Walking the Talk

It’s easy to sit back in our comfortable chairs and spout platitudes about how to live as a Christian. Platitudes are easy. They are pure theory, like the scientist who sits looking at pieces of paper and uses mathematics to explain how a star can exist, or more accurately a business man called in to “streamline” a company talking about how many jobs must be cut, then returning to his million dollar job in his million dollar car.

Reality is harder.

In World War One the soldiers doing the fighting sat up to their knees in filth, mud, water and rats. Many lives were lost because of the conditions the men were forced to live in. Even today, you can visit places and see sanitised versions of the trenches. I saw the reconstructions as a teenager at Vimy Ridge. I saw the massive memorial at Thiepval to over 70 000 men whose bodies were never recovered on the Somme battlefields.

But the Generals who sent these men to their deaths sat growing fat at HQ, eating steak and attending dances whilst their men were close to starving and waiting for death to call.

As Christians we can fall into the trap of believing we’re Generals.

We sit and spout theory about why things are the way they are. God being God allows certain things to happen to teach us. He has His “master-plan” and we can’t understand it.

We’re living in a world where we are at war but we think we’re at HQ. Then the shells start falling around us. Cancer, unemployment, death of loved ones strike at us and we are reminded that we are not safe behind the lines, but rather we are stuck in the middle of the front line, and the enemy soldiers are well trained and relentless.

Suddenly we have to start to walk the talk. And we usually fail.

Peter was so filled with the Holy Spirit that people placed the sick in the street so his shadow could touch them. When it came time for them to look for someone to wait on the tables they sought out those anointed men to do it – Primarily Stephen, the first martyr.

They talked the talk, yes. But they walked what they talked. Peter laid hands on the sick, He raised the dead. He had freely received – not in theory, but in reality – and he now freely gave. He taught others what he knew, sometimes he even used words to do it.

We are quick to talk, but walking it is another matter. It’s hard to stay strong when it looks like your life is falling apart. Death and sickness haunt your every step. Loved ones die and are diagnosed with terrible illness. Fear is a natural response. Grief hammers on the door of our heart and we open it up and weep.

It’s normal. It’s part of healing. It opens the door to what comes next…

hang on…

Next?

Next…

“Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, ‘See how He loved him!'” (John 11:33-36)

Jesus wept because He loved Lazarus and He loved Martha. He felt the grief tey felt. He felt the loss. He wept.

Then He acted.

Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.  Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’ Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying.<sup class="footnote" value="[c]”>[c] And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.’ Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.'” (John 11:38-44)

First Jesus felt the grief, then He acted. And Lazarus came out of the grave.

Jesus walked the talk. Peter and Paul and Timothy and all the apostles walked the talk. They saw miracles. Jail cells opened, blind eyes seeing, lame walking, deaf hearing.

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 1999 I tried to believe for a miracle. I wanted him to live and recover. He didn’t. I didn’t understand at that point. I said all the right things, even outwardly did all of them, but my heart saw him die when the doctors made the diagnosis. As a result I prepared for his death in my heart, and not for his health being restored.

I talked the talk, but I didn’t walk it. I know that now, and although I’m saddened I don’t feel guilt or shame about it. It’s been taken care of by giving it over to Christ, something we all must do.

Walking the talk is hard. It means taking hits, often from people we are very close to.

It means having to watch sometimes and wait for the moment to call our Lazarus out.

We weep. We bleed. We feel the despair and the heartache this world holds.

We drown it out most of the time. Numb ourselves to the cry of our hearts by watching TV or drinking, or partying. Sex, drugs and rock and roll. But then we go to sleep alone, and in the darkness He calls to us, and our thoughts return to where we should be.

So we get up and we talk the fight. Once in a while we even fight the fight.

Then a new attack comes and we crumple.

Unless we consistently walk out our faith. We can build ourselves up through fellowship to a point where when the storm comes we can weather it. The wave breaks on the Rock on which we stand, rather than swamping us

Talk the talk, yes. But we must walk out what we believe, whatever the cost personally if we are to stand.

Walk the talk. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22)

Positive from Negative

Every so often in our walk something truly catastrophic happens. The Enemy of our soul gets a shot in and on target and we are left reeling and wounded in a huge way.

It’s happened several times in my life.

Each time, however, life goes on.

My younger brother was killed in a road accident, my favourite aunt died in a house fire, cancers in the family, more and more things went wrong.

Each of these incidents had the potential to destroy my life. And they nearly did.

Thankfully, God is here.

These incidents have all been redeemed. Jesus used Robin’s death to reveal His amazing Love for me to me. My dad’s first cancer shook me, but eventually drew us closer to each other and to God. His second cancer, which took his life in 1999, led us into a level of closeness and relationship we’d never experienced before, although we had a very close relationship. I was able to hold his hand as he went home, and I believe he could have been healed but chose to rather go as he knew our Lord was with me.

The issues we face are not sent from God to test us. He loves us unconditionally. He redeems us perfectly. He gives us only good gifts.

Cancer is not good.

Death is not good.

No illness is good.

God gives us only that which is good, perfect and pleasing. If it’s not all of those things, God didn’t send it.

BUT…

He can and wants to redeem it.

 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20a) That doesn’t mean God sent it – I’m certain when God showed Joseph his future He didn’t intend for him to be sold as a slave and imprisoned on false charges for years before it came to pass. Joseph’s brothers were motivated by jealousy and greed. They were filled with anger and acted on it.

But God redeemed their actions and saved thousands through Joseph despite their hate.

No matter how negative the situation you’re facing God can redeem it, and wants to. He has a perfect plan for our lives, one with a hope and a future. He wants us to live in an abundant life. Jesus Himself said “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” (John 10:10 Amplified)

So basically, if you are going through hell right now, God wants to redeem it. If you went through hell recently, God wants to redeem it. God will guide us through the valley of the shadow of death, not help us set up home in it. He leads us through the darkness in this world into life and light.

Life is short. It has hard knocks in it. We all miss what God is saying to us from time to time and then we have consequences we must deal with. But God wants to redeem them and make us live better, setting up a table for us in the very face of the enemy who tried to destroy us.

Hold fast to the Cross. Anchor to the Rock of Christ and never let Him go. No matter how bad the situation looks now, God wants to redeem it.

The Load We Were Never Meant to Bear

Every so often something comes into your life that you don’t expect. It can come in many forms, but it is so out of the blue that you can’t brace for it.

“Mum, I’m pregnant” – and 14
“I’m sorry, it’s cancer”
“There’s been an accident…”

The ground gets pulled out from under us and we just stagger under the load.

God didn’t design us to cope. This isn’t a flaw in the design, or in the programming of Mankind. We were made for paradise. We were designed to live for ever. When God made us, He made us in His image. Immortal and unflawed.

Enter Satan…

When sin entered into the world God had made everything in creation changed as Death entered with it. Everything except our programming.

Suddenly we were going to die. There was a finite time period for existence in this world. Worse, we were separated from the only one who could help us.

Sin, sickness, Death. This world was opened up to everything Hell had instead of the riches of Heaven.

Adam was over 900 years old when he ceased to exist in this world, but we don’t know how long he had existed before the fall. It’s possible he and Eve had lived for centuries before they tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Adam sinned and condemned all of us.

Jesus came to put it right. God had a choice. He could eliminate everything and start over, or He could redeem His creation. From the very moment Adam ate the fruit he had been forbidden to eat Jesus began to move. “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15) It was the child of a woman, not a man who would crush the serpent’s head. Jesus was born of woman, but His Father was God Himself, just as Adam’s was. He would face the same temptations and the same trials as Adam, but where Adam had fallen, Jesus would succeed. Instead of surrendering to Satan, Jesus did what Adam was meant to do –  He rebuked Satan and walked away. Satan was left powerless against Him.

It’s because of this that we have a share in Eternal Life. Jesus chose to give to everyone who accepted His sacrifice a share of what He had gained. He gave us a piece of Himself, and took from us what we were never designed to cope with.

The enemy will still try to put a load onto us. Cancer, HIV, alcoholism, addictions – the list is long and sounds daunting. Whatever comes against us is merely a distraction designed to draw us away from God and trusting Him and His goodness though.

We are bombarded with facts. They add to the load. Words like “inoperable”, “Incurable”, “chronic condition” and “lifetime illness” are thrown around and destroy our faith. The facts can build us up, but the enemy will use the facts to distract us from the Truth and to put onto us a load we should never have had to bear.

We have been given the Name of Jesus. In His name we have authority over all sickness, and even death itself is not an obstacle that is insurmountable.

Until our faith develops to the point that we can do like Jesus and then Peter did and see health return at the command in Jesus name we have the Comforter to teach us and convict us. But even this is twisted. The Spirit comes, but “…when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness”. (John 16:8). He will convict of Sin, but He will convict of Righteousness. Since He has come, we are therefore convicted of our status. Satan deafens us to the whole message though. We readily accept te burden of being a sinner, and accept the sin we have been living in, because we can see it. But we get so bogged down in that we don’t hear the rest. Because of Jesus we are righteous. We are made in right standing with God. He sees us as sinless as Jesus because the burden was taken from us again by His sacrifice.

Lift the load from our shoulders and give it to Jesus. He said we must take His yoke. His burden is light. He wants us to take His load, and He will take ours.

Never Beyond Our Endurance

There seems to be a shift in thinking in some places today that we are on our own as Christians. God has set things in motion and now just lets everything run until the end of time.

This is simply not true. God knows the end from the beginning, yes. He does NOT however pre-destine individuals. There is a big difference between knowing what will happen and making the choice.

In the Matrix movies, the problem the machines have is they cannot comprehend choice. Free will is a mystery to them. They are bound by the programming in them and cannot comprehend choice.

We seem to think God is like that – or that is the impression you can get. I once heard Tony Campolo say when he was young he believed in predestination so strongly that when he fell down the stairs he thanked God it was over with!

The problem of Free Will is that we make choices that are bad for us. God allows them, and ultimately uses them to further His will in our lives, but the enemy has a plan to drag us away from His love into destruction, and Jesus Himself said most people will take the broad road to destruction rather than the narrow, hard road to salvation.

When I was still quite young, probably in the summer of 1984 when I was 12, my family went on holiday to the Gower peninsular in South Wales. We used to walk together from Langland Bay to Caswell Bay and back by following a footpath round the headland. It was a wonderful walk, uphill in both directions, or so it felt! We would wander slowly round the cliff walk and sometimes get an ice-cream before heading back. This one paqrticular day was hot. Very hot. We walked in shorts and t-shirts, or just shorts, and open sandals. As we walked we heard crying from above us in the gorse bushes over the path. Two young girls had wandered off the path and got lost in the gorse, somehow managing to get into a place where they couldn’t get out by going up or down.

My dad was a schoolmaster, and had a real love of children. Without hesitation he pushed through the brambles and thorns, lifted the two girls up onto his shoulders and carried them back down through the brambles to the path, then on to the lifeguard station at Caswell bay where they were reunited with their parents. Dad’s legs were badly cut and bleeding from the thorns, and it took the first-aid attendant over an hour to clean him up.

I have often had the image of my dad that day come back to my mind. He gave no thought of what it would cost him in terms of pain to help these children who were complete strangers. I remember marvelling at the way he just brushed through the thorns. I did ask him why he’d done it later. He simply smiled and pointed out that he knew he could help, so he knew he had to. He could endure what they could not, and they were rescued as a result.

Now my dad was not perfect. He was as flawed and fragile as any human, yet he retained a strength throughout his life. His faith carried him through the ups and downs of existence, and although he eventually succombed to cancer in 1999 he held fast to his convictions to the end. I had the honour of holding his hand as he went home, and although it hurt immensely to lose him, he left us in such a peaceful way that I was strengthened by his example.

We all have to endure things in this world we were not designed to bear. The human psyche as designed by God is not designed to deal with the loss we experience when death comes, or sickness or poverty. We were made for paradise and designed for peace, and we spend our lives trying to find it in spite of the world.

Endurance is something we must learn, but it is something we can do. He promised we would never be given more than we can handle. We forget this and it leads to depression, anxiety, stress and a myriad of other problems. Illness follows and we succomb to the ravishes of the dread diseases of this world. But even then by turning to Christ again He will support our feet and lead us through to safety held high on His shoulders through the brambles and thorns that surround us until we are reunited with our Heavenly Father.