Ascension Day and Waiting for the Coming of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost is almost on us. We can sense the entrance of the Holy Spirit in the wings of our theatre, but first there is one final Act from Jesus.

He’s beaten Death by rising from the grave and taken our Sin on Himself. Now we need to get into action.

But He doesn’t say that.

What Jesus does is leave. And the Saviour of the World tells his most trusted followers to…

Wait!

Hang on…

Surely He meant “GO!” or “ATTACK!”

No. He said “Wait” so the disciples must wait. They waited three days, the “sign of Jonah” Jesus had mentioned in his talking to them earlier. Then they saw the Risen Jesus. And they hung out with Him, walking, eating and chatting like the friends they are. Now He’s leaving them – again.

He’d told them He would be going. He prepared them from John 14 through John 17 about it in fact. So they wait. They go back to the same upper room where six weeks before they’d had a Passover Feast with Jesus and wait. There’s no confusion this time though. This is waiting for something that the Risen Christ has told them is coming. The Power of the Holy Spirit.

How frustrating must the next 40 days have been for them though! They know, really know, that Jesus is sending them something so much more than having Him with them physically. They realise now that all the Old Testament Prophets would have given up everything they ever saw for a mere taste of what they are going to receive.

But hours turn into days turn into weeks. I wonder if any of them walked out? We know the remaining 11 didn’t, but there were 120 on the day of Pentecost. Were there more who tired of waiting and left? We don’t know, but it’s human nature for many of us. We don’t like to wait for things. Especially good things. If we know something good is coming we get impatient. Like a child on Christmas Eve. I found out about Santa when I was little by waking up too early – and seeing my dad leaving the room and the presents on the bed. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the presents, and I didn’t tell my little brother, but something of the magic left. I got impatient and wouldn’t wait.

So now the disciples have to make their choice. How long do they wait? I wonder if they got back and expected it that day? Did they get despondent by day 35? It would be natural. Is it ever going to change? Like waiting for winter to lose its grip. But wait they do. And then on Pentecost tongues of Fire, the Holy Spirit in such power they can’t stand – literally. And the Power to touch hearts and minds with the Truth of Jesus and to hand on the gift He’d left and they had now finally received.

My wife spent 2 days in ICU this week. I didn’t know if she’d live following problems with some medication she’d taken. I prayed and felt God say she’d be home.

It was a good promise – and although I have to still look out for recurrences she’s home and should be ok. But the waiting to see the promise I’d heard from God in reality – my wife back home – was torture even though the promise was good.

It gave me a chance to reflect on what the disciples may have felt in the days between Ascension and Pentecost. On a very much smaller scale. (And I reflected after she got home)

If we are to hold heroes as Christians, it needs to be the disciples during those 40 days. They hold fast to a promise despite not seeing it. Even Daniel only had to wait 21 days in Daniel 10. Surely Peter must have been scratching his beard with frustration, but he held the course and preached the first sermon after the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and thousands believed. He saw the cripple dance. His shadow held the same healing power Jesus had held.

So if you’re waiting on a promise from God, keep strong.

It’s Coming!

Easter: Inverted Priorities

The whole point of the Easter Festival is something we miss most years.

Easter – the Resurrection itself – turns the World on its head.

Jesus challenges us to look at the actions and values through His eyes and through the light of His Cross, Death and Resurrection. When we do we see a horrifying picture.

A few years ago I watched, and thoroughly enjoyed, a TV series called “Angel” starring David Boreanaz in the central role. As the story develops, the character, a re-ensouled vampire named Angel, becomes conflicted by his past and the constant battle he fights with himself. He goes into a deep depression, and ultimately utter despair. The character attempts to end his existence by seeking the source of evil in the world and is taken through magic to that source. He enters an elevator which descends into the source of all pain and suffering and the doors open as it arrives – exactly where he had got in. Earth, this world. He sees nothing but the pain and misery and realises he cannot fight it or destroy it – he simply doesn’t have the power to overcome it in himself.

We spend much of our time in the same situation as Angel. We spend our time looking at the world through despairing eyes and see nothing bu the horror of this existence. As we proceed through the days we trudge wearily on, expecting and receiving nothing but pain and suffering. We prioritise the smallest minutia in an effort to numb ourselves to the massive Truth – we’re too small to do anything about it ourselves.

And we are.

Our righteousness, as Paul describes it, is filthy rags. The inferrence, I have been told, specifically refers to the cloths a first century woman would have used during menstruation, the most “unclean” item Paul could think of to liken our righteousness outside Christ to.

But the acceptance of Jesus’s death and His invitation to New Life does away with that. Our filthy rag is replaced with His Royal Robes, and God Himself looks at us as fully Righteous by means of the ultimate Sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. We become clothed in Christ’s Righteousness, and the whole world turns upside down for us.

Before we accept the Easter Promise, New Birth, we are steeped in a mire of filth so deep we can never hope to get out. The new Birth does that exactly for us. We don’t just get clothed in Jesus’s Righteousness, in God’s eyes we become it. He looks at us and sees the righteousness of His Son as ours.

But there’s a price. The price is rejection. It is alienation. Ridicule. In less “evolved” societies it may even be imprisonment and death. As I write, a young Christian woman is sitting in a Sudanese prison awaiting execution for no crime other than being Christian. Her father was Muslim so their sharia law deems her to be. She has never embraced islam, rejects it and married a Christian man. The court refuses to recognise the marriage and has condemned her to death by hanging. Their only “merciful” act is that she may live long enough to wean the baby she is pregnant with.

A price for refusing to reject Christ.

Unlike this lady, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, Sudanese but married to an American man, how many of us will compromise our statement of faith to avoid offending a neighbour? She risks her very life to stand up for the name of Jesus, and we refuse to risk not being free to borrow they guy next door’s lawnmower.

Ouch.

Our priorities need to be turned over. We need to return to the way Peter thought when he was arrested for speaking about Jesus – do what you wnat. I won’t shut up! That’s the basis of the entire book of Acts. Paul, Peter, Stephen and thousands since have been murdered for proclaiming Jesus’s name rather than compromise. Their priority lay in John 14’s promise that in the Father’s House anre many mansions. An eternal perspective, not a temporal one. We cave to the pressures of today’s society when we should take a stance against it. Jesus spoke in terms of Black and White. Not a single shade of grey in His teachings on anything. Money? – Give it away if it’s your idol and follow me. Not keep a bit and that’s ok – I can deal with a bit of idolatry. Sex? Flee immoral behaviour. Whatever the reason you’re a eunuch, deal with it. Don’t get into sexual sin. Greed? Surrender to Jesus and let Him free you from the weight that crushes you like it was Zaccheus.

Zaccheus was hated by the townspeople. A collaborator with Rome who fleeced for personal gain. When he repented, he would perhaps have been forgiven by the town, but Rome would not have been happy – yet he risked it for the sake of Jesus.

Nicodemus spoke for the Christians in the Sanhedrin having met with Jesus secretly. He would have been ridiculed and faced expulsion as he understood what being Born Again meant – Everything.

And today. In our comfortable Western or semi-Western societies, we pander to the liberals to keep the tax benefit for our businesses. We compromise and surrender what we believe in private in our public lives. As a freelance writer I have a certain latitude as I mainly write articles to submit to Christian publications, but even these need to be “edited” to avoid over-the-top attitudes to some extent. We refer to it as “tailoring”. It’s so much more palatable than “recanting” or “renouncing” the aspects of the Gospel that are certainties.

The World celebrates doubt and uncertainty. It needs desperately to have something solid to build on. It looks to science, the same thing that has declared the world to be flat, air to be weightless and cannot make up it’s mind how many planets there are in our own solar system.

Hardly solid ground. They realised the earth was round, a fact stated in scripture over two millenia before by Isaiah (40:22) air had weight (Job 28:25) and it argues with itself over how many planets there are! Yet we build our worldly priorities on these “facts” deduced by scientists. Evolution is a theory. From the fossil records it can appear to be accurate, but there are still many holes in it. Creation, scientists – who haven’t bothered to realise seven “days” may not be literal 24 hour periods due to the complexity of the written language – dismiss the possibility. They can explain how molecules come together in strings, but not why. They can produce synthetic diamonds and even mix synthetic protein chains to reproduce food, but I have yet to hear of a single scientist mixing the elements together and producing an acorn that can grow into an oak tree. They can clone it – but only by using another acorn. Science cannot explain the existence of life or reproduce it.

And yet we prioritise our life on this foundation of quicksand.

Easter should – if we take Jesus seriously – invert our priorities from being politically correct to being right with God – irrespective of numbers.

No matter how many are screaming “Science, Science” we must remember the majority also shouted “Crucify, Crucify”.

Following blindly and not realigning our beliefs to a more “primitive” way of thinking may, in fact, lead to the loss of our very salvation if we fail to accept the whole of it.

So even if it costs us everything: friends, family, reputation. Follow Jesus.

And get the Priorities right side up.

Easter: A Matter of Principle

The image says it all.

We are sheep too much of the time, following the false shepherd of the World’s opinion.

It’s fashionable these days to not condemn certain things but to refer to them as “Lifestyle choices” and sanitise them.

There are things we need to take a stand on as Christians before the ground is eroded like the sand it could so easily be if we don’t.

Jesus did what was right, not popular – especially with the religious leaders. They paid their taxes, collected their offerings and lavished themselves with great wealth. Gold and silver and made a show of their offerings. Jesus warned against them. Repeatedly.

He disrupted funerals and mourning. Understand the worst thing you could do after a death was to tell the official mourners wailing outside to shut up – but it’s what He did when He got to Jairus’s home. You don’t roll back the stone from a tomb sealed for four days. You don’t interrupt a funeral to speak to the corpse.

Especially in first century Israel.

But Jesus did. Jairus received his daughter, Mary and Martha their brother, and the widow of Nain her son. But the mourners were offended. The religious leaders plotted against Him. Everyone else obeyed their rules, and suddenly here was this insurgent corrupting their way of doing things, changing the natural order by questioning their authority and healing on the Sabbath, raising the dead and forgiving sin seven days a week. He claimed equality with God, declared Himself to be the long awaited Christ and threatened to overturn not only their tables, but their very survival.

He was one Man, doing the right thing, not the popular thing.

They were many men doing what was popular, but clearly not right.

We just had a general election in South Africa. The ANC was voted back into power after 20 years of proven corruption, nepotism and political hypocrisy that would leave then ousted in any other country. Yet they cornered 60% of the vote. Because of sheep voting.

Yes, under Nelson Mandela the ANC stood for change, revolution and righting the injustice of the Apartheid regime. Now it stands for “Another Nkandla Compound”.

I’m generally not a political commentator, and I’m not making this about politics, simply using the example of what happens when everyone moves the same way without thought and reflection. You get what you fail to reject rather than what is right.

I could be wrong. Maybe the ANC will change things for the better in the next 5 years. I doubt it, but they have the chance.

In the Church we have to make the right choices, not follow the masses. If Jesus had followed the masses we’d be doomed. If the disciples had followed the masses they’d not have waited in the upper room after the crucifixion. And you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

And I wouldn’t be writing it.

I love the story of the war where 300 Spartan soldiers held off thousands of troops, securing victory against the odds by not following the sheep but by going out against a seemingly undefeatable army – and winning. The scene in “Lord of the Rings” where Aragorn and Gimli jump into the middle of the advancing orc army and two of them rout the incoming legions long enough for the defenses to be repaired.

The principle is simple: Right is not measured by strength of numbers, but by what is right and what is wrong.

We have compromised so much in the last hundred years. Some of it has been good. Sufferage, women’s rights, a legally binding age of consent in most countries. These things were begun by a handful and are now the policies of the strongest nations on Earth. But now they are compared to the struggle for those things not right but are popular to be seen to fight for.

Every day I get mail commending LBGT rights and condemning Christians who oppose them in a non-secular setting. I will fight for secular equality, but there are no shades of grey in the Bible, only right and wrong. The result otherwise is a luke-warm church fit only to be vomited out of Jesus’s mouth on the last day. Not a prospect I want to see. There are some actions we should feel guilty about. The Holy Spirit convicts us of Righteousness which highlights for us the areas where that is lacking in it’s wake – and the enemy jumps on it. We miss the commendation in the following condemnation and assume the condemning thoughts are from God.

Not so.

God does not condemn us. He heals us. He corrects and leads us.

As a matter of principle, He only guides us and shows us the way – He never forces us to accept His path, He simply lights it for us. We are free to walk it or not.

How sad that so many do not in so many areas.

Sex sells they say. It sells greed, envy, jealousy and covetousness. It causes us to create false idols to worsip and revel in their inevitable fall. And it breed sexual immorality in thought and deed.

How far from God’s principle of modesty, generosity, selflessness and holiness.

Yet we all do it. Those who don’t are mocked as “Right Wing” or “Fundamentalists” or “Left-Wing” or a combination. But they are Hot or Cold, and will not be spat out.

My wife bothers me about wanting to cook fresh so it is piping hot when I dish it. But I don’t like luke-warm steak or room temperature sushi. It needs to be fresh. Who wants warm ice-cream? Who can stomach cold mashed potatoes?

If I’m like that with y supper, imagine my horror at seeing my beliefs whittled away by leaders who should be unflinching in their resolve, not cooling down the meal. A luke warm fire will not keep off the chill. A cold radiator will not heat a room.

A lukewarm heart will be vomited out.

As a matter of principle as Pentecost approaches in a few days time, let’s focus on catching fire. Let’s focus on growing hotter in the passions of God so we can ask that tongues of fire descend on us as they did Peter and the others on the first day of Pentecost – the Baptism of Fire of the Holy Spirit.

Let our light so shine before us that we cannot be mistaken as Children of God.

Stand for the Principles of Jesus Christ, no matter the cost.

He did. We owe Him nothing less.

Easter: The Gospel You First Accepted

There’s a lot of versions of Christianity around at the moment. The pseudo-christian organisations like mormonism and jehovah’s witnesses are the most obvious, but there are many which have come from legitimate parts of the church which have sought to make the Faith of Jesus more “accessible” and “acceptable” to people in the 21st Century.

The problem is that by making it more “acceptable” it becomes diluted. There is panantheism and arguments of truth being non-exclusive to Christianity – exactly the issues that Paul had to deal with in his travels. People would teach a form of cross-less salvation – that Jesus was an option for Salvation, noth The option. This panantheistic notion was one he had to deal with repeatedly i his letters, now reduced to our New Testament and referred to as interpretive documents not intended to be taken literally, but I disagree.

Paul wrote passionately about Jesus. He wrote with all his heart about the single way a man can be saved. The writer of Hebrews dedicates the entire book to the subject – especially chapter 11 – demonstrating over and over that the Faith in God through Jesus is the only way to reach Salvation.

Yet today we accept a watered down and weak semi-good news version.

Last night a dear friend of mine – I named her Helen – passed away from a long fight with Cancer. I find myself wondering what Gospel she was presented with? Did she ever have the Truth put to her unequivocally and unmistakeably? Some of her family were church goers who would get on a soap-box and “preach” at her, but how many real believers sat down with her and talked to her. How many asked her what her understanding was?

My guess is not many.

If any.

I know I didn’t. I didn’t share the simple Gospel I hold in my heart and try to live by on a daily basis. I let her – and many other people in my past – go through her life without allowing the Love I’ve had lavished on me to spill over in a real way to them. When I do – and it does happen – I feel embarrassed afterwards. I feel accused and judged. Generally I take that as a sign I got it right these days, but I often wondered when I was younger if I was wrong.

The Gospel I met – the Jesus I met – is a real, warm and true emodiment of Love. But He has things he disapproves of. Those things which seek to drive a wedge between us or to draw us away from His friendship. He gets mad at those things. We should too.

We should be mad at anything that seeks to water down the Jesus we first fell in love with. I’d take major issue if someone came and told me my wife is not the person I know her to be after over ten years of marriage – how dare they! But after almost 30 years of walking with Jesus I find myself allowing contemplations in that draw me away from the Saviour I know and Love, the God I fell in Love with in 1985. Why do I not defend my Faith as vigourously as I defend my relationship with my wife?

I don’t doubt my marriage. We’ve endured storms. I shouldn’t doubt my faith – it’s been through the worst of me and my experiences.

Yet people drop in the thought “If God…” Add what you like there. If He’s all powerful, why cancer. If he’s all loving, why suffering. The questions are innumerable. The answer is surprising in its simplicity.

In the True Gospel, we were given authority and power to work God’s miracles, see His strength and have signs and wonders follow our belief.

That’s the key.

Belief.

We believed the Gospel for Salvation, but we doubt the continuation of the Gospel through confirmation be miracles – even though the early disciples who had not walked with Jesus saw them.

We need to return to the first Love. I’m ot talking about sexuality, theft or anything else here except the First Command Jesus gave – Love God with everything in you.

Then watch as miracles flow and your desperation can become Joy, your disaster triumph, and even your death, LIFE…

Easter: Life and Death

It’s been brought home to me – again – this week just how fragile life is.

I say “again” as I’ve actually known since I was about 10 years old how fragile things are, and how quickly it all ends. But today there’s a difference.

Up until today I’ve been fairly certain of the spiritual standpoint of every person I’ve known who’s passed away. Today I went to say goodbye to a very dear friend that I don’t know about.

Last I heard, this friend was pretty pissed off with God actually. I won’t list everything, but the last blow was cancer. The big “C”. Doctors have estimated it will only be days.

It’s had me thinking all day. Hence me writing at 1:40am instead of sleeping I guess.

This friend – I’ll call her Helen – is actually more of a second mother to my wife. She’s been to our home for scrabble evenings and dinner and the night I proposed to my wife she was staying at their home.

Helen’s been an amazing life. And I mean she’s been an amazing life, not just had one.

She’s come back from adversity repeatedly and raised amazing children and seen grandchildren born and begin to grow. It’s not fair that she’s leaving right now. But then the World’s life isn’t fair.

The World doesn’t play fair. It sends curves to people who we see don’t deserve it and easy walks to those who should be at Gitmo. We read about people thrust every day into situations where they had too much too soon and died as a result. Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour-Hoffman, and a myriad of other stars whose lives were cut short because they couldn’t handle their success.

But Helen’s life has been cut short after enduring so much and reaching a place where she could finally begin to live freely. Free from a bad situation, loving kids and a fresh start.

Then Cancer.

How do you say a farewell to someone in Helen’s position? Especially in mine? I pray for her, I hope she has found peace with God, and I told her today I wished her Peace, but I “blinked”. The room was full of family and friends and it was “inappropriate” to mention God. So I didn’t.

I truly pray He will or has already sent someone across Helen’s path who can communicate Him to her. As I saw her today I knew I couldn’t. I also feel I should have.

I sit here tonight contemplating my own Life in Jesus and I wonder what it actually means. My life has to be more than the sum of a few blog pages and articles, more than a few sermons and private chats.

But I choked at the last moment.

Again.

Life I can handle. I can even deal with death, the thought of my own anyway. But when I’m confronted with someone in Helen’s position I find myself paralysed. I can talk to the fit and healthy. Tell them to get themselves in order before it’s too late. But asking someone if they have got in order at that point where it really is the last time is too much for me – mainly because I wouldn’t have the first clue how to deal with it if the answer was “no”.

So what if the answer is “No”? I tell myself I don’t ask because then they may have the chance from someone else, after all, it does say that nobody will be condemned if they never had the choice until they make one.

But I’m kidding myself.

We all are. This isn’t self-flagellation here, it’s an insight into the human existence. We don’t deal well with death for one simple reason: God didn’t design us to.

We’re designed to live, not die. To have Life in abundance. Yet we perish in a mortal skin-suit. I heard someone describe healthy living as “the slowest possible rate of progression towards the grave” recently. I laughed at the time, but it’s true. From the moment of conception our days are numbered. Most of us just want it to be a really BIG number.

It wasn’t for Robin – my brother. He was not quite ten when he died 30 years ago. Helen isn’t “old”. Her spirit until today meant I had to remind myself her children are my generational peers, not her. But today she was tired.

I don’t know what I’ll say to God about today when I meet Him face to face. I trust He’ll say “I forgive you” to me. I rely on that trust; that faith is what keeps me going. At the end of it all, a big part of our expression of Faith comes down to being prepared to be a fool for Christ.

It’s life and death being foolish and inappropriate for Jesus.

I still have a way to go on that road, but I hope it’s something that I’ve set off.

I hope I’ll get more chances to be foolish in the future. To ask the “inappropriate” question.

To make the difference between Life and Death for someone.

Easter: Forgiving or Unforgiving

At first glance, the title of this entry may seem to negate the need for the post itself, but it doesn’t.

We have a choice in all things when we are slighted or crossed to either forgive or not.

The choice is hard. It’s meant to be.

Anger, bitterness and unfirgiveness are easy to hold onto. We experience them constantly in our walk with God. We get angry about illness coming in. About a less-than-tolerant neighbour who does nothing but complain. We get bitter about the problem as it continues and it wears us down.

Eventually, we withold forgiveness.

And the enemy wins another bout.

Back in December I wrote about unforgiveness I was experiencing and how I needed to extend the opposite towards my neighbour. He has a problem with our dogs barking, even though they have been forced – by us – to comply to the letter of the local laws regarding nuisance barking levels: six cumulative minutes per hour.

We have three large dogs, and currently not a lot of space for them. They grew up on our old home plot of 500 square meters. They now have less than half that. And fences instead of walls.

They bark when they see or hear something from next door. It’s a problem. But we keep them under 6 minutes per hour.

The point is both my neighbour and I have a choice: to forgive or not.

Forgiveness starts with a decision, not a feeling. If we wait until we feel forgiveness, we’d never forgive anyone. The feeling comes from a choice to forgive. Even Jesus on the Cross had to choose to forgive the men nailing Him to the beam. Stephen chose to forgive those who stoned him. The list of martyrs through the centuries who have chosen the route of forgiveness is immeasurable. DC Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs produced two books titled “Jesus Freaks”, volumes 1 and 2, which list the stories of martyrs and persecuted Christians from Stephen up to the present day who have been executed or tortured and imprisoned for their Faith in Jesus Christ. They all share one thing in common – a forgiveness for their murderers and torturers. They shine the love of Jesus through their actions.

Some days I choose to forgive. Others I struggle and choose grumpiness over forgiveness. For me it’s not a good thing. I long to be able to forgive wholly, but it is a daily struggle – especially when the offense is a daily offense. And it’s only a small thing in the scheme of things. How would I cope if it were something larger? I struggle with the thought. I hope the strength would rise in me.

For now I do my best to avoid the conflict so it’s easier to reach forgiveness, but am I just kidding myself? Is the “forgiveness” real, or simply an absence of anger?

Probably a little of both.

Unforgiveness is like a cancer. It eats us from the inside. Growing up I had an “adversary” I’ll call John who I had an ongoing feud with. The crazy thing is that neither of us by the end could remember how it had started or why there was such animosity. We didn’t see one another often as we went to different schools, but the conflict had been real. Eventually we simply forgave and forgot about the whole thing. Now I look back and wonder if we’d been more relaxed and communicative if we could actually have been friends!

Forgiving is not easy. We struggle frequently and it’s easier to hold onto a hurt than it is to let it go – even if we don’t remember the hurt.

But a final thought: If Jesus – who knew and knows all the offenses He took for us – could forgive us and accept us as we are to bring us back into His family, isn’t the very least we can do to emulate that sentiment and strive to do the same?

I’m going to keep trying. Please keep trying too.

Easter: The World's Behaviour

We have a problem in the Church. We don’t understand the World.

Actually, the problem is that we don’t understand the World behaves differently to Christians. Or at least, how Christians are supposed to behave.

I got burned a few years ago doing business on a handshake agreement – with a “christian” businessman.

Never again.

But I learned from the mistake. I learned our desire to “fit in” with the World often means we adopt their attitudes and behaviours. I’d never have considered doing business on a handshake with someone outside the Church, but I expected more from a Christian. I realised – or began to – on that day that we have a tendency to miss “belonging” in the World. We do so at our peril, as we end up becoming as cutthroat and heartless as the World is.

The World gives what it expects. It is hard and demanding, unrelenting and unforgiving.

The problem is, we forget to expect the World to give us what it is only capable of giving. It doesn’t know or even care about the Love of Christ. It cares about love of self. Selfish pride, greed, avarice and malice seep from every pore. We sanitise the descriptions with words like “ambition” or “driven”, but lusting for power and the acclaim of worldly “peers” who are actually beneath us is enticing. Power is highly seductive – just ask Monica Lewinsky. Acclaim is intoxicating – ask any pop star.

The problem is that power corrupts and acclaim is fleeting. Ask Bill Clinton and Lindsay Lohan about what happens when power and acclamation are what you really need to get a “fix” of. More deadly than cocaine or heroin, these drugs are worse than any narcotic because we all take them. Every unsaved (and an unhealthy number of saved) individual on the planet seeks power and acclamation. We all seek what Satan sought – worship.

The one thing God reserves for Himself alone.

But the world worships. Idols everywhere. TV stars, movie stars. You only have to look at the pay cheque any “A” list celebrity gets for acting in a movie to see the idolatry. They are the idol worshipped by the studio – and tribute, not wages, are given. I respect Christian Bale for turning down disgustingly large sums of money to reprise his role in another Batman movie. He rejected money in favour of integrity of himself.

Donald Trump slammed him for turning down the sum – many millions of dollars – as a poor business decision. But his integrity is intact. How many can say that? In some ways I respect Donald Trump, but his Twitter account is so often negative and critical without offering solutions – only highlighting what he sees as wrong decisions. Maybe they are, maybe not. In either case, we can only judge by their fruit – and that takes time.

Short-term and long-term definitions are changing. Long term can mean a year – two at the most. Some oriental societies view a medium term to be 20+ years. Most Western society sees 5 years as long-term. The difference? who has the stronger trade economy? In the Far East, long-term planning stretches into decades in some areas. Their plan is more visionary. Why isn’t ours?

The first century Church looked eagerly to Christ’s Return, expecting it at any time. We don’t. We have been influenced by the World which says at best that it won’t be in our lifetime, and at worst that Christ was a myth and never existed – despite the primary source evidence outside the Bible to support it. Pliny, Jospehus and a host of other secular historians record in their writings the rise of a new sect of Judaism based around a young Galilean teacher named Christus whose followers claimed had risen from the dead. Execution records even show his crucifixion, yet sceptics insist he didn’t exist.

Our pulpits have even reflected this. If has become a part of our common vocabulary. We have been insidiously infected with the pessimism of the World – and we missed it. The concept of a living God taking human form and co-existing with us has become preposterous, so we spiritualise everything He said. Obviously Jesus speaking about money was a representation of what we will have in Heaven. The concept of a New Heaven and a New Earth are washed away in favour of some ethereal idea of wings, halos and harps. If harps are intrinsic to heaven I’d like a refund. Eternity of nothing but harps will drive me insane – even in perfection. Give me a Bon Jovi riff or a ZZ Top groove to jam to. Maybe my guitar playing can finally improve there.

But why bother with a new Earth if we’ll be in Heaven? So we have a holiday let? No. So we have somewhere to work.

In the movie “What Dreams May Come”, Robin Williams’s character is relieved to find there’s work in the afterlife – he feels it is right. Adam was given a job as a gardener, we should expect nothing less. Personally I hope there’s no tree of knowledge, but if there is then I hope I won’t be the one to blow it by having apple pie one evening. And if I do, I hope I’ll have the courage to run to Christ.

I like the idea of work in Heaven. It’s sole purpose would not be productivity, but Glorification of God. We need to work for that here as well.

But the World’s behaviour is the opposite. It idolises self and gain instead of worshipping the creator.

God says we must remember it is He who gave us the power to create wealth in order to strengthen the covenant He set up with us (see Deuteronomy 8:18) with a reminder that He is the one who set it up, not our own endeavours. Our “Promised Land” is not some ethereal place, but a position in this world” where we can experience His fullness and move into His promise for us.

The issue is simply that we expect the World to behave as if it were Christian, and then we feel surprised when it doesn’t. Oddly, we seem to expect Christians – especially in business – to be as ruthless and cut-throat as any secular business. I once had a receptionist who was offered a job by her pastor on the condition she start the following Monday – just three days later. We had an arrangement that she would give ua a minimum of two weeks notice so that we could find a replacement and her assistant could be fully briefed on the outstanding files and accounts that needed to be attended to. The offer was too good for her to pass up, and this church leader insisted that she walk away, dishonouring a long-standing agreement and displaying zero of the attitude Christ would have offered. When later she asked me for a reference for another job, the best advice I could give, since I knew I would be asked under what circumstances she had left us, was to not use us as referees. It may have made a hole in her CV, but it meant I would not be placed in a position where I would have to lie.

Another receptionist we employed who claimed to be a christiancollected her pay as always on the last Friday of the month – six days before the last day of the month – and never came back, effectively stealing the wages for a week she didn’t work. I was particularly disappointed in these two women as they were both in leadership positions in their respective churches, yet in business they showed no Christian ethic whatsoever. Their integrity was non-existent and I will never be able to give a positive report for them.

Interestingly, the most honest and ultimately trusted member of our staff who I had to let go was a self-confessed drug addict who was struggling becuse she had begun using again while she worked for us. She came and told us and we granted her a leave of absence to get herself clean. After several weeks she wa
s sober again, but eventually she fell off the wagon again, and very reluctantly we had to let her go as it was a medical business we owned. Not a single item went missing, not a cent from the cash box, and she worked out her last days with us after we’d made our decision because we had already paid her for that time. I had, and continue to have, massive respect for that young lady – a non-Christian by her own admission – who showed greater character than her two “christian” colleagues.

So the World can surprise us. Usually in a negative way, but mostly that happens because we assume it will behave according to a Biblical basis!

The World is a hard place. We forget that and we will be hurt.

But if we expect the World to behave in a Worldly manner, we can be on guard and avoid unnecessary hardships.

But we must hold to our integrity as Christians, or we are no better – in fact we are hypocrites to behave one way on Sunday, but to conform to the World’s standards for the other six days of the week.

Let the World be the World.

We’re better than that.