OK, Now What?

Second Thoughts

So it’s official. Donald Trump has been elected to be US President until 2020.

One of the reasons I’ve been quiet for the last month on this Blog has been the US Election. I have some personal stuff going on as well, but my personal stuff left me with insomnia – which I have always used as a great time to write without being disturbed.

Not the last month.

I’m not a Hillary supporter. Let me get that straight from the start. Socialism and Christianity don’t blend well – just ask the First Century Jerusalem Church that tried to look after everyone and ended up being supported financially by the churches from around the ancient world. They had all things in common – which is actually a good thing. They gave to each as they had need – which is a VERY good thing.

But those who had property sold it to provide for those who didn’t have anything. The problem with that is you can only sell your house once. Then you end up being the person in need because you give away all your value from selling your property and, oops, you have nothing so now others need to provide for you.

That’s not smart.

I’m not a fan of capitalism either. Not in the way it’s been pushed in the last 40 years.

What we call “capitalism” is actually greed. It’s the worship of Mammon, plain and simple.

moneyAnd Trump is the embodiment of that ethos. The philosophy he has demonstrated is one of pure self-interest. Every time it’s looked like he might personally lose out he’s declared bankruptcy to protect his own fortune rather than let receivers come in to manage the business and protect the employees. His self-claimed “worth” of billions is debatable when you offset his assets against his debts.

No, what we call “capitalism” is not related to Christianity.

A few years ago, my wife and I were house-hunting. We drove around one area of Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs looking for houses on show, going and looking at a few. We drove down one road and found it was a cul-de-sac, leaving turning round the only option. I turned the car and as I completed the turn found there was a large dog standing in the middle of the road blocking my exit.

Normally the procedure is straightforward. You move the car around the dog, it barks at the wheels and you drive away.

This dog was different though. As I turned the car to my right to pass it, it ran to it’s left – blocking my path. So I turned to my left – yep, it ran to it’s right and blocked me again.

Then it sat there and you could see the look in it’s eyes asking itself a simple question…

“OK, I caught a car. What do I do with it now?”

After about ten minutes of dodging about it gave up and went inside it’s house. As we passed the gate it was lying down looking very dejected. Apparently catching a car wasn’t everything it had expected it to be.

Enter 2016.

First we had Brexit. For personal reasons I support the departure of my home country from the EU. But the people who were leading the exit movement are not people I would want babysitting for me. The main “leaders” of the exit movement declared victory and then ran away, leaving the actual strategy for the separation of England from the EU to be drawn up by people who didn’t want to leave in the first place.

It was a place where an electorate voted on an issue it doesn’t properly understand based on rhetoric and empty promises made by sociopaths. Frankly in 1000 years of British history it was the best example I’ve seen for returning to having the monarch have absolute power in the country – at least while Elizabeth II is still Queen.

I didn’t think anything could compare with the fallout. The racism, sexism and xenophobic hate speech spewed forth in England’s green and pleasant land in a way I’d never dreamed could happen. Trump visited Scotland and said how delighted he was that Britain had voted to leave, and I realised that while my personal concepts of why Brexit was the right thing were solid in my convictions – the ability to re-establish open trade with Commonwealth countries, strengthening both their and Britain’s economies and helping poorer agricultural societies benefit from the wealth of the industrialised ones, Britain could rebuild her manufacturing industries and export goods, while importing food and raw materials from poorer nations at a fair price and allowing them to prosper as a result.

That was my expectation. The reality is I’m nervous to go back to my home country now because my wife is a foreigner there. Of course, as a white man in South Africa today I’m nervous to stay here as well.

Then came the real movement of the US election campaign, and the terrifying realisation that the GOP candidacy wasn’t some practical joke. The idea of a presidential candidate being able to say and do what Trump has done in the last six months makes Brexit look like a welcome movement for foreigners, especially from the Middle East.

Which brings me back to the title.canadasitecrash

Now what?

The Canadian Immigration website was crashed by the sheer number of enquiries trying to logon through the night as Trump’s numbers moved towards victory. Americans are looking for ways to leave America in response to the election – even before it was finalised.

What next?

Now Christians must rise up.

Huh?

Christians must rise up. We – all of us, not just Americans – need to pray for America. Trump will be the de facto leader of what was once a “free” world. We need to hold him accountable. We need to hold May accountable in the UK as well.

Christianity is under fire in the West. But the ones doing the real damage are those depicted as “christians” in the media. They are the ones wearing the hoods, burning

klan-1
Nope. Not Christians…

crosses on people’s lawns. The media and “progressives” depict those who are prepared to put their homes, livelihoods, careers and families on the line for what they believe as cranks and crackpots in the West because Daesh is cutting off people’s heads in the Middle-East. They don’t recognise financial persecution as persecution. They disregard it as inconvenience. They belittle the persecuted as being the aggressors.

The reality is there are other bakers to make the cake. There are other venues to hold you ceremony. People sue because they want their rights to be “equal”, but the reality is these people want their rights to be superior. Increasingly, Christians are forced to bow to the pressure of society and accept the “progress” that is 03382-atheismbeing made. Evolution – a theory – is taught increasingly as though it were a proven absolute, while another (in scientific terms) theory – Intelligent Design – is not only dismissed with no consideration, it is actually banned from scientific consideration in a classroom. Atheistic agendas are forced on us as though they are proven absolutes and we are forced to capitulate every day.

Children as young as five or six years old are now exposed to sexuality in a way unthinkable for teens to be exposed to just half a generation ago.

I have a dear friend in her mid twenties who dropped into conversation that she had problems talking to her mum because of the “generation gap” between them. We talk freely and openly about many things including God, faith, relationships and a host of other topics as equals. Peers. We may differ on what we consider “contemporary” music and “recent” movies to be, but on really important matters we are a similar way of thought. I asked her more about her mum and to my amusement (and slight terror) discovered she is one week older than I am.

I’m a child of the seventies. I grew up before computers were a part of every home, if you were out and you needed to call home you needed a telephone booth and the internet didn’t exist yet. The web was what a spider made on the hedge, phishing was a spelling mistake and that poor guy in Nigeria had no way to contact you about getting his $28 million out of the country through your bank account. Junk mail came from Reader’s Digest, and spam was a type of processed meat.

Somehow with less technology it was easier to believe in God. It was easier to stand up for your Faith 30 years ago in the West because if you did, you didn’t get shouted at instantly by 2 billion outraged people arguing with you or posting pictures of a small red face to you, or the other 2 billion shouting in agreement and posting small yellow faces to you. The other billion people on the planet didn’t know or care what you’d said.

Today there are nearly double the number of people on the planet – fields ripe for harvest – but fewer harvesters per capita than at any time in history. “Mainstream” denominations are in decline and it’s hard to get through the static to anything with real substance. I remember the intensity of “The Terminator” when I first saw it – in 1988. I was too young in 1984/5 when it was made. T2 was more intense. Recently, Terminator: Genisys was released. There is a chilling message in it about our dependence on technology. In the thirty years since the original, we have reached the level of technology in our lives that everything is inter-connected wirelessly.

Everything except us.

So: What Now?

Perhaps we need to reflect on the events of 2016 in light of a bigger picture.

A few respected entertainers died. There are wars and rumours of wars around the world. Where only 250 years ago we looked to kings and princes who were there by birth but lived and died nonetheless, now we look to presidents and prime ministers. “Leaders” died and were born/elected. 80 years ago the rantings of a short dark-haired lunatic allowed a decent people to become whipped up into a xenophobic frenzy over the space of about 4 years. Today the rantings of a small-minded orange lunatic have whipped up a basically decent people into a xenophobic frenzy over the space of a year or less. But if we look back, about every 100 to 150 years for the last thousand there has been some – usually short – crank whipping up a people who were basically decent into a frenzy about something. Whether it was Donald this year or Napoleon, Hitler, or any of the nut-jobs before them, they appear as pebbles in a stream. This year will be no different.

A few weeks from now we will mark the end of 2016 and the start of 2017. And almost everyone will forget. They won’t say “2017 years since what?” More entertainers will die. More leaders will rise and fall.

But the Gospel has been a constant. Like the North Star, it stays fixed to guide us home.

Ten thousand years from now, we won’t care about the US Election of 2016. But the Gospel of Jesus will endure. The candle of True Christianity demonstrating an unchanging God who Loved us so much He took on human form and allowed His creation to hammer iron spikes through His wrists and ankles, who allowed His own bodyweight to suffocate His body and die in agony, who rose from the dead. That Gospel will endure. That candle will flicker on, sometimes dimmed, but never extinguished.

For us what’s next is getting on with this day. We are none of us promised more than this heartbeat. So as Christians, what’s next is living this heartbeat for Jesus, demonstrating His love through our actions.

Loving the unlovely.

Forgiving the repentant.

Welcoming the stranger.

Healing the sick, raising the dead.

Giving Hope to the Hopeless. Food to the hungry.

Living out our relationship with Jesus in as authentic a way as possible so when we are met with hate – and we will be – people will notice how we respond with Love. When we are met with anger – and we will be – we respond with Peace.

Where we are met with Persecution – as all who live according to Christ Jesus will be – we respond with patience, forbearance, strength, Faith, Hope and Love.

Now what?

Now we must Love.

As He Loves us.

Simple Hope

Candle Breakthrough Trust Promises Transformation Hope

OK, so there’s a few “pingback” links here.

You may have noticed I’ve been absent in the writing world for a couple of weeks or so.

I needed a break. Life isn’t always fair, and sometimes we need to step back. I have a mountain of emails to reply to. If you’re reading this and you’re one of them, forgive me. You’ve been in my prayers but life sometimes gets in the way – especially for a Gospel Warrior!

Right now isn’t the time (or place for now) to share everything that’s happened.

But I can share some of it.

There are changes brewing for me. Some Major changes.

I’m planning a move, geographically. 9000 miles. Moving back to England.

Most of the people in my day-job have no idea. But it’s something I need to do.

My hope for growth in South Africa is all but shattered. I’ve been trying to raise funds to help a church in Kenya that has to meet when it can because they have a tree, not a building. Another church needs Bibles and literature to learn from. They’ve asked for help based on what they’ve seen written here.

I’m humbled by the trust these men of God have placed in me.

I’m ashamed at the level of help I’m able to give.

Every day I see “Christians” driving their new cars, shopping in the upper-class malls with trolleys full of luxury items who don’t want to help their brothers and sisters who have nothing.

In fairness, I also see Christians with trolleys full of food and clothes they have bought to clothe the homeless, feed the hungry and who go and offer shelter where they can. This is not a rant about all those hypocrites.

If it were, I’d have to be complaining about myself a lot of the time too.

I’m an incurable optimist. I see the best in everyone. It has got me into trouble more than once. I trust too soon, far too often. The result is I get damaged. And so does my mission.

I spent much of my degree studying marketing and psychology. I hate the idea of using psychology to “sell” a ministry, but I’ve realised it’s what is needed.

Branding is also important, both personally and for Eagle’s Wing Ministries. There needs to be recognition for me personally and for the work of the ministry so if anything happens to me the work can continue.

I’ve been reflecting on forgiveness for the time I’ve been away. Reading the parable of the Prodigal Son, and realising it should actually be called the Parable of the Loving Father.

Max Lucado, one of my all time favourite writers, speaks of the Father in his book “Six Hours One Friday” (available on Kindle via Amazon.com). I’ve gone through half a dozen copies of this book in paperback, worn them out by re-reading them so now I have it on my phone and computer. But his take on the Father is this:

If there is a scene in this story that deserves to be framed, it’s the one of the father’s outstretched hands. His tears are moving. His smile is stirring. But his hands call us home. Imagine those hands. Strong fingers. Palms wrinkled with lifelines. Stretching open like a wide gate, leaving entrance as the only option.

When Jesus told this parable of the loving father, I wonder, did he use his hands? When he got to this point in the story, did he open his arms to illustrate the point?

Did he perceive the thoughts of those in the audience who were thinking, “I could never go home. Not after my life”? Did he see a housewife look at the ground and a businessman shake his head as if to say, “I can’t start over. I’ve made too big a mess”? And did he open his arms even wider as if to say, “Yes. Yes, you can. You can come home”?

Whether he did that day or not, I don’t know. But I know that he did later. He later stretched his hands as open as he could. He forced his arms so wide apart that it hurt. And to prove that those arms would never fold and those hands would never close, he had them nailed open.

They still are.

[Lucado, Max. Six Hours One Friday: Living in the Power of the Cross (pp. 87-88). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.]

I first heard that passage read by Mike Yaconelli at Greenbelt Christian Festival in 1991. I can’t read it without hearing the passion in his voice. I hear in my head the pain of the boy, feel the shame of the businessman.

But I feel the hope Jesus offers as well. The forgiveness.

The hope is simple. It’s the hope of a second chance.

I’ve had more than my share of second chances.

As a biker I’ve had close calls I have no clue how I survived, never mind walked away from unharmed. I’ve walked through gang territory and been untouched when others were terrified for me.

I’ve been spared what insurance companies call “dread disease” even after exposure to so many in South Africa – TB, HIV and many more. I’ve had knives pulled on me, and even once the threat of a gun, yet I never feared for my life.

I walk in Hope.

I walk by Faith.

Faith, according to Hebrews, is the substance of what we hope for, and the evidence of what is – as yet – unmanifested in the physical world we inhabit.

Faith provides a tiny flame in the darkness. A candlecandle which seems like it should be snuffed out at any moment, yet flickers on.

The darkness cannot overpower the tiny flame of a candle, no matter how black it seems. The flame burns on through the night.

I often sleep with a night-light candle burning by my bed (safely in a completely fire-proof holder that cannot be knocked over – I’m not stupid!) The light it gives off is soft. At the red end of the spectrum, giving a warm and relaxing glow that encourages sleep and peaceful mind – something I need very much.

But I light is mainly to remind myself when I wake up that darkness cannot quell this light. And what God has placed in my heart cannot be overwhelmed by the power of Darkness, it can only be surrendered by me.

My breakthroughbreakthrough began a few weeks ago when I visited Jongensgat for the weekend. It’s amazing what being unplugged from the 21st Century for even a couple of days can do for your soul.

Four days with no internet, television, telephone, cell reception and having to cook over a fire – slowly – does wonders for the soul. jongensgat-sea-1And your relationships. For me it reminded me how closely I need God. Even in the work of writing for Him, sometimes it becomes more about publishing by a certain time and less about the message.

It gave me a much needed time of refreshing with my wife. We are closer than we have been for a while as a result. We still don’t communicate as well as we should, but at least we know that now!

When I became a Christian, there was a change in me. Not everyone could see it because I help on to a LOT of pain, but a few could see the transformation beginning. The Featured Image of this article is one of my favourite nature images: a butterfly emerging from a cocoon to begin a new life, casting off life as a caterpillar and becoming something of incredible beauty instead of something that eats your prized cabbage leaves.

That transformation is a work in progress. It will continue in this world until I pass through to be with Him. My Grandfather became a Christian at the age of 16. Two weeks before he died he phoned me, incredibly excited, to share what God had shown him in his quiet time: “He told me to get ready for the greatest adventure I can imagine” was what he told me. Neither of us imagined such a strong man would then pass away so soon – but what an adventure awaited him as he walked through the Gate of Heaven after 64 years of service!

Trust has always been an issue for me. Trusting people when I was young resulted in me getting badly hurt, so I stopped letting people in. I trusted a friend who then set me up on a blind date which led to a very messy month of dating where I had no clue how to talk to a girl – and this particular girl was one I had known when we were very young – I was 5 and she was 4 – now we were teenagers and I had expectations of myself I knew I couldn’t live up to. I don’t know what her expectations were of me because I was too scared to ask! I tried to trust, and I got very deeply hurt. That hurt burned the good memories from a time of innocence as friends in primary school to ash. So the next girl I got involved with I am ashamed to say I did so for expediency. She pursued me, and it was convenient for me to be caught. Not a recipe for a good relationship.

After that I got involved with someone I wanted to trust, but by that point I was so damaged I couldn’t trust myself. All that was left was anger and when cancer attacked a family member that was all I could express. She was hurt, I was hurt and my ability to trust was – once again – damaged.

Then my dad died. My mum and weren’t close and despite her best efforts I found myself alone. I’d just moved church and most of the members didn’t know me. I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone so I became a virtual recluse. Depression set in and four suicide attempts followed on.

But the members of this new church refused to let me stay alone. They inserted themselves into my life – often at great personal risk as I had major anger-management issues back then – and gradually forced me to trust them.

They forced me to trust them by not letting me push them away. They rang back when I hung up on them. Repeatedly. If I then didn’t answer their call they would knock on my door and not go away until I’d let them come in and make sure I was ok.

They forced Love into my life in a way I didn’t expect. It rebuilt hope and trust in me as they refused to simply give up. They refused to give up on a guy they mostly barely knew and had only just met.

For several years, this mis-matched group of people became my most trusted friends.

Much changes in our life as we walk with Christ. And feel free to slap anyone who says it’s easy to be a Christian.

It isn’t.

It’s messy. It’s hard. It’s scary. It means reaching out to the unloved and the unlovely. It means seeing past the darkest part of yourself and seeing the light of Christ shining through in spite of it.

I still have anger management issues. People will tell me to “just do ‘X'” whatever “X” may be, with no understanding of what it is like to be inside my mind and deal with the issues I have. I get the urge to slap people who do that. That’s the “old nature” Paul writes about. I sit and close my eyes and let a tune run through my head until the feeling goes away. Sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes It takes too long to be able to keep my eyes shut. So I stay quiet instead and take it to God when I get a chance to.

We all have issues we wrestle with. Read my other entries and I’m sure you’ll realise quickly that mine is usually my temper.

But so were James and John. Peter lost his cool and hit Malchus with a sword in Gethsemane. The real issue is how we channel our tempers or whatever it is we struggle with. We have a choice.

Be transformed by the renewing of our minds is the invitation of the Gospel.

It’s not easy.

But the choice is simple.