Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Difference Between Knowing With your Head and Knowing in Your Heart

My Grandfather was a Salvation Army officer for many years. One of his favourite themes was the difference between what he termed "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge". We spoke at length about it just a week or so before he went home to be with God, or as the Salvation Army puts it was "Promoted to Glory".

It's something I've been mulling over for over 15 years now as he died in the 1990's. He was a very passionate man who did what he could to truly live his Faith in everything he did - with the possible exception of repairing his motorbike, when his language was less than holy.

He differentiated between what we comprehend in our intellect and what we truly believe. It was a revelation to me when we discussed it. Knowing about faith and having Faith are not the same thing. We need to do more than understand with our minds. It needs to permeate every part of our being, become so much a part of ourselves that we can't experience a day without experiencing God in what we do and say.

Head knowledge and heart knowledge are what James refers to when he says even the demons know there's one God. Knowing simply isn't enough, ew must make that knowledge a part of us.

The truth alone cannot free us. It is only the Truth we know in our hearts that can liberate us from poverty, sickness and walking a dead life in this world. That's not to say we don't need to understand with our minds, rather that we need to understand with our full beings, transformed by the renewal of our hearts and minds on a daily basis by the presence of God.

Perhaps as Christmas draws closer this year it's a chance for us to begin to renew our minds. Really think about what we're really celebrating. Not a transcendental baby glowing on a bed of hay, but God Himself coming into a war-zone to take back from Satan what had been stolen and restore a true Relationship with His children.

It's something to hold in our hearts this Christmas.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Forgiveness and Consequences

There’s a lot in the New Testament about forgiveness. Jesus speaks of it so many times there’s not enough space to fit all the references in here. In the letters and Acts there’s a heavy emphasis on forgiving those who have wronged us, but there’s less said about consequences.

I’ve ministered with and counselled people who have been through rape, child abuse and other horrific experiences since I became a Christian in 1985. Even then, as a boy of just 13 it seemed the broken somehow sought me out for comfort – a huge responsibility and honor for anyone at any age.

Something I learned very quickly is that there needs to be forgiveness from the injured towards the assailant, but consequences for the assailant.

What does this mean? Simply put, forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card – sometimes literally. I recently was in a position where I needed to confront someone whose family member – a “pastor” urged her to give a second chance and forgive the man who had sexually abused her five-year-old child. Forgive, yes. But to give a second chance? To do what? Add rape? Add murder?

I live in South Africa, a country where life is cheap. The mortality rate is high, largely due to HIV/AIDS and a high murder and accident rate. Abuse is often not taken seriously by the police.

There are cases every day of “corrective rape” where a homosexual individual is raped in the belief it will turn them back to heterosexual orientation. In fact what happens usually is it ingrains even more deeply the tendencies driving the person away from that orientation, and damages the emotional well being of all involved – perpetrators are numbed to the violence of their crime and victims are scarred forever emotionally and often physically. In extreme cases there is murder rather than “correction” because of the shame brought on the family.

Actions have consequences. In spite of forgiveness, they must. Yes, Paul writes that scripture is there for the teaching and admonishing of the believer, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) but there needs to be accountability for actions as well. Before a man can fully be restored he needs to acknowledge his sin, repent and turn from it. Not given a free pass to continue behaving in the same way. If a human law has been broken we are commanded to be subject to that law and accept the punishment as given, not try to run around claiming innocence because of spiritual repentance.

Should a repeat child molester or rapist be absolved from prosecution under the law of the land because of a spiritual revelation? No. He should hand himself over to the authorities for his own crimes and allow himself to be tried and convicted.

Recently a pastor I know of advised a young mother who had just learned her child had been molested by a family member to forgive him and let the matter go. Thankfully she is a close friend and I was able to explain the difference between forgiveness and letting them off completely. She’s working on forgiving, but the criminal case is going ahead.

Actions need to have consequences in this world. Chaos would rule if there were no consequences. In the old movie “Groundhog Day” Bill Murray’s character is trapped reliving the same day over and over. I cannot imagine anything worse. The concept of making choices that will never change a thing is terrifying. In the movie, even suicide does not end the torment as he simply wakes up as if nothing had happened. We need to be accountable to an authority in this world or the next for our actions.

Jesus spoke at length about it. Every parable shows the consequence of an action. The priest praying loudly for all to see has received his reward. The shepherd searching diligently for one lost sheep receives the fruit of his work. When the rich young ruler challenges Jesus and is told to dispose of the wealth he has it’s not because poverty is a virtue (it’s not), but because his wealth is an idol to him – much like to some in the Western world – and it prevents him being close to God. Nicodemus understands when Jesus tells him he must be born again of the Spirit.

Consequences are vital to our growth. We are either growing or dying, there is no in-between.

I have an avocado tree in my garden I planted for my wife. When I tend it it grows. When I don’t it dies back. The actions I take have a direct consequence on the tree’s life. So it is with us spiritually and physically. We can fake it for a while, but sooner or later the death in our heart from failing to accept, face and grow from the consequences will show as we wither.

There is no action without consequence.

Let the action of our salvation lead to the consequence of a Godly life, but let us not lose sight of the possibility that our physical actions must be answered for as well.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Character and Personality

We live in a modern society in the West where Personality has become more important than a person's Character. This has filtered into the church as well. We see the mega-churches where worship leaders are more performers than worshippers, with choreographed routines, lights and even in extreme cases smoke machines as a part of the service. There are teachers whose appearance is more important to the masses than the message. They have their costumes - white suits and coiffed hair are popular - with whitened teeth and showbiz-style smiles. They preach what people want to hear and miss the point of the Gospel in their pursuit of popularity.

Jesus didn't set out to be popular. He didn't go for the personality and acclaim - the Pharisees did enough of that. He went for the jugular of the spirit in each person - their character. It's apparent in His dealing with the rich young ruler:
"Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth.What do I still lack?”Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."
(Matthew 19:16-22 NKJV)
The issue was not really the man's money, but the fact that his money was first in his life. His character was one based in idolatry - money being his idol. Jesus recognised this and was telling him to surrender his idol and follow Him.

My grandfather was a Salvation Army Bandmaster in England. He used to remind me that character is who we are when nobody's looking. That's what we need to get back to. Showmanship is all very well if the heart behind it is sincere, but if the leader got the following only because of his looks and persona then watch out. He may not have the character to truly be a spiritual leader, and there is the danger of him (or her) being obsessed with self instead of in Love with Jesus.

A few decades ago this atmosphere of personality-driven churches was unthinkable. The minister and elders needed to be above reproach in their conduct and the way their families reflected them. If they couldn't guide their own family, how could they guide a church? Today we have leaders whose moral integrity has been called into question, so they go into their TV show and shed tears of "repentance". We, the viewer, buy the act and they go back to cheating on their wife, fiddling their taxes and fleecing the flock.

Where has our sense of the need for character gone?

We rebuke the minister who tells us to live a life of absolutes, that God is a God of Righteousness who cannot abide sinful behaviour and that any Christian should seek to be Christ-like in his behaviour. That means no adultery, stealing, jealousy, or any other immoral behaviour: not because we have to live by a set of rules, but because the Spirit of God lives inside us and urges us away from those ways. Instead we listen to "progressive" ideas that suggest Jesus is just one route to God instead of The route to God. Messages that dilute the Gospel and make a mockery of the concept of moral absolutes by suggesting exceptions or that "modern" ideas have somehow disproved the standards God established several millenia ago as irrelevant. We lean on our own understanding and wisdom. God sees it as a joke - and not the funny kind.

Personality is what matters in the World. We see people of no moral character as "leaders" in the shape of politicians, self-help gurus, actors and pop stars. The desire to emulate them and follow their example, then delight in pointing when they fall because they are lacking the moral backbone of true Godly Character a genuine leader needs.

The church is not immune to this form of personality worship. While it's true we need to understand the personality of God, and recognise the twinkle in Jesus' eyes as He spoke to some of the people in the Gospels to grasp the truth in His words, it's the character of God we need to cling to. His nature of Love more than His sense of humour is what's important. This is not the God as shown in "The Simpsons". He's no charicature sitting on a cloud, but living in and around us, influencing everything we do and see. His character would make the very rocks around us cry out if we fail to worship Him in Truth.

My character is flawed. I'm short-tempered a lot of the time. Whilst writing this I received a call from a bank telling me I was just a few Rand (about $6) short on a home loan payment made last week. The call probably cost them more than the shortfall. My response was not the way I'd like my character to be. I'm working on it.

Who each of us is varies in each situation. We adjust the personality we show. But it's time we get rid of that and make a conscious choice to focus on our character consistently. We need to be the same person in public as we'd like to think we are behind closed doors.

And we need to stop worshiping the personalities we see on our televisions and get back to the truly deep nature of our character.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Forgiveness and Consequences

A situation recently has made me think about forgiveness. We are called to forgive our enemies. We are called to forgive our friends. But I'm not sure this means we live in a world where actions don't have a consequence.

For example, a child is molested. We as Christians find out about this and healing is brought to the relationship through forgiveness and wholeness to the family. Does this mean we let the perpetrator babysit? Of course not.

I recently heard a pastor had admonished a family member for making a "fuss" over such a situation as the man had "repented". What actually happened was the man "got caught" when the victim - just five years old - had the strength to confront him at a family party.

We live in a world where consequence is belittled. Hell is treated as a metaphor instead of a real place, and as a result there is no fear of it.

We must forgive, yes. We forgive for ourselves, not the aggressor. We release the anger and hate and allow hope and light back in to clean away the darkness. But there must be a consequence to actions. Either in this world or the next.

Jesus spoke of Hell as a real place. Judgement - God's wrath against the ungodly - is mentioned through both Old and New Testaments.

Forgiving doesn't mean we allow the same action again. That is foolishness and it has no place in our walk with Christ. It would be equivalent to buying alcoholics a drink to help them recover. Utter nonsense. They should seek help and avoid the temptation. Equally, adulterers, abusers, idolators etc should be forgiven but face a consequence to their actions.

Actions have consequences. And forgiveness is not a free pass - it's a gift we give ourselves to keep our own heart free.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Brutal Honesty

Jesus never held back. He was brutally honest in all his dealings with everyone. The woman at the well he was hard with - calling her out on the number of husbands she'd had and the fact that she now was living with a man she wasn't married to.

He was hardest on the pharisees, blind guides leading others into the pit.

But all his bluntness was delivered from a place of Love. Brutal, total and unashamed Love.

We try t emulate the "honesty" but miss the motive. We point out the flaws in our friends, celebrities, strangers and everyone but ourselves, but the motivation is rarely Love. It's usually self-righteousness.

We need to be brutally honest with ourselves before we can be honest to any degree with others. We need to turn the spotlight onto ourselves and ignore the World and it's standards. We need to line our lives up with the known Will of God before we can line our neighbours up.

It's difficult. Looking at our attitudes and behaviours through God's eyes is to cast a stone into a pond that will cause a tidal wave of repercussions. If we truly seek God's face, ask Him to be brutally honest with us so we can be more like Him, then we need to brace for an ugly picture of how we are in comparison to Him. His standards are not ours. Yes, we are covered by the blood of Jesus - thankfully - but we need to remember that the covering of the blood will only make a difference as far as we allow it to. There's no point in accepting the covering and continuing with viewing porn, having an affair, coveting next-door's car or flower-bed. It gives us nothing.

Paul describes the benefits in 1 Corinthians 13 where he outlines the purpose of Love. Not boastful. Not full of itself. Sacrificial. It considers others first and is not judgemental. But it is honest.

Brutally so.

We need to seek to manifest that Love so we can be brutally honest in His image.

That kind of brutal honesty draws people to the cross. Self-righteousness drives them away.

Friday, 15 August 2014

A New Beginning

There's a fresh buzz in our home right now. For the first time in over two years there's a growing positive movement back towards where God has had us directed.

The difference is a new business, re-learning communication skills and remembering who we were created to be.

It's been a traumatic time for us as a family over the last few years. The loss of a business, selling our home, illness and hospitalisation and the passing of dearly loved friends and family have taken a heavy toll. But we can begin again. It's not too late.

It's coming into spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Everywhere I look I see a reminder that after the death and devastation of winter, life grows back and beauty is reborn from the seemingly dead landscape. The branches of the trees that have been bare are budding, flowers beginning to bloom and a massive display of colour along the roadside serve as a reminder that even the harshest of winters is followed by new life.

Our Spiritual life is often the same.

There's a new church plant locally to us that I'm (hopefully) going to visit. Spiritually it's important not to isolate ourselves from other Christians. It's why I write and want people to respond with comments and dialogue. If every reader agrees with everything I write I'm obsolete. I want to make people - including myself - think about Faith. Consider the real Jesus and build a relationship with Him.

It's a difficult thing to do; come back to life after so long. It's painful. In many ways it would be easier to stay where I was. We are all tempted to do that. We wallow, get into a self-pitying mindset and mope around feeling sorry for ourselves while the world keeps turning. There's nothing to stop us staying there, either.

Except our Spirit.

Our Spirits, joined with Christ, long for rejoicing. We long to exchange ashes for joy. Our hearts yearn for it. We were, after all, designed to worship God with our whole being. There's no flaw in the design, so despair and depression become seasons which can and inevitably do pass.

My heart broke for the family of Robin Williams this week after he lost his personal battle with depression. We are all tempted in the same way as he was. Many lose the fight in the same way.

I'm not judging him. It's not my place to. Not too long ago I suffered depression badly enough that I not only considered ending my own life, but I attempted it no fewer than four times. My doctors couldn't explain how I didn't succeed. But I lived and the winter eventually became spring. I met my wife after the worst time of depression I've had was ending. After almost 11 years I'm still Blessed by her daily, and although we have struggles with health both mental and physical, we fight through because we have the strength of Christ powering us.

In fact, we have more power than we can imagine. We limit it ourselves. Jesus wants to give us far more than we believe we are worthy to receive. In Ephesians 3, Paul points to our lack when he reminds us that God is "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us" (3:20 - emphasis added). We can limit the beauty of the spring in our lives.

Nature overflows in springtime. Colours and life in a way not seen any other time of the year. After a spiritual winter, a beating and pain we can also experience the springtime in the same way. In fact, we are able to see more than we can imagine is we will only allow Him to give it to us.

It's a time of changing seasons wherever we live. Summer becoming autumn in the north and winter becomes spring in the south.

Either way, it's a time for a new start. Preparation, healing, recovery and life's abundance are only a small step away.

Take it. Start again.

Allow yourself to have a new beginning and shake the dust and ashes from your heart.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Spreading our Wings

A while ago I wrote for an online Christian website as a volunteer writer.

It set my mind thinking as it has been a challenge to write for them. On this blog I can write whatever I feel, an invitation they extended to me as well, but with a caveat of a 1000 word limit. I had last had a word limit to writing over 20 years ago when writing for English Language projects at the age of 16. It's made me have to think about how to deliver a concise and yet meaningful piece of work.

Our wings as Christians need to be given room to grow. This project, a weekly column, has challenged me to expand my writing ability beyond where it has been. I am forced to devote more time and effort to editing my pieces and making sure all the pertinent details are included.

As I've been writing it struck me that this is a great exercise for my walk in general. Not everyone will take kindly to my full testimony as after almost 30 years as a Christian there is a lot to it, so I need to learn to be concise and salient to get the message across when people ask why I believe in Jesus.

I'm still working on a short version.

I believe God wants us to spread our wings and stretch out faith every day though. And not only in how we express our beliefs, but in how we live our lives. Every action needs to be a calculated act to demonstrate the Love God has for the person we're talking to or being observed by.

It's critical in fact.

We need to grow in our understanding. Growth and life are synonymous in the Christian walk as we never stop growing in our likeness to Jesus this side of the grave, and we have eternity unending to fathom the depths of His being beyond, such is His love for us. He did die so He could have our company after all.

So don't be afraid to step out in Faith about things you may be nervous about. I am terrified to speak to the people I am closest to and love dearly about Jesus, so I try to write to them - paper not email - to express things God speaks to me in my prayer time. It's easy and comfortable for me to speak in front of a group as there is an anonymity there. Mostly the group has no personal knowledge of me so I am free to relax and speak my heart. But in a one-to-one with preople I know and care about I get tongue-tied or worse I remain completely silent. Hence the letters!

We all need to have our boundaries pushed and our limits expanded. We all need to take steps of faith to achieve the dreams God gives us.

We all need to learn to fly on the wind of the Spirit of God by Spreading our Wings.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Black and White - a Gospel of Absolutes

The Gospel is a Gospel of absolutes. In Christianity there is no space for shades of grey. Jesus spoke in parables, but His message was crystal clear. He is the only path to Salvation, righteousness and acceptance by God. Anything else that sets itself up as a path to heaven is at best deluded fantasy, and at worst, antichrist.

Satan would love us to get bogged down in the irrelevant and minutia, as I’ve written previously. The problem for us is discerning where the minutia ends and the meat begins. The best place to start is to look at the Old Testament. This may surprise us, but the absolutes Jesus taught were first shown in the actions God directed in the hands of the Judges and the Kings of David’s heart. The prophets such as Moses, Elijah, Isaiah and the others all spoke in terms of absolutes with no space for compromise. Compromise would have seen Daniel eaten by lions and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego burned to a crisp. It would have seen Elijah die in a drought or starve.

We are not called to compromise. We must call sin “sin”, even when it’s unpopular to do so. Calling out sins and teaching that we can be freed from their hold over us is not popular today. The world looks to compromise for its religions. It’s only conservative evangelical fanatics who see sin for what it “used” to be. 

An absolute is, by definition, unmoving. God is an absolute in that He never changes. And if He never changes and His Word is never to be changed, why do we insist on watering it down to make it more palatable to the masses? We voluntarily become lukewarm and invite Him to vomit us out. I’m a tea-drinker, and I can drink iced tea very cold or a strong Ceylon blend very hot. Don’t give me lukewarm tea – it’s revolting. Unpalatable.

We all have food like that in our tastes. Salad that’s gone limp. Stew partially congealed with the fat setting 
but still a bit warm. For most of us it would turn our appetite off completely to be served this kind of food, so why do we suddenly in the 21st Century expect God after thousands of years accepting only hot or cold to be content with tepid followers?

Obviously this article is aimed at people who are already Christians, not those seeking. Or maybe it is. I was young, just 13, when I gave my life to Christ. But I remember I wanted something that set out black and white, right and wrong in no uncertain terms. I needed the discipline, even when I didn’t like it, of a faith of absolutes that were unshakeable. A God who didn’t blow hot and cold, but was constant so I would have a rock to rest my feet on, something solid on which to stand. My brother had recently died in an accident and I needed something more than my parents alone could offer. I looked into other religions, but I found strength and Truth in Christ simply because of the consistency of the Bible as His Word. Every action was motivated by Love, even the “genocides” of the Old Testament.

Consider the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They were cities of influence. Modern teaching would have us believe their sin was being inhospitable rather than sexual in nature, but look deeper. The greatest sin was that they no longer considered sexual immorality – both heterosexual and homosexual – to be sin. It was the normal way of life, much like today. So how was their destruction an act of Love? It’s simple really. Their influence was such that had they not been destroyed there may not have been any virgins of child-bearing age by the time Jesus was to be born. The Saviour needed to be a Virgin Birth, and their actions would have rendered it impossible.

And that’s just a single example. Look at the Old Testament, even the slaughters in it, as a Love story, everything designed to make Salvation through Jesus possible, and everything designed to point to Him from the commands of the Law to the Prophet’s writings, it all is one huge story of God pouring out His Love onto an unworthy people to make them – to make us – acceptable in His sight through His own sacrifice on the Cross.

A relationship of Love is not an easy one. God’s kind of Love is sacrificial in nature. It’s not romantic. It’s deeper than brotherly. It requires sacrifice and choice on both sides. We need to choose to give up our sin. He needed to choose to accept it into Himself so we could be absolved.
Repentance is an ongoing choice. Forgiveness is not a one-time deal. It’s ongoing. It’s unchanging.

It’s absolute.

The nature of God is unchanging. What He said was sin 2000 years, 4000 years or longer ago is still unacceptable to Him today. It’s still sin. Pride, sexual immorality, coveting, hatred and all the other issues He declared to be unacceptable in history are still sinful today.

But so is His nature to forgive and heal. Abraham didn’t just believe in God. He believed God, and this is what was credited as righteousness (see Galatians 3:6). We are, as Paul wrote, justified by faith, not by compromise. Our faith must be absolute, but in our bodies, this absolute is a work in progress. I acknowledge my imperfections, and I recognise God’s forgiveness. And I welcome it. Without it I would be lost forever.

But we need to return to the recognition of absolutes in our walk. We need to hear the voice saying to turn right or left. God never said “Hey man, go your own way, I’ll catch up.” We follow Him, not the other way round. We need to recognise His leadership, not ask Him to accept us the way we are and let us in on a pass.

Absolutes. They are essential to us in order to walk with Jesus. Jesus didn’t do half-measures. He didn’t leave the blind as partially sighted. He didn’t leave the lame with a limp. The totally deaf were not hard of hearing, and the lepers didn’t get left with missing parts. Restoration was complete, final and absolute.

He asks no more or less of us. We cannot give more. How dare we give less?

Be uncompromising. Walk as we first accepted Christ, unshaken and unbowed to the whims of the World. Don’t seek to be popular, seek to be right. This isn’t a Dr Phil show. We need to be Right to be able to receive supernatural Joy. That Joy surpasses happiness. It will go on and sustain us long after the transient nature of the notion of “happy” has passed.

The World relies on emotion. It looks to personality not character. It looks to popularity not Truth. It looks to compromise not absolutes.

And in compromise there is nothing but death.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

God's Kind of Humble

We all know God opposes the proud. It's in proverbs and most of the scripture says so in a roundabout way. Jesus's entire ministry about the Pharisees had their pride and lack of humility as a central theme.

But what is humility in God's eyes?

It's easier to say what it isn't. It isn't self-deprecation. Putting yourself down is actually pride. Inverted pride, but pride nonetheless. It's obviously not puffing yourself up, making yourself out to be more than you are.

True humility is acknowledging exactly who and what God says we are. No more, no less.

We've lost sight of that kind of humility. Uncertainty has become a virtue of modern times. Classics are re-written for the big screen changing the nature of the central characters. Aragorn becomes hesitant and has to be pursuaded toleave the ranger behind in the movies. In the books, it's him who orders the sword re-forged. Bilbo's heroism against the spiders in the books is eliminated in the movies. In the Narnia movies, Peter's character is more indecisive. Susan's is more abrasive. The natures written by Tolkein and Lewis are lost in the Hollywood themes of the day.

But Tolkein and CS Lewis had a better grasp of what true humility was. You don't find true humility in modern literature. Certainly there are characters who have flaws, but the flaws are played down or overcome easily. In weightier books of the past the protagonists had to wrestle with more difficut hardships, but their characters grew. Consider the end of Lord of the Rings. In the movies, Frodo and the hobbits return to the Shire and resume their old lives as demure and insecure nobodies. In the books, Saruman had escaped to the Shire and the last confrontation they have is with his cohorts - steeled and battle-hardened young men, with a toughness and courage about them that's lost in the movies.

God calls us to be certain of who we are. In this we can then be certain of who He is. Rather it is the other way round.

He calls us to know Him intimately. To enter into a deep and loving relationship with Him where commuication is key and reality is forged by a deep foundation of trust and knowledge. We have the certainty of who Christ is, and building on that we can have the certainty of who we are in Him. Accepting that is central to becoming humble.

I was told what gifts I had for many years. I moved in them, spoke out and gave advice, but always denied the nature of the gift itself. Uncertainty was my shield, my "humility". Then it was pointed out to me that not acknowledging the gifting God had placed in me would effectively mean I was disregarding God's call on my life. Part of that call was to write, and the blog and articles I write come from that. There are other things I feel it's not appropriate to share here in this forum, but among the gifts I have are hospitality and a call to pastor and teach. I seek to do this with all my heart, and other gifts come and go as they are needed in respect of the main call on my life - teaching, be it through written or spoken mediums.

But it was a long time in accepting them because I thought denial was humility. I believed I was being humble by making myself out as less than I was created to be. All that happened was that I grew away from God as a result.

God's kind of humility is one simply where we say who He says we are. People's opinions will vary, we will be accused of pride and arrogance sometimes. I know a man called to apostleship who that was said of repeatedly until he quit his ministry. I've seen it with people gifted with generosity and prophecy, where the gift was strong and people abused them for using it to the point that they stopped.

We need to accept who God says we are.

It's central to following Him and walking His path.

So be who God says you are - no more, no less.

That's His kind of Humble.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

A Violent Pacifist

We have an image of Christ through stained glass windows and renaissance painters of a pale-faced 120lb wimp who wandered around carrying sheep and ruffling kids hair.

It's only half a story.

He has been held up as the ultimate pacifist, surrendering His own life rather than defending it at the cross on Calvary. But this is a misrepresentation.

The cry from the Cross "It is FINISHED" (see John 19:28-30) was a Battle Cry of Victory. His yell announcing to the Host of Heaven and the Men around His feet and the Demons in Hell itself that Jesus the Man and Christ the God, in flesh made one, had completed the part they had to play - to atone for the Sin of humanity, to take back the ground Satan had claimed as his own with Adam's fall and to wrench the keys of Death and Hell from the enemy. That task was now complete. The Messianic prophecies concerning Jesus's life fulfilled in their entirety - even down to not having a single bone broken in His death - he died before the religious leaders gave the order to break the legs, which allowed them to look on the one who was pierced by a Roman spear when blood and water flowed. No broken bones made the final prophecy complete.

Jesus lived His while life a warrior behind enemy lines, running and withdrawing, gathering His silent army of followers from the commoners for the most part, but an army that were so transformed by the acts of War - Heavenly War - performed in their lives that they could do nothing but sit in awe and tell everyone about it.

He picked His battles. He chose the most strategic locations and people groups, from a synagogue on the Sabbath to a Samaritan woman at a well to a cripple dropped through a roof in front of His feet. Acts of Faith were acts of War in the Heavenlies.

Ask the woman with the issue of blood. Ask Jairus or the Widow of Nain, or Lazarus. Satan threw down the gauntlet and Jesus didnt just pick it up, He shattered it. One Word undid all the enemy's evil. Every time.

And He said we would do greater work than this.

Nut we alk around so pious with our hands folded and afraid to say boo to anyone. We became "politically correct" in the expression of our faith. Now corporations in America hide behind their 1st amendment, never intended to protect a behemoth of a company, to say who can and can't get what health benefits based not on their own choice of belief and interpretation of God's Word, but on the CEO's. And Heaven forid the CEO be challenged.

Jesus would have strung him out with the Pharisees. Forcing man's rules on God's children, and dragging them away from Christ as a result.

Jesus was a peaceful man, yes. But by modern society He could not be described as a pacifist. A pacifist does not see what is going on in a temple, take time to braid a whip from leather cords - and that takes time for the purpose it was used for - then march, eyes on righteous fire, into the centre of corruption (imagine the effect in Wall Street or the Dow Stock Exchange) and screams that they are thieves and defiling His Father's house. He takes His home-made whip and drives the cattle out. He drives the sheep and lambs out. Throws over moneychanger's tables, but stops to gently release the doves. The whip protects him from the cowardly men and incites stampede in the previously docile livestock.

This man is no pacifist. He defended His Father's House - just as we would our family home. He flies in a rage at the dishonest scales and berates them all as he attacks them. Not the peaceful guy with the lamb on his shoulders and the kids at his feet, but the Warrior of Heaven, striking at His enemies - not the men themselves, but the Spirits behind the men. Greed, avarice, selfishness.

Modern pacifism is demonstrated in the movies by the Amish communities in the USA. It's a closed community I know little of, other than what I've seen on TV, but it is portrayed as beyond pacifistic to the point of utter doormatness. They are shown as demonstrating great respect for God and trning the other cheek, but I look at the charicature and wonder how much is fact and how much is exaggeration? How do they reconcile the Jesus who drives men and animals out of the temple with the pacifism they are depicted as demonstrating?

It's a conundrum I know little of, but one I would love to learn more of. A simple faith and a simple life in a modern world. There is definitely much we can learn from a meeting of the minds.

But was Jesus a pacifist?

I would have to say it depended on the situation.

I am a (relatively) peaceful man, but I have a temper. Now I'm older it's less physically violent, but I explode nonetheless. My wife, who needs it least right now, caught a blast of it today. Tired and irritable she asked me to buy food for our dogs. My response - totally out of proportion - was to explode about how much I was already doing.

I was completely out of line. Most of the time that's not me except when my family is threatened. And my family extends beyond my blood kin. You assault my fellowship and I'll take it personally. You physically attack my close friends and they know for your sake not to tell me who they were attacked by. In some ways I am Absalom to Tamar. My ability to exercise vengeance can run for years. I struggle to let go. My cousin was once assaulted with a hammer. It's been years and I still want to return in kind, blow-for-blow the attack.

I try to repent. I try to place myself in Jesus's shoes. Jesus would forgive. So I forgive. Until it crosses my mind again. I have murders in my heart to answer for on the last day if today is my last day. I know at least 8 people who suffered rapes, more who were assaulted by muggers. The only people I can honestly say I harbour no malicious intent towards are the three would-be muggers who attacked me as a teenager from whom I was able to get away bruised but with no loss of dignity, (I gave a "good fight" and they left in worse shape than I did, which may have something to do with it) and two teenagers who attacked me and left me unable to stand in a church in Stamford. Oddly for me, they never received any payback for their actions, and I wish n one to them from me or anyone else.

That is true repentence. On my part. It occurs to me that the wronged party being me is easier to forgive than when it is someone I care about.

That's what makes Jesus so amazing. He is always the wronged party ultimately. What He went through was for us. It looked from the outside like a pacifistic act, but it was actually an act of War. A Violent act to help us end the need to avenge violence with violence in our own life.

So let's follow this violent pacifist. And reveice His kind of Peace as a reward.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Living Deliberately

There's a key to living as a Christian. Deliberate Purpose.

We need to make a conscious choice to live every day in a way fitting someone who claims Christ as their Saviour. It's the problem of being a living sacrifice - we do keep crawling off the altar at any given chance we have. Living sacrificially is often a traumatic experience.

We need to live deliberately.

Deliberate living requires the conscious choice to stay on the altar. We need to make this choice.

The sacrifice we need to make is the sacrifice of Self over God. When we choose our selves over Christ we actually choose the enemy. Our selfish desires, when not quashed, will have a negative effect on our ability to walk in a Christian way.

Christian life is hard, in case we need reminding. It's often easier in the short term to just do what we want and "go with the flow" of our wants. If we've not made the deliberate intent to follow Christ sacrificially on a daily basis then we fail miserably in the long term.

Living a deliberate life is very similar to living a purposed life. It requires effort to maintain momentum and there are times of deep pain and struggle. Time will pass whether you choose to deliberately act or not. As time passes, opportunities change and fade. Some return, just in other forms. When I first felt God telling me to write the internet was in its infancy and "blogging" didn't exist yet. I had an Atari ST computer with no internet connection. In fact I only knew one person who had internet - and that was because he was a computer programmer.

Writing for an audience seemed impossible. I dabbled a little, but eventually I stopped and moved away to other ideas. But my heart kept coming back to writing, and computers became more common. So I began to write again and eventually created this little blog. Now over 4000 times people have logged in to see what's written here from countries I'd never dreamed anything I had to say could reach! I was tricked into looking at myself instead of at God, and as a result I was conned out of writing as He had intended for my life for the better part of 20 years. Even now, writing is a battle. I find it hard to concentrate for the time it takes to write. The doctors (who seem to enjoy titles and names) call it Attention Deficit Disorder - ADD. It's the thing they give children ritalin for at school and 25 years ago was known as "he can't be bothered" or "he's too lazy" or "he just daydreams". I got tired of wanting to be able to do what I felt God called me to do but not being capable of following through on it. I went to this doctor, and until such time as my faith matures I now have some tablets that help me concentrate for longer periods of time without turning me into the Terminator in my own home (which the first ones did).

So I write. I submit articles to magazines for publication - no replies so far, but as Churchill said "Never give up! Never give up! Never!" So I will keep sending off ideas and articles and book summaries. I know when I get the right one that the door will fly open and I'll be suddenly catapulted into the direction I should be moving in. But it means living deliberately.

It means facing rejection and success with equal resolve. One rejection does not make an end of a career as a writer any more than one article pubished makes a writer able to quit his day-job. My style is less formal than some magazines like. It's a lot less formal than many book publishers like. But it's what I like to read, and there's a lot of me in my writing. If you took the time to read everything on this blog you'd have a decent idea of the man I am, not only by what I say, but by what I omit and how I say it.

I've been described as conservative, liberal, charismatic, stoic, evangelical, staid and corsetted at various times in my Christian walk. I was born again - deliberate choice - in a Church of England church in Stamford, Lincolnshire in November 1985 and I told precisely noone. Starched ruffs, cassocks and albs. I was a chorister, then a server - the C of E answer to an Altar boy - until the age of 19. I moved away and took time out of church, then joined the local chapter of the Full Gospel Business Man's Fellowship International. I was spiritually so far out of my depth the first time I heard speaking in tongues and prophecy that I was bewildered. But I lived deliberately and kept going back. The first time I gave a prophecyt was in one of those meetings, and it scared me silly. "What if I'm wrong?" "What if it's just me?" All the normal doubt questions were shattered when one of the men responded in tears that it was exactly the answer to prayer he'd been seeking and what he needed to hear.

But it took a deliberate act to give it to him.

Currently I'm between churches. I read a lot, and I sing alone, but I maintain fellowship with other believers, just not on a Sunday in a formal setting. Sometimes over coffee in the local cafe. Sometimes as I give them a lift or vice-versa. Fellowship is central to my life, and always has been, but I do long to be in a church again - I just prefer smaller congregations with sound doctrine. Recent churches have been so large - great teaching, but massive crowds - that I feel lost in the sea. The smaller churches I visited were not centred on God. Trying to find the balance has been tricky. I've been Anglican, Baptist, United Reformed, New Frontiers, and independant local. The tricky part is always making sure I'm where I feel I'm supposed to be.

So for now - deliberately - my focus is on my family and my fellowship. Formal "church" will come later.

I seek each day to deliberately live for Christ. To be His voice and hands. It's not easy as I get in the way, but I try.

I'll put Christian music on, listen to a sermon or two and try to seek what God's plan for the next day is in the evening as I settle into bed. If I can't sleep I come out to my computer and write for half an hour or so. Then sleep comes easily as the enemy would rather see me asleep than writing. Either way, I win!

Live deliberately. Choose wisely.

Be decisive - cut off all other ideas once you know you've found what God has made you for.

And live it to the fullest, deliberately, every day.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The War Zone of Faith

John 10:10 says "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full"

That was this morning's message from John Eldredge's Daily Reading. He speaks of why Jesus would put the two concepts together in his book "Waking the Dead", a book I heartily recommend.

My grandfather was a soldier involved in the D-Day landings in 1944. I don't know the exact details as he never talked about it. In fact it wasn't until after his death in 1988 that we discovered from one of his older friends from the war that he'd been involved in the landings themselves, not part of the general troop movement that followed it.

D-Day was the turning point of World War 2. With the successful invasion of the enemy territory victory became inevitable for the Allied forces.

Christianity has it's own D-Day: Calvary's Cross.

But like the war, the battle continues to rage fiercely around us. Jesus's sacrifice has guaranteed our victory in this life and the next, but we must fight to hold it. In the First World War many troops lost their lives because the commanders of the troops stopped for breakfast on the beaches they had captured, giving the enemy a chance to regroup and repel the invasion.

We do the same. We accept salvation from hell - and I believe hell is a literal place as Jesus referred to it as such - but we don't fight for the victory on this side of death.

I recently came close to losing my right foot as a result of not looking after it properly. I am affected by diabetes and as a result I don't feel my feet any more. The shoes I'd worn were not a good fit, which I wasn't aware of and by the time I realised my foot was badly infected. After over a month of treatment my foot is safe again, but I've got rid of the offending footware! Saving my foot has been a battle - one which still continues as the infection may have gone, but the wound site is still very much an open wound.

Something this episode with my foot has reminded me of is that I need to remember to actively fight to protect what is mine, whether it be my foot or anything that has been won for me spiritually by Christ's Sacrifice - including the healing of my body from diabetes! My problem is that I don't fight on an active level too much. I submit to God, but I don't remember to actively resist the devil, and as a result I find myself making breakfast on the beach and getting into the position where I almost lose my foot. It wasn't always like that.

I used to be more active in my Spiritual battles. I would fight passionately and vehemently for what God had provided, and I wouldn't stop my pursuit until I received the prize satan was blocking me from receiving. Now I find I tire easily, and as a result I don't push as hard as I used to. The consequence is that the enemy wins more battles in my life and the lives of my family, and I get more exhausted from the fight.

Faith is a war zone. If I remember this I fight with all my strength, resisting the lies of the enemy and pushing through until the victory promised has been secured so it can never be taken back. If I don't, I lose ground and I lose heart.

At the moment I'm believing for a fresh start for my business. The battle has been hard, but we've been hugely blessed by funding coming in from very unexpected sources. We will be able to pay our bills and run for some time while the business gets its roots re-established after a time of winter where we were unable to work at all. The doors are opening, and God is moving mountains because we are submitting to Him and actively fighting against the enemy who would seek to steal this blessing from us. Every day we have the opportunity to quit. Every day something comes up which could force us to back down and give up. And every day we commit the project to God once more and tackle the issues until they yield and the door opens.

The trick is to ask for the wisdom to recognise when a door is closed because God closed it, and when it's closed because the enemy is trying to hinder our receiving God's Best. It's often hard to distinguish between the two possibilities, which is why being actively engaged with God is so important.

We must remember to stay in touch with our great Commander.

This war is not one to be taken lightly. Our faith will be tested repeatedly and we will be beaten down time and again, but the key to victory is to keep getting up and fighting on.

And claiming the Victory in the War Zone we call walking by Faith.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Be a Conscious Overcomer

We talk a lot about the "Overcoming Faith" that Jesus gives. Most people think that's either for others or that the writer knows nothing about what he's writing about.

I live in a state of Hope, by choice. It starts by knowing I'm loved, and then Hope and Faith come naturally. But to understand where I come from you need to know my story. Since I can't sleep tonight because it's on my mind I'll share some of it.

I'm 42. Born in the baby boom of the early 1970s. I attended my first family funeral in 1985, but our first taste of family death was in 1981 when my dad's youngest sister was killed in a house-fire. She was my favourite aunt, born-again and vibrant, and always had a smile. It was infections. I was only very little, but I remember a blue elephant playing with her at our home. It's one of my oldest mempries and since I was only 9 when she died it's precious to me.

In 1983 dad's cousin, like Yvonne a nurse, died of cancer. We were a large and close family and her loss was felt although I was only 11.

Dad had suspected throat cancer in 1984. Scared the daylights out of us. I remember Robin being worried about him. He was 8 at the time. The nodules were benign, but we were thrown badly. The in February 1985 Robin, my only brother, was killed in a road accident a month before his 10th birthday and six weeks before my 13th.

Despair became a companion for a long time. My mum was ill, a breast lump removed in 1987, and her dad died of cancer in 1988. Her mum succombed to cancer in 1991. There was pain and heartbreak through my childhood and teens. I was bullied mercilessly and developed a destructive depression with a violent temper that would have got me into serious trouble if I't not been able to only release it when there happened to be several people strong enough to hold me back to help me. By the time I left school at 18 I'd been threatened with expulsion more than once and talked out of suicide four times and dragged off two people who because of intervention live to tell the tale.

I left Lincolnshire to start a new life in Devon, but my ghosts haunted me. I moved in with a girl I'd begun dating because it stopped me getting teased for being single. Naturally, I now was teased for my choice of partner. But into a new environment I was able to begin to find hope. My faith began to grow and has never fully disappeared. Cultivating Hope and Faith has become a big part of who I am. In my last post I mentioned being consciously aware of who God wants us to be. It starts with active pursuit of the vision He has for us, for your life.

Right now for me it's writing. And flying (although I'm careful not to share that too often with my wife). It is difficult to consciously overcome an onslaught.

In the last 5 years alone my wife has had to fight what will eventually be a terminal illness - there is no cure for her condition, we simply have to find hope and Faith each day that at the end of this day there'll be another one. We lost our home, our business and our health as a couple. But still I hold on to God's Love for Me, My wife, and that He has a plan that does not involve defeat. Jeremiah 29:11 is burned in my heart as is Isaiah 40:31, so I wait on God to soar like an eagle and see the good plans and the future He has laid out for me.

Just today I talked to Rene, this morning so despondent she wanted to die - not hypothetically, but for real - and by this evening we had begun to see mountains move towards rebuilding a life with everything and more that we have lost in the last five years restored to us. Yes, it will take work. Dear Lord it will take every ounce of sweat we have for some time, but we will do it. First the recovery of a business, then rebuilding a home on the large plot my mum and I own. But one thing at a time. Hope can only come from accepting love. And Faith can only come from Hope.

And we need all three to live a life as consciously overcoming the trials and tribulations the enemy throws at us. We need to decide - truly decide - to overcome. We must cut ourselves off from any other course of action that would seek to destroy our path to overcoming, no matter how painful it may be - and it will be painful. We're not fighting an enemy who plays fair, and we need to be ruthless spiritually to defeat a ruthless foe. The spiritual war is no place for chivalry. We must take no prisoners, we must on a spiritual level totally eliminate anything and anyone who stands against what we know God has inspired. If people speak against what we know to be God, we must put them away from us, no matter who they are. I'm not advocating "yes-men" attitudes, but rather a untied fellowship who will march with a single purpose. Think of Frodo and the band setting out from Rivendell, 9 warriors to match the 9 wraiths. Some will fall, some will be restored. Some will falter and recover, and all will find strength they did not know they had.

We need fellowship. The importance is essential. We need guidance from a sage like Gandalf, from warriors like Aragorn and Boromir, from down-to-earth character like Gimli and simple honest folk like Merry and Pippin, and faithful friends like Samwise and Legolas. Our fellowhips will look different, but they will be what we need to become a conscious overcomer.

But like Frodo, we must choose to continue the quest God places before us. And please, take the fellowhips based on the books not the movies - there's so much more depthe in Tolkein than in Jackson. Don't get me wrong, the movies were amazing, but there's so much more in the books. Choices emphasised by the book are missed in the movies, consequences in the books are left out completely, and the changes the quest has on the travellers is glossed over in the movies. Aragorn is not the hesitant man of the movies, but the one who calls for the reforging of the shards. The hobbits are fearless because they have no idea the perils that lie before them, but so it is with us. Some of our company will be fearless because they are battle-hardened already. Some because they are naive.

They all have a part to play in our quest. And we all have a quest to play a crucal role in. Frodo is told if He fails the quest will fail. The same is true for all of us. God has a mission only you can complete, whether it's Richard Branson building Space tourism or young john down the road helping the little girl next door tie her shoes the first time. At on point my mission was heping a boy with a learning "disability" - one I've since been diagnosed with myself (Attention Deficit Disorder) - to understand how to tell time and the difference between the 24 hour clock, am and pm time. It took us weeks, working one-on-one, but he mastered it, and the sense of accomplishment as he mastered his quest was one that filled my heart with such joy. Another boy could barely read at the start of the year. By the end of it he had read "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe" and understood it. He loved it so much he asked his parents to buy him the Narnia set for his birthday - which he proudly showed me the day I left the school.

He became a conscious overcomer. So did I.

So can you. No matter the problem, no matter the size of the issue.

My wife asks me "David, How can I eat an elephant?" I answer "One bite at a time"

One bite at a time. It takes time, but we will overcome if we just keep chewing.

Consciously overcoming. Choosing each day not to quit - and it's hard.

In 1999 I attempted suicide 4 times in just over a month following my dad's death. My wife's illness drives me to despair more that I'd like to admit, but the Cross and the strength of Jesus allows me Hope. Hope gives me Faith. Faith that even though this battle has been long and hard that I will see the victory.

By deciding every day to overcome my enemy.


So can you with God's Power in the Holy Spirit. Don't go it alone. I tried in 1999, and I don't recommend it. Commit your plan to God and if He says "GO", the do it. If He says "NO" then ask "Where?"

Be mindful of God's presence and let Him guide you - He longs to do it.

Be conscious, and be an overcomer.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Your Intended Life

We all grew up with dreams. Many of them get shattered along the way and we grow out of some of them, but there are always a few that stay in the back of our minds, entrenched in our hearts.

For me it's flying. I was in the cadets as a teenager and flew light aircraft - two seaters - many times up to the age of 18. It's over 20 years, but I can't shake the dream of flying again. It drives my wife nuts. She hates that I ride a motorbike where all I have to worry about is left and right. Add up and down into the equation and she has kittens at the thought.

But the dream is still there. The first time I saw the movie "Reach for the Sky" I was hooked. And I was 3 years old. I wanted to watch that movie over and over again - but had to put up with having the music on an old vinyl LP until the BBC saw fit to show it again. A pilot who beat the odds after losing both his legs in an accident but then became a hero in the wartime fighter squadrons. Douglas Bader was my first real hero.

The dream didn't die. I still long to soar on wings over the ground, spitfires, microlights, heck strap a lawnmower to a plank and I'll try it. I just want to get into the air.

I believe God has placed that passion in me, that dream. It's a deliberate placement. I don't know why. When He's given me the time I've not had the money. When the money's been there it's been way tool hectic to find the time. Right now I'm broke, but with all the time in the workd to try. Again.

The blocks keep going up, but I can't shake the dream. I ask God to take it from me and He doesn't. I ask Him to replace it with something else. He only shows me how I can use it to Glorify Him.

So my prayer has changed. I'm asking for funding and time and my wife's agreement to all come together. Nothing short of a work of God will allow that combination to happen. Especially my wife's agreement.

But what is my intended life?

I feel God's pleasure when I write. Like Eric Liddel, another hero of mine from my childhood, I was made to do God's work, but when I write I feel Him dancing over me.

I like to have a candle burning near me when I write. It's gentle flame flickers and reminds me we are temporal, but the darkness itself cannot snuff it out - only I can do that. I find it's healthy (although if they ever let me near the controls of an airplane I doubt a lit candle in the cockpit will be permitted).

Our dreams are our intended life. They are the Life God designed us for in the womb. He had a specific purpose in mind for every conceived soul - and yes, I am pro-life. Abortion should never, ever be used for birth control following consenting intercourse. I'm less sure about rape, but I believe the "morning after pill" and other emergency contraception methods are not abortion. After the quickening of a heartbeat it is a different matter - that soul has a purpose, and we should not be playing God by destroying it.

But back to the point.

We dream. We have desires we daydream about. I never met anyone working in a cubicle - and I've done my share of time in that environment - who dreamed of coming back the following day and doing the same thing again. Most of them dream of returning with gasoline and matches. Or not returning at all.

I have a simple dream right now. To spend time living in England on a narrow-boat, cruising the canals for a year and writing about the experience. Seeing my homeland slide by at no more than 3 miles per hour and being able to tie up and visit quaint little villages and towns I'd never otherwiose consider going to. Seeing them from a boat, and wherever I tie up is home for the night. Or two.

Escape from the rat-race for a year. See if a publisher will go for it "A Christian's Year Afloat in England", speaking in churches and gently wandering on, meandering through the countryside whatever the weather. It's an attractive though to me - less so for my wife, who I think would go nuts but I think would do her good. But is it my intended life?

Probably not. I have too much of a Warrior's heart. I enjoy the fight of Spiritual Warfare too much, seeing battles fought and won on a daily basis - although a bit more in the way of daily victory would be nice. Poor health has dogged us both for most of the last five years, mostly my wife with surgical complications, more recently emotional stressors and for me a badly septic foot which could have cost me one or more toes if left any later, perhaps more, to be treated. It's ont thing to understand the healing power of the atonement of Christ, but manifesting it 100% of the time is proving to be tricky. I rely on God meeting me where I am and providing miracle healing not miracle health at the moment. It's simply where my faith has grown to, no condemnation, simply a statement of where I've reached. I've prayed for others and seen complete healing instantly. I've received other healings instantly from laying on of hands, but I struggle to let go of some things.

We all do.

It prevents us living our intended life. We need to live it deliberately. That means letting go of certain things. I managed to let go of gout when I got fed up of being crippled every few weeks by a demented bone-dwarf trying to mine out of my foot. I got prayer, and the healing was instant. I put my full faith and I got angry with the enemy for daring to afflict me like that. He's never come back in that way.

I got slightly upset with the diabetes progressing in my body and prayed accordingly. It's not got worse since, but it's still there - I'm not angry with it. Although almost losing my toes this last week has made me more upset to be sure. Time will tell.

But what is my intended life? I keep coming back to preaching and flying, an odd combination. But I feel if the Ozzies can have the Flying Doctor, why shouldn't the South Africans have the "Flying Pastor"? And why not me? My wife's a doctor. We could work as a team (if she'd get into a plane with me at the controls). Me teach their spirits and her treat their bodies. I don't see the problem - except the cost of a plane anyway.

Life's brief candle. We can run a station, we can do what we do best. But we have such limited time. I'm over 40. In fact I'm officially closer to 45 than 40 now. She's closer to 40. We have limited time, but then why do we have to let that stop us? Moses was 80 when they left Egypt and he led them for forty years. Joshua and Caleb scouted the land ad 40 and entered it at 80, then Caleb went to claim the mountains where the Giants lived approaching 100 years old. Abraham was 100. Why not.

It's never too late to begin to live your intended life.

Just have the courage to take the first step.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Insufficient Faith

I reposted an entry from a year or so ago recently about Faith. This is a continuation - albeit a year later - of the thought that inspired it.

I was reading James again, and it really hits me every time recently how we need to act on the Faith God gives us. It's easy to say we have faith, but stepping out in that faith is another matter. It takes courage and the ability to look beyond fear and unbelief that the enemy would throw into our paths. It's easy to overlook the possibility of the supernatural when all the natural is screaming "IT WON'T WORK" for all it's worth.

I sit right now with bandaged feet because I have a lack of sensations in my toes as a result of something called "diabetic neuropathy". Basically I ended up with massive injuries to my toes I don't feel because of this condition. It pre-dates the diabetes diagnosis in my life, but I'm assured it's sugar that caused the problem in my blood and consequently in my nerves. Mostly it's not a problem as it hasn't got worse since I began to understand that healing is part of the atonement, and God will not withold health any more than forgiveness. But my heart has to overcome a lot of years of denial, so it's not as simple for me as "ok, I can feel now".

I believe - since this "progressive" illness has halted in its tracks - that I will eventually see reversal and health return, I just need greater understanding to see the faith manifest in my life.

And it's this manifestation that's the issue.

Having faith alone is not worth a dime. Faith is dead - worthless - unless we act to demonstrate it. Jesus went around forgiving sins, and produced healing and release form demonic possession as a sign of the power He had. But as well as being fully God, we must remember He was fully Man as well. That means He needed to know in Faith that the prayer would produce action. Peter and the disciples had to learn this after the day of Pentecost, and before when Jesus had sent them out in His Name to heal and teach. Their faith, we can surmise from the lack of questions recorded by them on their return from the mission, was 100% successful, nothing left unfinished.

Ours can be the same, but we need to act on that faith we have. Jesus was received back into this world because of Faith powerful enough to reverse death itself in His own body. We have that same faith, and Jesus promised we would do greater works than He had done because He was going to be with the Father.

Now I'll be happy to just equal what Jesus did. I don't feel a need to surpass Him in acts of Faith, in fact the thought scares me. He raised the dead with a word. Three times, plus Himself. I'll be happy if I can receive feeling in my toes!

But we are actually called to exceed Jesus' works. He never spoke on television. He never used radio to broadcast. He was an average-looking guy from Nazareth who wandered around and spoke to people, healed their sickness where they had the faith to receive it - a central part of the process - and restored their souls. Exceeding Jesus' exploits in this world is our mandate, our commission. He told us to.

But how do we do it?

The answer "by Faith" is inadequate to say the least. When Jesus returns from His transfiguration He rebukes the disciples for not being able to heal the boy with epilepsy/demonic influence. He tells them the type comes out only by prayer and fasting, but He doesn't go off and fast for a week before He heals the boy - rather He heals him on the spot. That says something about the lifestyle Jeses calls us to rather than the strength of the demon. Jesus would often go off by Himself to draw close to the Father and recharge Himself spiritually. We know He fasted 40 days in the wilderness before He began His ministry here, but there's no reason to believe He didn't fast again during His Earthly life. There are many festivals in the Jewish calendar that may require fasting, which Jesus would have perhaps observed. We know not always as he rebuked the disciples of John the Baptist for their chastising of the disciples for not fasting at one point (Matthew 9:14-15), but He may well have fasted Himself as a way of staying close to God - and it's implied when He reminds them in Mark 9:28-29 that their attempt to cast out the demon was unsuccessful because "“This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”" (NKJV). The inferrence is not that the demon was stronger, but rather that their life needed to include fasting and prayer to see the intimacy of relationship that allows the manifestation of such mighty works.

We often miss the understanding of the need to fast, and as a result our prayers become weakened, and we finish off with "if it be your will" as we pray, thereby saying "well ce sera sera" to whether the person is healed or released. Jesus never once left someone with faith to receive unhealed. He never once left someone possessed. Rather He healed and set free all who asked Him. There was never a question of timing. Never a question of learning. It was always done on the spot.

Our faith needs to produce the same results. We need to understand that our faith is completed by our actions, not generated by them. We lose sight of this and as a result we miss out on miracles every day.

I was healed of Gout in my foot. It literally crippled me during an attack. I couldn't walk, drive or even bear to put weight on it. Until in the middle of an attack I rebuked it, and as a sign of my faith I stamped my foot - hard - on the offending joint. The pain left and has never returned. I took action. That was over ten years ago. I've never had the courage to do that with diabetes. As a result I have to inject myself once a day and take several oral medications to control it, but my sugar levels are normal now as a result.

Faith is completed by action. Faith in words only is worthless. Anyone can claim faith, but if there's no action to back it up then there's no evidence. Particularly in this 21st Century world where everyone and his dog asks for "proof" of things, then we need to follow Jesus' example of using miracles as a means of proof to the true Power of the Gospel and the Word of God in our lives and in the World today.

So is faith insufficient?

Alone, yes. But add action to it and the power flows and the Love of God working through us will reach even the coldest of broken hearts and allow healing, love and recovery to Salvation in.

Be true to the Faith. Hold fast to the Confession of Jesus Christ, and the Power of His Word working through our hands to deliver His miracles to the World and fulfil His vision.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Ascension Day and Waiting for the Coming of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost is almost on us. We can sense the entrance of the Holy Spirit in the wings of our theatre, but first there is one final Act from Jesus.

He's beaten Death by rising from the grave and taken our Sin on Himself. Now we need to get into action.

But He doesn't say that.

What Jesus does is leave. And the Saviour of the World tells his most trusted followers to...


Hang on...

Surely He meant "GO!" or "ATTACK!"

No. He said "Wait" so the disciples must wait. They waited three days, the "sign of Jonah" Jesus had mentioned in his talking to them earlier. Then they saw the Risen Jesus. And they hung out with Him, walking, eating and chatting like the friends they are. Now He's leaving them - again.

He'd told them He would be going. He prepared them from John 14 through John 17 about it in fact. So they wait. They go back to the same upper room where six weeks before they'd had a Passover Feast with Jesus and wait. There's no confusion this time though. This is waiting for something that the Risen Christ has told them is coming. The Power of the Holy Spirit.

How frustrating must the next 40 days have been for them though! They know, really know, that Jesus is sending them something so much more than having Him with them physically. They realise now that all the Old Testament Prophets would have given up everything they ever saw for a mere taste of what they are going to receive.

But hours turn into days turn into weeks. I wonder if any of them walked out? We know the remaining 11 didn't, but there were 120 on the day of Pentecost. Were there more who tired of waiting and left? We don't know, but it's human nature for many of us. We don't like to wait for things. Especially good things. If we know something good is coming we get impatient. Like a child on Christmas Eve. I found out about Santa when I was little by waking up too early - and seeing my dad leaving the room and the presents on the bed. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the presents, and I didn't tell my little brother, but something of the magic left. I got impatient and wouldn't wait.

So now the disciples have to make their choice. How long do they wait? I wonder if they got back and expected it that day? Did they get despondent by day 35? It would be natural. Is it ever going to change? Like waiting for winter to lose its grip. But wait they do. And then on Pentecost tongues of Fire, the Holy Spirit in such power they can't stand - literally. And the Power to touch hearts and minds with the Truth of Jesus and to hand on the gift He'd left and they had now finally received.

My wife spent 2 days in ICU this week. I didn't know if she'd live following problems with some medication she'd taken. I prayed and felt God say she'd be home.

It was a good promise - and although I have to still look out for recurrences she's home and should be ok. But the waiting to see the promise I'd heard from God in reality - my wife back home - was torture even though the promise was good.

It gave me a chance to reflect on what the disciples may have felt in the days between Ascension and Pentecost. On a very much smaller scale. (And I reflected after she got home)

If we are to hold heroes as Christians, it needs to be the disciples during those 40 days. They hold fast to a promise despite not seeing it. Even Daniel only had to wait 21 days in Daniel 10. Surely Peter must have been scratching his beard with frustration, but he held the course and preached the first sermon after the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and thousands believed. He saw the cripple dance. His shadow held the same healing power Jesus had held.

So if you're waiting on a promise from God, keep strong.

It's Coming!