Can I Get An "Amen"… Oh Brother…

Ok, so anyone who has ever read anything on this site knows I’m a Christian.

I hope.

But I tend to be a bit more chilled out than it may seem from some of my writing.

I write like I would speak at a conference. Or like I’ve heard people speak at conferences in the past. And there’s nothing wrong with it for me in that environment.

But I can’t take a non-Christian friend to a church that’s that way every single week!

I don’t like having to Translate for people I take with me.

I remember the first very “evangelical/charismatic” church service I was taken to. I’d been a Christian a couple of years but I was still only about 14 or 15 at the time, and had only known the Church of England up until then, I thought these people were out of their minds.

The preacher kept asking “Can I get an ‘AMEN’?” from the congregation.

I kept wanting to ask “Why?”

These preachers who have to ask bug me when it’s every week.

Conferences are different. You don’t know the group. They don’t know you. So it’s different at a conference. The crowd comes from all backgrounds and all walks of life, every colour, accent, race background you can imagine all there for one reason – to hear you talk about Jesus. It’s a VERY different experience.

But every week?

Oh Brother!

I took a friend who had been moving towards God to church a few times in England. Then we went to a cell group with his girlfriend – who hadn’t been to church with us.

He was fine, but the girlfriend was completely freaked out. She’d never been to church of any kind, and even a friendly and laid-back “charismatic” setting was too much for her.

And we only had one “can I get an ‘Amen'” in the meeting – ironically from me!

We need to be salt and light to the World. That means they need to understand us.

Jesus drew the most broken people to Himself. Prostitutes. Shepherds. Tax collectors.

In modern society it would be the drug addicts, hookers, bikers, “gangsta” types that He’d reach. Exactly the people so many “evangelical” churches push away with the self-righteous crap they spout.

Their are certain moral absolutes that the World expects us as Christians to overlook today. Sexual immorality – and I’m not only speaking about the LGBTetc extreme here. Sex before marriage has crept so subtly into everyday society that many churches don’t even think to mention it. Not long ago divorce would have ended a local pastor’s ministry following an affair. These days it’s barely a ripple in a high-profile “evangelical” ministry leader’s resumé to be divorced.

The issue is the way the church’s self-proclaimed recruiting branch – the evangelicals – spends the majority of its time behaving in a way that actually drives away even genuine Christians because they can’t relate to the condemnation that pours out of the pulpits.

Again, don’t get this wrong. I’m not endorsing homosexuality, infidelity, promiscuity or any other form of sexual sin. That’s what it is: sin.

Equally, you won’t find this site endorsing greed, selfish ambition, vanity or any other sin.

Sin is self-worship. That’s why it drives a wedge between us and God. We are designed to worship. We all do it. Everyone worships something. Be it Christians, Muslims, Hindus or atheists, everyone worships something.

That’s why the whole “Can I get” gets under my skin. It smacks of worshipping the speaker rather than the speaker pointing to the Lord. And it’s so subtle the way it has infiltrated the “evangelical/charismatic” branch of the church disguised as some kind of Godly behaviour. But it needs a translator to understand it, and it alienates anyone not in that group.

Jesus came talking about sheep to shepherds, lost coins to widows, fish to fishermen and judgement to Pharisees – the judgemental.

He met people where they were. Even when they were dead.

How simple would it be for us to do the same? He saw the hurt in the Samaritan woman at the well. Just think about the story for a moment.

You can find the story in the whole of John 4. It’s quite long so rather than reproduce it here I’ll add it as a link here.

But here’s the breakdown. Jesus sits down a noon. It seems innocuous to us. But this is Samaria. A Jew sitting down in a town in Samaria. At the hottest time of the day.

The woman comes to the well, carrying a heavy water-jar. Again, it seems to our modern world. But this is 2000 years ago. Mid day was not a time to go and fetch water. But this woman comes now. Everyone in the town knows her story. Her heart must have sunk as she sees a stranger sitting on the wall of the well.

A Jew. She’s a Samaritan. She knows what they think of her just for being a Samaritan. Quislings. Impure. Worse than a tax collector.

So she sighs and goes to the well. Broken down. Broken hearted.

Then Jesus speaks to her.

She must have almost died of shock. Firstly He’s a Jew. Secondly He’s a man. This breaks so many “rules” it’s impossible to list them all.

He asks for water. For Him to ask for water from her is as likely as Him asking for a pork chop dinner. She’s a Samaritan!

She draws the water for Jesus. She probably expected Him to use it to spit on her. But her curiosity is peaked. I love verse 9 in “The Message”:

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

Jesus doesn’t care about convention. He tells her she should rather be asking Him for Living Water – eternal Life.

For a moment, she is confused. He has no bucket, no rope, nothing to draw water with. After all, He just asked her to give Him a drink.

Jesus explains, and for the fullness I look to the Amplified translation of verse 14:

But whoever drinks the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. But the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water [satisfying his thirst for God] welling up [continually flowing, bubbling within him] to eternal life.

She’s all but forgotten her initial fear now, and asks Jesus for the water He offers.

I’d love to see the look on Jesus’s face. A thirsty heart, here in Samaria. Looking for Him, the Messiah. One who truly loves His Father. I can imagine the twinkle in His eye as He sees her heart open to everything the Father offers. His playful nature shining through His smile.

But she misses it for a moment. She doesn’t see the twinkle as Jesus says “Fetch your husband”. Her heart breaks. But there’s something different in Him.

She could have said “He’s out of town”. Or “He’d be in the fields now”. Or any number of other things except the truth.

But she tells the truth. “I have no husband”.

Well, part of the truth anyway. She’s coming to the well at noon to avoid the accusations of the other women. She’s living with a man who won’t even give her his name, but he must have been taking a “husband’s” pleasures. Giving herself to a man who refuses to enter a covenant of marriage because she believes for whatever reason that it’s all she’s worth.

The town harlot. Condemned by everyone in the village. Jesus is the first person she’s met in years who speaks to her with respect, who doesn’t instantly judge her. Who isn’t repulsed by her presence. So a half-truth will suffice. The stranger doesn’t need to know she’s “sexually immoral”. He can just think she’s unmarried, or a widow. No need to rock the boat of this man who’s treated her with decency.

But Jesus knows already. “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.” (The Message)

Her heart must have broken even more, but she tries to deflect. “Oh, you’re a prophet?” Quick, change the subject before it gets ugly – after all, she still needs to draw the water.

You [Samaritans] do not know what you worship; we [Jews] do know what we worship, for salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming and is already here when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit [from the heart, the inner self] and in truth; for the Father seeks such people to be His worshippers. God is spirit [the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind], and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 4:22-24 Amplified

He calls her out again. It’s not about where you worship. Samaritans don’t know the truth.

But there’s no judgement in His words. She replies that she’s looking for the Messiah.

The absolute Joy Jesus must have felt when she said that. The delight in His heart as He says ““I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”” (verse 26, The Message)

Then the disciples return. They must have been used to the unusual by this point. It may only be chapter 4, but they already know by what already went down that Jesus is not your average bear. After all, He already turned water into wine – a lot of wine – in Cana, drove the traders out of the Temple in Jerusalem, prophesied His own Resurrection, and begun His miracle ministry.

But this is still a shock. He’s talking to a woman. No respectable Jewish man would talk to a woman in public – especially a Samaritan woman. But they know well enough to keep their mouths shut about it.

The woman runs back into town telling everyone about her encounter with Jesus. The Message says in her confusion she left her water jar, but most of the others just say she left it. She came to the well with a burden, literally and spiritually, and runs back into the town with neither.

There’s a parallel here with the day of the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, is the first person to declare the Resurrection. Here, the town harlot is the one to reveal the presence of the Messiah.

But Jesus never once asked if He could get an “amen” from the crowd…

"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

Fresh Start

OK, this New Year fits several categories…
Marathon
Capable
Someday
Exquisite
Hopeful
And hopefully Successful

The year began with the news we have been wanting for three years. My wife has been offered a job in England. For three years we have fought our way through what has felt like a monster battle, a marathon of a race, where we have lost almost everything except our lives – and even that’s been touch-and-go at times.

It’s often felt like a “someday” existence, looking for hope. The writer of Proverbs said:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”

Proverbs 13:12a (NKJV)

It’s certainly felt like that for us. So many times our hopes have been dashed or postponed. The torture has felt never-ending.

Depression. Heart-sick existence.

But then the year started with a call from England. An agency who had rejected her had a new person look at her CV and called to ask if he could put it forward to a hospital group he felt would be a perfect fit. We agreed, not expecting much as the group he mentioned had rejected the CV out of hand six months earlier.

The next day came the call to set up a Skype interview with the hospital the following Thursday. We agreed, and I taught my wife very hurriedly the basics of how to use Skype!

The interview went ok. I was sitting out of sight and found myself wincing at some of her answers to their questions. To be honest, had I been the interviewer, even making allowances for technology and nerves I’d have questioned if the fit was going to be right.

Friday morning, 11am South African time – 9am UK time – the phone rang. The hospital wants her so badly they are going to apply to be sponsors with the Home Office so they can employ her faster.

We were completely bowled over.

“But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

Proverbs 13:12b (NKJV)

After 3 years, her ability has been recognised. The offer is there.

Exquisite doesn’t begin to describe the pleasure of that moment. Even being admitted to hospital the next day didn’t tarnish the feeling.

Of course, now we have a new marathon to run. Immigration to the UK ought to be a simple affair. After all, I’m British and we’ve been married over ten years. Nobody could possibly call the last few years a marriage of convenience. But paperwork is needed. The length of our relationship is, apparently, irrelevant to the UK. As is me being a British Citizen, because I don’t have an adequate income in Pounds. So the next part of the race begins.

But it’s a fresh start. There’s hope again. Suddenly “someday” has become “8 weeks from now”.

House-hunting, finding a suitable job to generate an income for me, organising the quarantine for our dogs, packing and re-packing boxes has become a daily ritual. Writing – which I feel passionately is what God has for me moving forward – gets pushed aside for the “practical” stuff.

It’s easy to lose sight of the truly important in the busyness of the business of moving our life to the other end of the planet. But writing, and when the doors open speaking, is what I know God has called me to do.

His timing is perfect. And He calls us to be fully alive – that is His Glory. Our success – whatever He calls us to do – brings Glory to Him.

So my prayer for us, and for anyone taking time to read this today, is to find His purpose for our life, keep Him at the centre of it through the teething time of a new beginning, and let Him lead us into success beyond our imagination!

The Safest Road

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”

CS Lewis: The Screwtape Letters Ch 12

I’ve walked a fairly “safe” road the last few years spiritually. If you’ve read much of this blog, that may be a surprise to you as my writing tends to be from my heart but my actions in my daily walk get diluted by the issues of a daily battle, complicated by studying, working, married life and so on.

We all suffer these distractions if we are not careful. I lost sight of how blinkered I’d become until recently when my wife and I were forced to take several major steps of Faith. We made them tentatively at first, leaving the flat where we had been living for a year to move back in with my mum and finally making the decision to finally and definitely move to England as soon as possible. Within a few days of the final hard decision being made, and me declaring that “No matter what, we will move to England in the next three months”, my wife was contacted by a new agency, had an interview with a company she had previously been introduced to by another agency and rejected by, and offered a permanent job in Somerset to begin as soon as possible. The interview was last Thursday, the offer made on Friday morning, just nine hours later. We went out to dinner to celebrate Friday night and…

I was admitted to hospital on Saturday morning with a mystery infection in my foot that isn’t responding to prayer (first rebuttal attack as always), oral antibiotics, steroids or any other medications. My sugar control shot to pieces and so now I write from a hospital bed, not feeling even slightly ill, but told it could be quite serious. The phrase “e-coli” has even been thrown around this morning!

All I can do is laugh! I think it’s getting to my fellow inmates, but it’s nice to be the most positive voice in the room. I have things in common with everyone, some of which I can share – a love of motorbikes, a dislike of crashing motorbikes, quality and portion sizes of hospital food and how hard it is to sleep in hospital – and some of which I have been told in confidence, and I will not break that.

Something that has been hard for me in the last 24 hours has been to sit still. I don’t have much of an option here, but with my head racing at a billion miles an hour being forced to sit still is not a bad thing. I chatted to David, the chap in the bed opposite me, for a while this morning. Neither of us slept much last night but I found myself suddenly sharing a part of my testimony I’ve not spoken out loud in over ten years with him. I don’t expect to see a harvest personally, but it felt like planting a seed for the first time in years. I’ll leave it to God what happens next for him, but for me I found a sudden peace and stillness I’ve missed for years. Then I decided to open my Christmas Present to myself – a book of devotionals called “Knowing the Heart of God” by John Eldredge. Today’s passage was 1 Samuel 3:9 “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”.

Apparently God has a sense of humour – but I’ve thought this for 30 years.

There is much to do before I can move to England. Our dogs must be quarantined for rabies and housed in suitable kennels for the duration. I feel dreadful leaving them for so long, but the upside will be having them with us or their twilight years as they are both over ten now, so for big dogs they are ageing now.

dsc00031Their father, Cadbury, died of cancer as a young dog, but their mum, Beamer, only passed a few months ago at the age oIMG_20160531_154122f 12.

Losing her was a shock for us, the picture to the right was only taken a few weeks before she died and she was still very much herself, just a loss of appetite. It turned out that was caused by liver cancer and she would have only had a few weeks left and they would have been very painful. Having watched Cadbury deteriorate over three weeks from cancer a few years ago we elected to not let her suffer.

What does this have to do with a safe road though?

Basically, we were tempted to take the easy road.

A week ago I was offered a small business in South Africa for no financial investment. A friend’s father has decided to stop his gardening business and I was offered the use, for a profit share, of: the pickup, several top-of-the-line weed-eaters (strimmers) and petrol run gardening tools as well as a generator and some electrical equipment. I have some experience from a few years ago in building and garden maintenance and the thought of a ready-made business is beyond enticing at a time when a white foreigner in South Africa is almost unemployable.

The offer came days after I’d made the declaration about going to England, and it’s incredibly tempting. It’s easy work for me – employ a couple of men to do the heavy work, do the business management and marketing stuff myself and a nice little business to keep things ticking over here. A month ago I would have jumped on the chance, but I felt something say “Hold Back!”

So I asked for a few days to mull it over and discuss it with Rene. She reminded me of my declaration of Faith that we were going to England. Now the offer for England is there, and I’m working on not just the move, but also a series of Kindle books to publish via www.smile.amazon.com (that’s amazon.com but with a portion of your purchase being donated to the charity of your choice – mine is Andrew Wommack Ministries, but choose your own!) over the next two months for Lent, Easter, Ascension Day and Pentecost. It’s all happened so fast even my faster-than-normal brain is spinning!

It would be easy to say “let’s stay in Cape Town” and do the gardening and Rene stay in her practice.

Easy.

Safe.

But hunting lions is not easy, and it’s certainly not safe. I may be the first person in history to be leaving living in Africa to hunt his Lion!

My passion is Christ. I hope that is obvious from these scribblings. But I’ve found it near impossible to find a church I was able to integrate into here. I know it’s me, not the churches that’s the issue, but it still grates that it’s over ten years since I’ve been an actual member of a church locally. That’s not to say I’ve not attended, or that I’ve not had regular fellowship with other Christians, in particular my wife’s family and my dear friend Thuli Nkoyana (whose poem I published on this site here) without whose encouragement I may never have got this far with my writing.

But staying put is safe. At least, it seems to be.

If you get a chance to read Bruce Wilkinson’s book “The Dream Giver” then do so. The story of Ordinary, from a land of Nobody’s who dreams of being Somebody is great, but the disturbingly accurate description of the land he comes from where the people go to their normal job in their normal car then come home and sit in their normal chair and watch their box for entertainment is such an accurate picture of society – all it needs now is to add in iPads and Tablets and it’s today’s society. Scary stuff.

But as Ordinary sets off to leave the land of Familiar to pursue his dream he encounters resistance from people he least expects it from. It’s the same for us. If we go after what God puts in our hearts to do it upsets other people’s lives as well as our own. Our sudden absence (or presence) in their life changes their familiar dynamics. I know my mum isn’t looking forward to us moving. She’s become very quickly adapted to our presence in her home and has stated how much she’s going to miss us. But sometimes we have to follow our dream even if it means disrupting, even hurting, the people we love.

The thing is, taking the safe road usually means moving away from God’s Will for our life. Satan doesn’t resist people moving in the direction he wants them to move in. Or sometimes the resistance is a token easily overcome. We exchange our grand, God-given vision for a smaller, more comfortable one. And we quietly sit in our comfortable life, taking the safe road, dying and not even realising it or living a fraction of what God had stored up for us.

Take the road less travelled. There will be risks. There may be dangers untold and losses unexpected, but the rewards are greater.

But be warned, there are things that will happen:

  • Friends will abandon you
  • Family will disown you
  • You will have to choose between your call and your day-job (if they’re different)
  • You are declaring war on an enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy you.

It’s hard on the front line of the battle. The pioneers who went West and settled America or South and settled Australia, New Zealand and South Africa faced unimaginable hardships. The men fighting in the trenches on the Somme a century ago faced death from the enemy and from the living conditions.

Some quit the battle. They turn back and look for the easier road.

But ours is not a road that is easy.

But it leads to the only truly Safe destination.

Mythical Heroism…

The Mythical Hero. Lancelot, Arthur, armour shining in the sun, fearless and unbeatable.

Somehow we look for the White Knight who will ride in on the mighty steed to save the day. He’s a “Man’s Man”. All men want to be him, and all women want him.

He is relatable to by young and old, he has high position but comes from humble beginnings. Think of the young Arthur, mucking out the stables until his brother needs a sword and the only one is stuck in the stone, so Arthur goes and with no difficulty draws Excalibur from Merlin’s enchantment.

We look for the white knight. We tend to end up with less than we expect. Less of a white knight and more the Black Knight from Monty Python hopping around and completely useless at best.

We look for the Sean Connery “Arthur”, or the Richard Gere “Lancelot”.

Newsflash: The only place you find them is on the movie screen.

Not that heroes don’t exist. Far from it. You meet heroes of the Faith every day, you probably just can’t see it. They tend to look like nothing.

Take this guy I know. He’s a tough guy. And I mean a real tough guy. Works with his hands, manual labour mostly. Thinks with his fists sometimes. It got him into trouble once or twice. He carries a blade most of the time.

He carried it to Gethsemane…

Peter is a white knight, but to look at him? Probably smells of sweat and fish a lot of the time – not a pleasant combination. But he has an amazing gift for compassion. Look at him just after Pentecost. He’s on his way to the temple and a cripple cries out to him. Peter has nothing but the anointing he carries inside him, so that’s what he gives. The cripple dances into the temple.

And Peter probably still smells of fish.

I usually have a knife with me. I’ve carried one most of my life. As a boy I bought my first pocket knife at the age of about seven on holiday in Wales. Just a simple blade folded into a handle that had a picture of a Welsh lady in traditional dress. I used to use it to sharpen my pencil at school. I bought my first multi-blade knife in France on a school trip. A blade, scissors and a gadget for getting stones out of horses hooves.

Because I see so many horses…

These days it’s a larger and heavier blade. It’s a paramedic’s knife – no, I’m not a paramedic – with a single folding blade. In theory it’s for emergency use (or cutting biltong/jerky).

I make no pretense to be a “hero” of any kind, but in a country where there is so much crime at the point of a knife (South Africa), it makes sense to be able to at least make a show. I’m a reasonably big guy, so visual aids are a deterrent. And I really like biltong.

But I’m no Peter. Malchus would probably have been in no danger if it had been me there that day.

But that’s not the point.

We look at “heroes” these days and we see the undefeatable. The protagonist of most movies shakes off the bullet hole in their abdomen and continues to fight unimpeded, unstoppable and infallible.

That’s why the Marvel movies appeal to me. I loved “Civil War”. The characters all demonstrate their humanity. Flawed characters who struggle with internal conflicts but eventually overcome their weaknesses to triumph.

That’s why I love the Bible stories as well.

Hang on…

Yep, you read that right. I enjoy some of the Bible stories in the same way as I enjoy Iron Man.

No, that’s not heresy.

We spend a lot of time as Christians looking at the deity of Jesus. We imbue Him with the focus of the Terminator somehow. We became obsessed with Jesus setting His face as flint towards the Cross, and consequently we miss His Humanity.

Jesus was tempted, just as we are tempted. That means in every way.

Every way.

Anything you and I struggle with, Jesus had to struggle with. At any point Jesus could have given in to the temptation of sin because of His humanity, just as Adam did.

Adam gave in to the temptation to be “like God” because he didn’t see that he was already like God – created in God’s own image. Perfect. Sinless.

Jesus actually was God in human form, but that human form was as fragile and potentially corruptible as Adam was. He came and as a result of the Cross, Jesus would become ruler of all the kingdoms of the World – at that point handed over to Satan. Satan offers to give Jesus what He came for when he tempts Him in the wilderness. He had the chance to short-cut to the position of power by simply bowing down to Satan.

No need for the Cross.

No need for the agony.

All the power.

The temptation must have been immense. So much power offered for such a little action.

But Jesus the man turned His focus to the real mission – Salvation.

He could have taken the selfish route. He chose the path to the Cross.

Even on the Cross, Jesus has the temptation thrown at Him to prove who He is by coming down from the Cross by His own Power. He could have done. He chose not to.

He chose us.

Jesus is a hero. He overcomes the temptation to give into the desires of the flesh – and they were significant. Instead, He stays true to the path to Salvation of the entire human race – by choice. That’s heroic. Heroism in the purest sense.

 

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.

Dare to Think it's Possible

Daring to Believe – An Argument For the Cross

Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

John 20:8

I watched “Risen” recently. Whilst fictional – like “Ben Hur” – it was nonetheless a moving story. Since it was from the Roman Tribune’s perspective it didn’t need to try to slavishly follow the accuracy of the Gospels and allows for some poetic license.

If you’ve not seen it, I strongly recommend it. It begins with the Crucifixion and follows the initial Roman search for Jesus’s body, shows the bribing of the guards for their silence, and the slow realisation beginning to creep into the hardened soldier’s cynical existence that there is something very different here.

Anyone who’s read my stuff here knows I like movies. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has a scene that sticks in my head. Indy stepping out onto the optical illusion bridge over the chasm.

Not as moving, granted, but a moment nonetheless.

Moments in movies like that make me look at my own life, and how things have impacted me. We all need to take time to reflect on what is going on in our world, our friendships need to be tended or they fall away. Our relationship with God is the same. Not many people deliberately decide to turn their back, it just happens over time. On average about half the people I knew through church 20 years ago don’t believe now, and from conversations I’ve had that seems to be the norm. Storms come and cause us to doubt or force us deeper into God, depending on a cornucopia of conditions.

There are moments we look at where we have a conscious choice to make. Decide on a path for our life.

Sometimes we have no choice but to face that decision, and sometimes we can defer it for a while, but eventually the decision needs to be made – and not making a decision is actually a decision in itself.

The defining moments in our lives lead us to where we are today. Me writing this blog is a result of hundreds of moments where I’ve had to choose a direction. Usually because of circumstances I had no control over.

My dad’s sister died in a fire in 1981. My brother in a road accident in 1985. Cancer took my mum’s parents in 1988 and 1991. My dad died of a brain cancer in 1999.

All of those events forced a choice onto me. Dare to believe, or walk away.

And there were other things I went through as well. The more “normal” growing up things like girlfriends, GCSE and A Levels, leaving home, getting married etc all made a profound impact on who and where I am today physically, emotionally and Spiritually.

I deferred the decision after Yvonne died in the fire. I was only 9 and it upset me. Robin dying in 1985 was the big one. I had to choose how to move forward. For nine months I put off the decision, then in the November I met Jesus in a very real, physical way.

And I dared to believe.

I dared to believe He could mend my broken heart. That He could soothe my soul. It was hard. I went to church already. I’d sung in the choir for years and now I was a Server, helping out during the service with preparations for communion, candle-bearer and Crucifer for ceremonies and services. But this was different. In those nine months I’d kept going through the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Then I met and I dared to believe.

I dared to look to the Cross for my answers. I strive to docb877-military_helmet_and_cross so every day (some more successfully than others!)

I place my hope in the Cross. All my hope hangs there. At the end of the day, if you are Blessed by my writing then I am truly Blessed to offer it. But I write because Christ has put it in my heart to do so. In the movie (here I go again with movies) “Chariots of Fire”, Eric Liddell is challenged by his sister to abandon the Olympic games and follow his call to be a missionary. His reply is that while God made him able to teach, He also made him fast, and that when he ran he felt God’s pleasure.

I didn’t understand that until I began writing, and there is something in every single person reading this that will give you the understanding I now have. When I write (or preach) I feel God’s pleasure. I can feel Him cheering me on and that is when His presence is closest to me.

We were made for a reason. Atheists and agnostics claim it was random, but the mathematical odds of exactly the right conditions for life happening on this small, blue rock are remote. The likelihood of life “spontaneously” beginning is even more remote. It takes greater faith to believe only in science than to believe in a Creator who designed it!

I said this was an argument for the Cross. I guess it’s really more me trying to express the centrality of the Cross in my life, and why I believe it is time for us as a Church, irrespective of colour, native language or denomination to turn back and really examine our lives.

Are we living authentic Christian lives? Are we truly imitators of Christ?

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to make the case?

For myself, I hope so. I hope these thoughts, usually written in the middle of the night – it’s 3am here as I’m writing now – would serve as some evidence of the presence of Jesus in my heart. That the words I speak in conversation and when I am alone and I think nobody can hear me would be the same. I want my heart to be so inclined to Jesus that people ask me what’s different about me.

But it all starts with the Cross.