Inspiration

I have quite a collection of movies on my (currently limited) shelf-space. I admit I’m a movie junkie and they’re probably not all on what you’d expect to be on a Christian writer’s shelf – and no, not THAT kind of movie, more “violent” than most Christian ministers will admit to watching.

The thing is, amongst the mayhem and comedy (big Cosby fan too), I have an entire shelf dedicated to a few movies that have inspired me over the last few years. I’m missing one which I had on VHS but am missing on DVD, namely Schindler’s List, but the others either I never had on VHS or have only been produced since I switched format.

So what?

The movies are good for reminding me about aspects of myself. I have the Narnia movies, Lord of the Rings, Gladiator and a few other fictional movies, but the ones that really inspire me are the true-life stories. I watched “Chariots of Fire” again this evening. Most people watch it and are inspired by the story of Harold Abrahams, which although truly inspired is not the highlight for me. I see the conviction of Eric Liddell as the true highlight of the movie. He was set to quit the entire Olympic team rather than compromise his beliefs and – in his view – dishonour God by competing on a Sunday. I have left a job in the past because trying to balance my faith with the owner’s desire to force me to read a copy of Madonna’s “Sex” book and old copies of soft porn magazines proved to be more stressful than I wanted in my life. And my doctor agreed. But in the UK, it wasn’t a huge sacrifice for me. The benefit system meant I had a safety net under me. In fact my income went up at that point.

Liddell’s conviction was unparalleled in his generation of athletes. His character in “Chariots of Fire” tells his sister that although he is going to China to be a missionary that God made him fast as well, and to turn away from running would dishonour God just as much as abandoning his other calling. He says when he runs he can feel His pleasure.

I meditated on that sentence for years after I heard Mike Yaconelli talk about it at Greenbelt Arts Festival in 1991. What did I do that allowed me to “feel” His pleasure?

I realised at that point that there were two things that I was doing that gave me that feeling. I’d recently started writing – an old Atari ST computer – and speaking intermittently about God to groups a bit. On a small scale, preaching.

I felt God’s pleasure as I wrote and spoke about Him. I still do. With the possible exception of my marriage, there’s not anything I have in this world that I would not give up to be able to do it all full-time.

Talking about God, and writing this blog and the book I’m working on, allow me to feel God in me, flowing through me. Not everything may get down on the screen, and I may get in the way when I’m talking. (I can’t edit my conversation). I was told as a young Christian that I had the gift of Prophecy and Word of Knowledge, which I fought for a long time. I didn’t want it. The responsibility of the gift was unpalatable to me, and I was afraid to use it. But it never went away. People not connected to each other kept telling me the same things. It was like God was trying to tell me something.

I’m kind of dense that way.

I’m someone who somehow needs to be beaten over the head with something a million times in order to see it.

So ok, I started to try to move in the gifts again after watching “Chariots of Fire” about 18 months ago. I wanted to start small, but God dropped a massive bomb in my lap. What He showed me isn’t my story, so I’ll not reveal it here. The point was that He showed me. It was big, messy and someone I didn’t know very well – or for very long. I was terrified, but for the first time I swallowed back and did what Liddell had done. I stepped out in my Faith that I’d heard God and He was guiding me. Not using the gift would be to dishonour Him and His trust in me.

It paid off.

I have to admit, I’m still scared when He shows me something, but after that first time it would have to be something seriously massive – end of the world stuff – to stop me from talking to someone when He inspires me to.

We need that in our lives as Christians. Challenges from God are not temptations to sin, rather they are essential for our Spiritual growth. We have to trust Him to empower us, and learn to hear His voice speaking through what can be very corrupt selfish thoughts. Fear, arrogance, pain can all get in the way. They can all prevent us hearing His voice again the way we are designed to.

But we need the inspiration that comes with God-inspired behaviour.

I love “The Blind Side”, and “Pursuit of Happyness”, but they aren’t what I needed then, and although I can see a few parallels with “Pursuit of Happyness” in my life right now, it’s still Eric Liddell that inspires me. I have a need to feel God’s pleasure. Each month I look at the statistics for this blog and I get inspired to write more as I see not only the number of visits growing, but the places as well. USA, China, Indonesia, Europe and South America all visiting my site and seeing what God had inspired me to write. Hopefully making a difference – which is all I really want to do. Make a difference for God in this world.

Be inspired to inspire.

I believe that is the greatest thing we can do. Healing the sick, re-growing limbs by the command of Jesus’s name or even raising the dead are bells to sound out the power of God to the Real deal. Reuniting our Spirit with God through Christ’s sacrifice. Allowing us to be an inspiration is His way of letting us be a part of Christ’s work.

To inspire others to Him by our lives lived in His service.

Line in the Sand

We all need to have a point where we say “enough!”

It’s hard to do it, and some people never reach it. But it’s essential. There needs to be a place of black and white. Not shades of grey.

The World operates in shades of grey. It tells us that a little grey is a good thing. It makes us believe that there’s no consequence for our actions. Little breaks of the rules God puts down (see ten commandments) and it’s ok. Obviously there’s the biggies. But the biggest in Gods eyes are not the ones that get highlighted.

When Jesus spoke with the rich young ruler He told him to give up his riches and follow Christ. Not because finances are inherently evil, but because his focus for worshiping was self and that was not God. He paid lip-service to the commandments, even knew them and acknowledged the most important was to Love God, and the second to love his neighbour, but Jesus challenged him. He made him realise that his focus was his wealth, not his God. Rather that his money was his god.

The man went away saddened, the disciples were baffled. I’ve heard many considerations as to why they were confused. Maybe they owned the boats and were “wealthy” to an extent. Matthew, the tax collector, would have been worth a lot of money potentially. The concept of a benevolent God flies in the face of all our experiences in this World. The thought of losing your life to find it is baffling, and giving up in order to receive is outwardly crazy.

But where is enough?

It’s not the same point for every individual. My line may not be the same as yours. In some areas its more like my line may be a real messy place where yours is differently positioned.

I have a quick temper. Part of my line in the sand is to acknowledge it and (hopefully) be able to make my sand before I’m consumed by anger or reach a point in that anger that I’m in a state of sin. Something that is always difficult for me. I lose my temper with people too fast, and the anger that may start with a genuinely righteous anger against the sin.

I tend to blow up at small things in the grand scheme. I spot the way it should be, and I lash out at it. I attack the people responsible and what begins as a crusade in a redeemed part of my heart is quickly twisted into attacking the sinner instead of the sin. It’s hard for me to establish that line, but it’s my heart’s desire to make that my line in the sand – or part of it.

Much of my line is involved in becoming less centered on myself and more focused on His will in my life. Accepting no compromise of my self or my position. Keeping Christ at the center of my life and not allowing Him to be usurped in my personal battle against the World.

I recently was challenged in a few areas. I’m a diagnosed hoarder – someone who finds it next to impossible to dispose of things. I have collections of various objects, the biggest being African Fish Eagle models. It’s not easy for me to part with these. My wife is less keen on them, and it’s a strain in our marriage. It’s compounded by the fact that I’m also untidy. I have to acknowledge it. Rene is not so untidy as me, and my “system” for keeping things arranged, although it works for me if anything happened to me then it would be near impossible for anyone else to decipher. We’ve even recently considered testing for dyslexia and ADD in my personality to help explain.

But the challenge was the trigger.

In 1985 my younger brother died in a road accident. Although I was untidy even back then, I began to almost literally start to bury myself in things to try to fill the void I found myself in. I was born-again later that year, a testimony I’ll share in full another time, and yet I was unable to shake or even identify this stronghold at the time. Some of my relationships have suffered enormously as a result. It’s been almost 30 years and I need to find a way to deal with this problem so the relationships can be restored – even so far after the trigger was pulled. It’s hard, but it’s become an aspect of my line in the sand. Oddly enough, there’s never been any animosity towards the driver or response time of the ambulances to the scene or the doctors who couldn’t save him. It’s not the same for family and friends whose relationships with me have been strained to breaking point – continuously. I distanced myself from them emotionally and physically, first moving to a remote town several hundred miles from any of them, then to another continent. All the time building things up between us. I would tell select members of a passion and they would feed my need to physically fill the void by supplying me with the very things I sought as a gesture of love, but not realising that it was those very actions that then drove me further from them.

It’s only been a few days since this epiphany, so it’s early to be writing about how it’s affecting me, but the effect is already changing me. Rene and I are moving home to live with my mum for a while, and there are space issues with regard to the things I hold onto. I have to et them go, but there is an actual physical pin at the thought of disposing of these things that do nothing but tie me down and render me helpless and damage my ability to do everything God would want me to do. We’re considering moving overseas again, options being the UK or Canada (among others but they are our primary options) and “impractical” doesn’t begin to describe the concept of moving with the assorted collections intact.

But that means I need the line.

So far and no further.

And it means beating the enemy back to where that line should be, not where I currently am. I’m a long way from that point, but I’m moving in the right direction.

So a challenge today from me to you, dear readers (bot of you). What’s your line? Pride? Vanity? Self-Centered attitudes?

Moses asked Pharaoh in Exodus about the removal of the plague of frogs. When should the plague be removed. Pharaoh? Pharaoh’s answer? “Tomorrow”. Why not “NOW!!” Pride perhaps, but also maybe a level of comfort with the problem. We get comfortable and lose sight of where our line should be. And like Pharaoh when God says “when”, we respond “just a little longer”.

When shall I heal you? When can I give you the finances you need? When, When, When?

And we are past our line already, so we say “Later”.

Let’s make the change today and see a real, tangible difference in the way our lives run immediately.

And let’s fight with all we have to push the enemy who would destroy us if we let him ack under our feet where Jesus’s sacrifice put him.

Let’s say “No more” to ___________________________ – You fill in the blank, you know what it is.

Draw the line and don’t compromise. No. Matter. What.

Redefining

It’s a strange thing, walking a Christian path.

There’s a lot to learn walking in this world. We have to walk within the Spirit even when things are going less than smoothly. Learning God’s definitions and re-writing our understanding as our eyes are opened to His understanding.

That’s what Paul was talking about when he wrote about allowing our minds to be renewed and us being transformed by it.

But transformation is a complicated and often painful experience. Redefining our understanding of the words we so commonly use requires a real transformation in our lives and hearts.

The hardest lessons come when we are challenged at the essence of our being. Concepts promised in Scripture, especially Health and Prosperity, are not what the World would have us understand. OK, Health maybe is more straightforward. The word scripture uses specifically refers to healing and health of our physical bodies, not a mere spiritual expression. The expression needs to begin in the Spirit though. In order to receive health we need to accept it on a Spiritual level. It’s not as straightforward as it sounds. The first time I received a physical healing in my body I was in a space where I expected to receive something. I was at a communion rail, being given the representation of Christ’s Body. The Minister, Paul, handed me the bread and then laid his hand on my head. I didn’t think anything of it at the time and went back to my seat.

But rewind 12 hours. I’d been out the previous night and had a bad fall. My ankle was badly swollen and discoloured and I couldn’t put weight on it. I decided to go to the hospital for x-rays etc but I was the only tenor in the choir, so I decided I’d go to church first. I’d waited 12 hours already, so a couple more wouldn’t do any more damage.

The key is, I didn’t go on my way to the hospital as a last resort. I wasn’t going to try to avoid a trip to the emergency room, rather I just wanted to do my “bit” then get fixed. But I did expect to receive from God during the service. It’s why I went.

Now at the time I didn’t know about healing, so I’d never been taught that healing had stopped. I didn’t have to overcome those thoughts at that point. Paul prayed for me, laid his hand on my head and moved on. I took a sip of wine (Church of England protocol) and went back to my seat. When I got back, the choirmaster pointed out I’d left my crutch at the altar rail. I realised I was pain free, retrieved the stick (to get it out of the way) and then looked at my leg. The swelling had gone completely. The discolouration was still there, but there was no pain at all. I told Paul about it and he asked me to give the testimony at the evening service, which I did. The discolouration was still there, so I could show where the injury had been as part of the testimony I think, but I ran up and down the aisle, hopping on the discoloured foot and able to give Glory to what God had done that morning.

As time went on, I started to hear about healings that had not been received instantly, and my ability to receive instantly began to falter. I’d moved into the World definition, and learning to redefine back to God’s way has been a process I’ve been walking for many years now. I believe in my heart, but my head gets in the way.

The same is true of Prosperity.

In Genesis 39:2, “But the Lord was with Joseph, and he [though a slave] was a successful and prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” (Amplified) we can see it’s not his possessions that make Joseph prosperous, but rather that God is with him.

That is a major paradigm shift from today’s society understanding of the word where wealth and prosperity are used interchangeably. The World does not differentiate, but God does. First is God’s prosperity, which can manifest in physical wealth. But if we look at Joseph’s life a bit further, we see that even in Prosperity by God’s definition, the physical circumstances of a prosperous man can deteriorate. Joseph is declared by God to be prosperous while a slave. Then he is taken from that position and becomes an imprisoned slave. It would be a long time after that before the Prosperity manifested in financial terms.

We get lost sometimes in the definitions we’ve been indoctrinated with. It’s easy to forget the power to part the Red Sea is still there, it’s just not been needed for a while. The same authority that ordered a fish to collect a coin from the bottom of the Sea of Galilee for Peter to find still operates today. We just don’t know how to receive it all the time.

When we confuse material goods with Prosperity then the loss of those things distresses us. We lose hope when we lose “income” because we’ve take our eyes off God as our provider rather than the job, or business, or trust fund. I’ve been self employed, employed and unemployed in the last 4 years. But although I’ve been financially “broke” I’ve never doubted that God makes me Prosperous. I just keep reading Genesis 39 over and over to remind myself that any financial strain we’re under is temporary in this life. And we need to remember that. Jesus said if we give up anything for His sake we would receive it back in this world and more in the world to come. (See Matthew 19)

So we need to shake off the definitions of this system, and return to God’s. Turn back in our heart and mind, and we will receive.

Train up a Child

OK, this is a short-ish knee jerk reaction to hearing about another death linked to the book “To Train Up A Child”

I will happily start by acknowledging I have not read the book in it’s entirety, merely what are claimed to be quotes from it in articles I’ve seen recently.

I love the verse in the Amplified Bible. Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It makes it so clear that the training is to be in that child’s gifting.

Fear breeds fear. It leads to anger. It leads to Hate. I know I’m starting to sound like Yoda here.

Hate cannot lead to love. It’s like saying I’ll sin more so I can have more forgiveness. That teaching would be laughed out of most churches today (although I’m sure there’s one out there…)

Yet the teaching methods as quoted are breeding grounds for fear, anger, hate and violence. Treat a child with violence they will eventually be violent in some form. Either to themselves or outwardly. Both are destructive. The world does not need another Columbine or Newtown thanks. Neither does it need more suicides.

I came close to suicide as a teen because of bullying. The love I was raised in, some very good friends at the right place at the right time, and I’m here to write about it. But no matter how well meaning the friends were, without the foundation of who I am I would have succombed back then.

I promised this would be short.

Discipline is necessary be it training a child or a dog. Right now I am sitting in a room about 10 feet by 8 with my wife sleeping next to me, surrounded by 3 dogs, the smallest being around 70lbs (+/-35kg). They are quiet and peaceful and only get upset when a stranger treats them in a way other than they were raised.

I wouldn’t use the training techniques quoted for children to train my dogs – and if I did the SPCA would remove them from me.

Just a thought to round off my night. But one more add on.

Remember when you decide to raise your child: One day they’ll be taking care of you. Bet you’re suddenly thinking that rubber hose discipline method and starving to encourage “correct” behaviour isn’t such a bright idea after all…

Friends and Lovers

It’s an odd combination, marriage. It’s more than “living together”.

There’s something about the relationship that changes when marriage happens, and something that’s missing when a couple is simply living together.

I left home to live with my girlfriend at the time, but we didn’t marry. Living together was not the same as I experience with my wife. That may partly be because it’s a different person, but in general I believe there’s something more fundamental than that. A couple that simply co-habits has, however tenuous, the option of simply stopping living together. Granted as time goes on this becomes harder as the individual lives enmesh with purchases and the suchlike, but at it’s core there’s no true commitment.

Christ made this clear with the woman at the well who had had five husbands and was now living with another man. The account of the story in John 4 clearly makes Jesus’s point. Living with a man doesn’t make him a husband – no matter what goes on in the bedroom.

I had 2 “serious” girlfriends before I met my wife. The relationships were both essentially built on looking at what I could get out of the venture, rather than what I could offer. The drive was selfish, built on something other than Love, rather they were based on the twisted version the World offers – lust and selfishness.

In psychology the term enmeshed is used as a negative description of a relationship. But in a marriage the way God designed it, that level of unity is necessary for the marriage to survive. I never experienced that with either of my girlfriends, even though our relationships were highly intense. With my wife, even before we were married and while we were living on different continents we had a connection where one of us would just know the other needed a call, so would call. The connection was on a Spiritual level, not merely a physical one, and it’s only deepened over the ten years we’ve been married.

But it’s not easy.

Don’t be fooled by what I just said. Maintaining that connection actually gets harder the longer you’re married. The Enemy strikes to destroy marriage as he does with all God’s creations intended for good. He willtry to drop a voice into your head dismissing the Spiritual nudge, and bizarre as it seems, we listen. We exchange Knowledge for familiarity in our marriage. The Bible doesn’t say the husband and wife were familiar with each other’s habits. It says they Knew one another. Knowing someone the way scripture implies it is far beyond familiarity. It takes a lifetime, if you include eternity as part of your life. There’s no escaping it, we are required of God to seek Him continuously and each day to strive to learn something new about Him. Marriage is a reflection of that relationship. My grandparents were married fifty years and could still surprise each other with their characters. They still learned new things about each other.

Marriage is about being Friends and Lovers in God’s sense of the words. He is our Friend. He is our Lover.

Puzzling Reflections

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul notes we see puzzling reflections in a mirror in this world. Mirrors 2000 years ago were less accurate than today’s polished affairs, but a reflection is a reflection. It’s a representation, not the whole story.

When I look in a mirror today I see a hairline I wish was further forward, a waistline that seems to expand on a daily basis and a somewhat soggy set of pecs. Whilst this may be physically accurate, it hardly reflects who I am, merely what I look like.

We have the same issue with God. We see only part of the picture, a confusing reflection of God in our lives. We only see one aspect at a time. And He won’t force the rest of His nature on us. We receive from Him what we expect to receive. People who receive financial miracles but seem to be unable to receive healing. Some receive health but not finances. Others can only seem to accept that they will one day live in heaven and put up with salvation while ignoring the rest of what Christ bought us.

We need to learn to pull back from the close-up of the picture we have. Health, prosperity, salvation, Eternal Life are all promised by Jesus as part of His sacrifice, but we don’t allow ourselves to move in all of them. We don’t even see the missing pieces from our lives.

An old schoolmaster of mine many years ago likened our existence to a fly in the Louvre. It lands on the Mona Lisa, but it can’t comprehend the magnificence of the painting as a whole. We live our lives, no matter how big the picture we think we look at, viewing only a tiny fragment of this life. Such is the way of Humanity. Unfortunately, those without a view that includes God think they see the whole story, that all there is is now, and the picture revolves around them. It’s the small minded attitude of a small minded world. Christ adds a new and rich dimension to the view of the world.

The reflections we see are part of a big picture that, like the fly on the painting, we can’t comprehend. We’ll see it one day, and He will give us eternity to wrestle with the enormity of the picture whether we think now is all there is, or whether we know as Paul did they would see the bigger picture in Eternity.

Love is the key. It always is. Jesus’s Love for us led Him to accept the Cross, the beatings and death itself to allow us to see the big picture. Jesus told the disciples in John 14-16 what the big picture was. He also told us what to expect beyond this world. A glimpse of the bigger picture that right now we can’t see.

For after the reflections of this world, we will see face-to-face.

Relevant Experience

The phrase has kept coming up recently “relevant experience”. I’m not certain what it means, even in a work environment. How do we decide what experience is “relevant”?

Jesus didn’t look for relevant experience. He paid no attention to the qualified or those in positions of power – note, power, not authority – and came to fishermen, tax collectors. Nobodies.

“Simon? He’s the big guy who brings in the fish. He’ll sell you some. That’s him with James and John.” It’ how I imagine the conversation. Jesus looking for His first disciples. The people’s attitude? Dismissive. He’s just the fisherman. Jesus sees more. He calls Simon “Peter”, and the whole world changes. All the big names of Faith in scripture start out as nothings in the eyes of men. David is so low on the food-chain in his father’s house that his dad doesn’t even bother to call him in when the Prophet gets there to anoint Saul’s successor.

Invisible people taken by God and made into something amazing.

One of my favourite contemporary speakers is Andrew Wommack. It’s not that I agree with everything he says about God – I don’t, but I’m not embarrassed to say it. It’s that his heart is amazing. I had the privilege of meeting him a few years ago, and he’s one of these people that what you see is what you get. Talking to him he’s transparent. He describes himself as a “hick from Texas” that was open to being used by God. It’s amazing because he’s been blessed with a ministry that touches millions of lives, but he’d give it up tomorrow and go back to pouring cement for a living if God told him to. And when he tells you that, you can see and feel the truth in the statement.

I don’t have that yet. I want it, but it’s not there.

I’m just an ordinary guy. I grew up in Stamford, England. Didn’t do too badly at school, worked reasonably consistently, but was afraid of people when God first called me to minister in my mid 20’s. So I turned it down. I wish I hadn’t, because now the call comes again and I’m in my 40’s. I lost 20 years because I worried about people. And I still do – only this time, despite the fear, I’m moving towards it.

I don’t have relevant experience to run a ministry. Neither did Peter. The only “qualified” apostle was Paul, and before he went out he spent time unlearning everything that made him “qualified” and “experienced” so that God could use him. It’s a sobering thought.

I regularly get told in job interviews that my experience isn’t relevant for the post. Yet I remember an article I read by a group of CEO’s having been given a personality assessment of the disciples without being told who it was for a project manager post to sell their various products into untapped markets. Almost unanimously they chose Judas Iscariot as the only qualified member of the 12 they would consider for the post. Peter was too impulsive, Matthew was untrustworthy despite a background in finance. The others were discounted as not being leadership material because they had no relevant experience.

It’s a scary thought. Suddenly by that token Hitler becomes a misunderstood lover of children and dogs, his experience as a trench-runner in the 1914-18 war serving him well as his military service showed potential for leadership – it just didn’t mention his potential for genocide. This is the yardstick the World measures with.

God’s children need to use God’s measure. It means not always picking the obvious choice, but taking a path that requires courage and Faith to move down. Experience in this world may actually hinder our ability to do God’s job. I get excited as I write towards my book because I know I’m not qualified to write it in the World’s terms. I trust God to show me, and my friends and editor to call a halt to me when I get too far off tack, but I primarily trust my Spiritual instinct. I listen to my Heart and write what God puts in it, just like with this blog.

No relevant experience, but experience nonetheless.

And in God’s eyes, all experience is relevant because it highlights His abilities and strengthens our Testimony. We overcome the World by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our Testimony according to Revelation. Not by pew-warming on a Sunday. Not by giving to the poor. Not by any action of our own, but by our Testimony. That’s God’s actions.

And He does have relevant experience.

Haunted by Eden

We dream of an ideal world. We want to see it. Organisations like Greenpeace and Amnesty among the highest profile ones but there are other smaller organisations doing similar work to try to see balance restored in nature and humanity treating each other in a humane way.

We were designed for such a world. Man was made in the wilderness, but placed in the garden. God was of a single mind when He created us. We were made in His image. Designed to run on Him and with Him as our friend. In a world without sin and where evil was never a consideration.

We are haunted by the image of the paradise we didn’t see, but we somehow retain a memory of. We sit and dream of Eden. We long for perfection but we can’t reach it. Something in us knows it, but we strive for it anyway.

While I didn’t enjoy the 2nd and 3rd “Matrix” movies as much as the original, there were elements that struck me. The “Architect” character who designed the program Neo and Morpheus are trying to free humanity from tells Neo the first version of the Matrix was rejected as the human brain could not process a “perfect” existence. Humanity was designed to run on God in a perfect world. We spend our lives trying to create exactly that. Satan spends his time trying to drive us away from that.

In “Batman Begins”, Bruce Wayne is told by Raz al Gul that the League of Shadows tried to destroy Gotham with economics – a new tactic. It’s what Satan has done in the last 200 years. We’ve been hoodwinked into believing economics will give us back Eden. We move towards generating more and more money fro the sake of having more money. Apparently when Howard Hughes was asked how much money it takes to make you happy his response was “Just a little more”. I don’t know if that is true or an urban legend in terms of it’s factual accuracy, but it’s certainly how we live these days. We live and work and separate ourselves from our hearts to earn money so we can go to work and separate ourselves from our hearts a bit more. 

Every day we move ourselves voluntarily away from what God designed us to be, and without even realising it. It’s become so indoctrinated into us that we don’t even see the cage and the chains. It’s exactly what Jesus came to free us from, and exactly what Satan came to trap us with. We can’t see the pain often, in spite of us being steeped in it. We struggle onward in agony we’re unaware of. It’s not that we want the pain, it’s that we are numb to it.

I believe in healing as part of the atonement Jesus bought us, but not all of my body is fully aligned with my heart yet. I am a diagnosed diabetic, but my symptoms of this “progressive” illness have not got worse for 10 years now. Assorted different tablets, and more recently an injection have allowed it to be stemmed, butbefore I got the handle on God wanting me healthy I lost feeling in my feet. OK, I know this sounds like it’s off topic. The thing is, it’s actually right on topic for this. My feet are numb. Right now I have a bad infection, a cellulitis, in my left foot. If it weren’t for the numbness of my feet, it would make it impossible for me to walk. I’m on antibiotics now for it, and a few days and it will be cleared up again. The point is that the infection is there and the damage is done. And I couldn’t feel it. If my wife hadn’t noticed my foot was swollen the first indication may have been gangrene setting in. Part of me dying and I didn’t realise.

We live in this world, dying each day and totally oblivious to it. Like me and my foot.

It’s killing us and even as Christians it’s driving us away from a full knowledge of God. Somehow the third world is better off than the West. The economics that drives the West is selfish and divisive. It tears families apart and destroys lives. Sadly the Third World countries strive to be like the West. We look for ways in South Africa (my current location) to be more like the US or UK. It’s working in the cities – to an extent. The townships on the edge of the cities are growing fast. The largest in Cape Town has more than doubled in size over the last 10 years and now has over a million people living in it – and there are several around the city.

At the same time the “leaders” of the country live in mansions and build bigger and more expensive houses for themselves while these informal townships expand without proper sanitation, roads or other basic amenities. In winter the shacks burn down and lives are lost in the cold and the fires. In summer the tin shacks get too hot to sit in during the day. Without running water or sanitation the result is rapid spreading of communicable diseases like TB, HIV and a host of other preventable illnesses. The moral breakdown that started with Apartheid has been expanded into the post-apartheid era and the immorality of the white minority leadership has been expanded on by the new leaders. Economics to build their personal Edens.

We are all victims now. The “leaders” as much as the general population. The struggle to free this country is the same as it was 20 years ago. An oppressive regime striving to keep itself in power by building on the lowest ranks of the society. The leaders live in splendour and riches. They think they have a measure of paradise in that lifestyle, but it’s smoke and mirrors.

Haunted by Eden and a true Paradise they never actually saw they try to recapture it and build ever more impressive palaces for themselves. But it misses the point. Eden was selfless. The paradise was equal for everyone.

Even those not in powerful positions strive to build our own little paradise. From mansions to shacks and everywhere in between we try to carve out Eden again from what we have.

Haunted. Dying. Oblivious.

But there is one way back. 


‘“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”’ (Deuteronomy 8:18 NKJV)

We can have something of the promise here. By turning to Christ and leaning on Him we can begin to live again. Life, and life abundantly is offered. John 16:3 says knowing Jesus is Eternal Life. That’s where Paradise starts.

That’s where we can put the ghost of Eden to rest.

That’s where we can finally be free.

In Christ.

Missing What We Don't Remember

I get inspiration from some wierd places. Tonight it’s the 2008 movie “Hancock”. Charlize Theron’s character tells Hancock “I thought you wouldn’t miss what you didn’t remember” and it just stuck.

I’ve heard many talks about this kind of topic before now and it’s not hit me until now. We long for a place we’ve never been. We long for experiences this world can never give us – and we know it can never give it to us, but we long for it anyway.

CS Lewis said “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” (Mere Christianity)

It makes sense.

There’s a song I heard, recorded by The Vocal Union in acapella a few years ago whith the line “I’m kinda homesick for a country, a place that I’ve never been before”. I really understand that. It’s funny how that thought can be triggered by a secular movie.

We weren’t built for the World we live in. We were designed for Eden. The blueprint didn’t change when the Fall happened because it was hardwired into us. We were designed to be in God’s image. We were built for Eternal life – knowing Jesus Christ and the Father (see John 16) – and to live and interact directly with Him as an essential part of our daily life.

Other places God has used include “Reposessed”, a Leslie Nielson spoof of “The Exorcist” which reminds me how we need to be single-minded andfocussed only on what God has called us to and nothing more. He stands his ground against the protagonist as his colleague and friend pays the price for his focus. We need to be able to do that as well.

But mainly we long for what we don’t remember. It calls to us as we walk this life. Every flower, every drop of rain cries out the Glory of God. As Jesus noted, the rocks themselves cry out the Glory of their creator – and we can’t escape it. We allow ourselves to be “voluntarily lost” from the pull on our heart. As humans we try to fill it with things that in our deepest places we know will never fill it completely, but may dull the ache for a while. For some it’s the pull of money. Financial wealth built into the value of a small country controlled by an individual. Seriously, if it’s not financially viable for an individual to surrender the value of the time to pick up a $100 bill, there’s something very wrong. And there’s a few people that’s true for.

Even the most “philanthropic” individuals retain the majority of their wealth – despite having personal fortunes that could eliminate the debt of a third world country and leave change – then that individual has too much, no matter what they do.

The majority of the world will go to sleep tonight hungry, whilst production quotas prevent first-world countries from shipping the excess they produce to them to provide decent nutrition to billions of lives whilst artificially inflating the prices of those same commodities in their domestic markets.

Somewhere inside we remember what we were meant for, the Glory we were designed to reflect and share in – as His representatives, the crowning achievement of Creation and the only ones built in His Image. Eve was the final measure, something as men we tend to forget. Adam was created first, then – just to show off – God creates Eve out of the best of Adam.

But we don’t remember. We long for t, but we don’t remember.

We need to learn to remind ourselves that we were made for a purpose, and whether you’re a (yikes) white, middle-aged guy living in a country that actually doesn’t want you or a suitably “qualified” (in South Africa read ‘Black’) individual you still have a purpose that’s God-appointed and no earthly policy can get in the way of it. God will open doors for us to fill posts that will allow us to express His ideas and ideals to the World. We are called to be a living reminder to the World that there is something more than this world can comprehend.

“Atheists” will doubtless disagree with me, but I will disagree with them. They will say a line is straight of skew, but to say that there must be a reference that says “this is straight” or “this is skew” hardwired into us. It’s not something you see in nature. I’ve never seen a chimpanzee lining up a plank to make sure it’s planed and honed perfectly straight and smooth. It’s unlikely that a hippo in a pool actually cares if the pool is a perfect circle or not. Atheism cannot explain the detail we search for in our lives. It cannot explain the need for certain lines to be “right” and others being “wrong” without a concept of what “right” and “wrong” are.

We instinctively know what “right” is. We recognise it in justice, natural physical laws and so on, but what it is exactly is uncertain to us. Until we remember what we’ve never experienced.

Once we do that we begin to touch God in a new way. In the way He intended.

The way we long for.

The way we miss, but we’ve never experienced.

The way it’s open to us thanks to Jesus rebuilding the way to relationship.

It’s there. Waiting for us to allow restoration.

Waiting for the memory to be restored.

The Source

We have a “natural” instinct to go it alone. I say “natural” in the inverted because we actually weren’t created to be self-reliant. We were designed to run on God.

I’ts not as simple as it should be because we surrendered our true selves when Adam turned away from God and chose to rely on himself instead.

Our Natural instinct until that point was to turn to God. He walked with us in the cool of the evening. We talked with Him as friends. Adam relied on Him for everything. He was the Source for all our things to come.

We tend to overlook that nowadays. And by “nowadays” I mean since Adam, but it’s become even more prevalent in the last fifty years. Western society, which I acknowledge it may seem like I bash a bit, has single mindedly been eroding the certainty that had come prior to 1900, that God, and He alone, was our provider.

It really happened a little before that with the Industrial Revolution. Two World Wars later and two generations of young men decimated resulted in Fatherhood being lost for most Western countries. England, America, Germany, France, Japan (OK, Eastern, but with a hefty self-sufficient dose) all embraced the concept that we could choose our own destiny, which God says is true, but also that we could meet our own needs. We rushed in to do this, to fill the void in our heart. The result? “Free” love in the ’60s and the moral breakdown of society. It continued on through the ’70s and ’80s with Generation X – my own generation – a childhood lost to computers and despair. Drugs – legal and illegal – and sex became the tools of the generation, and we were followed by Generation Y who seem to be the pinnacle of selfish ambition. The wisdom of the older generation – people in their 50s and 60s – is disregarded at best. We need the wisdom to be put back into us from it’s real Source. God.

And the Bible makes it clear from Genesis to Revelation that all He wants is to be that source. For us to let Him be God in our lives and to look to Him for our solution and salvation. To allow us to be reliant on His goodness and mercy instead of relying on ourselves.

Being born-again means we recover our True selves, restored and established in Christ’s image, and releasing God’s power in our lives by doing so. But it’s a conscious decision we need to make daily. We must be able to put ourselves away and allow our own desires to be replaced by His vision for us. It’s a choice we have to make. To trust the Source we are plugged into and reject the old, sinful nature.

And we need to do it every day.