Cherubs among the Chimneys


I worked for a few weeks in 1999 at British Telecom’s Directory Enquiries centre in Torquay. The day I went for my second interview I had to park a little way from the centre. This was not a problem, and I enjoyed the walk to and from the parking place I had found. I walked slowly back from the interview and drank in the scenery. I enjoy drinking in the scenery. I look at trees and wonder at the awesome power that created them. The symmetry of their shape, the intricate complexity of their branches inter-twining with each other. Beautiful. I love trees, but that is another chapter. What caught my eye this day was a rooftop. The road I was compelled to walk to return to my car is some 50 feet or so above the main road, in fact it is at roof level with the buildings on it. That is what caught my eye. I noticed a group of statues on a rooftop opposite where I was walking. They stand there looking down onto the street below. I could see the people walking below them, never looking up. Oblivious of these magnificent figures above them looking down with their stone faces onto the world below these people carry on with their lives, unaffected and indifferent to their gaze.
It struck me that God is in a similar position to those statues in the opposite extreme. They look down onto the street with dead and unseeing eyes where he looks down with love and compassion, caring about every detail of their lives. Where they are unaffected by the goings on in the world below them, He is deeply touched by our actions in the daily course of our lives. Where the indifference towards the statue’s gaze will have no lasting effect on our lives, indifference to God’s gaze will lead to sin and death in our lives.
The statues being there or not, will never make a difference to our lives, unless one of them falls and lands on the street below. We can, however, never have a relationship with these statues. They are cold and hard, unfeeling and indifferent to everything we say and do. We can ignore them with no effect on our lives and never even know they are there. Jesus is so different. He longs to not just look at us from a rooftop, but to come down and walk alongside us. He wants to be there and make a difference in our lives. He is warm and caring, what we do in our days is infinitely important to Him as he goes about His people, after all, he did lay down His own life so that we could have the freedom to walk about.
There is one significantly important similarity between these statues and Jesus. Neither forces the person walking on the street to look up and acknowledge their existence. God will defend our decision to walk with Him to the end, but He will also defend our decision not to. If we hear His word and reject it, he will reach out with love through people towards us forever and a day. But in the final analysis he will never force us to accept anything against our will, whether it is prosperity, healing, deliverance or any other thing you can name. I believe He will even defend your choice to reject His love and go to hell if that is what you choose. We are invited to hear his voice with a warning “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation” (Hebrews 3:7 & 15). They had to choose to hear Him. God was grieved with the generation that hardened their hearts towards him. In a way they were kind of like the statues. They were cold and indifferent to His voice and the Life he represented. We must strive in two directions then.
Firstly we must put our efforts into seeking to see God in everyday life, never being too busy to look up and acknowledge that Jesus is there looking out for us in a daily basis and rooting for us in what we do. Since it is He who has made us to be more than conquerors through His death and resurrection we must seek Him in all things.
Secondly we should keep our hearts soft to His voice calling to us in a quiet way. He is gently tugging our heartstrings and pulling our minds to seek him, but being aware that however powerful the pull is we are still in a position to turn away at a moments notice and reject Him if we are not careful to listen rather than be merely hearing. The sounds of the street and the people below reach the statues on the rooftop, but they are stone and the words have no effect on them. Also, unless they fall from the roof and land on someone they are unlikely to be able to change any lives.
Soft hearts, willing minds, available hands. These are the things God seeks from us. Hearts to hear his voice, minds to learn his ways, hands to do His will. It’s not so much, is it?

Qualified Christians


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Do you know the problem with the world? I think I have figured out part of it. Sin being too over simplistic an answer for me, although that is the biggest problem, I think that we have it all backwards. I am sure I have read somewhere that the ones who want to be first must be the servant of all. We have definitely got it wrong.
A good friend once said to me “David, you’re going to be a great dad one day.” When I asked her why I was stunned by the answer. “Because you’re built like an indoor climbing frame!” I think God is kind of like a spiritual climbing frame for us to clamber over and learn more about each day. The young lady was only eight at the time (she’s now married with kids of her own), but she knew God then in a way most adults do not or have forgotten they can.
Adults bug me. They look for qualifications. Does the potential candidate have the right piece of paper that says they sweated in an exam room in the right college for three hours ten years ago? Yes? Then they get the post. It seems it doesn’t matter if you can actually do the job better because you have already been doing it for thirty years. You do not have the right piece of paper anymore.
You’re outdated.
Well, I want to put the record straight. The world’s qualifications are not God’s. The world has this crazy idea that paper or an exam is God’s way of saying who can do His jobs. That is why little kids are so great. They do not care if the person with them ever sat an exam in child minding, never mind where you sat it. If you can tell a good story or are built like a climbing frame that is enough for them. I love kids because they just tell it how they see it.
They have enabled me to understand why Jesus said unless we become like little children we could not enter Heaven.
Qualifications are not everything. Look at the start of the third chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas and Caiaphas were all highly qualified men. Indeed Annas and Caiaphas were High Priests in Jerusalem, and so powerful in the nation of Israel, Herod, Philip, and Lysanias were Tetrarchs in their respective areas. They were revered by men, held in awe and spoken of in hushed voices in case a raised voice caused offence. So, which of these mighty and well-qualified men did God choose and say “This is the one”? None of them! The Word of God comes instead to John, Son of Zechariah in the desert! This guy must have been a first century biker! Hair probably matted, dressed in hides, and looking like a wild man, God chose him because his heart was inclined towards His will. This man was not obsessed with title or qualification; rather he wanted to see God show the long awaited Messiah to Israel.
Similarly when Israel wanted a king, Saul was a real Man’s Man. Tall, muscular, handsome. A truly imposing man. He’s the one the people want. He’s also the one who fouled things up so badly God destroyed his entire family. There are many descendants of King David, the young shepherd boy Jesse didn’t even see as worth introducing to Samuel. Saul’s family ended badly because of his sin.
Yep, adults have it all wrong. God looks on the heart, not the intellectual ability. Not the academic nonsense. God’s only question is “Will this one let me be a climbing frame for them?” God chooses each of us, not on our merit or abilities we have, but on how much we are prepared to allow Him to do in and through us.
I want to be used. I really do. I want to reach the nations, and speak His word, and do His work, but there is still this part of me that says Iwant do it. Until I get past that “I”, it’s not easy for God to use me. Certainly, I am not going to be any help for healing. “I” does not have the power to heal anything, (excuse the grammar) but when “I” is given up and Jesus moves in, then I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
What is the “I” in your life? Pride, arrogance, call it what you will, it is there in all of us, and it is a direct result of the Fall. The trick is to see the “I” before the “I” gets to the front. Once that happens, and pride gets in it can kill a ministry gift. The hardest thing is when people thank you for your prayer. It is tempting to play false modesty. That can be an “I” getting in the way.
One more thing. If any of us can have an “I”, and any of us can give it to God, then that means that any of us can be used by God to further His work. Even if we are dressed in animal skins with matted hair and a Harley-Davidson.
Or even if we have got the “necessary” qualifications for the job!

All Hallows Eve

Ok, so nobody uses the full name these days. Halloween has become something to be used to revel in all things not Christian, whether it’s ghosts, witches, vampires or politicians.

But in the Christian calendar it was once a memorial day, a day of preparation for 1st November – All Saint’s Day. All Hallows day.

Something to think of. It was a day that the church used to remember the saints and martyrs who had literally given their lives for the Faith.

Even the name “Hallows” is the same word Jesus uses in his model prayer. It means to make Holy, or set apart for God.

Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t let the kids have some fun tonight. What I’m saying is the adults need to think hard and remember where the day started. It had nothing to do with pumpkins. The candles lit were a symbol of the light of Christ. The saints were remembered and their sacrifice celebrated. Witnesses who had gone before, and even those around us now.

We are called to be a light to the World. Surely this festival should provide an ideal opportunity to do that? We should be remembering people like John Wesley, William Wilberforce, William Booth, John Tyndale who were mocked and persecuted so we could enjoy the freedoms we take for granted.

So just a short entry today. It’s not about pumpkins.

Be a Light to the World. Be the City on the Hill.

Take a Stand. It’s a challenge. It’ll test your resolve. I guarantee most people will laugh at you.

But they laughed at Jesus and His message too.

You’ll be in Good company.

Choose Life

It sounds so straightforward. Choose Life.

That’s the decision God puts before Israel in Deuteronomy 30. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (verse 19)

Choose Life. It’s like God gives a multiple choice quiz to the Israelites, and hands them the answer script with it.

The Blessings are listed, wealth, health, long life and Blessing in the land He will give them. The curses are also listed. Death and poverty.

It seems an easy choice. Follow God, and you get the Blessings. Don’t and you get the curses.

But they don’t – mostly. The Old Testament is filled with the stories of men who started well, but fell apart before the end, turning away from God and watching their life’s legacy fall apart with it. A few stand apart from the crowd. Caleb and Joshua, Jabez, Elijah, Elisha and some of the kings like Josiah who oversee revivial and repentance in Israel, but the majority is men who fail for one reason: they failed to fix their hearts on God.

David was a man who was known to seek God’s Heart. He was so in tune with Him that when his own sin in the murder of Bathsheba’s husband is brought to his attention he repents immediately. His son starts well, and his grandson even more so, calling off an entire war because the prophet tells him to. But Solomon and Rehoboam took their eyes off the game, and ultimately the kingdom was divided and fell apart. Ten tribes were lost into captivity and the once powerful nation never regained it’s former status.

Because the leaders chose something other than life.

We have the same choice. The curse is lifted – as long as we accept Jesus’s sacrifice – and we can live in the full Blessing God outlines in Deuteronomy. The Law was never meant to be fulfilled, rather it pointed to Jesus as the one person who could keep it, wholly set apart but at the same time a man in time. A sacrament for our relationship restoration.

So choose Life. Life in Christ. It’s not easy. It’s free, but it costs everything.

There are days when darkness will close in around you and all we have is the smallest of candles, but even that light cannot be extinguished by darkness itself. We have to choose to let it go out.

Choose Life.

Life. The Glory of God is man fully alive wrote St Iraneus. Man fully alive. Jesus’s own words echoing back at us, that His heart was for us to have abundant life. He wanted us to live to the fullest.

Yet we allow ourselves to be burdened with “ought to” or “should” or “didn’t” and heap condemnation and death on ourselves. We need to learn to cast off these shackles holding us to the old life we had before we became Christians, and actually be Christians. Imitators of Christ. In the first century it was a nickname given to the believers because wherever they went describing the works of Jesus, those same works, signs and wonders followed them.

I’ve never seen anyone raised from the dead, although I have met 5 people who have been raised up from physical death. I’ve seen a few little healings here and there, and received a few myself.

But Christian, an imitator of Jesus? I wonder if it would be recognised by the men and women who were followers of the Way in Jerusalem? I’m not sure.

James says we should demonstrate our faith through our actions. Signs and wonders are supposed to follow us as believers. How then have we reached the place where the spiritual cart is before the horse? We want to see a miracle, then claim responsibility for it. Scripturally, that’s not how it works. Jesus would do the miracle as a wake-up call to the people, feeding them spiritually and mending them physically to back up His words. We (including me) miss that part.

Stand with me today. Take up Jesus’s challenge.

Choose Life.

The Darkest Hour

The very first post I wrote on this blog, “When the road is Darkest”, shows as zero readings, but for me right now it is something I’m coming back to.

There are other posts here that follow similar themes, but none that are as explicit.

I wrote it in Feb 2011, and now – almost 3 years later – I find myself facing many of the same challenges, but with a slightly different perspective.

I’m relying heavily on teachings I heard many years ago, which I’ve practically worn out the original cassettes (yes, that long) from repeated listening.

The teaching centres around Jesus final words to His disciples the night of the Last Supper, as recorded by John in chapters 14-16. But the one thing I’m having to lean on most heavily right now is the first few verses of chapter 14: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (John 14:1-3)

Basically, Jesus’s message is “Don’t Panic – Believe” (Thanks to Andrew Wommack for that phrase!)

It’s easy to panic as the waters start to swamp the boat. It’s easy to try to hide as Adam did in Eden. It’s easy to try to dig ourselves out by our own strength – even when we know we can’t do it. We see people taking these “easy” options every day. It’s easier to leave your spouse than to wade through the issues that have ravaged your marriage because you kept sweeping them under the mat and pretending they weren’t there. It’s easier to stop talking to your friends than to compromise and repair the relationship. It’s easy to go and find another church because the people in the one you’re in are just “wrong”. At the extreme, people believe it’s “easier” to commit suicide than to go on living in this world.

Every case above is one I’ve faced personally.

Including suicide.

It may seem odd to find a Christian writer openly admitting he struggled with suicidal thoughts at one point. It went further than thoughts. Four times I tried to end my life, and four times God helped me through. I’ve still not completely worked out why, but I suspect His unconditional Love for me probably has something to do with it.

And yes, all those attempts happened after I was born-again. It took a second personal encounter with Jesus to get my head clear enough to battle the thoughts that drove me so deep, and it’s a constant one. The war doesn’t stop after a single victorious battle, sadly. I was plagued with the thought processes for years after my last attempt, but in the darkest hours that those thoughts came, I was reminded by Jesus of His Love for me, and His goodness.

It seems incongruous to have a Christian blog comment on such things, but it is a part of my story, of how Christ has helped me in the battle for my life.

But where should we rather be able to comment on this kind of thing? If we can’t talk about the battles we fight in our minds within the Body of Christ, it’s a poor reflection of our ability to be part of that Body. These things get swept into the realm of psychology and out of the consiousness of the church. But Paul writes about the weapons we have being forged specifically for fighting thoughts. Any thought that sets itself up in our mind against the knowledge of the Truth. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6) Paul’s inferrence is crystal clear. The weapons we have are specifically designed to shape our thoughts. To bring our thinking in line with God’s way of thinking.

No matter how dark the hour, no matter how deep the suffering, His Love and Light can shine in and break the hold of the Enemy.

But only if we remember Jesus’s words. 

“Let not your heart be troubled”

Growth or Death

At our office, my wife and I normally have a vase of flowers on one side of the reception desk, and a rather large cheese-plant on the other. There is a marked difference between the two.

The plant is constantly changing. New leaves sprout every few days and the plant is in danger of becomint too heavy for the desk holding it over time. Certainly it will need a larger pot and more soil for nutrient before too much longer.

The vase holds flowers, often roses, but flowers most weeks. We place them as an arrangement and watch them open and the colours present a splash of vibrant hues into the room. After a week r so, we take them from the vase and replace them with fresh stems.

The difference is simple. The plant is alive, growing and changing. It is adapting to its environment and expanding. The flowers are dead. They were dead when we put them into the vase.

There is a story of an aristocrat sentenced to death during the French Revolution who believed those whose head’s were cut off maintained “consiousness” for a short time after the guillotine fell. Anne Boleyn had been said to continue praying after the sword severed her head, mouthing silently. He requested as a final experiment that one of his friends watch hie face after the beheading. He, for his part, would blink hard for as long as he was able. The reports vary, but the general consensus of the witnesses was that the blinking continued for around 30-40 seconds after the blade fell.

Our flowers are no different. They were alive attached to the plant, dead after removal. They retained a semblance of life – the petals, leaves and scent – for some time after the cutting, they drew water up, but they were dead. No new shoots, no new buds. Only decay.

We are no different, except in one way. We get to choose. We can choose to be cut flowers in a vase, or to be a plant, growing and changing over time.

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19,20)

We have the choice, given to us by God, to decide to follow Him and be a plant in His garden, or to reject Him and His Life. God will not interfere with our choice. He will not force us to choose Him and His path. Even after we are Born-again, He doesn’t force us into His will. We can choose to be cut stems, or allow Him to fully grat us into his life.

I used to grow roses, and one of my favourite things was to find a strong and healthy root from any variety, and taking a shoot from another strain with beauty but a weaker root system and grafting them together. It’s a tricky process, but the strong and established rootstock will maintain the grafted shoot. I managed to develop a single root with 3 different grafts being fed by it.

I used roses, Jesus used vines – the same principle. A weaker stock with unhealthy roots (us) can be grafted onto a strong root (Jesus) to allow it to produce fruit. 

On our own, we are dead flowers waking for the day we are tossed into the bin or onto the compost heap. Inviting Christ allows us to grow and become moulded by His life flowing through us and producing the fruit He would have us produce.

So there it is. Growth or Death.

And it’s up to us to decide.

It's a two way street

My last post, Omission vs Commission, talks about choices we make specifically relating to treatment of illness.

I need to add something to that thought which is a point separate in itself – hence the new post.

I just finished readling an article on the CNN website about a young girl who was driven to suicide by incessant bullying. I was horrified at the article.

I was more horrified at the attitude of the bullies’ – sorry “alleged” bullies – parents.

I accept I am not a parent yet, but I do have friends who have children in their early teens. They are decent, responsible kids because the values they were taught are decent and responsible values. They don’t have access to cyberspace other than on a computer in the family area, where comments are monitored. Conditions for the priviledge of using the computer are that any social network sites the child is on must include among their friends both parents. And this is in a family where they have no doubt their child will behave in a responsible and caring manner.

Parents are responsible for their children’s behaviour up to a certain age. That age is the point when the child leaves home. It’s that simple.

If the behaviour of a child causes another human being to be so beaten down that they end their life as a result, then both the bullying child and the irresponsible parents who allowed it to happen on their watch must be held accountable for that death.

Before the D-Day invasion, the Commander of the Allied Invasion Force drafted a letter to the President of the United States to be delivered in the event the invasion was unsuccessful, accepting the blame was his, and his alone. Acknowledging the men under his command had done allt they had been asked to do, and holding himself personally liable for every drop of blood lost in the failed attack. As we know, that letter was never sent because the invasion was a success – but the “father” of the troops recognised it was his responsibility to look out for half a million “children” in his care.

Too bad the parents today don’t share that sentiment over a single child.

I’m often not a fan of the NIV translation, but on this verse it’s got the others beaten. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV) says “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” I love that. “Start children off” The concept of instilling the behaviour from an early age, reinforcing that behaviour to the point that the child cannot do anything but behanve that way when it’s older.

I’ve been accused of chauvinism because I hold a door for a lady, offer my seat on public transport and walk on the traffic side of the footpath. I don’t know any other way to be. My dad didn’t sit me down and tell me, he lived the principle in front of me. Respect women, honour them. Respect other children – but don’t be afraid to fight if you have to.

Bullies are cowards at heart. I can say this from the possibly not unique, but experienced position of having been both a victim and a perpertrator.

After my brother’s death, the other kids at school couldn’t handle what I was going through and did what a young teenager does with what they fear or can’t comprehend. They used it as a way to attack me. I withdrew into myself, but there were a few people who managed to get alongside me and prevent me from going too far – actually talking me out of killing myself more than once.

In an effort to make the pain more bearable for myself, I found a kid who was about Robin’s age and who irritated me, and I became a bully – not for long – but nonetheless. That’s nearly 30 years ago. Last year I had the chance to talk to him via the internet. I apologised for my behaviour and any pain I’d caused him. I didn’t expect to become best friends, but the intensity of the venom thrown back at me caught me a little off-guard. I extended another olive branch, but it has yet to be replied to. Ultimately, it’s his choice to forgive or not. Something I’ve learned from surviving the experience I had is that you forgive for yourself, not the other person.

But parents beware: bullying behaviour by your kids says more about their home environment than just about the child. Excuses like “I took the computer out of the room around the time it was posted” only make you look foolish and incompetent in parenting. Why did the child have that kind of unrestricted access in the first place?

I was blessed to have grown up before the internet took hold. The telephone was screwed to the wall, and the computer plugged into the TV. It was impossible to “cyber-bully” anyone. But I know if I’d been caught bullying – and this is why I stopped – I’d have had hell to pay for it.

First world society has shirked the responsibility of the parent onto the state. Teachers must now instill moral values to children. The fact that by the time a child reaches a classroom for the first time it’s oral values are already entrenched seems to matter for nothing. It’s the school that is failing.

Garbage.

Our children are our responsibility. I wouldn’t give my dogs over to someone else to train, and I can’t believe I would do differently with a child. I don’t want to be told my child has taken it’s first step, or said it’s first word. I want to be there and guide it. Maybe that’s because I’m 41 and still don’t have kids, but maybe that’s because it’s how I saw it done by my parents – and I honour them by wanting to do the same.

The two-way street. Respect and honour. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Sometimes you’ll get your hand bitten, true. But someone has to make a stand. If not us, then who?

Omission vs Commision

I’ve been wrestling with a dilemma for a few days now. The dilemma is this: is omission a sin?

It seems straightforward at first.

But I have had to dig deep into myself and what God has shown me to find an answer.

A few years ago, my father died from an incurable brain tumour. Nothing the medical industry did was ever going to save, or even prolong his life. But they tried anyway. They removed a tumour the size of a grapefruit from his head, and he was then subjected to intensive chemo and radiotherapy sessions that they knew wouldn’t cure him.

How does this fit with this topic?

Simple. My dad’s last few weeks were spent largely in a state of nausea and vomiting from the chemical and radiation he was put through. It would have been kinder to rather let him live those weeks peacefully at home and slip away quietly instead of what he was put through, but he (and we) wasn’t given a choice.

There’s the crux. Choice.

Is it sin for a terminally ill person to refuse chemotherapy when they know it won’t save them?

No, I don’t believe it is.

But what about other illnesses? Cancer is one thing, but what of diabetes, cholesterol, HIV etc? They all kill, but the medication can prevent it pretty much indefinitely until old age gets us.

I think the choice is what’s made at the time of diagnosis, and the progression of the illness itself at that point. I cannot stress that sentence enough – at the time of diagnosis.

I believe in healing of the body as part of God’s atonement through Christ. I also take medication for diabetes. The two are not contrary philosophies. It is simply that my faith muscle has not developed to the point where I can stop taking the meds in the certain knowledge that my faith is complete. Actions do not produce Faith, rather it is Faith that produces action. So I wait.

But what of someone who has one of these treatable “chronic” conditions and has had for some time. Add depression to the mix, and suicide is an absolute “no”, would the simple cessation of medication be considered sin?

Now I may step on some toes here.

I believe it would. If the reason for the cessation is to prematurely terminate your life, the the act of conscious omission of medication is actually a commission of a wilful act itself. It is different if no treatment has ever been taken or available, but the conscious decision to stop treatment is an act of commission, not omission.

I don’t know how I would respond if I were to be told I had HIV. I would probably take medication simply because these days there is no reason a person shouldn’t live a long, healthy and normal life with that particular illness (assuming they are not healed).

Others may choose differently. If the illness has progressed to it’s final stage before it is detected then perhaps they may choose to make peace with the world and live out their final days. I don’t believe that choice, at the point of diagnosis, would be sinful.

The real question is whether it would be sin to change your mind later. If after a period of time things get rough before they have time to get better, is it acceptable to quit treatment? Humanistically, the answer is clear – yes. From a Christian’s perspective it’s more hazy. By choosing to omit treatment that has been started in order to shorten your life, that is the commitment of an act, not the omission of one.

Declining treatment at first is one thing. Using cessation as a means of ending one’s life may not be the fastest of prettiest of methods, but it is still taking one’s own life. And by so doing, rejecting Christ’s sacrifice as insufficient.

Sorry if this sounds hard, but I’ve never said this blog would be gentle – only what I find to be Truth.

There are many times in the Old Testament where God judges Israel for being half-hearted towards him. Jesus spits the luke-warm church out of His mouth in Revelation.

Either we trust Him, and yes – that may involve using medication – or we don’t.

I’ve trusted Him for almost 30 years. I’ve seen my health go in both directions, but since I was told there was diabetes in me I’ve never had the degeneration generally associated with the illness. My sight is fine and, albeit for now with medication, my blood sugar is normal.

I believe I will see the day I no longer need the meds I take.

I commit myself to Him again each day, and try to make sure if there are any omissions, they are accidental.

Awareness

It seems to be the time of year when “awareness” becomes the watchword. My facebook feeds from friends fills up with female friends declaring they “like it on the floor in the living room”, a statement which apparently has something to do with breast cancer, but is a mystery to me.

Local to me in Cape Town, there seems to be a glut of ribbons being sold to raise “awareness” of everything from breast cancer to homelessness. If I bought just one of each ribbon I could probably make a blanket big enough to keep the cold at bay next winter.

Red, yellow, pink, black, green – so many I don’t know what they all stand for. The obvious ones at the moment are pink (breast cancer) and red (HIV), but there are literally dozens of them. And not one does anything to make me (or anyone else) more “aware” of things than they were.

Growing up I used to look forward to November when we became more acutely aware of the sacrifice made by the young men in 1914-18 and 1939-45. Poppies representing the Somme Valley battles covered the area, and on 11th November at 11am there wasa 2 minutes silence to contemplate the sacrifice. It had such a profound effect on me that the first chance I had, at age 12, I visited the battlefields in France where my great-grandfather had fought. By 14 I’d been 3 times, and every second of those trips on the actual fields and walking the trenches that still scar the landscape remains clear in my mind.

But ribbons? Maybe this generation will look on this symbol the way I do the remembrance poppy, but frankly I doubt it. Here, red ribbons adorn every cemetary. It is a symbol of death, not of hope. And the rhetoric constantly declaring HIV to be not something to stigmatise sufferers serves only to add to the stigma of the illness.

My former employer, Discovery Health, does a lot to try to influence research and influence of this illness. But it again only serves to increase the stigma of the illness.

Diabetes is in my family, and affects my life as well. It is known as a “progressive” illness, which means it gets worse. As my understanding of God has increased, my health has improved – including my need for medication. It has been a year since there has been any increase in my medication, and I fully expect to begin decreasing within the next few months as my sugar levels in my blood are now between normal and low on average.

I have friends affected by other illnesses, including HIV, who have experiences similar to mine. As their knowledge of Christ grows, they become healthier and the enemy begins to lose his hold.

The Awareness we must therefore strive for is, obviously, Awareness of Christ and His power in our lives through the Holy Spirit. We must truly learn to understand CS Lewis’s words “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

This awareness, that we see by Christianity, through the Holy Spirit in us rather than because we see the “proof” first is a primary step towards the Scriptural model of Christianity.

Signs and wonders follow the believer. First comes faith, then action. James writes as much when he says about demonstrating his faith through his deeds. We should learn to do the same. Become aware of the Power that dwells in us. Our ribbon is our actions. Our faith should cause us to act like Christ.

“Christian” was a nickname given to the believers because their actions matched Jesus’s own during His life. They cast out demons – and yes, I do believe in demons as real beings that can be fought and should be – healed the sick and provided for one another. We have lost that level of awareness.

I was honoured and disturbed by a comment a dear friend made to me a couple of weeks ago. We were corresponding about our friendship and how our conversation over the last year has been so intense with regard to God and His power in our lives. I found it comfortable and normal to talk openly and passionately about His power in my life and what I’ve seen, and she spoke of much the same. However she and I are no longer working at the same place any longer, so our conversations have been further apart. She mentioned that nobody talks with her the way I did (and do). My friendship with her is built on this shared Faith and Fellowship. I find it strange that what was so “normal” for us is so alien to most others – including many of my Christian friends.

Awareness is lacking. And we must reclaim it.

We need to be aware of Christ at a far deeper level than we have been. In Revelation 12:11 John writes “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” when referring to the way to defeat the Enemy. The conversation I have shared with this, my closest friend, was nothing more than this description. And the friendship is stronger than many I have had for ten times as long but not had the same level of testimony in.

The awareness has strengthened us.

So be aware of His power. Speak to one another about His work in our lives. Remember His actions and let us remind each other of what He has done in us. Fellowship grows in this way, and our awareness of true power allows us to strengthen in the walk of Christ.

Remember and be aware.

Define "Real"

“Real” is something the World has become obsessed with recently. The number of “reality” shows like Survivor, The Amazing Race, The Apprentice etc has boomed over the last ten years or so, each one claiming to be “reality” in it’s purest form.

Nonsense.

Shots are made and re-made using doubles in competitive envirnments and clever editing to avoid embarrassing moments from being shown for what they are – fakes.

Shows like “The Bachelor” or “Mamma’s Boys” claim to be “real”, and we suck it up like it is. Even current affairs or “makeover” shows where homes or even bodies are remodelled to a “perfect” standard are prime television shows. Here in South Africa, Top Billing shows off houses that only multi-millionaires and corrupt politicians could even dream of affording. The average viewer has no chance of affording these “realities”, and the average citizen (taken from the number in the population) still uses a bucket system and doesn’t have electricity, running water – except what comes through the roof – or basic sanitation that more affluent areas take for granted.

I live (at the moment) opposite a less-formal settlement. The majority of the houses are brick and mortar, ut they have corrugated iron and wooden structures in what was designed to be their gardens housing families that rent these “homes” from the dwellers of the brick buildings. We have a dear friend who is such a backyard dweller – a decent couple with three children who were denied sterilisation after their second child – whom they were barely able to afford to feed – because of their ages. They were deemed “too young”. But nobody bothered to support them financially when they were expecting a third child.

Reality is a very subjective word.

My first visit to South Africa was a real cultural shock to me. Cape Town international airport was the least spectacular building I’d ever seen, the processes were incompetent and the staff indifferent. I stepped outside and opposite the terminal was an “Informal Settlement”. This is the politically correct title for a place I wouldn’t consider letting a dog live, but the majority of Cape Town’s population live in these circumstances.

Khayelitsha is by far the largest of these areas, and has more than doubled in size in the last ten years. It’s horrifying. The City Council provides funds for development as it can, and the local members of the National ruling party (who do not control the Western Cape) arrange for protests about lack of service delivery.

Reality is subjective.

So why is this in a Christian Blog?

The Bible also spends a lot of time discussing reality.

Hebrews 11 has been on my mind in particular. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for”.

Substance. Real.

Faith is the “evidence of that unseen”.

Substance. Evidence.

I see my feet, and I flex my toes, and I know they are real and present on the end of my legs. But I can’t feel them. Gradually over the last 25 years or so, I have lost the sensation in them. In the last 5 years or so, this has slowly started to reverse. It defies medical knowledge – it is Faith, and Faith alone that drives it. I got fed up of doctors telling me that “diabetic neuropathy” is incurable and eventually my feet would need amputating – so I stopped asking them for help and went to the Creator of my feet.

Reality check. I have more sensation now than I did 5 years ago. I get pins and needles in my toes, something I didn’t get for many years. It even hurts now when I stub my toe – which is a mixed blessing.

But the reality didn’t start in my feeling my feet. It started in my believing I was healed. Was healed, not will be. The manifestation is taking time, but it’s happening.

“Real” takes time for me.

We have to overcome the unbelief in us to action the faith. It’s harder than it sounds. A party of revolution, such as the ANC, struggles in Government often because it has the wrong mindset. So much time was spent during Apartheid focussing on winning Freedom that very little was done to plan what would be done with that freedom for the majority once it was won. So 20 years on, the poorest members of society here are actually in many cases worse off than before. The tax-paying base is proportionally smaller, and the “reality” of life is this potentially great country has many people dying of hunger, cold and preventable illness on a daily basis.

I’m not generally interested in politics, and never have been. But the reality of the lives of people I meet every day is too much to ignore.

So define “Real”. Every person has a “real” life. It isn’t a Kardashian or a Trump experience generally. Almost nobody lives in a palace.

The majority of people in South Africa will never read this blog because they don’t have access to the hardware to reach it.

The majority of people outside South Africa will read it and dismiss it. After all, I’m a white immigrant here. Obviously I have money and power here. The stereotype sickens me. 25 years ago my marriage would have been illegal here under the race laws. I’m currently self-employed because the new race laws say I’m the wrong ethnicity to offer my experience in business to help develop this country’s businesses become the world-leaders they can be.

So what is “real”?

Real is what we make of where we are. To be honest, my family is considering a move away from this area, possibly out of the country for a while, so we can become financially more stable. Our “reality” is the possibility of losing our home, three years of illness having prevented my wife from working and a cut in our income of about 90% because we were self-employed at the time.

But “Real” is also a state of Hope. Real is the Chariots of Fire camped between us and the enemy like Elisha saw when Syria sent out to capture him. “Real” is what Paul wrote: “If God is for us, Who can be against us”

God is for us. The overwhelming power of the creator of Everything is on our side.
God is for us. Not “will be” or “could be”, but is.
God is for us. He’s on our side, rooting for our Victory so much He gave up Heaven to die on our behalf.
God is for us. Not the World, not our neighbour (although He is), but us. He cares for us intimately and passionately.

That’s Real. Bank on it.