Facing the Past to Move into God's Future

We all have them. Skeletons in our closets that make us feel unusable. Things we wouldn’t want the people around us to know.

“Peter had an affair”. “John left his wife”. “Before she joined the church Anne was a prostitute”. “Alan embezzled to get where he is today”.

Maybe not as big, but we all have them. Events from our past that haunt us. Playing “doctor” as a child and exploring the opposite gender for the first time – or the twenty-first as an adult.

It’s the seemingly little things that haunt us. The accusations that come in the night when we’re alone. Our husband or wife asleep beside us and the guilt that floods our minds. Images real or imagined flood through our beings and we lose sleep. Actions whether taken or not haunt us as God’s Children. We feel the missed mark more acutely than the bullseye.

I remember very little of my childhood. My brother died when he was ten and I was 13, and the majority of the time we had together is more a memory of a memory. There’s very little clarity in my head. I remember the loss. The pain of losing Robin but not the joy of having him in my life.

I remember skeletons we shared with cousins and friends as small children do, exploring out of sight of adults the mysteries of our differences. Why did this cousin play with dolls and this one with toy guns? Robin died in 1985 and personal computers – although available – were things of luxury. We finally got one just a few weeks before he died and instantly all our friends wanted to come and see and play games on it. But mostly we went to other people’s homes and played traditional games.

Simpler times. No cell-phones or facebook to interrupt us. We played and explored as generations had done before.

Something happened as we grew up. Friendship got replaced with BBM and Whatsapp. Facebook dominates the time of the majority of the youth at a time when they need to find out who they are they are too busy trying to find out if Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears are wearing underwear. A few years ago in the movie “True Lies” (1994) a character laments that Axl Rose and Madonna are the one’s raising their kids these days, not mom and dad. 21 years later how much has that deteriorated. Now most parents might be happy for that influence instead of Ashley Madison…

The assault on the nuclear family in the media has been relentless. Pre-nuptuial agreements, contracts settling how equity will be divided in the event of divorce are routine contracts these days. The concept of “All my worldly goods with you I share” is replaced with an addendum “except the lake house in Virginia, the ski lodge in Aspen and the Yacht in Miami.” Marriages are entered into with the expectation of failure.

At a time when families are needed more we have fewer men capable of being real men because they have never been fathered themselves.

I was blessed that my grandfathers both survived the second World War, one as a minister on the Home Front – something he regretted to the day he died as he wanted to go to Europe and fight the Nazis, and the other as a Major in the British Army serving as a motorcycle outrider and accountant for the regiment with distinction gained for valour on the Normandy Beach assaults, D-Day, June 6th 1944.

The foundation these strong men left was passed down to me as an example of what a real man should be. Fearless in battle, both spiritual and physical, a protector.

Too many of my friends growing up didn’t have what I had. Parents had divorced, grandfathers had died and fathers had had no guiding influence because their own grandfathers had died between 1914 and 1918. Two lost generations dead physically or too traumatised to raise sons to be Men.

This is the past we must face.

This is what as Christians we must overturn.

The steady moral decay from the 1950’s through to today, removing Christian influence in schooling in the 1960’s, the rise of a powerful atheist minority who make a lot of noise while the Church stays silent has resulted in a world gone mad. Smaller wars like Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands, Afghanistan, Desert Storm along with genocide in African countries and now ISIS and their atrocities added to “ethnic cleansing” in central Europe makes for a holocaust of slaughter that Hitler himself would be proud of.

We must repent of our past.

Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech 53 years ago this year. He called on citizens to rise up and break the bonds of tyranny and segregation. Just 20 years ago my wife and I would be criminals in South Africa as I am white and she is not. I have been accused to my face of betraying my race by both black and white individuals.

It is a past we need to move beyond.

God has a plan for the future of Mankind. He called it “Incarnation”

He took our own form, lived a human life and died a human death so we could have a future in Him after His resurrection.

His plan for the future is what we need to remember.

My wife and I watched “Evan Almighty” recently. God appears in the form of Morgan Freeman and instructs a young congressman to build an Ark like Noah had been told to.

His explanation after a burst dam floods a housing project and the ark has saved hundreds of lives is that to change the world, all we need to to make one act of random kindness a day.

Act of
Random
Kindness.

ARK.

The simplicity of the message is right up there with the parables if we approach it from a Godly standpoint rather than an entertainment one.

What if God’s future were really based on building on Acts of Random Kindness? What if we could effect change simply by adopting a puppy or making peace with a neighbour?

That’s a personal dig at myself. I can forgive people who steal from me – and I do so easily. I have forgiven people who threw the first punch physically (even when I threw the last one) and gone on to have long friendships with them, but forgiving my literal next-door neighbour has caused me great anxiety. My olive branches have been made into kindling to start a new fire. After an attempted break-in on our property which sent our dogs nuts at three in the morning I went round to apologise and ask if they were ok as the intruder had jumped the fence between our properties. I left feeling like I was the bad-guy because his sleep had been disrupted.

Forgiving him has been difficult. And is a work in progress.

It’s also essential for my own growth. Unforgiveness is a cancer in the soul that prevents us moving to the next level with God. To move into the future I must forgive the ones who have hurt me.

All of them.

So do you. We all have the annoying neighbour, relative or acquaintance we can’t escape. Sometimes the easiest way is to decide to forgive, but to sever contact with that person. It’s not always easy. Especially when it’s family – believe me. But in the end we don’t need conflict in our lives. Conflict prevents God from giving us the Best He has for us. Forgiveness opens that door.

So face the past. Acknowledge it, but don’t hold onto it.

Move into the Future God has for you.

You’ll never regret it.
Mistake

Western Style Persecution

Persecution. The word conjures up images of torture and the Spanish Inquisition, burnings, hangings, and disfigurements.

But in the developed world, mostly anyway, persecution is more subtle. Modern martyrs aren’t all beheaded in Iraq by ISIS.

So below I list 4 kinds of persecution that exists in today’s western world.

1. Workplace Discrimination.

Some of them are working alongside you in your office. They are the ones who are ridiculed daily for their faith. Perhaps they are a little more vocal about being a Christian than we have been. Perhaps the result is a subtle ostracizing of them. A passing over for promotion here. Refused leave there – especially around Christmas or Easter. There’s always a “legal” reason these things can be refused and denied, but persecution often whittles away at the spirit of an individual. I know of people denied training as psychologists because they mentioned in their application that they went to church – while their Muslim and Hindu fellow applicants were given places. It’s a surprisingly common double standard that exists today.

Too often we allow ourselves to be silenced because of it. We become “living dead” instead of proclaiming life. We have the light in us, but we hide it instead of letting it shine because it’s inconvenient for us to shine out for the Gospel. It might even affect the size of our bank account! The persecution is subtle, but effective. It serves its purpose. It silences the witnesses even more effectively than death as the individual becomes a walking example of turning away.

2. From The Church Itself!

The happen often from the lies that creep in because we’ve lost sight of the complete picture of the Gospel. We become flies trying to make sense of a Da Vinci painting or a Michelangelo sculpture.

We only see the piece we’re standing on, and fail to grasp the nature of the whole truth. The enemy divides us through bickering and confusion in attempt to conquer. False doctrines such as salvation by works, get-rich gospels, forced traditions or forced emotionalism separate us into different camps.

We lose track of who the enemy is and pull the trigger against each other.

3. Discrimination Against Those Perceived As “Greater Sinners.”

Even among those who aren’t part of a church, sins are often categorized in tiers, as though some are less abhorrent than others. Yet at the same time, Paul does write that sexual sin is a worse sin than others:

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

Sexual immorality is a sin against our own body. There’s no room for interpretation here. No “wiggle room.” Yet I’ve heard pastors advise that it’s not so bad to sleep with the person you’re dating. Everyday a new generation are conceived to professing believers outside marriage. The modern paradigm is “See how the baby works out. Perhaps we can get married then.” How far removed from Paul’s teaching.

Other sin listed is overlooked completely. We covet cars and assets. Women and men are objectified and worshiped by us, idolatry in a subtle though sometimes obvious form. We believe our own “need” for the latest phone or tablet is not covetousness, but those who make more money than us are selfish and greedy.

How subtle. How easily we slip away from the truth of Christ. We justify the sins that we struggle with and vilify the sins of others. It’s another form of persecution against Christians by Christians.

Let’s call it Christian-on-Christian persecution!

4. Being Taught Or Exposed To Only One View of Scripture.

While truth is not relative, there are nuances and perspectives we might miss if we only subscribe to the opinion of one person. We should have the freedom to decide for ourselves. Otherwise we’re being exposed to a form of brainwashing.

Hearing only one person or one church’s interpretations of the Bible also weakens our ability to respond to false doctrine and teachings. We should weigh what we hear and see. We should ask if it lines up with the Bible. We must reject it if it doesn’t match. And unless you can read Aramaic and Greek, use more than one translation to try to find the deeper meanings of the passages.

Moffatt’s translation, and many other translations give insight into the other possible translations of words accepted blindly since the Authorized Version was commissioned by King James in England.

Personally I like the Amplified Version as it gives a complete listing of many words. What’s more, get a copy of Strong’s Concordance and look up the key words in passages to find the fuller meanings and weigh the apparent facts to find the truth inferred automatically by the writers.

We must have the intellectual freedom to ensure we have as many of the facts and perspectives possible so that we don’t inadvertently reject the truth or keep our children from it.

Persecution By Any Other Name

All of this lies in the boundaries of persecution in the 21st century of the West. All these things so easily discarded and now ignored wedge between us and Christ. He never said He had come that we would have material goods in abundance. Maybe we will and maybe we won’t but goods are not life.

There is no Life in a gaming console. We live like the Sims for so much of the time. Separated from the Vine by choice. Withering and dying without even noticing.

Yes, what we think of as persecution goes on. Lives are cut short in places like Iraq, China and other countries by those determined to destroy Christianity (often in governments given too much power). But these visible modern martyrs are small in number compared to the number who backslide from their Savior because its inconvenient to follow the Gospel in its fullness.

We have no choice but to sail our faith ship straight into the storm of the World, but let’s not turn around and let the storm blow us into who knows where, let’s adjust our sail to make the storm drive us closer to Jesus. Then we become a beacon for others lost in the storm looking for answers.

Remember: we hold the chart to a safe harbor and solid ground.

It is time for us as Christians to come out and stand united and defy the ruler of this world. We let too much slide by. The holocaust of unborn lives being executed in the name of convenience while we hand out information packs on HIV and “safe” sex instead of teaching them to respect not only themselves, but their future husband or wife as well. Abstinence is a certain way to prevent any STD.

But the concept is laughed at. The notion of a celibate life followed by a secure monogamous marriage is laughed at by the world while the church often sits and does nothing.

Don’t be deceived. We face persecution every day.Our friends and family throw it at us. Secular leaders do it all the time. Even some misguided ministers do it. We need to stand against all advances of the enemy. We must fortify the faith we hold dear by encouraging each other and by holding ourselves accountable to the Word of God. And finally, we must not turn a blind eye to those in other countries whose lives are under constant threat because of their faith. We must join their fight. The organization, Voice of the M
artyrs
helps keep us informed and allows us to give directly to helping those persecuted for their faith.

It’s the start of fighting persecution. And make no mistake: we walk behind enemy lines in an all out war surrounded by the enemy on all sides and the only way out is to fight through with truth. Truth will overcome any persecution. Even persecution to the point of death.

Ask. What Have You Got To Lose

It seems when we read the Bible that being rich may be a barrier to getting into Heaven. When Jesus counsels the rich young ruler in Mark 10, the man leaves unhappy because he is advised the only thing he lacks is to surrender all his belongings and follow Jesus.

As a hoarder, I can relate. A few months ago my wife and I had to move in with my mum, which was fine, except that my mom and I both collect things – on a big scale. For mom it’s model cats and houses. For me it’s a range of things. The result is chaos. Even I have to admit it.

My wife is a minimalist by comparison, and it’s been a source of stress for us.

I tend to be “ruled” by my desire to hold onto things. The rich young ruler had the same problem.

But Jesus wasn’t condemning him for being wealthy, rather the issue was for having that wealth as an idol separating him from God. In many ways I identify with him. One of the things I collected over the years are Bibles. The irony of a collection of Bibles getting between me and Christ is not lost on me. Many of the translations I use for personal study are not available online that I’ve found, so I have them handy in print in case I need them. They get in the way.

The disciples were incredulous when they thought Jesus said a rich man couldn’t enter Heaven. I’ve read around the topic a bit, and come to a conclusion. Jesus was actually trying to get the disciples to realize that a man who places his trust in earthly wealth alone will never enter Heaven. It came as a relief that my trust is not in the number of books I own, but the relationship with God through Jesus which allows me to enter into Eternal Life in spite of my collections rather than because of them.

Jesus didn’t condemn the wealthy for being wealthy. When Nicodemus came to Him, Jesus didn’t tell him to get rid of his belongings. Nicodemus’s search was sincere as to what he needed to do. The young ruler was trying to make a spectacle of himself and show that he was secure because he had money. As a leader, Nicodemus is unlikely to have been poor. The difference is in his heart’s attitude, and as a result the rich man, Nicodemus, learns how to enter the Kingdom as his trust is not in riches but God’s Grace and the New Covenant.

We need to hold onto that concept, and cross into Luke 11:

So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you.For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened.What father among you, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts [gifts that are to their advantage] to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!”
(Luke 11:9-13 Amplified)
We have a Father, a Daddy-God who longs to give us good things when we ask. The things are not limited to bread and eggs, but these are not precluded either. It’s whatever we need to accomplish God’s purpose.
I petition God through prayer, and once I’m sure I’m in line with His will I keep asking. Not because God needs me to ask, but because the enemy needs to know I trust God to provide. After I’m certain I’m asking in His will, my prayer changes to a fight to move the blockades from the enemy preventing me from receiving what God has provided for me. It may take time, but I have never failed to receive what God released for me except where I stopped seeking and asking on a daily – sometimes hourly – basis. It becomes possible to ask and receive.
For anything.

My son, attend to my words; consent and submit to my sayings.Let them not depart from your sight; keep them in the center of your heart.For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh.

Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. Put away from you false and dishonest speech, and willful and contrary talk put far from you.Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you.Consider well the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established and ordered aright.Turn not aside to the right hand or to the left; remove your foot from evil.”
(Proverbs 4:20-27 Amplified)
God’s words are life and health to us. He hates dishonesty and “contrary talk” or gossip.
When we commit our paths to Him, He guides us, and all we ask in His Name suddenly becomes something to Hope for, have Faith for and receive.
And All things become possible. The only limit placed on us is the one we place on us.
Take off the limits and Trust a Father who wants only the very best for us. 
The only thing we have to lose is our failures.

Eleanor Rigby Syndrome

You probably know the old Beatles song “Eleanor Rigby”. It was a double “A” side single that went to No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1966. I stumbled on an old LP of my dad’s recently. On it was the song.

“Waits at the window, Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?”

The lyric stuck in my head. It’s something we all do.

We have different faces. The face at school or work where we have to be the right image to fit in. The face with our family. The face with our friends.

I saw different faces a lot as a kid. There was one guy in particular who alone, away from a group, was a really decent guy. But when he was with others or at school he changed faces more than a chameleon changes colour.

The greatest compliment anyone ever paid me was a couple of years after I committed to follow Jesus. Eddie, a “tough” guy at school, was a guy who respected and stood up for me. There weren’t many. It was an all boys school and my main hobby after school was Ballet. Looking at me these days you’d never believe it, but I enjoyed it.

Eddie told me “Dave, you’re always the same. Tiger in the wolves den. You don’t change your stripes.”

I wish that was still the case. It was easy at school. I didn’t fit into a group and I didn’t want to pretend to be something I wasn’t, so I just kept to myself and had as little interaction with others as possible. When I did have to engage I just stayed as myself. What you see is what you get.

As I got older I had to adapt. We all do. We grow more faces the more we’re around others and the more situations we encounter. Each one brings out a different face.

The problem is as Christians we’re supposed to be the face of Jesus.

It’s easy to forget.

It’s easier to show the angry face than the compassionate one. The disappointed instead of the forgiving. Loving instead of bitterness.

For everything there is a season,
a right time for every intention under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1

There’s a time for everything, so says the writer of Ecclesiastes. Is there a time for different faces?

There’s place for different faces in our lives. Even God has different faces. The provider, the healer, the one who sanctifies are peaceful, beautiful images. God my Shepherd. This is a little different. In the Bible times a shepherd was not the gentle figure with a collie-dog next to him. He was rugged and hardy.

King David was a shepherd. The shepherd killed the lion and the bear to protect the flock.

This face of God is different. He is a jealous God – so He says Himself in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:5). He will defend His people but they must be His people, devoted to Him. We see over and over in the Bible that the two faces, loving and angry, forgiving and vengeful dwell in God in harmony.

Jesus was the embodiment of both. Witness Him in the Temple. He sees the money-changers stealing His children’s money. He sees the unjust scales and corrupt priests making a profit from the people coming to worship Him and the Father. So He takes leather straps. See Him sitting outside the Temple braiding them together. The disciples must have been confused – this wasn’t normal for Jesus.
Then He stands and slowly walks into the bustling outer court of the Temple itself.

The chaos must have been terrible. He throws over tables, drives out animals and thrashes the cheating money-changers with the whip He just made. Deliberate, terrible anger. But then in the middle of it we see Him stop to open the cages of the doves. Such gentility in the midst of such anger. The two faces in harmony.

The same God who cracked the whip chose to hang on a Roman Cross. The same God who placed the stars in the sky chose to walk among us clothed in flesh. The same God who will be Judge will also be in the Dock.

Eleanor Rigby may have kept a face in the jar. We do. God Himself does.

We don’t see all the faces of God at once. Usually.

Usually we don’t see them because we don’t look. It’s a case of missing the wood because the trees are in the way. The angry God of the Old Testament demanding the slaughter of all ahead of the Israelites as they enter the Promised Land is the same God who hung on the Cross and who offers His Spirit to us today.

I once heard it said that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah wasn’t sexual depravity. Rather it was that the sexual depravity was no longer considered to be a sin that so angered God that He destroyed the cities. As Ecclesiastes says:

That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9)

Times have changed but men have not. The face of mankind displayed by ISIS is no different than that displayed by the Crusades. I know that’s a controversial thing to say, but let’s face it: if Richard the Lionheart leading the Crusade to Jerusalem had been able to use cruise missiles and C4 explosives then he would have done. That which was done is done again.

But whilst for man it’s a bad thing, we must take heart because as much as mankind repeats history, God doesn’t change. His nature is constant. He demonstrates His consistency in nature. Gravity, the speed of light, the speed of sound, the rotation of the planets all move with consistency and reflect Him to us if we will see it.

All God’s faces are unified. Our part is to reflect His face at each moment.

Don’t be Eleanor Rigby. She kept her face, her real face hidden.

Our real face is His. Be angry when God is angry and at what He is angry about. Be angry at the actions of the group murdering its way blindly across the Middle-East. But love the individuals within the group. Forgive the man with the sword but hate the action.

It’s hard. Most people can’t separate one from the other most of the time. I certainly can’t, but I try. I ask God every day to soften my heart and make it like His, strong rather than impervious. Gentle enough to take a moment to release a dove in the middle of starting a riot.

I’m a work in progress. I wear many faces and I keep them ready to change at a moment’s notice.

I long for the day that I can say I’m no longer an Eleanor Rigby.

Courage and Tolerance

There is a definite spirit of intolerance over the country of Bangladesh at the moment regarding speaking out against Islam.

Niloy Neel was murdered in his home for having the temerity to question Islam on his Blog.

Let me be clear: While Niloy was an atheist of Hindu background and I am a Christian and this is a Christian Blog, I grieve for his death. All Christians should.

In case I’ve not made it clear on this blog in the past, I’ll say it now: Eagle’s Wing Ministries is here to promote Christianity as the only path to God, and as such demonstrate that only by Jesus can we be reconciled with God our Father.

In “A Grief Observed”, CS Lewis says “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” Christianity is something we must be prepared to defend with our very lives if needed. There is only one correct solution to a mathematical puzzle. Other methods may get an answer that is close, but close and correct are very different concepts.

Islam is close to the Truth, but it misses the mark. It produces many good, moral men. I have often done business with Muslim professionals on a handshake because they will not renege on a deal for the sake of Allah. When I do business with a Christian I usually feel I need to get the agreement in writing. There’s something wrong there, but it’s the way it is.

I believe Mohammed was a false prophet. As a Christian I cannot do anything else. His teachings, however moral, still lead away from God.

I reject atheism as a life-choice. Again I quote CS Lewis: “Atheists express their rage against God although in their view He does not exist.” Why spend so much time and energy trying to convince me I’m wrong about God’s existence if my belief makes me a nobler human being, a more compassionate one than I might otherwise have been? Most Christians I know seek to help others sacrificially on their part. They open soup kitchens to feed the homeless. They open shelters to house the needy. I’m not saying no atheists do these things, but in my experience they are the exception historically.

I applaud Niloy for his stance. He championed causes I would champion. He fought for equal rights and upliftment of women and minorities, and the right to free speech.

And men claiming to be “religious” murdered him, doing their god’s bidding.

In the Bible this happened. The Israelites were led astray by belief in Moloch, a devil masquerading as a god who demanded the murder of children. Flash forward to today and you’ll see ISIS sending out children as suicide bombers.

Now more than ever as Christians we need to have courage to speak out for our Faith in our Lord. We need to show tolerance and patience to those who have yet to believe in Jesus as their Saviour. Just as Jesus Himself did.

Nobody cannot be saved through the Love of Christ unless they choose to not accept it. The murders in the middle East right now are simply another attack of the Enemy on our conscience and a distraction designed to strike fear into the hearts of believers. They target Christian areas and towns where Christians have lived for 2000 years, displacing them and seeking to eradicate our Lord from “their” land.

The lines have been drawn in the sand – literally. But we need to step across the line. It was drawn by a false god’s followers. Just like the Romans, ISIS will fall and the remnant will return. Nothing to stand against Christ’s Good News in 2000 years has endured.

Through prayer and action, that will not change now.

Pray for the Middle East, Syria, Iraq and all those brothers and sisters displaced by these terrorists

Pray for Courage to give them strength in their struggle, and tolerance to allow them to live out the commandment to love our enemies.

Above all, pray for those writers, journalists and bloggers alike, who are prepared to risk their very lives to speak out against the injustices in their countries.

I don’t usually do this, but I ask you to pray this prayer with me:

Lord Jesus: You know the hearts and minds of men. Strengthen the pastors and teachers in these oppressed areas under such terrible persecution from false gods and their worshipers. Give them the courage to speak your word in what they write and to whomever they speak. Give them your wisdom to soothe the wounds caused by the hatred stirred up in these troubled times.

Lead the hearts of the accusers to seek Truth from those they persecute as you did with St Paul on the Damascus Road. Let these violent men become warriors for your cause in heart, word and action. Change their hearts and cause the lies of the enemy to be silenced so they can hear your beautiful voice telling them “this is the way – walk in it” and recognise your Truth.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Finding Peace in Chaos

They say a writer should write every day whether he has a paying client or not. It hones the skill to a great degree. For a Christian writer it’s much the same, but also completely different.

When I write it’s usually late at night, often between 1am and 3am. There’s no distractions except the quiet breathing of my wife and the occasional nuzzle from one of the dogs looking for attention.

My life is in a state of great upheaval at the moment. We’ve been hit in the last five years by the heaviest blows I’ve ever experienced as a Christian, all starting from within a week of me beginning to write. First there was poor health, then family members diagnosed with terminal illness. Financial struggles, the upheaval of moving home, new neighbours who were less than friendly (and still are).

In short there has been chaos.

Normally I’m comfortable in chaos. Four years ago following the loss of a job through stress I finally found a psychiatrist who could answer the question I’ve been asking for thirty years: with an IQ so high, why do I fail to perform? What’s wrong with me?

That was a question I’ve struggled with as long as I can remember. The answer? “David: you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder.”

ADD is a “silent” illness in adults – especially ones my age (40+). I grew up being told I was lazy and untidy. Employers told me I was disorganised. Eventually I decided I needed to be self-employed to survive. Now even that is too much for me because the business has expanded and I’m no longer mentally capable of maintaining the focus I need to do the job. But at least I know why.

In the middle of all the chaos I’ve had to learn to find peace.

Technically my wife is terminally ill. She is in remission, controlled by medication, but the illness has a 100% mortality rate.

Chaos.

For over two years neither of us could work and our financial stability fell apart despite God placing some amazing people around us to support us.

Chaos.

Our new business hinges on my being able to perform as manager – which I’m failing at – and her ability to do her part, which is hard because f what we’re going through.

Chaos.

So I write. I don’t keep everything I write, and I certainly don’t post it here or anywhere else usually.

Tonight I felt I had to, that there is someone out there who needs to know it’s alright to be different: God still has a plan for you.

I choose to write late at night because it’s the time I can hear God most clearly. Maybe for you it’s while you’re washing the car or vacuuming the living room. Whatever that place is, find it every day.

Spend time with Jesus every day. Preferably in the Bible. I have the New Testament recorded on CD and transferred onto my MP3 player so I can have time hearing the Word, because Faith comes by hearing. I listen to it some nights, others I listen to recorded sermons or devotionals. But every night I fight the chaos and drive it out to find a space for peace.

It’s odd the way my body works. I take three different sedatives to help me sleep, and if I don’t, I can’t sleep. But they don’t knock me out cold. It’s 2am here as I’m writing and I took the “sleeping” pills at around 10:30pm. Any one on it’s own should render me unconscious in less than half an hour. All they do for me is to slow the pace at which my mind runs.

But this is a Blessing for me. By slowing me down I can more easily hear God’s voice when I pray. I’m not in a rush to finish the prayer.

I find Peace.

The chaos in my life will not go away quickly. Some of it may never go away, and some of it will need a miracle greater than I currently have the strength to believe for to overcome, but God gives me the gift of peaceful sleep, even if it’s only two or three hours some nights.

Peace in the midst of Chaos.

Christ in the middle of the Storm.

Every night He invites me to step out of the boat and walk on the water with Him. Some nights I can, some I can’t. But when I can’t, I call out to Him and He comes to me and comforts me. Like a warm blanket on a cold evening I feel my spirit wrapped up in His Love and I receive Peace.

The chaos will probably never go away. The World hates those who truly try to follow Christ because we truly seek to follow Him. I expect to be involved in daily battles. I expect to win them day to day because Jesus is with me and He has overcome the World.

But a battlefield is chaos.

I visited the battlefields in France as a child where so many young men died in the trenches of World War One. There are places where the front lines are so close together you can hold a conversation with someone standing opposite, and certainly where a 90lb wimp could throw a grenade far enough to land in the trench opposite. The landscape is filled with craters and unexploded munitions a hundred years old that can still go off. People still die on the Flanders Fields long after the guns have been silenced. Even in the aftermath of that war, the battlefields are chaotic.

Then there are places in the middle of the battlefields. Cemeteries of German and British/Allied troops. In the middle of the horror of the reality you walk through to reach them, there is peace in the middle of the chaos.

Christ offers us that. The stability of a Spiritual Peace that goes beyond our comprehension in the middle of the worst situations we can imagine, He can bring Peace if we will let Him.

My wife struggles to find peace. Living with me is not easy. ADD sufferers are generally not easy to live with, and I have a habit of not dealing well with stress. Chaos invariably follows.

I take myself out of the situation so she can seek some Peace in her way with God, and I can seek it in my way.

Finding peace in chaos is hard to do, I won’t lie about it. It requires a discipline that, frankly, I’m ill-equipped to follow through on. But I persevere. I need that Peace that only Christ can give.

This entry is more personal than meditation in nature.

I hope it can Bless you to know just two things:

1) It’s never too late to stop and invite Jesus in to bring Peace in the chaos of your life
2) You’re not alone.

Feel free to write to me if you’d like me to pray for you to stand in agreement with you to see Peace passing all comprehension fill both our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of Jesus. The Peace-Giver.

A Predictable Walk is Possible…

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

John 14: 12-14
 
Doing more than Jesus. Terrifying promises on the surface, but we do it every day. Jesus never had a laptop or an internet connection. Wireless communication then was carrier pigeons.
But Jesus was consistent. He may have accelerated some of the natural processes, but he never broke a single law set out by God the Father at creation. Water is a key ingredient in making wine. Even doctors will tell you that to recover fully most patients need to be told they will recover by someone they can trust beyond any doubt.
Spiritually it’s the same. Jesus demonstrated patterns to us.
  1. Identify the need
  2. Ask God what you can do to use the gifts He placed in you to help
  3. Ask the person to exercise their faith with yours
  4. Have the courage to step out and use the gift, no matter the personal potential for loss and humiliation
  5. Don’t back down: stay resolute in the battle
  6. See the victory – not always quickly, but see it nonetheless.

Six simple steps but steps we seldom make because of fear. But when we do follow through we receive those things that are termed “miracles” but should be “Thursday afternoon.” Don’t mistake me, I am in awe when I allow God to use me this way, but I’m a nervous wreck when He does. The enemy bombards with “what if” words which discourage and break down the resolve. It’s a battle that needs to be one in our own heart before it is waged on behalf of others by us. We need to stand on solid ground we are sure of. First turn the list on yourself. For me, that’s a work in progress. I struggle with unforgiveness and anger towards people. I have no right to hold on to the pain caused, but I struggle to let go.

But when I get past it, I can let God use me. I have friendships born in furnace-heat fire which are stronger than steel and purer than gold and infinitely more precious that began with me taking the nudge from God and saying “Hey, God says I need to talk to you about “X”, whatever it is. Scares me witless every time. Never been wrong.

All I did was follow the steps and I got a predictable outcome. 100% victory when I followed the steps.

Consider the universe. Such orderly creation cannot come from a mind we cannot know or trust to be consistent. And if God is the same today as He was in Jesus’ day then we have nothing to fear by approaching Him and asking BIG as long as we ask in line with His Will. We find that written in our hearts. Mine is writing and flying. I’m halfway there!

The laws of physics and chemistry were designed by intelligence to work perfectly. They always work and never fail. As Scotty in Star Trek would say, “Ye Canna change the laws of physics,” and he’s right. We can’t, but through the power of His name we can manipulate them to achieve God’s outcome.

Predictable outcomes are crucial for us to grow as Christians. If we don’t see consistent results at our current level of faith, we can never be stretched to reach for the next level of our faith. We stay on  milk spiritually – it’s a great way to wither and die. As we grow we need more sustenance to grow. That can only be found by reaching a place where our prayers are answered daily. Predictably.

The predictability of the outcome comes when we see that our constant routine produces the same result. Then we adjust the sights – same steps – onto larger targets. I know of a minister who started out needing $1,000 per month who after being faithful for some time now needs $1,000,000 per month and growing to keep his ministry running. He learned the power of living a predictable Christian life.

Not dull.

Not mundane.

Predictable. Perhaps terrifying and uncomfortable, but predictable outcomes.

We can all do that.

Just remember the steps:

  1. Identify the need
  2. Ask God what you can do to use the gifts He placed in you to help
  3. Ask the person to exercise their faith with yours
  4. Have the courage to step out and use the gift, no matter the personal potential for loss and humiliation
  5. Don’t back down: stay resolute in the battle
  6. See the victory – not always quickly, but see it nonetheless.

And move into a predictable, victorious life.

Constant Change: Growth is essential

 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

Paul makes it clear from the outset of Romans 12 that conforming to the thinking of the world is not what we should be aiming for. The modern trend of the church seems to be to try to make the gospel more “acceptable” to the world. Less “controversial” in it’s outlook and message.

The so-called “progressive” movement advocates Jesus as only one of several or many routes to God. This is quite a dangerous theology as it is directly opposed to Jesus’ own teaching:

“Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me.” John 14:6 Amplified)

We need to grow in our likeness to Christ each day we walk with Him. Anything other than growth is tantamount to death. We’re either dying or growing. There’s nothing in between. The saying “adapt or die” in the context of Christianity would be more accurately put as “Grow or die”. We need to remain grafted into the branches of Christ’s vine to receive the nutrient we need Spiritually to grow and produce fruit.

There’s nothing in between.

As we walk with Jesus, we need to grow towards Him. He said it Himself:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14 NKJV)

So we should look to the fruit we are producing. Those we encounter, do they see Jesus in us? Do our actions reflect the attitudes and behaviour of Christ and His teaching? Do we daily grow more like Him, and most importantly, are our prayers answered in a way that not only imitates Him in every way, but actually begins over time to exceed the works He performed? I’d be content for now if I could just see and experience the results of prayer Jesus saw in His life. Healing the sick and raising the dead would be something to behold as I grow – or seek to grow – more like Him. But the reality is I’m not there yet. I fall short every day – we all do. The key is to try to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us and allow ourselves to grow.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. We are a living sacrifice – or we should be – and the biggest problem we have to overcome is the selfish desire to conform to the World to save ourselves grief or to crawl off the altar completely and return to our pre-Christ behaviours in all areas. In the Middle-East right now there are Westerners being murdered simply for not being muslims. The international outcry has been one of shock and horror, but we need to remember as Christians that we are at war. As such we need to grow more like Jesus to fight spiritually against this onslaught. For some this will mean leaving their homes and even families behind. For others it may mean dying for Christ.

We must change ourselves to His image constantly. If we fail to do so, we are nothing more than stagnant water, unable to support real life. The stench of our lack of growth pollutes everything we seek to do.

Growing in likeness to Christ refers to becoming more like Him. Being prepared to live with constant ridicule or even threat of death for the sake of the Truth and not compromise the message we speak, walk and demonstrate for the sake of popular opinion, and even to die for if called to do so. Peter, Paul and the other Apostles were persecuted, imprisoned and murdered for simply demonstrating the Power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Every earthly power from the Sanhedrin to the Roman Empire sought to wipe out the early church. Communism in recent years has tried to do the same, with the same result – growth in Christian numbers and more people prepared to surrender everything they are and have for Christ’s sake.

How can we call ourselves Christians – imitators of Jesus Christ – if we are not really prepared to give up our opulent Western lifestyle, never mind our lives for the sake of Jesus? How dare we?

We need to cling to Him, to ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen the graft into the Vine and make us more like Jesus every day. To strive to become through His strength, not our own, more Christ-like in the way we live and talk. To change our very existence on a daily basis to grow more like Him with every step.

Because spiritually as His followers we either grow or we die.