"Constructive" Criticism

Criticise all you want. There’s definitely change in the air.

But, as many have noted before, change for the sake of change is pointless.

Take the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare. Trump is starting to dismantle it without having anything to replace it with – which he kind of admits. His own fanbase in the voting pool has just realised that they no longer have health cover because they’re too old to be on their parent’s now they are at university.

oops…

But the Donald can’t take it when he’s crossed. I’ve never seen such a thin-skinned US president. Even when the comment is supposed to help him get back on the right path. Like firing the AG, not really because of the criticism, but so he could put in another “Yes” man.

OK, this is a Christian blog. What does this have to do with Christ?

Actually, a lot.

Like it or not – and most believers I’ve spoken to don’t – Trump is president. Some voted for him and regret it, some voted Clinton, and some didn’t vote because they thought it was a slam dunk for Clinton – so why bother.

I don’t believe (as I’ve said before) that either candidate was suitable. I was horrified to see the list of famous preachers lining up to kiss Trump’s ring – some people I had expected, but one or two that truly worried me.

Not being American, I didn’t get a say in who the individual charged with “leading” the “free world” would be last November. Honestly, I wouldn’t have voted for either of them. But there was one thing that alarmed me most about both, but Donnie in particular: their complete unrepentant attitudes.

Neither could take criticism, both tried to pass the buck. And that’s not a suitable attribute for any president, especially one (as both do) that professes to be a Christian.

And that’s the point.19b87-grindstone

“As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion]”

Proverbs 27:17 Amplified

Discussion involves criticism. It requires honing the individual, just as honing a blade sharpens it.

I usually have a knife in my pocket. I know a bit of first-aid and it’s a useful tool to carry. Yesterday I found a paramedic whose car had broken down outside our office. All he needed was a knife or pliers. I leant him my knife and he tried to use it to cut a steel cable.

Now I keep the blade sharp, but not that sharp! After it inevitably failed to cut through the cable, he returned it. The first thing I did when I got inside was to sharpen it.

Why?

It was so dull after trying to cut the cable that I couldn’t have cut butter with it. I keep it sharp to be able to cut a bandage, or wadding, or (on myself twice in the past) even open a smaller wound to allow cleaning it properly. In the field, a blunt blade is useless.

But here’s the thing: you have to wipe the blade after you sharpen it, because (if you did it right) there is now metal dust on the blade – not something you want to get in a wound.

I use a ceramic sharpener, so the metal can only be from the knife. When I sharpen the carving knife before a meal it’s the same. To sharpen it, you must remove the dull part.

We are supposed to take the rough edges off through truly constructive criticism. But we have to be tough enough to take it.

Jesus wasn’t afraid to criticise. His followers weren’t afraid to let Him.

Peter wasn’t offended when Jesus called him out for rebuking Him over his path to the Cross – “But turning around [with His back to Peter] and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan; for your mind is not set on God’s will or His values and purposes, but on what pleases man.”” (Mark 8:33 AMP)

These days, feeding the 5000 might actually look like this:

5000 modern issues

But Jesus would never have stood for it! Jesus was not subtle. He didn’t beat around the bush. He called things exactly how He saw them.

If that sounds eerily familiar, it should. Donnie said that’s what he does.

But the big difference is he can’t take it when someone does it to him.

As Christians, we are the real leaders of the world. Salt and light. But to be effective, we must be sharp. So we must avoid being loners. Stay around other people who are real believers. Not who believe in God, but as I have said in previous posts, people who believe God.

If we truly believe Him, we won’t mind when He sharpens us through others.

So we need to learn humility. Accept constructive criticism.

Believe God.

Trust Him.

Act like you do once you truly do…

And together we can change the world.

Together. Not alone. Not “only me”.

This isn’t “Highlander” – “There can be only one” in the real world needs to be referring to Jesus, not ourselves.

Let’s step out together with Jesus.

The World won’t know what hit it!

Facing Fear

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believeand tremble!

James 2:19 NKJV

I deliberated what to use as the “featured” image for this post. All of us fear something. Even the toughest-looking biker harbours fears in his heart. The toughest warrior is scared of something.

It’s in our nature.

Without fear, there can be no courage. Courage is that part of our nature that feel14bd5-robins the fear, but gets on and does what needs to be done anyway.

My fear has always been losing the ones I love. The small freak in the picture is my younger brother, Robin. It was taken in late 1984. A few months before he took a right turn on a bike and changed a lot of lives forever by losing his own. But he wasn’t my first loss. My dad’s sister died in 1981, killed in a house fire in London.

So I fear losing the people who matter to me.

For a long time I dealt with this by not letting anyone get close. I hardened my heart and refused to allow myself to care about anyone. Or so I kidded myself.

I’ve recently realised there were people in my teenage years that I actually did care about. Some of them have – courtesy of Facebook – come back into my life in the last ten years or so.

I now find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with fears from my teenage years that I didn’t let myself feel then, as well as the new fears that come with developing relationships as a 40+ adult.

So I do the only thing I know that genuinely works.

I lean on God.

Yep, it sounds trite to me too. But it’s what I do, and it works.

There’s a lot in this world we can’t control. But believing God isn’t one of them.

And yes, I didn’t say believing in God. Most people on this planet believe “in” God. It’s why Satan has been able to twist hearts and minds with false religions and idols. We are designed to worship, and even the most ardent atheist worships something. They just use a different label to describe their actions.

But believing in God and believing God are completely different.

Satan believes God – and it terrifies him.

Abraham believed God and Isaac was delivered from death.

David believed God’s promises and consequently he killed Goliath.

Joseph believed God’s promises and despite going from pit to slave to dungeon he held fast to the promises and saved Egypt and his own brothers who had sold him into slavery.

Josiah believed God and saw revival in Israel.

Esther believed God and spoke to the king, saving the Israelites.

Samson, even though he’d faltered, believed God at the end and saved his people.

Mary believed God, and we all got Jesus as a result.

They all overcame fear to believe God. Abraham had only one son, David was a youth not a warrior, Joseph was an imprisoned slave, Josiah was a child, Esther faced death for approaching the king, Samson had to face his own failure, and Mary could have been murdered for believing God.

Believing God is scary. Dave Duell used to say “if your dreams don’t wake you up at night, you’re not dreaming big enough!”

My dreams stop me getting to sleep.

My dream for this ministry is to help the people these words have touched in more than words. My brothers in 7d88d-truthKenya who have to worship under a tree because they have no money even for a tent. In Myanmar and Pakistan who meet in secret so they don’t get killed for speaking out loud what I take for granted.

My friends in America who are scared to describe themselves as “evangelicals” since November 9th 2017, and more who are accused of “hate speech” for simply speaking the Gospel as it has been written and settled for 2000 years.

At a time where “fake news” is anything that disagrees with the US President, we all should have some fear.

But we must face that fear and speak out the Truth.

People will ·put you out of [ban you from] their synagogues. Yes, ·the time [an hour; an indefinite reference to a future time but likely connected to the period after the death and resurrection of Christ] is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering ·service [worship] to God. They will do this because they have not known the Father and they have not known me.”

John 16:2-3 Expanded Bible

Make no mistake, in Germany after Hitler took power telling the Truth got preachers sent to Dachau and Auschwitz alongside the Jews. How long is it going to be before Guantanamo Bay starts getting preachers who dare to speak out? The holocaust didn’t start with the gas chambers. It started with travel restrictions and registration based on religious views.

Some fear is warranted, based on history.

But we must face that fear. The Truth must be spoken.

“Humanists” in England tried to stop Andrew Wommack being allowed to speak at a Christian event a couple of years ago because he dared to say what the Bible says about sexual immorality in general, and homosexuality in particular – it’s sin. I’ve listened to a lot of Andrew’s teaching, and he does say that. Mind you, so did St Paul. Both of them also teach against greed, selfishness, idolatry and all the other things listed as things that drive a wedge between us and God, and the path back being through Christ.

But there’s something about sex that’s different. Even Paul noted it:

“Run away from sexual immorality [in any form, whether thought or behavior, whether visual or written]. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the one who is sexually immoral sins against his own body.”

1 Corinthians 6:18 Amplified

I hate summer. It brings temptations every year that make fleeing thoughts very difficult. Clothing gets smaller, sometimes to the point where you have to wonder why it’s being worn at all. My wife and I hope to have a baby in the next year or two, and I fear the world they will grow up in given the current trend.

 But it’s time to face our fears.

I’ve not counted myself, but I’m told “don’t be afraid” or something meaning the same is spoken 366 times in the Bible. It’s a nice concept, but whether there is one for every day of the year, even in a leap year, or not all it took for Peter to walk on water was one word. A sentence should be enough for any of us!

In the last 12 months the world has changed completely. America had to choose between two candidates who were unsuitable for the office. Britain chose to leave the EU by a narrow margin. Globally racial intolerance is becoming “acceptable”.

There’s certainly enough to fear.

But God is bigger than the hate that pours out of the mouths of politicians and their drones.

As Christians we need to focus on Christ, not the rhetoric in the media. We need to reconcile in ourselves that there is a big difference between the action and the person. The thief on the cross faced his fear of rejection and was rewarded with Eternal Life. Jesus didn’t see his sin – He saw the man’s value to His Father.

We are called to do the same. If your answer to abortion involves killing the doctors who carry it out, you’re missing your own point. God doesn’t hate homosexuals, but the Bible is clear about homosexuality. Too many people on both sides fail to differentiate between the behaviour and the person. The sin and the sinner.

We fear the sin. As if somehow someone else’s behaviour contaminates us. But Jesus hung around with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors without becoming one Himself.

Time to face down the fear. It has no hold on us any more.

Who Wants This?

I’m moving to a new location in a few weeks and I’m trying to train my replacement to take over from me. I’m still going to be Director of the company, but the day-to-day stuff will be done by the new manager. We have a similar sense of humour – which is a mixed blessing. It means we get on well – vital for business – but sometimes we spend too much time laughing at dumb things I’ve accidentally done instead of me getting on and teaching her the nitty-gritty of managing the practice.

But I think about what I’ve been doing for the last thirteen years a lot. As well as creating this blog for Eagle’s Wing Ministries, my day-job has been managing the medical practice my wife and I own, and for the last 3 years keeping things ticking over at the medical centre for her, a dentist, a physiotherapist and an optometrist. It’s hard work sometimes. People management is the worst. Hiring I can do easily, but three times now I’ve had to fire someone, and only once did I not lose sleep over doing it. We’re a small business and consequently we work closely together and inevitably I tend to care about the people as friends. So if they let me down, it hurts on a personal level beyond the professional.

One receptionist we suspected of theft, but couldn’t prove it. She was popular with the patients and I didn’t want to believe she was a thief. I was right. She wasn’t a thief.

She was an addict.

We gave her two months paid leave to get clean. We’re a dispensing practice, so we carry a lot of stock in terms of medicines like morphine, pethidine, codeine, ephedrine, and a range of tranquilisers, all of which are highly addictive and dangerous in the hands of an addict. She managed to get off the “tik” – a form of crystal meth – she had been hooked on, but when she relapsed we had no choice for her sake or our own but to let her go. I hated that. I had to tell a young mother she no longer had a job because of her addiction.

The other one I was troubled by was a single mum who had been set-up by her ex. We got an anonymous tip that she was an addict, so we carried out a random drug test from our in-house stock. She failed it, showing signs of opiates (heroin) as well as cocaine and marijuana. I couldn’t believe it. Again – as is my protocol – we gave her one month to get clean. During that month we began to get strange calls asking if she still worked there. We got unusual emails showing the inside of the centre with clothing strewn around the waiting area as if someone were sleeping there. The messages claimed she was sleeping in the centre and offered the photos as “proof”.

I was not surprised when, a month later, a test I bought on the way in to work was completely clear of all drugs. My reason? I’d changed the locks. It turned out her ex had been able to access the building. Suspecting this, I’d thrown out our old drug-test kits that morning and replaced them. We were all relieved when not a trace showed up. But timekeeping was a problem. We finally managed to get rid of her ex, but the local public transport is a nightmare. Unreliable rail service and not on a bus or “taxi” route all added up, and chronic lateness ensued. After complaints from the practitioners about it, we had no choice, and I had to fire a friend.

So leadership. Who really wants it?

I get emails every week from groups and individuals inviting me to visit and preach. It’s an honour to be invited, and I keep every invite (at least, the ones I save from my stupid computer’s “junk” box) and reply. If you sent an invitation and didn’t get a reply, please try again by writing directly instead of the “contact” form. (Address at the bottom of this post)

In among the ministry emails this morning was one titled “Why Do You Want To Be A Leader?”

It made me think.

I started my own business in South Africa because it was almost impossible to find a job where I’d be able to do what I’ve spent over 20 years now doing because of the way the labour law is structured. But nobody could stop me being my own boss.

In England – where I’m now moving – I was written off by the system as “permanently disabled due to mental illness” in 1999/2000. This was major depression following my father’s death, the breakup of my engagement and the death of one of my dearest friends. Moving back now, I’ll have to convince the establishment that 17 years later and having completed a degree I’m actually not “disabled”.

Are there things I can’t do in terms of changes in me resulting from that specific time in my life?

Yes.

They are things like:

  • I have no tolerance level for bull. Life’s too short.
  • I won’t tolerate discrimination based on skin colour.
  • I won’t be bullied into taking a job with no real responsibilities – that was what finally triggered my meltdown.
  • I won’t let someone else tell me what I’m not capable of.

It’s a simple list, and mostly things I thought before I needed the break mentally. “Stress” is something different to everyone. Some people thrive in environments that would crush others.

So now I look at where I am, and I think “why do I want to be a leader?”

Then I think “DO I want to be a ‘leader’?”

The simple answer is “no”.

Eagle’s Wing Ministries isn’t about becoming a “leader”, it’s about being a “follower”.

I think if people go into ministry because they want the title, power or perceived respect that they think comes with it then they probably shouldn’t be considered for a leadership role.

I was asked by a church leader who pastored several churches across a large area about a situation that had arisen. There had been civil unrest some years before and one of the young leaders of that time, who had been involved in stirring up hate in the area of Africa they were in had now become a Christian and joined his church. The congregation had struggled. He had been a visible member of a group known to have recruited child soldiersd2ce8-military_helmet_and_cross from some of the families in the church, and now they struggled to get past his past.

It’s very understandable. I thought for some time before I replied. Since the church leader had personally brought this man into the church, it needed to be his choice that resolved the issue. But he was so close to the situation he needed help to find perspective.

My reply was that since he had several churches far away from where the conflict had been, perhaps for a time he should send this man to one of them. This would allow him to work with the congregation to find a place of forgiveness, and work with the young ex-guerilla to grow spiritually. Alternatively, he could leave everyone where they were and try to sort it out together – a much more challenging option, but possibly a faster one.

Last I heard, the ex-guerilla had moved far away from the church where they had feared him, to a place where his past was unknown to the people personally. He was being considered for eldership in that branch of the church group, but was struggling with the invitation to lead because of his own feelings about his past.

I always ask people who write not to call me “Pastor”, or “Prophet”, or “Bishop”. I’m none of those things any more than anyone else. If the writing on this site blesses you, then that’s great – it’s my aim in writing it. If it helps you avoid mistakes I’ve made, fantastic! But I’m still not any of those things any more than you are.

We all are “sinners saved by Grace”. We also all have Spiritual Gifts through the Holy Spirit. And choosing to move in those gifts doesn’t make someone “better” or somehow “more holy” than anyone else.

Nobody has gifts more important than any others. More visible, perhaps, but not important. My grandmother’s brothers were pilots during World War Two. They were very aware that the only reason they got to fly the planes was the small army of mechanics, welders, drivers, and ground staff that kept the planes and airfields in a usable condition. “Pip”, as my uncle was known (Flt Lt Wilfred Rowland Travell DFC, 220 Squadron), told me many stories about his exploits as a pilot, but he always spoke of how much the guys on the ground meant to him. For every plane in the air there were around 75 people on the ground making sure it could be. The pilot got the recognition, but if just one person was missing from the “support” team on the ground, the plane didn’t get off the airstrip.

It’s the same in ministry.bc346-sheep

Not everyone is called to write, or speak, or sing, or lead worship. Some sweep halls. Some erect tents. Some rig lighting or sound. I do what I’m called and gifted to do. Something that stopped me writing for almost 20 years was the thought that I couldn’t write like CS Lewis or Max Lucado or John Eldredge. It wasn’t until recently (when I began this blog on “blogspot.com”) that I realised God already had a Lewis, Lucado and Eldredge. I’m not called to be them. I’m called to let Him make me into the best “David Beddow” I can be.

Nobody else.

Just be “David Beddow”. Be myself.

It’s critical.

So I don’t want to be a leader. But we are all leaders. We all have people that follow us, listen to our words and watch our actions.

So watch your step.

I guarantee someone else is…

 

 

 

If the “contact” form hasn’t got you a reply from me, write directly to me: david@eagleswingministries.org