The War Cry…

With apologies to anyone expecting the Salvation Army’s newsletter I’m finding myself needing to write this.

My Grandad – Dad’s Dad – and his wife were both Salvation Army Officers during World War 2. In fact that’s how they met and so blame the Sally Army for the existence of this blog!

Grandpa – Mum’s Dad – was a soldier and took part in the Africa campaign under Montgomery and the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Both were men of honour and valour. Both were warriors in their own way.

Grandad was refused enlistment at the beginning of th war because he was classified as a Christian Minister – at that point it was considered an essential part of the defence of Great Britain to maintain a strong Spiritual connection with God through the Church and it’s activities. He was disappointed not to have the chance to fight as he believed it was his duty as a Christian to take up arms against the Nazi forces that had marched across Europe in their blitz of the continent.

Grandpa was an officer, rose to the rank of Major before the end of the war, and spoke very little about what he’d experienced afterwards. His wife’s brothers were all pilots, and the two I knew who were alive when I was born had a myriad of tales about life in the RAF Bomber Command squadrons and their exploits. They didn’t have the scars Grandpa had – they knew they had killed, but it was at a distance. Among other things I found out Grandpa had been a motorcycle outrider, going out ahead into potentially hostile territory to scout the path for the troops to take. Any killing he was involved in was far more personal.

How does this connect to God?

I recently read an article that put Easter into a different light for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was the climax of Christ’s Ministry on Earth in physical form and paved the way for the Holy Spirit and reconciliation with God. But it made me realise something else.

This World we live in, all the green and blue, oceans and deserts and mountains and prairies, is actually a war zone. If you go to Normandy in France you can still see the German defence posts and the landing piers the Allies brought at the beaches. I’ve been there several times and it has always hit me how nobody sees the struggle even when the physical signs are around them. It’s past and gone seems to be the attitude.

A few people most years are killed in the Somme Valley in France exploring the battlefields left from the first world war. There are live shells that failed to go off, ammunition and grenades littering the parks. Some have been defused and are sold as souvenirs (or were 30 years ago when I bought mine). I’m not sure how UK Customs would respond to me trying to bring these artefacts back from South Africa now would respond. Seeing a shell casing, rifle grenade and hand grenade in my luggage on the x-ray would probably not go down well after the recent attacks in Brussels, so if I return to the UK later this year – which is a possibility – I may have to leave some of my most treasured items here. (I use the defused shell as a doorstop and the grenades make excellent paper-weights on my desk) People see the souvenir defused shells in the shop and think the ones on the fields are there for decoration. One mis-directed kick and BOOM! 100 years later the First World War is still claiming lives.

It’s an obvious place where the ravages of war are obvious, but how does your church look? Do you even know you are called to a War more deadly and definitive than any human conflict?

Probably not.

When Jesus hung on the Cross on Good Friday, the Lion of Judah’s Roar was “It Is FINISHED”. Now to us that sounds like “The End”, but actually it was like the capturing of the Normandy beaches. The Germans were beaten, even Hitler knew it, but thousands of casualties died and were crippled on both sides in the following months between June 6th 1944 and VE Day the following year. The war was won but the soldiers on the ground still had to fight to take the primary enemy stronghold back.

It’s the same in our Faith.

The Cross was D-Day. The outcome of the war is inevitable. Christ has taken captivity captive and holds the keys to sin and death, but there is work to be done on the battlefield. The enemy is at work influencing politics, economics, education, healthcare, agriculture and every other aspect of our lives on a daily basis. He influences men who don’t even realise they are in a battle or that there is a battle to fight.

So Jesus commissions generals to lead His army. Initially it’s the disciples, but the appoint others – Paul being the most obvious – to carry on the work. The fight is taken from the beachhead of Calvary to the rest of the World by these foot-soldiers.

By us.

But we don’t realise the battle we’re fighting. And we forget the weapons we have, or worse we’ve never known we had them.

Five days ago I had a bad fall at home. I was told in 1999 I had elevated blood sugar levels (I don’t know the US measurements so forgive me for using the British/South African ones). My blood sugar after a ten hour fast was 20mmol. It should have been no more than 5mmol. My HbA1C which measures glycaemic control over the preceding 3 month period showed my average sugar levels had been between 16mmol and 30mmol. It should be between 4mmol and 6mmol. I was told it was definitive – diabetes. The illness left untreated would take me by inches. My toes, my sight, kidney failure were the future I was given to look forward to. I already had loss of sensation in my feet back then.

In the fall, my right foot got caught on a loose thread and ripped the nail off my big toe completely.

I didn’t feel it. The first indication was the realisation I was spreading blood across the floor.

But what’s this to do with God?

One fruit of the Spirit is Health. Since I was able to begin to assimilate that for myself a miracle has happened. The progression has all but completely halted. My nerves are damaged and I struggle to accept that Christ has paid the price for the  healing, so they stay numb and I get infections from time to time. It’s easier to pray and see healing for other people than it is for myself. I don’t know your past and the enemy can’t convince me you don’t deserve complete healing so I pray and people trust God to do the rest.

Another fruit is prosperity. The modern church – especially in affluent areas of South Africa – has a problem with affluent ministries and churches that don’t instantly give away to less affluent areas. Prosperity, thanks to damaging press and misrepresentation over the last few years where a few individuals lined their own pockets, has got a bad name. But prosperity is essential for the spread of the Gospel. If a church or ministry is to grow and touch lives, the harsh reality is it needs money to do it. God wants us to receive, not to use on individual selfish gain, but on the Work of the Kingdom. Over the next couple of months, Eagle’s Wing Ministries will be looking to expand into a printed magazine. This is not a decision taken lightly as it’s not cheap in South Africa to do that – especially when the vision for this ministry is that the Word of God will NEVER be witheld due to financial reasons. Much of what I understand today about my faith comes from other ministries who share this value who I first came into contact with when I had nothing and could afford nothing more than the food on my plate – and sometimes not even that.

Living like that does nothing to Glorify God. If an
ything it drives people away.

This ministry cannot grow without funding – and I stress at this moment that I am NOT asking for donations outright now as you read this. No guilt, No shame if you can’t. We have costs, quotes for the production of an initial run of 5000 magazines of “Eagle’s Eye” Magazine, a publication of Eagle’s Wing Ministries, which will contain teaching articles, testimonies and some stuff to make us laugh – sometimes wrapped up in a single piece! This vision will grow and expand. We want to include an online version of the magazine on the official website once it’s development allows it to go “live” soon.

A wise friend reminded me many years ago when I was in a desperate state for funds and God inspired me to do something that would be expensive during a quiet time. He phoned me and I had the nudge in my Spirit to answer the phone, not something I normally do when in that place, and he said “Dave I felt I needed to pray for you just now and God told me to call and tell you ‘When I place the order, I pay the bill‘. Can you please tell me what on earth that means?!”

God came through. I got a tax rebate in the post the following morning for exactly the amount I needed to do what God had asked of me that day. It’s over 20 years and some of the software I had to buy to be able to fulfil that vision is enabling me to begin to fulfil the vision for Eagle’s Eye Magazine. God’s gifts are long-lasting and reach beyond anything we can imagine at that moment.

We are at war.

The enemy will try to hide it with foggy issues. I’ve been watching the “X-Men” series of movies recently and seen how one character can call up a bank of fog to hide her approach. The enemy does that with us, blurring the real issues with torn toenails and restricted financial income, but if we can trust that He who began a good work in us will be Faithful to complete it, we will see results.

I often get told not to put God in a box. That my beliefs are too simple. But they’ve worked for 30+ years for me. If the Bible says I can get it, I can get it. If it doesn’t then I probably won’t. If I ask from selfish motives (which I do a lot) it doesn’t happen, but when my heart is lined up with God’s I’ve seen a 100% provision. Not a single miss in 30 years.

We were given a Battle Cry by Jesus on the Cross. a warning to His enemies and ours that the war was won and they would be defeated.

Take the step to do what you know God is calling you to do. My dad felt he could have been a minister and many people encouraged him to go into the ministry, but he died before he could find the strength to act on that calling. God called me to create EWM 20 years ago and I only took the step to start this blog 5 years ago. Now I get feedback from countries I’d never expected to reach and some I’d never heard of. It’s a tremendous blessing to be doing this work, and something if you know God has called you to do then step out.

We are wounded warriors, all of us. Whether we were raised in English Private schools on full bursaries (like I was) or through a “tree-church” in North Africa that can’t afford a roof is immaterial. We were called, like Esther, for such a time as this.

Shout the Battle Cry and follow Jesus Christ our General.

Let’s take this World and it’s values, conservative, liberal, radical, false religion, greed, misogyny and self-promotion for selfish ends and meet it head on with the unfiltered, unashamed power of the Holy Spirit in us.

I don’t care if you’re an American supporting Trump, Clinton, Cruz or Sanders. I don’t care if your beliefs have been shaken by the Nkandla scandal in South Africa. I don’t care where you are, be it Kenya, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burkina Faso, England, France, Switzerland or anywhere else. Our God is not a respector of persons. He doesn’t care who the “man” in charge is. He is the one with the Power ultimately.

Raise a rally cry.

Shout a War Cry to the World.

We’re coming – and there’s nothing you can do to stop us. No false religion, no “new-age” guru, no “humanistic” philosophy can hope to stand against the Will of God.

And a warning to the devil: Get out of the way. The CHURCH is rising up as an army. And you won’t see it coming.

Do Battle in Praise, no matter the circumstances. Give thanks to Jesus whatever it looks like in the natural eyes. Look through the eyes of your Spirit.

IT IS FINISHED!

Easter 2016

The Roman soldiers guarding the tomb fell asleep at their posts. That’s what Matthew 28 says the Pharisees paid the soldiers who witnessed the angel opening the tomb to say.

And they did.

So what?

In Jesus’s day, for a Roman soldier to fall asleep on watch meant he would be killed. There were no second chances. The Roman army was ruthless and efficient, and no soldier would dare to admit falling asleep. They’d rather admit to being beaten – and beat each other to provide the injuries – before they’d admit being asleep. Especially if they hadn’t been.

The other Gospels don’t mention the soldiers. It’s possible, I suppose, that they were added for dramatic reasons by Matthew, but there seems little point. The drama is the Resurrection itself.

The Gospels were not written to amuse or provide drama for the readers. They were aimed at specific groups, certainly. Matthew’s was almost certainly aimed at the Jews. It is the longest of the synoptic accounts and goes deepest into Jewish Law. Luke’s Gospel on the other hand was most likely written for gentiles. Luke was probably the physician who travelled with Paul on his journeys and the man who penned Acts as well. Mark’s Gospel has the feel of an eyewitness testimony in a court. While living in England I served on jury duty several times and heard many testimonies from eye witnesses. It is possible that Mark’s Gospel may even have been written down by Mark based on what he was told by Peter.

John’s Gospel has a different feel to it. He wants us to recognise the enormity of the full meaning of what Jesus accomplished. It has the feel of an epic from classical times. John may have been familiar with the Iliad or the stories of Ulysses. Clearly he was well educated, his writing sophisticated and aimed at all believers, referring to Old Testament issues where necessary, but constantly showing that Jesus was about something completely new. His central theme is set out in the very first chapter. He chooses “In the beginning” as his opening. Any Jewish reader would instantly recognise that as the opening to Genesis. He seeks to demonstrate the full humanity and full deity of Jesus in one figure.

The one thing all four Gospels share beyond anything else is that they build up to a crescendo in the Resurrection of Jesus, and the rest of the writing is merely there to show what that event means for all humanity following them.

What it means for us.

For me.

For you.

The level of intimacy. The nature of compassion. Forgiveness.

God reuniting His Family by taking the judgement for us on Himself.

I’m not a father. I hope to be one day, but for now I can only imagine the passion, the ferocity with which I would fight to defend my children. I’d protect my wife with my last breath and I can’t imagine I’d do less for my child.

Easter has nothing to do with rabbits or eggs. The Last Supper didn’t include a chocolate mousse dessert as far as we know.

It is simply about God completing a work He began when He told the Serpent in Eden that while the serpent may bruise man’s heel, a Man would crush his head.

It is the father of the Prodigal Son running to welcome him home. To welcome all of us home.

I could write for ever about what Easter means hypothetically, hermeneutically and philosophically and it would mean nothing.

But I can also write and talk about what the Life of Jesus in me has done for me as a direct result of the Resurrection.

Look at any of my posts. I’m decidedly human and not trying to hide that behind politically correct phrases or pseudo-progressive attitudes is part of that.

Jesus changed my life, and what I see from the Gospels – the entire Bible in fact – is that He is a God who would have gone through all that He did even if I were the only soul that would ever be recovered by those actions and that sacrifice.

Or if you were.

If you’ve stumbled into this blog and you don’t have a relationship with Jesus but something has touched you then just ask Him in. Invite Him to come into your heart as Lord and Saviour today.

Find a local church that runs an “Alpha” group and go along. That course helps explain the Gospel in a way differently than I do here. I’ve been involved in Alpha and Youth Alpha courses several times as a leader and even people who have attended church their whole life have realised they needed more.

Jesus died for the sake of our relationship with God, and He rose again to seal it for eternity.

Don’t throw away that gift.

Holy Week 2016: Saturday

We know very little about the Saturday of Holy Week. The disciples had run, Jesus was in the tomb and the Pharisees were confident they had heard the last of this upstart from Nazareth.

But something was happening. Slowly perhaps during the day the disciples made their way back to the room they had been with Jesus in for the Last Supper.

I’m sure there was talk among them. The news of Judas Iscariot’s suicide, fear of the possible retribution the Romans or the Temple Guard might bring down on them and the inevitable “now what?”

It looked like nothing was happening.

I try to remember Saturday when I’m not seeing anything changing. The reality may be quite different.

Just as when Daniel prayed the second time he saw nothing for three weeks, the disciples see nothing now. We miss what God’s doing because it’s out of our direct line of sight.

Jesus was busy taking Death’s sting and claiming the keys of Hell on Saturday.

But the skies were silent. No Angelic choir singing about what was going on. The Priests would have led services at the Temple – after all, it was the Sabbath. It was quiet.

The deep still before the plunge.

By this point Satan knew what a mistake he’d made. Jesus’s death must have revealed to him exactly who He was. Had he known, Satan would never have incited the mob to murder Jesus. Yet if we look at the Old Testament it becomes clear. Satan must be a temporal being, travelling in time as we are, but he didn’t see the signs. He didn’t notice over the previous three years, starting with Jesus being baptised by John and His subsequent announcement in the synagogue recorded in Luke 4 that the Day of the Lord’s Favour had finally arrived.

He didn’t notice when John sent his followers to Jesus from prison to ask if He was indeed the Christ that Jesus answered with actions not words, healing the sick, restoring sight, forgiving sins and telling them to go back and tell John what they had seen.

As all the prophecies in the Prophets were fulfilled, Satan was blind to it.

We have this concept of Satan as this warrior figure, terrifying and huge, or powerful in a more subtle way. We think evil is Freddie vs Jason or maybe Gabriel Byrne in “End of Days”.

But Satan is a coward. “So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 Amplified)

The battle is won. If we submit to God, all we need to do is stand firm against the devil and he will flee from us. Satan will run in screaming terror because we are now the Righteousness of God, clothed in Christ.

In CS Lewis’s “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe”, the White Witch thinks she’s won firstly by taking the heart of Edmund, then by Aslan redeeming Edmund with his own life. If she’d understood the prophecies in Narnia that four human children would herald her demise she would have killed Edmund the day she met him. She was blinded in the story by her desire to eliminate all four children. Satan was blinded in trying to eliminate Jesus. In the fiction of Narnia, Lewis reflects the Truth of the Gospel. Jadis is undone by her own ambition, just as Satan is undone by his.

We can rely on the Gospel as we walk daily. We can claim the Name of Jesus in times of trouble. We are made co-heirs with Christ in the fullness of God’s riches.

On Saturday the disciples hadn’t realised it yet because they couldn’t see it.

But the Victory was won.

Our debt had been paid and we have been restored to God’s Family.

Holy Week 2016: Friday

I danced on a Friday
when the sky turned black;
it’s hard to dance
with the devil on your back.
They buried my body
and they thought I’d gone,
but I am the Dance,
and I still go on.

[From “Lord of the Dance” by Sydney Carter]

Max Lucado wrote a great book a few years ago called “Six Hours One Friday”. I’ve worn out several copies over the years. There’s a lot of inspiration in the content, but for me tonight I sit thinking just about the title.
Six Hours One Friday.
Six Hours.
You can’t do much in six hours. If I want to drive from my home in Cape Town to see my best friend who lives just outside Johannesburg I can’t do it in six hours. In fact I can’t get half way there.
An average working day is seven or eight hours. At Primary School in England we were in school from 8:30am to 4pm. Secondary school was the same.
But in this six hour window everything changed. The course of Humanity was irreversibly altered by these six hours.
After 2000 years we still mark the day, such was it’s significance. If Thursday was Peter’s day as I wrote yesterday, Friday is very much Jesus’s.
The Pharisees held a rigged trial overnight, twisting the words Jesus had spoken over the previous three years out of context so they could justify murder.
Daylight brought with it the next phase. Jesus is taken before Pilate. Under Roman Law the Pharisees had no legal right to execute Jesus. He had to be convicted by the Romans to be executed. Pilate is uneasy about this young carpenter-turned-teacher in front of him. His wife sends him a message telling him to have nothing to do with the trial. He has the chance to show the greatest mercy in History.
Instead, Pilate the People Pleaser sends Jesus to Herod – grandson of the king who had tried to kill him as an infant. All Herod wants is a performing monkey. Jesus says nothing. Herod sends Him back to Pilate.
Pilate tries to pacify the Pharisee-whipped crowd by ordering Jesus to be whipped. In so doing the chain of events has moved beyond human control. This is the time Jesus was born for. The whipping would cause the stripes Isaiah had spoken of – the ones that we would be healed by. 
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]; The punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him, And by His stripes (wounds) we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 Amplified)
The wounds of hope Jesus endured were brutal.
My old Classical History teacher, Richard Chapman, was a quiet man but passionate about ancient history. He’d spent close to 70 years studying it and teaching it by the time he retired and could read and write many ancient languages. Speaking to a noisy group of teenagers in ancient Greek or Latin he somehow brought quiet control and in a few of us a passion that had been there was flamed into a white-hot flame.
He told me one Easter about Roman flogging. Firstly, “scourging” which Jesus was sent for was rarely if ever survived. The victims tended to die from blood loss. A scourge whip had several tails of plaited leather with flint or bone flakes, razor sharp, woven into the tails to cause as much damage to the flesh as possible. The tip of the tails was weighted often to allow greater control by the torturer and a more accurate strike rate.
Jesus was whipped until he was unrecognisable as a man.
Think about the damage done to His body for a moment. Most men would not survive this brutal assault, but Jesus still has time left on the clock. Satan thinks he controls the show, but this is now completely in Jesus’s hands, and He surrenders to the Will of His Father.
His torso, arms and legs whipped so the flesh hung ragged from it. Hollywood has done some reasonable versions, Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” goes furthest in it’s detail, but make-up can’t portray what Jesus would have looked like after the whipping.
By His stripes we are healed. Peter later takes it further in his letter, confirming the whipping is the source, By his stripes we have been healed.
It’s a done deal. And Satan’s plan to destroy Jesus is the final piece Jesus needed to complete the mission – Restoration of relationship between Humankind and God.
CS Lewis in “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” says there was a deeper magic from before the dawn of time to which Aslan, the Christ-head of Narnia, is bound. He was there when it was written. In our world, Jesus Himself is the Word of God made Flesh. He is the deeper magic, and if Satan had seen it he would have never stirred up trouble against Him. But Satan was blinded by rage and ambition. Traits he passed on to mankind with the fall.
Today that rage and ambition is manifest in the Middle East by ISIS, Israel by those who would claim to be Jews against the Palestinians with force of arms and in return by smaller terrorist activity. Any Muslim readers can please leave your comments below, but why are you reading a Christian Blog?
The hate has spread to Europe with Paris and now Brussels the scene of the most recent attacks, joining America’s tragedy of 9/11.
Hate is fuelling the decision as to who should be the next Republican candidate for President of America and leader of the previously “Free” world. A recent interview likened the two front runners as having to make a choice between being poisoned or shot. Under the guise of “religious freedom” discrimination is being signed into law restricting rights of the marginalised by society.
How Pharasaic.
Jesus upset the right-wing conservatives of His day by spending time with (in order of distaste as I have been taught – if anyone knows a different order I’d genuinely love to hear it)
  1. Women
  2. Prostitutes
  3. Samaritans
  4. Sinners
  5. Lepers
  6. Romans
  7. Lastly, and most des
    pised: IRS officials – the Tax Collectors. So embedded in Sin they got their own classification.
He likened the Pharisees to Shepherds losing a sheep. We think of this as cute guys sitting in a field watching rather dopey animals eat grass. Pharisees saw them as only slightly better than tax collectors in the grand scheme, and Jesus calls them shepherds. More than that, incompetent shepherds. They can’t even keep track of sheep.
Then He likened them to a woman losing a coin. In this age where *ahem* gender equality reigns (outside Presidential candidates naturally) this was the equivalent of an interviewer telling Donald Trump the he reminds them of a careless old woman who can’t keep track of her cash.
Then he goes to the worst. The forgiving father in the story of the Prodigal Son. Under Jewish Law everything the younger son said to his father at the start was grounds for stoning. By asking for his share of the inheritance he was wishing his father dead. He sold the land he was given within a few days. Such a quick sale was most likely to a gentile and would affect the whole village, yet the father (and the older son) do nothing to stop him. He blows the lot and ends up feeding pigs. Jesus is likening the people of Israel to this son. But He goes further.
When the son enters his right mind he returns home. Returning means certain death. The village would kill him in an instant for what he’s done.
But the father has spent every day watching the horizon, knowing one day this son will return. When he sees him he gathers up his clothing and runs to greet his son. What’s the big deal? we ask. This man must have been a leader in the community. That meant dignity. A dignified man does not run, with the possible exception of being pursued by a wild animal. But he doesn’t care. He runs to his son, places a ring on his finger and restores him to his side leading the household – and by proxy the community. Then to demonstrate this he kills the fatted calf and invites the whole village to witness the restoration of his son.
His mercy and grace are the boy’s salvation.
Jesus’s Mercy and Grace on the Cross are ours.
Pilate still has a choice to make. Somehow this young teacher has survived the scourging. He wants to release Him. The Pharisees instead ask for the release of a known hate-monger and terrorist. They press for Crucifixion for Jesus – a non-Jewish form of execution that could take days and caused immense pain as the major joints are dislocated and the body’s own weight suffocates the victim by causing the lungs to collapse. If you ever get the chance to visit Buckfast Abbey in Devon there is a sculpture of the crucifixion that accurately shows everything except the placing of the nails – you can’t be nailed by the palm of the hand. The nails were driven through the forearm behind the wrist between the radius and ulna bone which then lock round the nail with the weight of the body.
Pilate washes his hands and hands Jesus over to the Pharisees to do with as they please.
Every action has been foretold – spoken into being by the ancient Prophets through the Holy Spirit. Just as Adam was created by words and given life, so was Jesus.
Now the pharisees see Friday night approaching and realise what they’ve done. The Messiah would not have broken bones so they tell the Romans it’s unlawful to execute a man on the Sabbath – the legs must be broken so they will be dead before sunset.
Jesus cries “It is Finished” and dies. Before they can break His legs.
The Roman guard confirms death by stabbing Jesus in the side, probably rupturing His liver and spleen. If He hadn’t been dead already that would do it in minutes. Probably less given the blood-loss Jesus has already suffered.
At that moment the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the body of the Temple is torn in two from top to bottom. The sky has been black for some time but the “eclipse” ends with an earthquake.
Jesus is dead.
God’s plan is unstoppable now.
And Satan knows it.
He is taken to a borrowed grave site where the Romans at the insistence of the Pharisees post a guard. These “believing unbelievers” have realised that all the Messianic Prophecies except the Resurrection have been fulfilled.
And they know they are in trouble.
The disciples are scattered, they’ve forgotten the words Jesus said to them the previous night through John 14 to 16 reminding them that this must happen.
It’s Friday evening.
But Sunday’s coming…

Holy Week 2016: Thursday

I’m an insomniac. My wife can attest to this. There are advantages to being awake when the world around me is snoring quietly. The biggest is it gives me a lot of time to think.

Now being alone with your thoughts isn’t always a good thing. I get set off down thought patterns which are ungodly and decidedly unhealthy sometimes. But most of the time it gives me a chance to then arrest those thoughts which, had they happened during the day, would have been left up in the air. Not being asleep gives me time to find my feet and take them to God, then let Him put my feet back on the Rock of Christ.

I like Peter in the Gospels. I can identify with him more than the others. Not because I expect to give a speech that brings thousands to Christ first time up – although I’m open to being used that way – but that’s the Peter of Acts.

I’m talking about the Peter who opens his mouth to change feet. The guy who rebukes Jesus for suggesting the Cross was coming. Mr Swordsman in the garden. The guy who looks at the boat, looks at Jesus walking on the water, realises he’s safer on the water with Jesus than sinking in the boat and then says “If it’s you…”

Peter is the face-palm guy of the disciples. John may have been the Disciple Jesus Loved, but Peter was the one who probably got the title “the one who made his eyes roll” – and I love that about him. He’s a very three dimensional character on paper. Peter in all the Gospels is portrayed with all his flaws intact. We remember “doubting” Thomas, but although he ran away, Thomas never denied knowing Jesus. Peter did.

Hang on a second…

Deep thought zone…

How do we know Peter denied Jesus? According to the stories he was alone, away from the others. Close enough to see what was happening with Jesus – more than we know about the others – but strangers talked to him and challenged him about knowing Christ.

How do we know about it?

None of the others were there to witness it. There’s only one way: Peter told them himself.

Maybe it was at the beach when Jesus asks him about how much he loves Him. Perhaps we don’t see Peter then explaining to the confused others why Jesus asked him 3 times.

But one thing we do know. The only way Peter denying Christ gets into the Gospels is by Peter admitting it.

Thursday of Holy Week is Peter’s day. Jesus sees the 12 arguing about who the best of them is and wraps a towel round his waist, picks up the water and does the servant’s job: He washes their feet. But it’s more than just the servant’s job. On the hierarchy of servants this guy is the one just below the bottom rung. His job is to wash the dirt, sand, camel-dung from the feet of the visitors. He probably wouldn’t even make eye contact with them.

But there’s Jesus. On His knees, washing feet.

Until He reaches Peter.

When He came to Simon Peter, he said to Him, “Lord, are You going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied to him, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but you will [fully] understand it later.” Peter said to Him, “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me [we can have nothing to do with each other].” (John 13:6-8 Amplified)

Peter is horrified about Jesus taking this role. But Jesus reaches him. Peter goes on and asks Jesus to was his head and hands as well. Jesus explains that His disciples are already clean.

We can assume that Peter then lets Jesus wash his feet. Jesus takes the feet that Peter regularly uses to fill his own mouth and washes them.

From the manger in a stable in Bethlehem to the upper room in Jerusalem has been about 30 years, and Jesus is still not above any station. His example clearly reaches Peter and it should still reach us.

So Thursday was Peter’s day. He asked for a bath at the Last Supper then denied Jesus later that night before the rooster crowed.

We know something else about Peter from reading the rest of the book. He may have denied Jesus to save his own skin that night, but he never did again. He went back to the upper room. He sat with the others after the crucifixion, mourning. When the news of the empty tomb comes to them he runs to it to see. The Romans had posted guards at the tomb. If the women had been mistaken the guards would kill Peter as soon as look at him. Peter knows this. He runs.

A dignified Jew of the First Century didn’t run. It was beneath him. It’s something Jesus had highlighted in the story of the Prodigal Son, only this time it’s the son who throws his dignity away and runs.

Peter received forgiveness from Jesus over breakfast on the beach.

I received it in my bedroom in 1985 when I first asked Jesus into my life properly, consciously.

I like Peter.

I can identify with him.

Lent 2016: When Your Prayers Seem Unanswered

Last year a man I would have liked to call “friend” but only met a couple of times, Dave Duell, went home to be with Jesus. His Facebook page asked for prayers for his recovery, but he went home anyway.

For personal reasons I won’t go into here I had desperately wanted to travel to Colorado and see Dave with my wife. His ministry had a profound impact on my life and I had been trying for two years to find a way to raise the funds to go and see him. It never happened, and that is something I am sorry about.

I first met him about 20 years ago – a timeline that scares me because I realise how old I am now – at a conference in England. He was ministering with Andrew Wommack and Wendell Parr at the “Grace and Faith” Convention. I arrived late – so late it was dark and the first meeting had begun – so I parked my car and went straight into the big top for the service.

Andrew delivered the message, a powerful one which met a need I had specific to that moment in my life and confirmed the call in my heart for what has now grown to be this blog, and has the intent to expand to produce a print magazine within the next few months. The week changed my life, especially my encounter with Dave.

Leaving the first meeting I fell over a rope holding up the tent. Dazed I looked up and this giant hand was extending towards me with a smile that lit up the darkness behind it. I took the outstretched hand and asked “Who’s that?” The answer I got was “It’s just your Uncle Dave”. We chatted for a few minutes, laughing at the way I’d fallen and how the guide ropes seemed to be designed to trip the unwary in the dark, and about how we’d been Blessed by the service that evening. Dave asked me if I was staying for the week, and when I said I was he invited me to find him the following morning. He said he liked to sit at the front – which suited me as I like to be towards the front of the service.

Not knowing who he was we hugged and went our way. I slept in my car – which I don’t recommend – as I couldn’t put up my tent in the dark. The following morning I went and met him at the front of the tent. He’d got a seat on the front row, and I snagged a seat right behind him. He hugged me again like an old friend. At this point I’d not met or heard of any of the speakers at the conference. I was there as a result of a prophetic word given on the Monday with the camp starting the following week. So I’d gone. He got very excited as I told him that, then the worship began.

Anointed would be an understatement. The sense of expectation of God’s Power and Presence was so thick the air was almost physically thick with it. After the worship the main speaker was introduced – Dave Duell. I was about to lean forward to ask my new friend if he’d heard this guy speak when he got up and walked onto the stage!

I was intimidated when I met other leaders by their reputation. The “who am I compared to them” syndrome we all suffer from. And it has nothing to do with who the speaker is, and everything to do with understanding who I am – or you are – in Christ. That was something I knew in theory but saw in practice and really understood that week for the first time.

God is not a respecter of persons. Our resume does not impress Him – He arranged it. What He looks for is a willing heart and individuals open to being used by the Holy Spirit.

In 31 years as a Christian, some of that time in church leadership, some as a member and some where I was “away” from organised meetings but still meeting with other believers I’ve never met a man more willing to be used and humble about it. That week I saw him pray for many people and every person – including myself – received what we had asked for. In my case it was finances, but I watched him pray for a young boy who had one leg about 2-3cm shorter than the other. As he prayed, God lengthened the short leg. Then as the youngster was short for his age Dave prayed again and one at a time, both his legs grew an extra inch in length.

Dave had a simple Faith. He understood that it wasn’t his reputation on the line so he simply stepped out. And miracles followed.

It’s taken 20 years for me to have the nerve to be ready to try to step out the way He did. Too long for me to have the chance to sit and learn from him in the field, but not too long to swallow my feelings of embarrassment and step out myself.

I’ve started small. I prayed for a friend who at the time was a new acquaintance and God gave me a word of Knowledge that allowed me to let Him forge what is now the closest friendship I have, a spiritual kinship in a way I’ve never experienced before or since and since we currently live in different cities one I miss terribly.

But not all my prayers saw answers. I asked and didn’t receive. I sought and didn’t find. I knocked and the door stayed firmly shut. Family members have died and suffered serious illness and my prayers seemed worthless.

Religion tells me that it must be “part of God’s plan” or to pray “if it be your will” when I pray and if nothing happens then it must be God’s answer.

Religion – if you’ll forgive my bluntness – is full of crap.

My dad died at the age of 56 from a glioblastoma tumour in his brain. The vicar prayed an eloquent prayer for comfort for my mum and myself at his bedside, but didn’t ask for healing. I didn’t have the nerve to ask (“who am I to ask” syndrome) and my dad died.

My prayers seemed unanswered. Later that year I was told I was diabetic, and despite praying the symptoms wouldn’t go away.

Prayer unanswered.

Was God testing me?

NO!

What comes from God is Good, Perfect and Pleasing. This sentiment is repeated so often to quote all the references would take me until Lent 2017 to write out.

If it’s not Good, if it’s not Perfect, if it’s not Pleasing then God didn’t put it in your life.

Jesus said He only did what He saw the Father do. He never gave anyone cancer. He never gave anyone diabetes. He never said “Come back later, you need to learn from this”. And I challenge everyone reading this to show me chapter and verse in the Bible where Jesus acts in a way other than to heal and make whole. I’ve never found one. Not in 31 years and more translations than I knew existed 31 years ago.

So what makes our prayers seem unanswered?

Andrew Wommack writes on his website:

“All of us have had experiences when it didn’t look like our prayers were answered. But is that really what happened? The Bible says in Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Is that true? Well, many people say it couldn’t mean what it appears to say, because they can cite experiences where they asked for something and didn’t receive. But you’ve got to make the decision stated in Romans 3:4, to “Let God be true, but every man [or in this case, every circumstance] a liar.” God’s Word is true, not our experiences.” What to do when your prayers seem unanswered by Andrew Wommack

 I’ve seen this in my own life and I’m sure you have too. Circumstances lie to us and ultimately Satan gets a shot past us.

We forget we’re in a war sometimes – especially in Western Society. We forget that we have an enemy who shoots back. And we forget we can get wounded. We forget we have to stand our ground and fight for what God has promised us.

Consider Daniel’s experiences in chapters 9 and 10 of Daniel. The first time he prays Gabriel stands before him within seconds with the answer, telling him he was sent with the answer the moment Daniels prayer was heard in Heaven.

The second time Daniel prays it is 21 days before Gabriel shows up, but his preface is the same – the moment his prayer was heard in Heave
n he was sent with the answer – but the enemy delayed him for 21 days in battle.

For 21 days Daniel’s prayer seemed to be unanswered.

Consider King David. Anointed to be king of Israel while a youth he runs into hiding from Saul, praying for God to move for several years before Saul dies and David is crowned king. All those years – many recorded by David’s own hand in the Psalms – where the one big prayer seemed unanswered were acually just time where the enemy delayed the answer.

Joseph spent years as a slave praying for release before he received his answer.

Martha and Mary prayed and asked for healing for Lazarus and he died. But Jesus came and brought their answer with Him and Lazarus was raised to life, called from the tomb after 4 days.

We live in a fast-food mentality in the Western World. Everything needs to be instant. I’ve written before about a sincere apology from a drive-through window that my meal would be another 90 seconds.

90 seconds. What a hardship.

My first computer took 25 minutes to load a game off a cassette that took 2 minutes to play. My current cellphone has more processing power than that computer. My current computer has more advanced technology than the rockets that took man to the moon – and it responds faster.

What’s this got to do with prayer?

Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 Amplified)

 Keep on asking/knocking/seeking. Be persistent in our prayer, not to motivate God, but to move the enemy who would steal our answer.

Everyone who asks, knocks or seeks gets what they need when they persist. And Jesus doesn’t add “unless they did xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx” (fill in your sin of choice here).

Everyone.

Standing firm when everything looks like it’s falling apart is hard. We have battles to fight and standing sometimes feels wrong, but it’s what we need to do.

Your prayers are not unheard. God is not withholding the answer, but it may be being delayed by the enemy. God is not saying you need to learn by having cancer, or no food, or no heat in winter. He teaches us through Scripture.

When your prayers seem unanswered, stand firm.

God will not let you down.

It’s His name on the line. 

Lent 2016 – Be Careful What You Say – and What You Ask For…

“In that day you will not [need to] ask Me about anything. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name [as My representative], He will give you. Until now you have not asked [the Father] for anything in My name; but now ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy may be full and complete. “I have told you these things in figurative language (veiled language, proverbs); the hour is now coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I am not saying to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf [because it will be unnecessary]; for the Father Himself [tenderly] loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from the Father. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Ah, now You are speaking plainly to us and not in figures of speech! Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; because of this we believe [without any doubt] that you came from God.” (John 16:23-33 Amplified)

 Jesus’s words here were a reminder to the disciples that they already had the authority of His Name. He’d sent them out previously and they’d seen healings, driven out evil spirits and everything Jesus Himself had done. The reminder to them here is that during the next 72 hours until His Resurrection they still had that authority.

It was a message of comfort to them.

They missed the point – and so do we.

There’s a massive number of people – nearly half the population of Earth – who are considered by the World as “christians” (note the lack of a capital “c”). They go to church, pay their tithes, don’t smoke, drink or go with girls/guys that do and keep the ten commandments. They’re good people.

But they’re not Christians. That number is a small percentage of those 3.5 billion people (roughly) who get labelled.

A True Christian imitates Christ in Word and Walk. We should aim to be doing what Jesus did. We should say what He’d say and ask for what He’d ask for. That’s Christianity.

In that day you will ask in My name, and I am not saying to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf [because it will be unnecessary]; for the Father Himself [tenderly] loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from the Father”.

We ask in Jesus’s Name and God does it for Jesus’s sake because He Loves US.

Imitators of Christ. Little Anointed Ones.

That’s us. We’re Plan “A” – and there’s no Plan “B” in case.

Frank Peretti in one of the “Darkness” books – I forget which one as it’s been a while since I read them (sorry Mr Perretti) has the angelic forces state “There’s always a remnant”.

Mega-churches grow and individuals get swallowed up. The spoken words are restricted to a select few at the front and the “anointed” ones get on the prayer teams. The majority – especially in older denominational large congregations – are anonymous and go unnoticed if they disappear by all but a few.

I visited a church a few years ago looking for a Spiritual Home that had a large (400+) congregation. They had the same welcome team on the door every week for the two months I visited. Every week the same “greeter” gave me a news-sheet and asked if it was my first visit.

This was a church that had almost everything I needed. Solid teaching from a pastor who I ran into recently in a supermarket and – bearing in mind it’s about 5 years since I stopped going to that church – he remembered my name, my wife’s name and that she’d been ill at the time. He asked if she was doing better and if I was ok. It was the first time a member of that church had acknowledged that I was missed and the only time I felt I may have made a mistake in not sticking it out.

That being said, the church I now go to I’m being cautious to get over-involved in because of what I’m doing with this ministry. The church shares the values I do (and by extension Eagle’s Wing Ministries does) but I learned that things can seem one thing but be another. After the last few months I’m feeling at home more and recognising I can trust people here. But I need to guard my tongue.

We all do.

Consider Jesus after He was arrested. He barely spoke after His arrest. What you say can be twisted and get you into trouble. The false witnesses they brought against Him demonstrate that.

But consider Peter after Pentecost. Shouting the Good News from the roof to anyone who’d listen and 5000 saved in one day.

By the way, I hate the term “saved”. It’s been hijacked from the religious right. Anyone pro-choice or liberal instead of conservative views is the enemy and needs “saving”. I don’t know what we should say instead. Mike Yaconelli suggested “captured”. I’ve heard others suggest “courted”. Nothing seems to fit well.

We need to make sure we’re in one mind with the Holy Spirit. That only happens if we are filled with the Holy Spirit. But when we ask as one with Him we see blind eyes open, deaf ears hear, terminally ill recover.

But it takes balls to pray like that. (Yes I did just say that!)

You take a chance when you pray. The Enemy comes at you (and me) with the classic “what if” question. About 20 years ago I came back from a conference so certain of what I knew, no – it was beyond knowledge – that my prayers would be answered. I met a friend, a good, solid Christian in a different place in his walk to me (and there’s no sin in that – we all have our own path) who had literally just heard another Christian friend of his, a young father with children had just died a few hours ago. My first response was “So let’s go pray and see him rise”. The reply I got was “But what if he doesn’t?” and it was enough to stop me trying. 

I’ll regret that choice for the rest of my life because I put what the family would think of me above what God was able to to through the power of prayer in Jesus’s Name.

I’ve seen illness stop it’s progression in some people and healed in others. I’ve seen my own illnesses stop progressing but not been able to receive healing. Yet. It has nothing to do with God.

There’s not a single instance of Jesus telling someone to wait for healing in the New Testament. Not one that I can find. (Chapter and verse quote in the comments if you find one I’ve missed).

Paul’s “Thorn in the flesh” is described by Paul as a messenger of Satan sent to stir up dissent and persecution, not illness, so don’t quote that at me as I’ll write more fully on that another time.

What we say must be to build up our family in Christ, not sow doubt and fear.

What we ask for in Jesus’s Name that is in line with God’s Will He will give us.

So watch your mouth. Watch your speech.

Be careful what you say.

God’s listening.

So is the World.

Pop Culture Christianity

A break from the Lent series today and just a few thoughts…

I don’t watch television in general. Rene (my wife) and I tend to rent movies and series long after the run on TV has finished. There’s advantages and disadvantages to this.

The biggest disadvantage is not having a clue what everyone else is so crazy about on TV. Of course, this is also an advantage because it means we can force conversation to revolve about more than some arbitrary show designed to turn our imaginations to slush and kill brain cells.

It also means we can control what inputs we have in our life.

Don’t be deceived, television and film makers have an agenda – and with a few exceptions it’s not God’s.

We’ve been watching “Grey’s Anatomy” recently. Ten seasons in eight weeks (we don’t go out much).

There’s some truly amazing research and writing gone into the production, but I have one major issue with it – and before everyone stops reading here I’m using this show as one example among many, not picking on it in particular.

My issue is what is written to portray “normal” life and what is written as “oddball” characters.

The central character has a very rough time of it. So far she’s been held at gunpoint, almost blown up, survived an air crash, suffered a miscarriage, had to deal with Child Protective Services, watched her closest friends get cancer and survive while another is hit by a bus.

And I thought my life had been rough.

She goes through all of this with – as a friend of mine used to say – no sign of God. She’s a person with no invisible means of support. It’s very humanistic in its approach.

The humanistic approach is even more apparent in the other characters.

Statistics suggest that there are many thousands more Christians – nominal or born-again – than gay individuals in America and the world in general. Yet this show – as many others – shows gay couples as the “norm”. To date there have been storylines around about six LGBT couples or individuals and only one about a Christian character. And while the LGBT characters are well rounded and developed characters, both main cast and guest parts, the Christians are the normal stereotype – highly strung, afraid of being “found out” as being Christians, ashamed for not being a virgin. All of which gets muted as they adapt to the “normal” life of the World. God gets sidelined as they find their place among “normal” society.

There’s something horribly wrong with this.

I personally have no issue with same-sex civil marriage and equal rights under civil law for gay couples. This is, after all, not a theocracy we’re talking about. The concept of saying God is ok with it grates a little as it goes against scripture in both the Old and New Testaments – I’m not referring to Sodom and Gomorrah here, but the Pentateuch and Paul’s Letters which are clear on the matter. God clearly says “no” on the issue of any sexual immorality, be it homo or hetero.

Maybe you think this makes me a prude. Or a radical conservative.

I hope not because I don’t fit either of those groups. At my age now, I’d have been one of the first to drop my stone and walk away when Jesus has the woman caught in adultery brought before Him. I note in the story that nowhere does it say she was caught with a man, just that it was an act of adultery.

Pop culture has glorified sexuality and promiscuity as the norm, and despite the pandemic of STD infections sweeping the globe we are generally no longer shocked by the news that 14 year olds are organising sex parties. It’s become the norm. The kids who stay home and get good grades at school and finish college education as virgins are ridiculed as being abnormal or “in the closet” about their “real” orientation.

And it’s been going on for some time. Willow and Tara in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” back in the late 90s, and even before that in the late 80s there were same sex couples appearing in soap operas like “Eastenders” and “Brookside” in England. Again, anyone who was portrayed as Christian was inevitably the one who turned out to be corrupt, stealing from the congregation or con-men simply trying to fleece people.

Then we have the other side. Christian production companies.

Eish…

I understand why they make the films they make, but the budget is so low and the acting generally is somewhat wooden that I cringe when I watch it. The glaring errors in “Exodus: Gods and Kings” differing from the book of Exodus are easier to overlook than the Biblically accurate but terribly portrayed two-dimensional pseudo-Christians of “Christian” media. Even where a well known actor like Kevin Sorbo takes a central role the rest of the feature can’t be carried by the single performance.

So we end up with pop-culture Christians. And that’s the image people think is real.

Or we have the Donald Trump effect claiming that his faith makes it ok for him to propose deporting 11 million people from the USA, building a wall to prevent migration from Mexico – and being racist, sexist and xenophobic about his reasons and opinions, and deciding it’s ok to ban 33% of the global population from entering the USA because they have a different religion.

That’s not Christianity, it’s Fascism. Pure and simple.

We as Christians need to wake up. Christianity is under attack in the West by Pop-Culture. The persecution is so subtle we overlook it, but every time we say “it’s ok, it’s only a TV show” we allow that idea to gain more ground.

I’m pro-life and pro-choice. I believe a baby in the womb – no matter how far along – is a life worth protecting. I believe that the “choice” needs to be made before the pregnancy, not 20 weeks into it. I believe at the same time that it’s a victim’s right to not be forced to carry her rapist’s child to term. I believe if tests show beyond doubt that the child would have severe debilitating illness that would shorten their life and mean they live it in constant pain that the humane thing to do is not to have that baby unless you can give it without any resentment all the love and care it will need to have a good quality of life, no matter how short.

Abortion should never be a form of birth control where the pregnancy was the result of the actions of two equally consenting adults. Sorry Liberal readers.

Abortion should be an option available to anyone who was raped, abused or where the pregnancy will definitely endanger the life of both the mother and the child. Sorry Conservatives.

Pop-culture makes us think it’s no big deal to live like there’s no God, and we’re crazy if we try. They portray “Fundamentalist” Christianity – a term I find I can no longer use to describe myself – as people who think the planet, in fact the entire universe is about 6000 years old. Me? I love dinosaurs. I love going to the Natural History Museum in London and looking at the fossils. I think it makes it even more amazing that God put all that through the world He created. I don’t know (or care) if humans fought the T-Rex or snacked on Wooly Mammoth burgers a billion years ago. It won’t shake my faith in Jesus either way because whether they did or not He still died for me!

Mike Yaconelli, at Greenbelt in 1991, said we should get rid of our TV sets. I was 19 and the thought horrified me. Now I’m almost 44 and have been without a TV for most of the last 5 years. And I haven’t missed it.

We are what we eat. We become the things we put into ourselves. It’s true for nutrition and even more so for information.

Let’s get away from this pop-culture version and find something more authentic.

Here’s a radical idea – turn off the idiot-box and *gasp* read a book! It can’t hurt. There’s some great writers out there. Frank Peretti, Max Lucado, John Eldredge, Terry Virgo, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein, and hundred
s of others who show God through fiction and non-fiction alike.

Let’s put pop-culture where it belongs.

In the trash.

Lent 2016: Bearing Fruit

I have to get up in less than four hours to take my mum to have surgery on her eyes. I did it last week. It’s an outpatient procedure that takes about half an hour to complete. Cataracts. The doctor will remove the lens of her eye that’s been damaged and place an artificial one and in a couple of weeks she’ll be back home and needing new glasses because her prescription will be wrong.

But she’ll be able to see.

My wife, Rene, has been offered a job in London, England, initially a 1 year post with a view to staying longer. Who knows how long, but it means I have to begin to wrap things up here in Cape Town for now,

Things change. Dead wood of the wounds of the past get pruned out of our lives and discarded. Healthy wood is trimmed to increase crops.

I understand this as I worked for a while in gardening and property maintenance.

My life is a rose-bush. I use roses as an example because they require abundant care to stay strong and bear blossoms of outstanding beauty that brightens up and day (unless you have bad hayfever).

Roses are complex plants. They require more maintenance than many – not all, don’t ask about my bonsai – to stay healthy, but when properly nurtured the different varieties – climbing, hybrid tea, floribunda, standard etc provide a beautiful visual and olfactory (smelly) display that even the most die-hard orchid enthusiast can’t ignore.

We’re roses in God’s Garden. Our fruit is our flowers. It draws people to us and they get a whiff of the scent and are drawn in. As we approach we can’t help but be amazed by the intricacy and complex nature of the form of the rose flower itself. It has different stages. The early bud – a green bud that looks like almost nothing. The bud then breaks and the petals forming inside that bud begin to show their colour through the green. As the bud opens we get the early bloom, petals tightly held together and what the florist will try to sell as a good example of a rose. As someone who spent 20 years growing roses I promise it’s not the best part.

A healthy bud will open into a bloom where the stamen are exposed. This in turn releases the sweet scent that draws us to the flower as the pollen and pheromones are released into the air. This attracts the insects pollinating the flowers. The bloom eventually opens as wide as it can, inviting scent catchers to draw closer and experience the mature scent, sweeter than before, more “confident” in a way, then a gradual decline as the petals fall until it dies back, drawing energy into the main plant ready to make a new green bud.

It’s a fascinating process, and one I miss as my current apartment has no garden and my plans have had to change a lot in the last two weeks. I’ve watched Rene begin to open from a tight green bud into a bloom that will shake the world – at least the parts she touches – in an impossible way. The domino effect means this will be multiplied exponentially.

Our walk is a call to bear fruit:

“If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified and honored by this, when you bear much fruit, and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.” (John 15:7-8 Amplified)

 “Ask whatever you wish” is a big step. It’s not saying a Ferrari or a Lear Jet necessarily, although for some ministries it may one day – well, maybe not the Ferrari – we need to understand that we ask in line with God to see things happen.

I don’t want a Ferrari. With housing costs in London I would like a medium sized narrow-boat I can live on for a fraction of the price of renting – and I own it after five years. The running costs are a fraction of rates and I can have anywhere on 2000miles of canal network as my home. It’s quiet and peaceful and everything a writer could want.

But it doesn’t have to mean even that. Just a place that, when people visit me, they can see immediately is a Blessing – fruit from a relationship with God.

I’m waiting for responses to find the cost of producing a magazine for distribution to see if it’s viable. Initial quotes have been in the R90k (about $5000/£4000) area for all costs including writers and sales salaries so we don’t have to charge. I’m looking for Christian businesses to buy advertising for the first run of 5000 copies to cover the costs to see if it’s viable. That magazine will be fruit, and fruit that will endure even after I move to England – the right team can continue to operate it in my absence to the same vision.

So where is the fruit in your life? What buds are waiting to ripen in time, and what is the harvest that’s ready to be reaped? It can be anything. Friends asking questions which will lead them to the Kingdom. An investment opportunity that will bring in an income and allow you to have more time to devote to family. An invitation to go and help give out soup to the hungry and cold on the streets.

Any act we do can be fruit. Any vision God gives us, when followed to its conclusion, will bear fruit because God’s Word does not return void.

When I first came to Cape Town I was scared to step out. God told me to enquire about a specific building which at that point was empty. He wanted “Jesus Is Lord” painted on the side and for it to be a space where a church could meet and a ministry grow.

I chickened out. Didn’t have the nerve to follow through with what I was certain was God. Within a year, another group had taken over the building and painted it as I had envisioned it.

God will make a way if we do nothing. His visions will come to pass – He just gives them to the person He wants to do it first so it will bear fruit.

Unusually for this blog, I’m going to invite you to contact me directly here if you’d like to sponsor the magazine – and only the magazine – and I’ll get details of how back to you. If anything more than we need is donated for an initial run then it will be held over for the next issue or to expand the run into other areas, which would be great.

Pray that your fruit will be great and your increase in God’s way will be complete.

Glorify God by bearing Much Fruit as Jesus said!