The Importance of Forgiving

In this 21st Century we have lost something. An art form essential to true Christianity.

We have lost the art of Forgiveness.

I’ve said in other posts that we live now in a post-Christian society. Modern man-made moral values have superseded the values instilled for generations through intimate knowledge and relationship with God and we have seen society develop it’s own Golden Calf to worship. There are so many idols to choose from, and the beauty of the lie is that they are so accessible. Go to youtube and watch some previously unknown “celebrity” having sex on tape. Follow Donald Trump on Twitter and see the inane and often insane rantings of a man seeking to control the largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. Yet these and others are idolised.

We have become a society of idol worshipers. And in idolatry there is no place for forgiveness of either others or self.

Christ and the entire Bible teaches the exact opposite. The rot set in during the reign of Regan and Thatcher. Self idolisation became the norm – forgiveness was for the weak and compassion was abandoned in favour of the pursuit of personal gain.

Forgiveness has been abandoned except where it serves self.

Christ’s forgiveness didn’t serve Himself. Forgiving the soldiers flaying the skin from His back didn’t stop the whipping. Forgiving the men driving the nails through His hands and feet didn’t stop the Crucifixion. Forgiveness in the Bible was a selfless act with no personal gain attached to it.

We as a world “forgave” Bill Clinton’s adultery. George W’s lies about Iraq. A plethora of lies are posted every day but the latest antics by Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan take the front page. There are wars going on now all around the world that the West had a hand in starting – then pulled out. But we forgive those leaders and sit back sympathising over our safe cup of coffee with the men and women living in terror that the next air bombardment will destroy their home or that ISIS may decide that having killed the doctors and the tailors that perhaps the grocers are next for not importing bananas for the ISIS troops.

But who cares? They’re half a world away and we can forgive our “leaders” for their actions.

Look into your heart.

I am physically unfit to go to war. I’m too old to enlist at 43, despite being a marksman. I’m diagnosed with diabetes and have loss of sensation in my feet as a result. I’m not what the army wants.

Most of my ailments are self-inflicted. My sugar consumption as a young adult probably led to my conditions. And it’s something I must forgive myself for. I have friends who have been on the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have a dear friend who lives in Kurdistan. I cannot mobilise to help them or protect them because I did not look after myself years ago.

Forgiveness is essential. I have made peace with not going to war.

My brother was killed in a road accident I could have prevented when I was 13 years old.

Forgiving myself for that is something I have to work on daily. The last words I remember speaking to him were said in anger and I can never take them back. Self-forgiveness comes hard.

To forgive others we must first learn to forgive ourselves and see our life as Jesus sees it – guiltless because of His sacrifice.

It’s the central tenet of Christianity. We can accept Christ because He died in our place and allowed the forgiveness of our sin in God’s eyes.

That is the concept we need to grasp.

In God’s eye’s we are forgiven.

How dare we refuse to forgive ourselves if the only one we truly sinned against has died Himself to allow us to be offered His forgiveness.

Forgive yourself. It makes forgiving other so much easier.

A Call to Arms: A Remnant Remains. Always.

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

In the 20th Century Christianity was effectively outlawed by the Communist states of Russia – then the USSR – and China. In Russia certain “approved” churches continued to operate under strict supervision of the Government. In China, Mao forced the majority of churches to disband.

Disbanding conventional churches in China led to the fastest growth of Christianity in a single country during the 20th Century. Some left churches and joined the communists. But a few, a Remnant, followed a more dangerous and noble calling: spread the Gospel in a hostile country.

2000 years earlier, the disciples and later Paul faced that same problem. The Roman Empire persecuted them for over 200 years until Constantine declared Christianity to be the “official” religion of the Empire. Martyrs were made. Saints were venerated. The Remnant grew and overthrew the evil seeking to oppress it.

The light shone through the darkness of the Roman gods. Christians were referred to as Atheists by the Romans because they did not accept the Roman pantheon.

The Light of Christianity shone through the darkness of Communism in China and churches continue to grow. In Russia the churches are growing fast. Communism, the great darkness of the twentieth century, is all but defeated.

But now Christianity faces a new darkness.

We are often urged from the pulpits of public media to be tolerant of other religions. That’s not what any of the men who took Christ’s message to the world in a way that changed things ever did. It’s compromise.

Luke-warm Christianity. Ready for Christ the Judge of Revelation to vomit out of His mouth.

In the Middle-East there is a growing darkness. The very region our Lord chose to be born into and live His Earthly life is threatened by the darkness of religious extremism from ISIS. Long established Christian communities have been displaced and murdered while the Western countries best equipped to mount a military response sit back and say “how sad”.

When oil was at stake in Iraq and Kurdistan they were only too quick to get involved under any pretense they could find. All it is now is a group of Third-World people being displaced and murdered thousands of miles from the seats of Government who could make a difference on the ground.

This is in danger of becoming a political essay, which is not where I’m headed. Back to the point…

I have a dear friend I’ve known for (yikes) 20 years. She and her family live in Erbil. Her husband is Kurdish. Following the news reports makes this conflict very real to me. I have a personal interest in it.

They are a Christian family.

ISIS has not yet turned it’s attention to their area of Kurdistan in a major way, but they will. Yet in the middle of the conflict there is yet hope. There are reports coming out of ISIS controlled towns of beheadings for being Christian.

People are laying down their lives for Jesus in this environment. Persecution of the most in-your-face kind is being conducted against the Remnant left in the occupied territories of Iraq and Syria.

Persecution in the West looks very different. Satan will distract us with modern “issues”, red-herrings designed for a single purpose: to prevent us seeing the tragedy unfolding in Iraq. Homosexuality on the doorstep is more engrossing than wholesale slaughter half-way round the world. It consumes the Christian media and takes our focus away from the rise of the murderous campaign.

The US Election campaign is more likely to focus on domestic issues than persecution of real people half a world away. There is little coverage of the veterans returning in body-bags.

My health prevents me from going to fight with an army of men – they don’t let diabetics fight. I’m also 43 years old, positively ancient for a soldier of Man.

But I’m not a soldier of Man. I’m a Warrior of Christ.

So are you.

We need to do Spiritually what the West refuses to do militarily: it’s time for War.

The Remnant of Christians in ISIS territory needs prayer support. Just like they did in Nazi occupied Europe. Just like they did in the Roman Empire. Just like they did in Communist China and Russia.

A Remnant always remains, a light in a dark place that cannot be extinguished. I highly recommend the two volumes of “Jesus Freaks” compiled with the Voice of the Martyrs for accounts of Christians over the last 2000 years who gave their freedom and their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Why do we shy away from the subject? Why are we afraid to be vocal about Christians being persecuted?

It’s because we have become silenced by society. Christian men are supposed to be moral nice-guys who have an abundance of cheeks to turn.

Rise Up! “ And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” [Matthew 11:12 NKJV]

The force we can exert from a distance is to stand united in Spirit with those in these places, to go to Spiritual War with them and on their behalf. We fail to at our peril. These are our Brothers and Sisters. Surely we would want them to do the same for us if circumstances were reversed?

“Like a mighty army moves the Church of God, Brothers we are treading where the Saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.” The words of a 19th Century Hymn I learned as a child. The Church is an army.

Another verse reads “At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee; on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory! Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise; brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.”

Pray for the Remnant. A call to Arms.

Let our Praise and Prayers shake Hell’s foundations.

To Arms! To Arms!

Fight for your Life

All men die, but not all truly live. A paraphrase of William Wallace from Braveheart.

Time passes daily. I married at the age of 31. I’m now 43 and I don’t know where the last decade went. We were so busy planning our future that we missed the present God gave us every day.
Life happens while you’re planning it. Tragedy strikes at random. Illness. Infertility. Death. We cannot outrun these things for we are at war.

I’m an avid television watcher at the moment. Two years ago I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, a condition that limits my ability to concentrate and complete even basic tasks. Through therapy it’s been shown it began as a form of coping with post traumatic stress when my brother died.
I don’t have the concentration span to read any more. I used to be able to read a book in a day or two.

These days those same books take weeks, and life passes by.

I choose what I watch carefully. I have to. The SABC is underfunded and controlled by the national government in South Africa. With 11 official languages it becomes hard to find something without subtitles, so my family spend most of our time with what seems to be an ever increasing collection of DVDs.

Right now I exist. I only really come alive when I write. In Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell is quoted as saying “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” I feel that way about my writing and speaking. It seems to be the only times when this affliction of ADD is forced aside and things simply flow in a natural order.

Everyone has that something. And we are at war to find it. Our enemy will do anything to prevent us from realising the potential we have. John Eldridge puts it in “Waking the Dead”: “The story of your life is the story of a long and brutal attack on your heart by the one who knows what you can be and fears it“. Satan fears us.

Take a moment to really take that thought in.

Satan is afraid of the believer because in our most God-empowered existence we have the authority through Christ to overturn his tables and utterly destroy his plans through God at work in us.
Satan fears us.

But to claim back what he has stolen before we come to a cogent recognition of the full power of God we are empowered to do in the power of His name is hard. We become entrenched in mental paradigms that become chains holding us in subjugation to an enemy who cannot lock those bonds without our permission.

If it seems this post is more of a warrior tone than some of my other writing, it’s because I feel it’s time for the Army of God to wake up, rise up and engage the enemy of the World as God would have it. False religions like Islam are reported to be growing faster than Christianity and I read somewhere that an estimate that Islam will surpass Christianity as the most populous religion on Earth within 20 years.

If that’s not a call to battle I don’t know what is.

I found myself watching “Kingdom of Heaven” yesterday. It’s been a while since I watched it and I realised that arrogance and pride were what the crusaders took to Jerusalem, not the Gospel of Jesus.

Islam employs those same terror tactics now and it allows the “official” figures to show rapid growth, but how many simply give lip-service to save their life?

I might have been one of them not too long ago. Events in my life in the last few years that my Christian Faith has carried me through and I choose not to elaborate on here mean I know even if faced with death or torture I will never surrender to a demonic power.

My words may be inflammatory. Let them be. This is War we are fighting, and we need to be reminded of it. We can simply sit and plan and do nothing, procrastinating until death releases us or we can speak boldly. We may be rejected by friends – it’s happened to me already.

We may be ridiculed.

Or threatened.

Or killed.

The threat is real. Jesus warned us in John 16:2 “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” This is relevant to the murders of Christians by ISIS, Boko Haram and any number of other factions. Extremists of the 21st Century, no less fanatical than the crusades a thousand years ago, just with modern weapons.

Genocide still ensues.

And we – mostly – sit in our armchairs tut-tutting and saying “someone should stop them” but doing nothing. The only force more powerful than the hate being meted out by these people is Love. God’s Love.

It may seem I’ve gone off topic a little, but it all comes down to the same thing.

Life is happening. Lives are ending. Men, women and children are being slaughtered indiscriminantly for refusing to convert to a false religion.

Let my words be inflammatory. Perhaps they can light a fire under those who claim to be Christians because they sit in a church once a week for an hour and put a dollar in the offering plate. They are unaware that their actions no more make them Christians than sitting in a garage makes them a Ferrari.

Don’t let apathy win. As God’s Church we need to rise against false religion spreading hate with the Love only Christ can give.

\Life passes us by. It’s time we stop and fight to truly live each moment, hold it, drink it in for Christ and never, ever give it back.

Covenant Power

“For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the Living God?”      1 Samuel 17:26

The shepherd boy, fresh from the field hears the taunt of the giant. The giant who the entire army of Israel is afraid of. His chain-mail alone weighed 5000 shekels – about 125lb. I weigh about double that, and the thought of even trying to walk, never mind do battle in that kind of weight makes me need to rest.

Goliath is a huge man. Six cubits and a span – around 9′ 4″ tall. I’m 6′ tall. Half as tall again as me, plus four inches.

David is a youth. Nothing more than a young farm-hand, tending the sheep in the fields. It’s doubtful he’s more than 5′ 5″ tall as he’s still basically adolescent – if he weren’t he’d already be in Saul’s army with his brothers.

For forty days, twice a day, Goliath has been issuing his challenge. And for forty days the Israelites have been silent. They see as the spies who first went into the land with Joshua and Caleb did. They are small in their own eyes.

David sees him how Joshua and Caleb saw the giants in Canaan. Just another notch in the Covenant-holder’s belt.

David’s own brothers doubt him. But David is a man with a Covenant, and he knows what that Covenant means.

The challenge is accepted. Casting aside the sword and armour Saul tries to give him, David picks up a few smooth stones, his sling and his staff and walks out to meet the derisory Philistine. Goliath is insulted and sneers as David takes his stand. David’s response to the jeering of the giant is simple:

“You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” 1 Samuel 17:45

Goliath rises slowly and makes his way to the field of battle. David runs to the field. He arms his sling and releases. Goliath falls and David takes the giant’s own sword and beheads him.

It’s a familiar story told in Sunday-schools all over the world. It was taught to me when I was so young I don’t remember the first time. But it’s only recently re-reading it with a more mature mind that the point of the story sinks in.

David, on paper, didn’t stand a chance. Goliath has been a warrior longer than David has lived. But David knows his God. He knows the promise of his God, and most importantly he knows this Philistine is facing his God, not him.

We find ourselves in the situation of David from time to time in our lives. We all face giants. Poor health, loss of income or home. Hunger. The giants taunt us daily. Every time we enter a borrowed room to sleep. Every time we take the medication the doctor says we need. Every mealtime we have nothing to give our family. The giant rattles his armour and declares war.

Too often we behave as the Israelite army does. We stand back and let fear take our hearts.

But we see in the movies a glimpse of the Truth of the covenant. Think of Aragorn’s speech in “The Return of the King” as the last army of Middle-Earth faces the army of Mordor, outnumbered and surrounded. Think of Theoden’s rally cry to the Rohirrim earlier in the movie to urge them to battle.

And we have David as an example. The best example as this is not fiction, this is Biblical. This is the Covenant our God has made with us. He will not desert us. He walks every step alongside us. He fights our every battle through us.

And that’s the point. Through us.

We sit and wait for God to solve our problems for us. But that’s not the promise.

Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do super-abundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]— To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it).”                                                                                                                                            Ephesians 3:21-22 Amplified
We stop too soon when we read this passage – if we read it at all. Most people read “ Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (NKJV) and stop there. The important part, the Covenant, gets missed. Of course God can do more than we can ask or think. He’s God. But He works through us. Any work He does is tempered by our actions – or lack thereof.
The Covenant stood to prevent the Philistine destroying the Israelites in single combat, but it took a young shepherd who had faced lions and bears to see that this un-covenanted fool was no different than the beasts he killed on a daily basis to protect his sheep.
The Covenant we have with God is the name of Jesus – even more potent than the Old Covenant David had. But just as it took David to pick up his sling and face the giant, we must pick up our weapon and face our giant. Your weapon may be your voice, your training, your experience. It could be your past. Whatever it is, ask God to guide your hand and go and face down the giant before you. Let His power work through you the way David let God’s power work through him to destroy the Philistines.
Anyone reading this could be the next William Wilberforce. John Wesley. Billy Graham.
Why not let it be you?
The Covenant of the Blood of Jesus stands beckoning.
Why wait?

Christianity 101

OK, I try to stay out of politics on this blog. Just this once I find myself needing to say something political.

Donald Trump is running for President. That’s his right as an American. He, like all the Presidential candidates, seems to have made a point of stating they are members of a church. In his case he defines himself as a Protestant, Presbyterian to be precise. He’s pro-moral issues by being anti-abortion and against same gender marriage. Because his understanding of the Bible from one perspective tells him it’s so.

I’m a Protestant. In my time I’ve been a member of Anglican, Baptist, United Reformed, New Frontiers and an array of other denominations according to where I was living and which one I was drawn to by my heart. I’ve even attended Catholic Mass from time to time.

Here’s the thing.

None of what I’ve done makes me a Christian.

Sitting in a Protestant pew for the last 35 of my 43 years hasn’t made me a Christian any more than sitting in my garage for the same time would have made me a mechanic.

Christianity is unique in that it invites individuals to have a personal relationship with a Living God through that own deity’s personal sacrifice of taking human form and dying on our behalf for the specific purpose of entering into that relationship.

We accept or reject His invitation freely, but never by default. I ask God to remind me that He already forgave me the sin I commit daily, whatever it may be on that day. I speak to Him as a friend and Father and ask His guidance on the matters I need to deal with ranging from how best to do my earthly work within the structure of His being to major issues like “should I emigrate?” or “should I change jobs”. The big one for me twelve years ago was “Do I marry this girl?” (He said ‘yes’).

It comes from a place of relationship, not religion. That’s what Jesus spent His ministry on Earth trying to get through to everyone. It’s what the Bible teaches in both the Old and New Testaments. The Gospels give us the story and the Letters give us the “how-to”.

Jesus Himself told Nicodemus that a man needed to be reborn to enter a relationship with God. His death and Resurrection then opened the invitation to everyone as Peter demonstrated the day after the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples.

Christianity isn’t about politics.

America is a post-Christian country. Sadly most of the world are post-Christian societies. Bible-founded laws are repealed and Church-founded reforms to improve society are eroded by secular laws all the time.

But none of that is Christianity.

Christianity in its most basic and Glorious form is simply an invitation from a Loving God to enter into a personal relationship with Him.

It’s personal.

It’s that simple.

A Dangerous Faith for a Vocal Majority argued by a Remnant

In 1903, William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army made this statement:

I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost; Christianity without Christ; forgiveness without repentance; salvation without regeneration; politics without God; and Heaven without Hell.”

The statement made over a century ago is now being seen around the globe. More and more people are turning to an apathetic faith, disregarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit and even some calling themselves “progressive” christians (I use a small ‘c’ deliberately) declare that all religions draw from the same aquifer. The problem of Christianity is that it is more like mathematics than psychology: other religions may be closer to the answer than some, but in the end they are all the wrong answer.
Recently I read an article declaring we live in a post-Christian era.

I tend to agree. As such there will be things that the vocal masses will demand. Equality for religions, gender, sexual orientation and so forth.

Some of these are in line with the message of the Bible, some are not.

We as Christians must have the courage to stand for the Truth in the Bible. We should recognise that we are in the world, but not of it.

What should post-Christian morality look like? Equal rights under this new era for all. This – in principle – sounds a lot like what Jesus said. Look closer into the issues and you see something different however.

I have to write this article as a Blog entry because I have a feeling no editor would be prepared to publish it in this post-Christian era.

Jesus told us to accept people and Love them. Agape Love them.

He didn’t tell us to condone their actions.

He didn’t say to ignore their/our sin.

We live in a day of forgiveness without repentance. We are accused of not being “real” Christians if we don’t agree that forgiveness is enough on it’s own. Why bother with the whole repentance thing at all? It just causes conflict in the individual being forgiven and those offering the forgiveness. So we just offer forgiveness freely. So freely that we declare the behaviour “normal”. Secular society has become what William Booth said it would. Churches teach around the subject of the Holy Spirit. The church I grew up in never mentioned once that I recall the concept of being “born again” or baptised with the Holy Spirit. The first time I went to a pentecostal service and heard men speaking in tongues I thought everyone was mad or it was part of a cult.

God has been removed from the political arena. Republicans and Democrats both claim they are on God’s path in the USA. The ANC in South Africa has declared God loves them so much they will rule until Jesus returns. The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour parties in the UK all have boasted at some point that they have strong ties with the church and roll out candidates who go to an Anglican service at Easter and Christmas to prove it.

Jesus spoke plainly about the afterlife. If we read the Gospel with fresh eyes and as if we were hearing it for the first time it would be impossible to not see that He believed in a literal Heaven and a literal Hell as real places.

Today we speak of Heaven as a place where everyone goes after they die. Images of wings and harps and fluffy clouds abound.

I like the portrayal of the afterlife in the movie “What Dreams May Come”. There’s work to do there, but it’s labours of Love. Families are reunited. There’s no sadness or fear on the heavenly side. But there’s the other side. A side where souls are forever lost in torment. They spend eternity in darkness and confusion.

That’s as much of the analogy as I like since the theology is a bit wobbly, but it’s a good picture of the alternatives.

In short, Booth was seeing moral degeneration of society on a slope with no grip at all. In effect we are becoming what he feared and what he tried to slow down through the Salvation Army: a society of mob-rule and God-fearing Christians in the minority.

Look back 100 years and you see what Booth saw. World War One descended society into chaos and started a century of unparalleled horrors the Inquisition would have recoiled from.

Look back 2000 years and you see eleven men huddled in an upper room waiting for the Roman army or the Sanhedrin to break down the doors and kill them.

But look what happened. Those eleven men and the ones who then followed them became the movement of a Godly Army, cutting through society’s rules and norms – which were much the same as the “new” laws we see being passed. As the writer of Ecclesiastes noted, there is nothing new under the sun.

Christianity is a dangerous path. It divides families and communities established for generations. I’ve witnessed it divide congregations. I’ve also seen it bring something new.

Something Strong.

Be a Truth speaker.

Stand up for our God and watch Him respond in kind. Avoid the trap of doing things without Love as your reason and follow through because we Love Jesus.

Live a Dangerous Faith and be ready, armed with the Truth of the Gospel to defend and even die for the Truth of Faith in Jesus.

Watch Revival come as a result.

The Nature of God: Comforter

If you love me, you will keep my commands; and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforting Counselor like me, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you forever. The world cannot receive him, because it neither sees nor knows him. You know him, because he is staying with you and will be united with you.

John 14:15-17
Jesus spoke these words to the eleven remaining disciples after Judas had left the Last Supper. A teacher I respect enormously, Andrew Wommack, describes the three chapters of John’s Gospel from 14 through to 16 as a ‘Christian Survival Kit’ for Jesus’s followers.
The first encouragement, repeated many times in the Gospels and – so I’ve been told but haven’t actually counted myself – is an encouragement used 366 time through the scriptures: “Do not let your heart be troubled”, a count that comforted me as it means even in a leap-year the voice of God has a different reason for us to rest in Him every day.
The disciples didn’t grasp at their last meal with Jesus before His arrest exactly what He was saying. If they had, perhaps the next three days would have been very different for them. Paul wrote later that all Scripture is useful for our teaching (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17) and this holds especially true to the teachings Jesus gave as a comfort to His followers on what we call Maundy Thursday: the night of His arrest.
The promised Holy Spirit would descend on the Apostles at Pentecost and was accompanied by boldness to speak because of the comfort it had bestowed on them. Peter, the same man who had three times denied Christ at His execution now delivered the first sermon:

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.’

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, For He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 
Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Ti
ll I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Acts 2-;14-41

The words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the promised Comforter to come, inspired 3000 people to give their lives to Christ that day. I’m certain English does not do justice to the nature of the words in their original language whether it was spoken in Aramaic or Greek, but the message is one we need to hold on to at this time.

The times are changing. Social change is causing upheaval of societies in a way not seen in a hundred lifetimes. Many practices St Paul specifically condemned as sinful are being embraced by “liberal” teachers as acceptable and not offensive to God, presumably because poor, misinformed Paul didn’t have access to 21st century society and it’s social norms.

But be comforted.

Allow the Peace only Christ’s Holy Spirit can bring to us wash into our lives and let Him bring peace and comfort to us.

What's Important?

“Spending counterfeit incentive
Wasting precious time and health
Placing value on the worthless
Disregarding priceless wealth
You can wheel and deal the best of them
Steal it from the rest of them
You know the score, their ethics are a bore”
Lyrics from “Mr Businessman” by Ray Stevens

 Faced with a choice at the moment. It’s not easy to make life-changing decisions when it will have an affect on more than your own life.

My choice: Where am I supposed to be?

Currently I’m living in South Africa, a country I’ve come to call home since I moved here in 2003 but has become increasingly hostile towards foreigners. I’m British by birth. I’ve mentioned that in several previous posts. My wife and I have a business here that’s growing – albeit slowly. But it’s a single-string income. If something happens to her we have no income.

So my choice. I’ve actually made it, but it has been hard. For the last few weeks I’ve been applying for jobs in the Christian sector of British employment. It’s not a large sector, and the pay rate is lower in general – not in all cases – than in secular business.

But it’s my choice. I found an old cassette of Cliff Richard singing the song I quoted at the start. Listening to it again made me think hard about where I am and what I’m doing with my life.

This isn’t the life God called me to over twenty years ago. I touch an individual here and there, maybe even make a difference to them too – which I value. But it’s not where my heart is.

I’ve spoken to my wife and she agrees – reluctantly – that I should push the doors to return to England. She has to do courses to maintain her professional standing in South Africa which happen to be a requirement for her working in the UK as well. Two birds with one stone.

Since I made the decision there have been several changes, necessary ones but not ones I’d expected so soon. My right arm at work, a young lady I had come to rely on to help me keep things running put us into a position where we had to ask her to leave. By God’s Grace she has remained a friend, and that is something I’m truly Blessed to say. Her replacement is efficient in her own way, which is one I find it hard to work with. We’re different personality types and, well let’s just say I march to the beat of my own drummer! I’m difficult to work with until I establish a rhythm with colleagues, mercifully this happens fairly quickly.

So I’m applying. I’m looking to expand my reach into a country I’d left not expecting to return to. I’ve experienced racial discrimination first hand. I’ve had to take subsistence-level employment that is aimed at school-leavers still living at home. I’ve had personal health issues and my family has been hit with cancers, chronic ailments too many to name and financial issues.

So my question.

What’s important? What really matters?

I’ve been relatively affluent in the past. I’ve been on an income below the poverty-line as well. Paul said he could find God both in plenty and in lack, and so have I. Even when the financial institutions call and ask for a payment I have the strength to say “join the queue” to them. Literally.

I’ve learned what really matters is that I am in Christ and He is in me. That I love my wife with all my heart. And that together we can focus on what’s crucially important.

Living our life the way Jesus wants us to live them, where He wants us to live them. He is our provider, not our business or employer.

The only thing that’s truly important?

Jesus died so I can Live.

Simple Things 2

Back when I began this blogging project I wrote of the simplicity of Jesus in His message of being the Water of Life.

You can find the post back in July 2011 if you choose to.

Jesus gave us a simple path, straightforward and unique in the simplicity of it: follow Him and be saved.

“Saved”. What does the word mean?

We use it the same way we use “Gospel”.

Without thought.

The greek word often translated “saved” meant many different things. Salvation of the Spirit, redemption from Hell – and Jesus seemed to think this was a literal destination, so we probably should even though certain groups believe we should be more”enlightened” on the subject – also it speaks to financial stability with an abundance to let God show His Covenant with us through our material prosperity and ability to administer it to give in His name to the needy. In places it is used to refer to healing of the body in this lifetime.

One simple greek word.

We read so many things we forget the simple ones. We miss subtle nuances from the original language and the twinkle in Jesus’s eye as He tells a Samaritan woman it’s not right to give the children’s food to the dogs. From her response there must have been no judgement in His statement, merely an invitation to her to exercise her faith given to her by His Spirit.

Simple Truth.

Simply put.

Keep it simple. Let your yes be yes and your no, no.

Give, don’t lend. Loans can lead to resentment, but Jesus didn’t lend His power to us, He gave it. Freely and without limit as long as we use it as He would. No resentment.

Simple Freedom.

Keep it simple.

Context is Essential

I recently found an accurate quote from CS Lewis on a web page devoted to what is termed “Progressive Christianity”. Any regular reader knows my opinion of the movement is one of well meaning but ultimately misguided people, but that’s another topic.

I’ve seen posts before, of course, but what hit me about this one was how the words had been twisted to suit the meaning of the person using the quote rather than the intended meaning from the author.
The quote was:

If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are wrong all through

Alarmed, I went to my CS Lewis collection – Google – and typed in the quote. There came up before me the entire passage from Mere Christianity:

If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth.
When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong; but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.”

Relieved, I calmly read the entire context over again.

Lewis is right, of course, in that there are religions very close to the Truth out there. It’s what makes them so plausible. I was told by a convicted con-man once that the best lies are 90% truth. Any more lie and it becomes too far-fetched. Any more and it’s too easy to spot the lie.

The most important thing we can do as Christians is to be mindful of the context of the Bible and the people who wrote it. John never imagined television. But could it be that the Second Coming will be televised? Revelation 1:7 – out of context – suggests it. “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him”. Of course, Revelation isn’t saying CNN will be there to capture the Rapture. It simply implies that all will see Him – perhaps “see” would be better interpreted as “recognise”? I’m not a Greek scholar and I won’t pretend to be. I know a few words here and there, but not the one translated as “see” here. But in the context of the whole passage, recognising Jesus for who He was and is makes as much, if not more sense than literally seeing.

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself“; “Go and do likewise“; “What you do, do quickly”. The three quotes out of context could build a suicide theology. Perhaps a comic twist, but it makes the point. The words of Jesus must be understood in the context of His entire ministry. Similarly, Paul’s letters and the rest of the entire Bible must be taken in the context of the time and place.

But we must also look and understand them within today’s context.

Covering her hair was the modesty of a woman in 1st Century Jerusalem. The women who showed their hair were usually prostitutes, so what Paul actually means when he writes that women should keep their hair or head covered was to not dress like a hooker – a very different statement. Similarly, whilst commanding women to obey their husbands he says husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the Church. In that context, loving our wives as sacrificially as Jesus loves us is a very difficult challenge. To make every action we undertake a selfless act to help grow and nurture our spouse’s very existence is very different from being a dominating and overwhelming taskmaster to her. The writing is to encourage mutual respect. Paul emphasises the roles of men and women as different, but of equal value. Each is a reflection of God, and taken in the context of the letters this should be obvious.

Context is critical to everything we say and do. Politicians claim their words are taken out of context on a regular basis. Sometimes they are, and sometimes not. I’m sure I take words out of context despite trying not to. It’s almost impossible to get everything in the context it was originally intended to be understood in. Sometimes a joke is only funny at the specific moment it’s told. Recounting the story later fails to capture the essence of the moment.

I’ll keep trying to see the whole context of Scripture. Parables, history, poetry and dialogue all interwoven with the time they were transcribed and the understanding of the writers make it hard, but we owe it to them and ourselves to see the whole Truth in the words. I love the Amplified translation of the Bible because for words with multiple meanings it gives a deeper understanding of the English words. The Greek word for romantic love, “eros”, bears no relationship to that for brotherly love, “philio”, communal love,”storge”, or Godly love, agape. But all are translated as “love” in English.

There may be examples where this is reversed and English words have multiple understandings to foreign tongues.

So we should all keep looking for context and subtleties in the Bible and anything else we quote to bolster our argument so we tell 100% of the story.

Surely striving for that is what Jesus would have us do?