Hope Deferred

In the world we live in we need hope. It has been said that there are two methods only to control a society: fear and hope.
The Bible tells us in Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life”
Many more people are suffering depression and mental illness today than at any time in human history. Entire hospitals dedicated to the depressed and suicidal are increasing in size and position in society. Psychology and Psychiatry are boom industries in the medical world.
Hope is key to survival. Jesus came to give hope to the poorest of the poor, the most broken. He reads from Isaiah in Luke’s Gospel: 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,<sup class="footnote" value="[j]”>[j]
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 
(Luke 4:18-19 NKJV)
In it’s simplest form, He was anointed to give Hope. Restoration to all who needed it. 
We are tasked with continuing His work, giving Hope to those who have none. Restoring it to both those who had it taken against their will, and those who have given up hope. 
Hope deferred can cripple us emotionally and physically. Medicine calls the psychological effect a psychosomatic illness – a physical manifestation of the emotional wound. It can be anything from headaches to full blown paralysis. There’s an illness called Takotsubo Syndrome or Broken-heart Syndrome which mimics a heart-attack, but is brought on purely be stress – hope deferred being a major cause of stress.
Jesus’s teachings were revolutionary 2000 years ago. He was mocked and ridiculed by the “learned” men of the time because His teaching halted their religious prattle in it’s tracks. They had a salvation of works, earning your spot in heaven, where Jesus taught faith in Him alone was enough. Healings followed Jesus as He walked the earth, then His followers after the resurrection. Hope was restored to thousands on a daily basis. The Power of God flowed through them, and despair was replaced with Hope.
Today we have lost sight of that. We seek help from medics rather than primarily through Faith. We read that Faith is the substance of things Hoped for, yet we have forgotten how to hope.
My personal history is riddled with this. I suffered depression and a lack of hope for years, culminating in several suicide attempts just to make the pain go away. Even today I have times when the doubts and fears of my youth come in to try to overwhelm me. I’m Blessed in that I have learned to overcome these attacks, for the most part, and I can fight in Christ’s power to overcome the issues.

The key was deceptively simple. I was in a good Bible-based Church at the time, and despite everything in my mind telling me not to, even at my darkest times I kept going to fellowship. Please note, Fellowship is not necessarily Sunday Morning activities. In fact, true Fellowship seldom happens on a Sunday. The meetings can be superficial and no matter how emotive the talk and worship are, there is a sense of loneliness that can leave a person feeling more isolated than ever. True fellowship comes from letting other people speak into your life and be involved. Don’t misunderstand me, Church is important, but Fellowship is vital. Sitting in a service on a Sunday morning doesn’t make you a stronger Christian on it’s own any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car, but fellowship meeting where you talk and laugh and cry and pray together will strengthen anyone.

It did for me.

I’ve written before that I have trials in my life. Over a decade ago I went through something similar and walked away because I didn’t know the Power and Authority I had. Through teachers like Andrew Wommack, Dave Duell, Martin Ruskin and a list so long I could take all night to list them, I was able to see hope begin to be restored. As that happened I had the strength to tell my psychiatrist I didn’t need him any more. Prayer and fellowship became my treatment, and e
ventually I was able to wean off the medication.

Today I take pills to help me sleep again. My hope remains, but it has been knocked back – deferred – so many times that it gets harder to hold on to.

My heart is in danger of becoming sick again. Hope deferred truly does make the heart sick.

So what’s my point?

Keep hope alive. As Paul write, take all my thoughts captive and compare them with the Gospel. Those that don’t match up I throw out. Those that do I hold onto.

It sounds simple. CS Lewis is quoted as saying “experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God do you learn.”

I chose experience as my teacher, something I regret immensely. Everything we need for survival in this world, no matter the level of despair we have can be found in John’s Gospel, chapters 14 to 16. Jesus used them the night He was arrested to remind the disciples of what He had given them. They are a “survival Kit” for all Christians. I would urge anyone going through a hard time reading this to check out this link: Christian Survival Kit Audio Teaching – Andrew Wommack or Christian First Aid Kit – Andrew Wommack for audio teachings on a crisis situation. If you prefer reading, then use Christian Survival Kit – wirtten The downloads are free. Andrew Wommack Ministries inspired me in my work to not withold any message from the Gospel due to financial constraints.

I have a very dear friend with a similar call on her life that I had on mine when I was her age, longer ago than I choose to remember. I delight in watching her moving towards her dream, the Hope God has set before her, and seeing her move each day towards the fulfilling of the dream. It has restored my dream, dusty and cobweb covered that it may be, with a wash and brush up it still shines after almost 20 years of neglect. This blog is part of it, but it will grow. The first step is taken, and the next is coming

My hope was deferred, but now I see it again.

You can too. Over the next few days I’ll be working on the second part of the verse, “when the desire comes, it is a tree of life”
Watch this space

The Nature of Hope and Trust

We use the words every day. Hope. Trust. Faith.

They’re so glibly thrown around that we forget the real power of these words.

I “hope” it doesn’t rain. I “trust” we’ll be ok. It’s not the way God looks at the words.

Rick Warren, a teacher I admire a great deal, recently endured an unimaginable tragedy in their family. Earlier today he went onto Twitter and wrote “The real tragedy is that most people never trust God until they have to, and then they have no experience to fall back on”. Later he wrote “It’s not enough to have hope. We must persue hope, practice hope, and preach hope” and “Real hope doesn’t deny tragedy. It faces it head-on. Hope says ‘yes it’s really bad, but I still trust God.'”

Tragedy hits us in life. We can’t always avoid it. The enemy of our souls strikes out at us at every opportunity. He exploits our weaknesses to seek to drive us away from God and into his trap. He minimises the power of words until we become unaware of how much power we wield.

Proverbs 18:21 in the Amplified Bible says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life].” We live oblivious to the Truth. Hebrews 11:1 in the same translation says “Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, <sup class="footnote" value="[a]”>the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].” 

Jesus faced tragedy head-on. Fully human, he endured the full range of human emotions. He laughed with His friends, wept for loss, and experienced anxiety so intense He sweated blood! He also faced death, and defeated it.

Jesus did this by practicing Trusting God for everything, from the smallest morsel for His own needs to feeding a crowd that was maybe over 15000 people, since only the men were counted.

He stated that the things He did, we would do also, and still greater than that. Personally I’d be praising if half the issues I face would heed my prayers and depart. For 41 years I have been hounded by sicknesses in my body, cancer in my family, and death of some of the people I cared most about. I even reached a point after my commitment to Jesus that I fell so low leaning on my own strength and pride that I attempted suicide. 

More than once.

Then one day it hit me. God brought some scripture back to my memory. He reminded me that I was more than a conqueror, but that my declarations over myself were killing me – literally. I spoke nothing but death over myself for almost 2 years. It wasn’t an easy pattern to break, but through His strength in me I broke it by learning to trust Him, and to hope for a future that seemed out of reach, then to learn to have faith inspired by God for that future.

Is my life perfect? No. There are many things God is working on in me, but I’ve learned that it’s ok to be a leaky vessel, because God will just keep topping me up when I ask Him to – which is usually several times a day.

My heart goes out to Pastor Warren and his family. I have Biblical Hope that from the aftermath will come pure Gold, refined by God’s fire, and I pray constantly that we will all Trust a little more today than yesterday.

Dreaded Days…

There is a day coming up in the next couple of weeks I’m dreading. Every year for the last few I’ve dreaded this particular day. It reminds me of something I’d rather not be reminded of.

I’m getting older.

Last year I turned 40. In ten days I will be 41.

I have only realised the dread it fills me with since I hit 35 and I realised that the 3 score and ten years noted by Moses were half up.

And I swear they get shorter as I get older.

My best friend is several years younger than me, as are most of my colleagues, which sometimes helps me feel younger than my yeaars – a good thing. Then something comes up in conversation which reminds me I’m not in my 20’s any more.

I’ve developed an addiction to the TV series Bones, and find I would like to liken myself to the male lead, Booth, played by David Boreanaz. Booth is a senior FBI agent and trained army ranger who specialised as a sniper. Aside from being roughly the same age I actually have nothing in common with Booth, but I identify anyway. I was a reasonable marksman at my school with a rifle, and have learned to fire pistols since leaving, but not to the character’s level of expertise.

Where I identify is in the areas not work related.

Booth is in his early 40’s, and because of combat his body has taken it’s share of punishment. I ride a motorcycle, and have picked a fight with the planet a few times, so I have some aches and pains. I never managed to serve in the RAF as I hoped to growing up because my introductory medical revealed that, whilst at that point I was physically resilient enough to fly, not being able to see the eye examination chart made it impossible for me to continue in my preferred role as pilot, or any of my back-up roles as they all required 20/20 eyesight.

This still didn’t stop me identifying with Booth, especially in one episode he asks how it was he went to bed as Han Solo and woke up as Obi-Wan Kenobi…

Now don’t misunderstand me here. I actually don’t mind getting older mostly. My hair is slowly being replaced with a solar panel, and my 52 inch chest and shoulders have slipped down and become a 40 inch waist, but I’m working on that now. I was told I had diabetes a few years ago, which I’m controlling and (with a LOT of Spiritual help) fully expect to be able to see reversed in the next 2 years.

What I dread about my birthday is not the day itself. It’s the value this world places on youth. Every year it gets harder for me to find a new employer because there’s someone ten years younger who’ll do the job for half the price because they don’t realise how much power they can control in an interview.

The Bible says to revere our elders. Today’s Western and pseudo-Western philosophy reviles them. I am regularly told I’m too old to apply for certain jobs, not because I’m physically incapable, but because they need someone who speaks modern technobabble, which I’m not even certain I can spell.

I re-watched one of my favourite movies yesterday, Space Cowboys. Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Tommy-Lee Jones and James Garner sent into space to fix a satellite that has a programming language none of the youngsters at NASA can understand. Age is no barrier to them as they essentially use the wisdom of age to con their way into the shuttle program by managing to fool medical staff, fitness assessors and the managers of the program. I love the movie because their age is what makes them valuable. It’s simply impossible for a younger person to fix the problem.

The world loves it in a movie – old and wily guys putting one over on the boss – but in real life it doesn’t happen. It was fun to see Stallone, Schwazenegger, Willis, Norris, Van Damme, et al poking fun at themselves in Expendables 2, but who in real life these days would hire a bunch of guys over 50 when they can get guys of 30?

The issue is that the story appeals to us because it’s in our hearts. We want to be revered for our wisdom gained through blood, sweat and years of work. It’s hardwired into the God-given soul of every human on the planet. But the enemy is subtle, or actually not so much.

A wounded animal is dangerous, far more so than an uninjured one. And an animal that can feel the end is close becomes ferocious. My wife was badly bitten by a dog she tried to save after it was hit by a car outside our home. It went on to chew up her cellphone (and hand again) and then finally the basket the local SPCA inspector tried to put it in to take it for emergency treatment. Sadly the dog died before it got to the vet.

In these days, Satan has robbed us of 2 consecutive generations of fathers. World War 1 and 2 eliminated many of the men who would have gone on to be sages in their communities, and scarred many of the others who survived so badly they simply were unable to fill this vital role.

As a result there was a generation born in the 1940’s and 50’s who were fatherless and had to work it out themselves because fathers and grandfathers were either emotionally or physically not there. The result was the “free love” generation of the 60’s and the following downhill slide of Western society through the 70’s up to today. Society demands men be men, but does not teach us how.

I was Blessed in than both my grandfathers came through WW2 intact, mum’s dad in the army and dad’s in the Salvation Army as part of the Home Front. They played a major role in my life as a child and into adolescence before mum’s dad died and then into my mid 20’s when Grandad died. As a result, I was able to learn from them and see how not only my own father treated his family, friends and even adversaries, but also how they did. I have a quick temper, but I have learned through their example to curb it.

Grandad was 80 when he died. He was Deputy Bandmaster at his local Salvation Army Corps in Wimborne, Dorset – he refused to accept the post of bandmaster, despite there not being anyone to take the role as he had no formal musical education. We spoke 2 weeks before he died, and I am still trying to assimilate everything he told me in that one conversation. He “retired” technically, but for almost 20 years afterwards until the day he died – literally – he went out on a daily basis selling copies of The War Cry, and talking to anyone who would ask about Jesus and Salvation. Children loved him. Older folk – over 35 – loved him as well, but there was an age range he told me where they had known him as children, then after they hit about 18 he would lose touch until they looked him up again between the age of 30-35.

Our dreaded days are the years we lose because this world tries to cheat us out of them. We are not old enough to be considered elders, and too old to be “useful” in the modern workplace. When I was talking to a friend recently about a project God is building, the comment was made that it was nice to have someone more mature giving their experience and input into the venture. I agreed, then realised it was me being referred to. We both laughed about it, but I still feel like Booth. I woke up one morning to find my youth has gone – and now I’m Obi-Wan!

Perhaps I shouldn’t dread the times coming now though. Whether Christ returns now or in a thousand years, this is the last generation I can reach personally.

In retrospect, God has guided me through storms and tempests for over 40 years. I trust Him to do so in the future as well. So I’ll rest.

No fear. No dread. Just the peace in the midst of the turmoil that I’m being held by the One who can make a difference to any life at any age.

Easter Tales

When I was at school we were taught about Easter & Christ from an intellectual perspective. Intellectual knowledge often prevents Spiritual Truths from taking root. I was thankful then that I already had deep roots in my faith. The intellectual part of my mind tried to drive my faith out.

The recounting of the events of Easter week are, from a “scientific” view impossible. Yet every argument I have ever heard against the resurrection is more implausible than the Resurrection itself.

The description of Christ’s execution is precise. Lashed and nailed to a beam and left to die by men who did this for a living. The Jewish leaders, desperate to prove Jesus wasn’t the promised Messiah, ordered the legs of the crucified to be broken. The soldiers, to prove that Jesus was already dead, stabbed Him in His side, causing blood and water to flow. In trying to prevent one prophecy about the Messiah from being proved – “These things that happened confirmed the Scripture, “Not a bone in his body was broken,” and the other Scripture that reads, “They will stare at the one they pierced.””John 19:35-37 (The Message)

The scripture predicts the Crucifixion in psalm 22, and the prophet Zechariah predicts the piercing in chapter 12:10.

Scientific arguments of the falsification of the accounts include the concept of Jesus was only in a coma and revived in the tomb, simply wandering out when he woke up. The physical beatings he had taken before the Crucifixion itself, followed by the cross would have rendered Him physically incapable of moving the stone from the entrance of the tomb. If he had moved the stone himself, the guards would simply have killed him where he stood and put the stone back.

Accounts of the appearances of the Risen Christ are recounted from sources outside the accepted scripture. Josephus, Pliny and other historians of the day record the message of the Christians being spread after the crucifixion. Evidence of the speed their message and influence spread is demonstrated by the merciless persecution and martyring during the remaining years of the Roman Empire until Constantine converted.

And yet today people doubt Jesus’ very existence, despite more primary source evidence for his life than there is for Julius Ceasar or any of the ancient Pharoahs,

Charles Baudelaire stated the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist. – And no, Kevin Spacey in ‘The Usual Suspects’ was not the original source of that quote.

If that is so, then he’s working on the second greatest now. If there is no Devil, why do we need a Saviour? If we don’t need a saviour, what’s the point in Jesus, and did he ever actually exist?

I am in touch with some people I went to school with. We differ in our respective beliefs. They, at best, describe themselves as agnostic. I don’t argue with them any longer. I pray that someone will be put in their lives who can show them the folly of their beliefs. I know that person is not me. Jesus himself said that a prophet is without honour in his home country. I accept this, although enough of my friends of my own generation have died now without, to my knowledge, accepting Christ’s sacrifice. It saddens me greatly as these were (mostly) people I respected at school – and there weren’t many of them of my peers -and I wish I could have done more to reach them.

Easter is the time of miracles, New life and power through Christ’s Victory over Death on the Cross, building up to Pentecost and the gift of living fire in the Holy Spirit to the believers as was prophesised by Joel.

I have in my home a cross on a shelf. It is the focal point as you enter our home.

It was Rene’s idea. A simple expression of our faith, more poignant now for us than other times of the year. She chose the cross because of the nails, and we placed a candle in front in order to remind us of the Light of the World.

You can believe what you wish about the Scripture. I will not try to force my beliefs on anyone. Read CS Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” or Tony Campolo’s book “A Reasonable Faith” for insight int a “logical” argument for Christianity, or get around people who live this life, spend time with them and see Christ in Action in our lives. I am not afraid to live my life as a Christian. I have flaws and I fail in more areas than I often care to admit, but my closest friends have seen me wrestle with fear, depression so deep it has almost consumed me, anger, apathy and all the enemy’s tools to the point where I have stood on a precipice and considered letting myself fall. Each time there has been a good friend to speak Truth to me (in fairness, usually the same good friend) and set me back onto the Rock of my Salvation.

I am truly Blessed to be involved with friends who can share my walk as a part of a fellowship borne through fire and battle in the Heavenly realms.

Any arguments you may have about the authenticity of the Easter story I’m happy to answer, asked in earnest. Leave a comment and I’ll reply. If all you want to do is to attack me personally, don’t waste your time.