immobile (in other words, having nothing better to do) is a prerequisite for worship, and worship is the prerequisite for all activity, all service.

Many churches today are eager to mobilize for the Lord, but without paying much attention to the prior and greater work of immobilization. We need to learn how to kick off our shoes and discover that the place where we are standing is holy. When Daniel saw a vision of the Ancient of Days on His throne, “ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” And what was this multitude doing? Not much. All we are told is that “the court was seated, and the books were opened.” And without anyone moving an inch four powerful empires were destroyed (Dan. 7:10-12). In Heaven, apparently, they know the meaning of the saying, “Don’t just do something—stand there!”

The people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and the soles of their shoes never wore out. Why not? Because they only moved at the Lord’s command. In many ways they were disobedient, but in this one point they were constrained to obey because pillars of cloud and of fire were hanging over them. If today we find our souls (pun intended) wearing out, it may be because we are running around doing a lot of things that the Lord has not told us to do. We want to be fruitful. We want to work for our church and contribute to our society. We want to do something, not simply believe. When circumstances are such that we cannot do anything, we get restless and squirm, and just like Job we think back on our full and productive days and we long to see them return. We long to go back, not just so we can feel good again, but so we can get on with our “real work,” get on with making our contribution.

But listen to the words of Catherine Doherty: “If you want to see what a ‘contribution’ really is, look at the Man on the cross. That’s a contribution. When you are hanging on a cross you cannot do anything because you are crucified.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feeling not so great

The last couple of days haven’t been so great for me. I am feeling short of breath again and my chest feel slightly congested at night. I am hoping that it is not a sign of a new cold or pneumonia again. Wouldn’t that be great! It’s been great feeling good the last few weeks. It’s discouraging to be feeling down again, to be honest.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A few notes about Mississauga

Mississauga is probably one of the least known cities in Canada, even by Canadians.  A lot of that probably has to do with our close proximity to Toronto.

But did you realize that Canada's sixth largest city with 730,000 residents and 55,000 businesses, including 61 Fortune 500 companies with Canadian head offices or major divisional head offices?

Yes, the traffic can be bad here and people drive too fast. Yes, we do not have a decent local paper.  But I must say that I like living here.  And we are certainly NOT just a part of Toronto.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Week in review

Friday night and I’m bushed. Went to the office today and it was great.  Part of it included an hour long session of teaching of some of our newer staff from the last couple of years who have not had the opportunity to sit through one of my theology of persecution seminars. I enjoyed it, though I don’t think that I could do more than an hour of teaching. Still, it was great doing one of the things that I enjoy the most.

All in all, a great week.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday without a clinic appointment

It really felt strange today to spend a Thursday without having to go to the hospital or the clinic.  I liked it a lot.  I am still feeling fine and hope that I can go the whole week without having to check in. 

Thanks for your prayers. Much appreciated. Wish I had more to report.  Actually, I’m glad that I don’t.  :-)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pics of my nephew

I just got some great pictures from my brother Brian of his son, Jacob’s 4th birthday and Halloween party.  I thought I would post them so you can see what a cute nephew I have.  Man, I wish I lived closer so I could get to know this little guy better.   Happy Birthday, Jacob. Your Uncle Glenn really loves you!

Jacob's 4th B-day & Halloween 001 Trick or treat!
Jacob's 4th B-day & Halloween 045 The Birthday boy!
Jacob's 4th B-day & Halloween 047Wearing the birthday horn hat at Montana’s.  Guess he wasn’t that impressed, apparently