Ringing in the Changes

It’s the time of year when we start thinking about the end of things and new beginnings. It’s also the time we think about the birth of Christ It’s hard to go anywhere in Cape Town at the moment without a store radio belting out some completely inappropriate version of what was once a song written to celebrate the birth of the Son of God and has now been re-written to omit the entire point it was written in the first place and spin money for the recording “artist”.

OK, so maybe I’m a bit jaded this year. About a week ago the City of Cape Town Fire Department closed down the section of building housing our business, which since my wife is a doctor effectively closed us completely. We’re eight days in and our losses continue to mount up. It’s the whole point of what I wrote about last time. Truth vs Fact.
The fact of it is we need to boost our income dramatically in the next few days or make some major changes. Major changes including the possibility of moving continents. Again.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem moving. I did it ten and a half years ago, and I have no problem doing it again, although I’d rather be heading to Canada than the UK again and have a completely new start, but that may come again later if everything goes right.
So this is a time for change.
A new beginning.
Rene has potentially got the opportunity to go and work in a psychiatric hospital in London, something in a discipline of medicine she’s been interested in for some time – helping broken hearts and minds to heal. Anyone who knows me knows I come from a somewhat different angle on that – the spiritual angle. But the truth is healing can be somewhere in the middle. There’s a lot of spiritual stuff in mental health and vice-versa. Over the years I’ve had several different psychiatric labels thrown at me ranging from depression to attention deficit disorder. There may be physical or emotional or spiritual causes for any of these diagnoses. Or all three.
It’s possible my brain is damaged from any one of several blows to the head I took as a kid growing up: bike accidents, walking-stick hockey issues – my cousin Fiona had a vicious slap-shot that I got my head in the way of – falls from climbing frames (yes, plural), car accidents and so on. Listing them makes me wonder how I made it through to adulthood with a skull intact, never mind the brain inside it!
Then there’s the emotional stuff. Death has been a companion as long as I can remember. My dad’s sister in a fire, his cousin to cancer, my brother in a road accident, both my mum’s parents to cancer, both my dad’s to ruptures of their hearts. I was bullied – emotionally not physically, I never lost a fist-fight at school – but bruises would have healed faster than the emotional scars.
And finally the spiritual side. Any and all of the above could have a spiritual motive behind it. Robin, my brother, was almost ten. He’s been gone nearly 3 times as long as he was here and I’m still haunted by the loss on a daily basis. Wounds associated with it are still raw 29 years later. That’s beyond simple psychology. There’s a spirit behind that kind of thing.
Jesus was someone who wandered around healing people. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. It was kind of the point.
Between us, Rene and I tackle the same issues from opposite sides, but with the same heart behind it. Rene uses her training in medicine and I use my teaching from Faith. Sometimes I think it’s a shame we can’t work on the same people at this point, but maybe that will come later.
Changes. Movement. We work with different motions in our lives and they move us according to how we let them.

Going forward is a choice, but we can make that choice. Change is inevitable. As a musician can tell you, holding a note for too long means it ceases to be music and becomes noise. The change makes the music beautiful.

But we try to action a change-halting process in our lives. We destroy the music in favour of the noise. We stop listening to the patterns and moving with the change and we become stagnant. Even the disciples were victims of that behaviour. It wasn’t until the persecution began that they left Jerusalem as Jesus had told them to.

So although the changes that seem to be heading my way in the next few weeks were not my choice, I’ve realised I need to find a way to embrace it. Even though it’s a major upheaval if we do need to follow through with the change. If God sends something our way we need to learn to embrace it and move in the path He sets before us. Taking that leap of Faith isn’t always easy, but it’ll always come out right eventually.

So let the changes ring. And welcome Jesus back in again this Christmas.

Reconciling Fact vs Truth

Anyone who’s read anything I’ve written in this little selection of observations knows there are certain things I believe with my whole heart.

One of the biggest is that Jesus’s sacrifice bought four key elements for us: Salvation, Eternal Life, Physical Health & Healing and Prosperity.

Reconciling the understanding and where we are in our lives can, however, be a daunting task. Often circumstances look impossible and the facts of the situation become voices screaming at us. They are the tempestuous sea raging as Peter stepped out of the boat. They are the earthquake, wind and fire Elijah saw. We need to learn to hear Jesus through it all.

And it’s not easy.

Right now my factual circumstances are scfreaming at me. The facts tell me the Western Cape Fire Department has closed my business for non-compliance on the part of our landlord in making the building safe – if a fire broke out in the restaurant next door we wouldn’t have time to evacuate before our shop was destroyed. I’m actually glad they told us. The fact says “you’re broke and you have no income”. The fact screams it in fact.

The fact says “you’re diabetic” or “you’re hypertensive” or “you’ve got asthma” or whatever fact is whispering to you. (In my case it’s type 2 diabetes).

Facts mess with your head. They creep into us because we give authority to people and the little thoughts that drop in to change our heart. John Eldredge in “Wild at Heart” points out that the great minds of the past all considered the Enemy in their contemplations. Even people like Da Vinci and Michaelangelo – and no, NOT the turtles – considered the Enemy to be real and a constant presence whispering to them.

But we’ve disregarded the concept. We assume every thought in our head comes from us. We live in an age of “reason” where such superstitious claptrap has no place.

But if that were true, why would Paul tell us to take our thoughts captive and submit them to Christ? It would be superfluous effort. If we are, as “modern” dogma and philosophy would have us accept, incapable of changing our patterns and nature, then the entire Gospel is a lie.

CS Lewis said Jesus had to be a madman, a demon or God Himself to make the claims He made. His statements are clearly not those of a madman, which leaves only the other two options. His actions were clearly not those of a malevolent and evil being, which leaves only one possibility. God in Flesh.

Assuming this, and that the Bible is accurate when it says He is the Perfect representation of God, we can see the Truth.

Healing. Financial provision. Salvation. Eternal Life.

The Truth is we are healed as prophesied by Isaiah and witnessed by Peter. In context they can only be referring to physical health.

The Truth is we are prosperous as shown in the life of Joseph. And God told the Israelites He had given them Power to create Wealth. In context, financial wealth. And that was the Old Covenant – we have access to all that in the New Covenant and more!

The Truth is we are Saved. Hell has no hold on us, and while our physical form may perish if we die before Christ returns our Spirit goes on, united with Christ and entering into the very presence of God Himself.

The Truth is we have Eternal Life. Not Everlasting, but Eternal. And Eternal starts right now. Jesus says (John 16:3) that Eternal Life is knowing God and Jesus Christ who He sent. It means ongoing. And it started the second we accepted Jesus as our Lord.

But our brains get in the way.

My whole heart believes I am healed, but I wear glasses or contact lenses. I take medication for a variety of ailments including diabetes and ADD. Does that nullify Jesus’s sacrifice for me?

No.

It simply means I have yet to fully take the thought patterns that prevent me receiving my healing in full and submit them to Christ completely. What I can say is I’ve begun the transition. I’ve not needed a new prescription for my eyes in ten years. Diabetes is supposed to be a “progressive” illness, but for me it’s stopped in it’s tracks for 8 years now. Yes, my medication has been adjusted, but not increased. The medication I take differs now as it requires less frequent ingestion, but it’s simply a slow release version of what I took before, and in fact is a lower dose creating the same result.

So no, I’ve not completely arrived at my full health, but I’ve begun the trip and I fully expect to complete it in this life. Because that’s what the Truth says.

Similarly with prosperity. Despite our current state, I believe we are Prospered by God and anointed by Him to Prosper to bring Him Glory. My wife has been offered, the very day our business was closed, an opportunity to move to specialise in her field (ironically medicine!) and we have the chance to start over handed to us in spite of the facts.

Truth always triumphs over fact. We simply have to let it.

Hebrews 11 tells us that. Faith overcomes the World. It overcomes the doubt and fear we experience on a daily basis if we allow it to. It is the substance of what we haven’t yet seen physically, and it is the vehicle that allows it to manifest into our lives.

Facts are temporal, and change, but Truth is Eternal and fixed. It’s good to know “Reason” may actually be catching up though:

So trust Truth. The facts will catch up eventually!

Aftermath

So South Africa, and indeed the world, is mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela. I personally have immense respect for what he did, his accomplishments and what he stood for.

Equalitly. Non-racial society.

He reportedly complained that his salary was too high when he took office as President, that it was not a salary he should be entitled to when so many were still impoverished.

He saw South Africa as his children.

And now things have changed
.

A good, God-fearing man with high ideals and a vision for a united South Africa free from racial boundaries has been replaced with a regime just as corrupt as the Apartheid regeime.

I’ll be shouted down, naturally. I’ll be told this has no place in a Christian blog.

But it does.

We Christians have to live in the aftermath. We have to live with the fallout of his passing.

I don’t pretend to know what the future holds. We may avoid civil war for a short time because Desmond Tutu is still with us. It may be delayed beyond that even, but already we see the insidious nature of the ungodliness of greed creeping into the high places.

The president, and I will not dignify a capital “p”, has by all reports built himself a palace – like Mugabe. He is accused of rape but the cahrges are dismissed. He is accused of corruption but is elected following stalling my entites he may have influence over. It is liely he will never be called to account by the World for the appaling squandering of public funds by his government.

This is not Madiba’s legacy.

Neither is it something the Church should sit back and accept.

We need to rise against the elected dictatorship we now suffer under. Don’t be mistaken by the rhetoric that comes from the office. All the jargon and double-speak serves only to establish one thing – the ANC rule. They have gone on record saying they will rule until Jesus comes. Jacob Zuma himself is a leader in a church, although what branch of Christianity in it’s true form would allow an adulterous and corrupt man to be associated with, never mind a leader of it’s people is beyond me.

I was a member of a church a few years ago where three members of the church were expelled following repeated appeals in line with scripture for them to cease the adultery and repent. When all else failed they were told not to come back. All 3 were in leadership postions.

What hypocrisy allows this man to be appointed after he admits adultery, unrepentant and defiant. This luke-warm church will suffer if it doesn’t repent. Revelation is clear on that. Christ would rather thay be completely cold.

Aftermath. Rebuilding required.

In the ten years I have lived in Cape Town, the largest “informal” settlemnt, Khayelitsha, has more than tripled in size as people come froim the villages in search of work, housing and an escape from poverty. Instead they find more of the same.

Jesus told us we would always have the poor with us. I wonder if he visualised these marginalised multitudes living on substance income derived from begging and eeking out a living by going through other people’s dirt bins to find good they can sell for recycling to earn enough to buy bread.

Did He see the 25% infected with HIV and the Church defaulting it’s calling to Heal the Sick – not pray for the sick. But the command HEAL THEM! It’s unequivocable. Peter took it seriously. Just read Ast 3 & 4 to see how seriously. He gave the cripple what he had – the authority to heal. He didnt say “if it by your will” or “won;t you stretch out your hand” or any of the religious claptrap we mutter in our less-than effective prayers today. He simply commanded the man be healed – and he was!

The aftermath of the resurrection should cause this World to tremble before us as we move through it with the Power of the Holy Spirit. Instead we tremble like the disciples before the Holy Spirit came over them, hiding in rooms and afraid of what the world will think. We huddle together and ignore what’s going on, praying ineffectual prayers and doing little on a practical level to overcome the World as Jesus told us He had done for us! (See John 14, 15 & 16)

We live in fear of the backlash of Mandela’s death when the system should live in fear of falling into the hands of God – and we are those Hands. China, North Korea and the last enclaves of communism should be shaking in their boots as the Saints of God move out, overcoming Faith drawing disciples every day into the Kingdom. Instead we tremble and believe the lies of the enemy. “There’s nothing can be done for the 4:20 window” or “China is a lost cause” or “your town is hopeless” or “your body will never be restored” or “you’re broke. Deal with it”.

LIES!

We are at war! War has casualties. Yes we may lose our hoes, our businesses, our very lives in the fight, but so what? We have a place promised us in Heaven with Christ Himself. What more can we ask? This World can offer nothing to touch that.

War has victors. Christ has overcome the World, therefore those Victors are US!! He shared His victory with us. Just as God gave Hin all authority over Heaven and Earth, He has given us the authority of His Name. Just as the disciples coule cast out demons, so can we. Just as they could heal the Sick, We can too.

What more can we ask or dream?

Aftermath? The aftermath of the Cross is Life.

Never forget. Never surrender to fear.

Hold fast to our confession.

Jesus is Lord. By His blood and the Word of our Testimony we will overcome. And the World System will crumble.

Aftermath? Let them come. We have the solution.

Jesus Christ.

Living Free

Like many living in South Africa, I have been touched by the life of Nelson Mandela. A few years ago my marriage would have been illegal under the Apartheid regime because my wife and I are have different amounts of pigmentation.

It seemed inconceivable that Mandela would die to many people. But he, like all of us, was a man. Unlike most of us, he was prepared to admit his faults, acknowledge his weaknesses and rise from his failures.

In his inauguration address Madiba said: “The greatest glory in living lies not with never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” That is true.

It’s an echo from the greatest Old Testament king, David. He was not perfect, and was prepared to admit it. He was a man who committed murder to hide adultery. He spent so much time falling over that when you read his story in Samuel, Kings and Chronicles you could be forgiven for thinking it was hisx preferred method of advancement: 1) Fall 2) drag feet to position of head 3) stand where head was 4) repeat

Our lives must reflect God in them. David’s life was lived sensitive to God, and as a result he didn’t allow his failures to stop him moving on. God describes him as a Man after His Heart, that is to say seeking God’s will in all things. He committed his battle plans to God before entering the war. He would change tactics if the Spirit advised it.

We lose sight of that sometimes. We point ourselves in one direction, set off, and then fall flat on our nose. That’s not the problem. The problem lies in that we then stand up and repeat the process in the same direction, but this time we ask God to bless the direction. No surprise, we fall again. Now we’re confused. “God told me to do it” is a cry we hear often as we wander from one bruised nose to the next.

It’s not true.

We told God “this is how I’ll do it – now You bless me and I’ll get going”. So God sits back and waits for us to come to Him and ask “How do I do this?” rather than demand His blessing on something He never wanted in the first place.

It’s part of freedom.

Freedom doesn’t mean doing whatever we want. It means seeing the boundaries of our limitations and asking God to stretch us to overcome them in the direction He wants us to move in.

That is crucial. There’s no real “freedom” in choosing our own path. When we do, because we are still in a “fallen” state, we choose a path not His. And any path other than His is the enemy’s.

In “Chariots of Fire” God is described at one point as a “Benevolent Dictator”. It sounds harsh, but there’s certainly truth in that description. God does say Jesus is the only way to be with Him. Jesus says He is the Way, Truth and Life. We can’t move towards God without Jesus. If we try we inevitably end up moving in the opposite direction.

Graves open and swallow us as we try to move without Him and His guidance. We lose sight of Him and we are tossed by the wind an waves of the storm, but keep Him as our Pole Star and we walk over the tempest as if it were a grassy plain.

The last 50 years have been showing a disastrous shambles of mankind in Western society trying to live without God. It doesn’t work. The “free love” of the 1960s and ’70s led to the boom of sexually transmitted illnesses and broken homes of the ’80s and ’90s. We are now on the third generation since World War 2 where young men grow up with no father-figure in the home and the World says that’s fine, but the result is chaos and another generation of lost men living in the prison of their lusts and brokenness rather than reaching to God and saying “Help Me, I can’t do this alone!”

The Western society is described as “multi-cultural” and “embracing”, meaning it “respects” all beliefs equally, but it doesn’t. In the UK, Christian teachers on a Christian television channel have to abide by a guideline that says they may not declare “Jesus is the only way to God” as a categorical statement because it is “hate-speech” and derogatory to other faiths. They can only say “The Bible says…” or “Jesus said…” so it’s a quote rather than an original statement. If they don’t, the show will be told to cease transmission.

Western “multi-cultural” society means “anything but Christian” in practice. Churches have been told to remove crosses from their Church Halls to avoid offending the muslims Cotholic employees wearing a cross on a chain under their clothes are required to remove it to not cause offence, but turbans and hijabs are encouraged. The double-standard is staggering until you remember the system is corrupted by the Enemy. Statements which are anti-Christian in sentiment are ignored while Christians taking a stand for our Faith are condemned as fanatics.

Freedom comes with a price. The price is persecution.

True Freedom will always be battled for by Christians, and the World will always seek to destroy it and replace it with the chains of bondage the Enemy would see us in, restrained and trapped away from God’s presence, and deafened to His Word, editing what can and can’t be said.

As Christians we need to remember Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin that led to his martyrdom. We cannot afford to be silent. We must not allow the Word to be subverted and edited for the sake of discomfort.

We must Live Free or die trying.

Defying Logic

“There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.” writes the writer of Proverbs (14:12) – possibly Solomon. It’s the path of certainty. It uses man’s wisdom and disregards Faith.

To our extreme detriment.

Christianity more than any other religion requires a leap of Faith. To step out of what we can receive with our five “natural” senses and into the realm of Hebrews 11 to see the manifestation of the substance of Faith.

The Old Testament is full of it. Abraham trusted God (eventually) and had Isaac and all mankind can be reunited with God by Jesus because one man trusted. David refers to Goliath as “uncircumcised” referring not to his body, but the lack of a Covenant with the Living God. The he stuns the giant with a single shot from his sling and beheads him with his own sword.

The Prophets, major and minor, all point to Jesus – as do many of the psalms. It all needed to be recorded and remembered so Faith could grow.

But inspite of walking through the Red Sea and being fed every day the Jews were not satisfied. Sounds familiar? It should! We do it every day.Every one of us has had a Red Sea moment we choose to forget. It’s unhealthy to do so, which is partly why I write. If it goes from my head.I can refer back to my writing.

But logically it shouldn’t leave my head. It should be the most logical thing in the world to hold onto what I have been supported by for over 25 years.

The most read entry on this blog to date is “Illogical Disbelief”, centering on the lack of faith in the rulers of Jesus’s time, but easily adapted to look at society today. Those who fail to learn from History will repeat it. Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed by God for homosexuality – although it is clear that in the Old and New Testament God is condemning of the act – not the people, but the sin itself – in a way that is different from His response to any other sin. Paul’s letters expressly refer to homosexuality as ungodly, yet despite this we have people saying there’s no mention by Jesus so it’s irrelevant. One little thing they leave out: Jesus represented God perfectly in His actions. He supported weddings and marriage, but He  condemned those who sat in judgement. He was blunt and scathing towards the Samaritan woman at the well who had been married five times and was living with a sixth man. It must have been a gentle tone in Him or she wouldn’t have responded the way she did, but the action was deemed unacceptable while the person was accepted.

Our “logic” steps in and throws the person out because they are not good enough, without allowing them to be real. It keeps people away from churches because they can tell the church pays lip-service to them but actually they are horrified that there’s no growth before the person darkens the church door. We want to catch par-cooked, cleaned and filleted fish, not what we’ve actually caught. Fish are cold, wet and feel slimy. But these things pale at our treatment of these broken people. We expect them too often to be perfect and shining examples before they are “ready” for church. We forget that when we were accepted by Christ there was nothing good in us. We tend to become arrogant as we get older in Him. We separate ourselves from the World but in so doing we end up distancing ourselves from the very One we are trying to draw close to.

His logic is not our logic.

His wisdom is not our wisdom.

But His Love is available to us. To flow through us to the World.

Love the unlovely. Forgive the enemy.

Defy the World’s logic and turn the World on it’s head.

Blindsided

Every so often something catches us off guard. We don’t see it coming.

I’m watching movies for a while now that have inspired me. I mentioned Chariots of Fire in a blog a few days ago. Today it’s been sitting with me for 48 hours since I re-watched The Blind Side, Michael Oher’s inspirational story of loss to adoption to excellence in American Football and success both on and off the field.

I’ve not been up to watching The Pursuit of Happyness yet – a bit close to the knuckle for now – but Blind Side really caught my attention again.

I don’t understand the game, but I get the reference to what Christ does for us in the message.

As we move through life, He’s got our back. He watches us, caring for and protecting us as far as we will allow Him to. And that’s the crucial part.

We can hinder how far He can shield us.

It’s a harsh Truth, but we see it in Scripture when Jesus visits His home town and can do very little there because of the people’s lack of faith. It’s the familiarity of the zone with Jesus.

When I first got onto the concept of Jesus healing today I saw a lot start to happen. Firstly my own leg was healed from a bad injury following a fall, then I began to see people healed when I prayed for them. But then a strange thing happened. I began to hear – from others who believed it’s God’s Will to heal and the atonement purchased that with Jesus’s blood – that it didn’t always work. Although I didn’t want to believe it, I suddenly began to see healings become less frequent, until one day they stopped being immediate. My sinking had become too much, and I was operating in fear and doubt – antifaith.

I got blindsided by the concept of doubt.overwhelming my faith. I’d been so focussed in on strengthening my faith that I had no idea what my doubts could do. The scale of things balance out one thing against the other. And as I’ve found, a little doubt can go a long way towards destroying faith. As the doubt side got heavier it outweighed my faith very quickly, and that doubt was picked up by the people I prayed for. Their faith was undermined, and we saw delayed responses at best.

Jesse Duplantis, a man I have tremendous respect for, posted a twitter comment yesterday reminding us not to throw our pearls in front of pearl stomping people. It hit me hard as I’d not remembered this scripture.

We need to remember to hold our thoughts close and be aware of who we are speaking to. Our Vision can be eroded by fear which the enemy is only too keen to do. How many ministries that can change the World have been halted by the undermining of the vision by blind-side attacks from the enemy? Probably more than we can count.

My vision for Eagle’s Wing Ministries is a simple one, get God’s Word out to people. That’s the Mission. But the details of how to do it I’ve only shared with a few people who I trust and who are going to not stomp the pearl into the ground.

Your Vision may be just as simple, or it could be a lot more complex. Most visions grow as they reach a certain level. There’s an organic feel to the Kingdom which puts us either into growth or decline. Very few ministries tick over at a set level for long. It’s not practical. Growth or stagnation. And stagnation tends to lead to demise and death. It’s hard to recover a stagnant body of water. It can’t heal thirst as it will make us sick, not help us grow.

The key is to allow Jesus to run with us. Pace ourselves at His lead and avoid running ahead or lagging behind. Keep our blind-side protected at all costs.

And then we will finish the game in His Victory.

Advent

It’s Silly Season again.

Stores playing annoying jingle music and “Happy Holidays” banners everywhere because we can say “Eid” and “Hannukah” and “Diwali” but “Christmas” may offend people.

Go figure.

It’s the time we remember as Christians that Jesus came in the flesh and lived with us. Hopefully.

Most of us seem to miss the Cross after the Manger though. (I wrote a bit about that last year) It’s the point.

The “traditional” Christmas songs, written before 1982, hold that as the center. The more “modern” seem to miss the point. Their focus is on the manger, not the point of it. That’s where the World focusses too. If we can keep Jesus as a baby in a manger the He can’t really “do” anything. He’s ineffective. Powerless.

We don’t see the warrior King of Heaven.

We miss the Supernatural Provider.

Receiving Christ, remembering Him at this time of year, is essential. If we can’t receive Him, we can’t receive His redemption for us. If we can’t receive that, then we can’t receive the fullness of what He did for us. We may manage to limp into Heaven with a Helmet of Salvation on, but be effectively naked except for that. Jesus did much, MUCH more than get us a Heaven’s Gate Pass. He gave us the Keys to the entire Kingdom – all of it. Health, Prosperity, Salvation, Eternal Life, Persecution. All bought by His blood. All partt of our walk in Him.

“Persecution” needs to be in there. The World system will attack us constantly for being part of Christ’s Body. It can’t do anything else. We need to focus and press past it into His Fullness, even if that means we need to endure some discomfort along the route.

Persecution keeps us honest. It reminds us of our limitations. We can’t get through without God’s strength pushing us. We need that power to get us through each day, never mind the future – yes, we must be mindful of it to stay on target, but we need to be in the moment as well. It’s essential. The thing people don’t get in their understanding is that Persecution is a thing God allows as a part of the refining process. We stay focussed on Him and we will stay the course.

Staying the course is tough. The hardest thing is to hold onto what we have in God when things are going badly. It’s tough. Holding onto your faith when you have no food on your table or heat in the middle of winter is tough. It’s not an easy walk, this thing we call Faith.

And ultimately that’s what Christ is about. It’s what Christmas is about.

Advent. The coming of Christ.

No matter what, holding on to His promise and moving on with His purpose.