After a night spent weeing the remnants of my chocomilk binge last night, I got up in time for the 8am prayer meeting in the chapel. Still bleary eyed, I followed this with a painfully substantial breakfast, which, although lacking in vegetarian sausages, made up for it in sheer volume.
We also got to meet the CMF Junior Doctors Committee, and had Vicky Lavy nagging us once again to grab a wheelbarrow, and buy as many books as physically possible from the CMF bookstall.
Bible Teaching – Genuine Faith
Nourishment over, we settled down to listen to Steve Burmester teaching on “Genuine Faith“. We was introduced with a question, due to his background in pharmaceuticals: “What is your favourite drug name?” The answer? “Raloxifene”. Doesn’t it roll off your tongue beautifully?
95 year olds were asked what 3 things they would change if they could live again. They said: 1. they would slow down and reflect on things more, 2. they would risk more, and, 3. they would do more that would live on after they died.
In James 4, he talks about the brief nature of life: “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes“. The passage makes it clear that we shouldn’t boast and be proud of our own achievements: its pointless. If we feel that we can plan everything of our lives, we will be disappointed – look at the recession. As James says: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow“.
Just as the old people said in point 2: Risk. As one person said faith is spelt “R.I.S.K.”. It is the perseverence and steadfastness of going through trials that helps us to build our faith, that helps us to put our hope in God, rather than our own plans. As James 1 shows us, its not that we can’t plan, but we shouldn’t put all our hope and security in a future that we can’t predict. We shouldn’t think we can forsee and prevent all difficult times, but instead trust that the God who loves us will see us through the hard times.
How we deal with success and wealth is just as important as how we deal with hardships. Indeed, in the West, we need to learn this lesson more, since we have so much wealth, so many gifts: so many opportunities to bless others, or temptations to feel that “I have worked hard, I have earned this, this is all mine!”
Albert Einstein is travelling across America on a train. The ticket inspector comes, and asks for tickets. Einstein can’t find it anywhere, he is looking in all his pockets, in his coat, but simply cannot find it anywhere.
The ticket inspector says “It’s fine, Mr Einstein: you are a very famous person, I’m sure you bought a ticket!” She walked on, but on looking back, saw Einstein on his hands and knees looking under his chair for the ticket.
She returns, and says, “Mr Einstein, its fine, we know who you are, you don’t need to worry.
Einstein looked at her, and said “I thank you, but I too know who I am. But what I don’t know, is where I’m going…”
Our identity is important, and it is valuable to know who we are. But we shouldn’t be distracted by that into thinking we are in control of every tiny aspect of our lives.
Seminar – Miracles of healing: happening in Britain today?
Our first seminar of the weekend, with Andrew Fergusson – is on whether we see healing in the UK. He is the author of “Hard Questions about Health and Healing“, and a former GP. He mentioned the excellent price that we can pick up the book for about 8 times – I suspect Vicky Lavy had a hand in this…
We went round the group of 20 of us, and it appears that almost every church has some form of regular prayer for healing in church each week, with many having organised healing ministries.
Andrew pointed out that this has changed. 20 years ago, far less churches practiced prayers and ministries for healing.
Margaret had a serious cancer, causing terrible pain in her leg. Medication wasn’t happening. A pastor laid hands on her and prayer, she felt something like “a jolt of electricity” in her leg, and then from that moment until she died a year later, she had no more pain in her leg ever again.
What is that? Is it a miracle? It didn’t cure her cancer, but at the same time, her severe pain stopped permanently.
The dictionary defines a miracle as these below. Is it 1, 2 or 3?
- An event contrary to the laws of nature and attributed to a supernatural causel
- Any amazing or wonderful event;
- A marvellous example of something “a miracle of engineering”.
We can look at some examples of healing, for example Luke 5:12-14; there are a number of apparent likenesses between most biblical miracles:
- Obvious examples of gross physical disease.
- At that time incurable and most remain so today
- Physical means almost never used
- Cures immediate
- REstoration complete and therefore obvious
- No recorded relapses
- Regularly elicited faith
- Verification without publicity.
There is an important element here: as doctors, and as Christians: truth matters. We should not leave our scientific, analytical minds at the door when we look at healing. Evidence matters.
Andrew feels he has never seen reliable evidence of a person having an amputee regrowing a limb, the blind seeing, the dead being raised to life. As he says, “By the dictionary definition, we haven’t seen valid evidence of a level one miracle“. He has seen many, many stories of difficult to explain solutions, and release of pain, or wonderful improvement in health.
As a last, very deep point: If we are going to have a theology of healing, we need a theology of suffering.
Bible Teaching – Faith at work in our actions
After an unendingly vast lunch, and a 2 hour walk, it was time to move on with the afternoon, and our next session with Steve Burmester, on the topic of faith at work. After only about 5 hours of sleep last night, and a fair amount of exercise, I was barely awake – a feeling familiar to me from the Developing Health course.
Many people, on deciding to go paragliding, get right to the edge of the cliff, before deciding they don’t want to go ahead.
James is looking for this doublemindedness in people. The desire to do something good, against the desire to behave badly.
In James 2:1-4, he says “For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
A church invited a guest preacher. The day for the service arrived, and the congregation filed in. There was a tramp, sat at the back of the church, smelling of whiskey, and they sat far from him, leaving him two empty pews to himself.
It came to the point where they were looking around, wondering where the guest preacher was, when the tramp got up, walked to the front, and put on a dog collar, and preached from James 2.
If we treat people wrongly, we treat God wrongly: James 3:9 – “With [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God“. Another passage talking about our double minded behaviour.
Every human life is a reflection of divinity, and every act of injustice mars and defaces the image of God in man.
Martin Luther King, Jr
Just treating someone with inequality, is that it is sin. And thus no better than any other sin.
Lance Armstrong was struck off recently for taking drugs, but the excuse that many cyclists used is that “everyone else was doing it”. Unfortunately “everyone else does it” is no excuse.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
- We all need mercy.
- We need to show mercy to others.
- This triumph is available to us all.
Pete Saunders started talking next to update us on the work of the Christian Medical Fellowship. We started with a video about CMF. Well, we would have done, but there was a technical glitch, so here it is below:
There are currently 4000 CMF doctors, and 800 CMF medical students. It is not a London office, but a national fellowship. They link with churches, hospitals and individuals.
STAT is “Short Term, Able to Travel” – who are people open to Teaching, Specialist service, Locum support, Emergency help in International work.
CMF are involved in about 100 conferences, including:
- CMF Student conference
- CMF Graduate conference
- International Christian Medical Dental Association World Congress
- Christian Nurses and Midwifes Student conference
- Where is my Neighbour? conference.
Find out more at the CMF events page.
CMF works to protect those who lose their jobs for protecting moral values, those of concerns about Euthanasia, Abortion, and Faith at work.
Seminar – Time Management, Jesus Style
Richard Vincent was leading the seminar, my final study session of the day.
What are pressures on your time?
- No choice – things I need to do
- Things I should do
- Things I want to do
- Prioritising between them is a varied process
- How they make you feel
What can we learn from Jesus?
“Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
He guarded his quiet time. We all shared our experiences of the difficulties of setting aside time each day, but once interesting fact: we all really enjoy doing it, yet still find it really difficult to set down to it. It is a battle.
“At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him, and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
He established priorities. We live unhelpfully busy lives. We also don’t find solitude enough, especially with the intrusion of smart phones and the internet.
“Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”.”
He made time for individuals. It can be harder to take the initiative, rather than just see friends that opportunities naturally present each other.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
He did not sin. Hopefully our understanding of grace is that that we can show it to others equally well.
“Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
He rested. We need to plan time off, and have a Sabbath attitude in each day, even when that isn’t possible.
After this, we spent the evening chatting, playing Cranium and “Table slap”, making awful medical and Christian jokes, and I finally went to bed at 2:30am, after a long discussion about how to improve the Malaysian health care system.