Lions, Tigers, Rats and Mice

Just recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what really draws me away from God. I realised something in my musings. The big stuff generally pushes me to Him. When I see a lion I know I’m in danger, so I turn to the One who can shield me from it.

Not so with the little things.

I try to sort out the little things myself. It rarely turns out well.

Jesus said much the same. He looked at the priests and leaders of the people weighing them down with unmanageable burdens. Spiritually they gave a thousand pebbles to every person and told them to start juggling. If one pebble dropped, then go to Hell, directly to Hell, do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect 200 talents.

Jesus cut through that, and completed it. Not only by not dropping the pebbles they allocated Him, but by collecting ours as well.

I was reading one of my favourite books last night. “Six Hours One Friday” by Max Lucado. I have such respect for this man. His writing has inspired me for 20 years. I’m on my third copy of this book, having read the first two so many times they fell apart. His writings tug my heart 20 years after I first came across them. I heard Mike Yaconelli read a part of this very book at Greenbelt in 1991. The illustration of Jesus arranging to have his hands nailed open to prove he would always accept us haunts me and inspires me.

Re-reading it, I was struck by what draws me away. The little things. Rats and mice. Non-essentials. Wind and waves.

I remember seeing a painting of Jesus walking on the water when I was young. Just taking a stroll across the Sea of Galilee. It only hit me recently that the painting was wrong. In the painting the sea was a flat calm. Jesus walked through the storm to the sinking boat. Peter got out and walked through the storm until he realised what he was doing. But he couldn’t walk on a flat, calm sea. The wind and waves were incedental.

Rats and mice scavenge. At first you don’t notice the nibbles, then one day you realise how much has gone. In one of the “Death Wish” movies from the 1980’s, Charles Bronson’s character likens the local villains to cockroaches, pointing out that once you start, you need to wipe them out completely or they come back. Jesus said the same of demons. They are insidious. Apparently in a major city you will never be more than 2 meters (6 feet) horizontally from a rat or mouse, yet we rarely see them.

I became aware I had a mouse in my study a few years ago when I heard it’s rustling behind my bookshelf. The alarming thing was less the presence of the rodent, and more the fact that it had built an entire nest there, using my own books and papers as nesting material. Insidious. Naturally, I took the necessary measures to dispose of it. I let Sam, my insane 3-legged dog, into the room. 10 minutes later, no more mouse and one very proud dog!

In this instance, Sam represents Jesus to me. I couldn’t find the mouse. It was destroying my things a little at a time, and I let it happen. Sam hunted it out once I invited him to, and that mouse will never be back. Jesus has done that for us. He presents himself to us and awaits our permission to take care of the situation. We tend to let Him deal with the big issues, or we pretend to. Trust is built on foundations. To really fight the lions, tigers, bears and Goliaths in our lives on a spiritual level we must start by battling mice. Before Cancer hits, we should trust implicitly for acne. Before acne, trust for something smaller. Once the foundation is strong, the trust comes naturally.

My resolve continues. I still face battles, but one at a time, and my heart is fixed. No matter what, I will serve Jesus with all I am, and all I have.

New Year, Old tactics, Leaving the Land of Familiar

So 2012 is finally with us. After the attacks of 2011 my family has endured I welcomed the new year with open arms.

As I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts here, whilst I absolutely believe Healing is part of the atonement Christ bought for us, and it’ not an optional extra, it’s an absolute Right, it’s also something that takes time to walk in fully sometimes. To that end, I still battle some chronic issues, which I make no bones about. Once I began to appropriate the Truth of walking in Divine Health things began to change. I had to get glasses every year because my eyesight was deteriorating. In the last 5 years it has not changed at all – at a time in my life when things normally start getting worse. I battle type 2 diabetes. My sugar control is far from what it should be, but there has been no damage to my eyes or kidneys as a result of the illness. God has been amazing in His Faithfulness to me.

Last year’s attacks came insidiously through attacks on my wife’s health. Diagnosis followed diagnosis, each worse than the last. This year has started differently.

Despite no change in my general health, my doctor added a new medication to my collection. For the first six weeks it was great. No side-effects, lower blood sugar levels and generally improved health on paper. Suddenly two days ago, my left foot swelled up and my leg up to the knee. No pain, just this swelling. It seems this one is a side-effect of the new medication. It comes and goes, subsides and fluctuates. No problems regarding medical tests, just this ludicrous swelling in my legs.

It started to come out just after I made the decision I mentioned in my last post. My decision to draw closer to God. My attitude to change my attitude and all the decisions I’ve made. The point is, it feels like a direct assault. My heart is set, and my mind is fixed. I still don’t know how things will change, but I am set in my resolve that I will draw closer to Jesus from this point on, and that I will do everything in my power to prevent myself from limiting Him in my life.

I have decided to cut myself off from the past. To burn the bridges that would allow me to retreat to a “safer” place, which is actually just a place of familiarity where I was being dominated by the Enemy so subtly I didn’t see it. Bruce Wilkinson wrote a wonderful series of books about the Dream Giver. They are parables of a man named Ordinary who lives in the Land of Familiar who is given a dream. They spoke to me in a new way, and I re-read them regularly. I don’t ever want to go back to the land of Familiar. The journey Ordinary goes through is hard and he is tempted to turn back, but every time he has the temptation, the Dream Giver himself sends someone to help him.

Familiar is not safe. It is a place that drains life from us, but the people around us will try to hold us there. To leave is truly terrifying, and the battle for the movement is hard, but set your face like flint, turn away from familiar, and let God Dream through you.

Out with the Old…

So 2011 has finally come to an end. I can’t say I’m sorry to see the end of it from a Human perspective. This year has been an incredibly challenging one. My wife’s illness, the loss of our business as a result, moving jobs 3 times in 2 months. All this takes a heavy toll on the spirit.

But at the same time, there has been amazing Blessing through the assault.

Objectively, I have seen God come through in many ways for us. My wife’s initial diagnosis and consequent immediate prognosis was an immense body-blow. The doctors basically telling us if the treatment failed she had at most six months. The treatment would not show a significant change – according to them – for a minimum of 3 to 4 months. The turnaround was nothing short of miraculous. Whilst a full healing has not yet happened, the original prognosis was totally overturned in less than 2 months. Now, physically anyway, she has a good prognosis. We are still learning to live with the issues that have arisen, but it’s not immediately life-threatening now.

Our finances have been decimated by the illness. We lost our business and there have been some massive financial expenses incurred, but we have seen incredible provision. As our situation became more and more dire, we found ourselves needing legal counsel. God opened the door for us to have advice from one of the top lawyers in the country working our case and refusing to take payment from us. He provided jobs for me where I didn’t think of looking initially, and then opened the door for me to find a job in one of the top companies in South Africa as a mono-lingual, white, male, foreigner. On paper it looked like I would not be able to be considered for a post, but God can make a way where there is none visible.

Through this, my own health suffered a little to start with, but as I was forced to lean more on God, He has sustained me. I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1999, yet despite poor control of my blood-sugar levels I have not had any of the problems medicine says I should have had. Recently, my blood-pressure has become better controlled and my sugar levels have improved despite no change in my habits. God has and is protecting me and healing me at the pace I allow him to.

That’s the key. It’s the pace we allow Him to work. Ephesians 3:20 & 21 says “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (NKJV) He works at the pace we allow Him to. Our actions and inactions can limit how God is able to move and work in us. The Israelites limited God. In Psalm 78, it is recorded “How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, And grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy”. By not keeping what God had done in their lives at the forefront of their minds, they got distracted by the surrounding problems and limited God’s ability to help them. Jesus was limited in His home town by the people’s lack of faith. Peter took his attention from Jesus and began to sink as he walked on the water.

Unbelief will sink us. we need to focus on Him and let Him guide us through the next 12 months. Yes, 2011 was a tough year. 2012 can be, and I believe will be, a year when we see things turn around in a huge way. I am committed to changing how I think and to stop limiting God so much in my life. It won’t be easy, but with His guidance it will happen.

God Bless, dear readers. And a Happy and Blessed New Year!