Truth or Fact?

In this 21st Century world we live in, we often miss the difference between Truth and the facts. This subtle difference is more than mere semantics, rather it is central to our understanding and ability to fully live in the fullness of Life as Christ died for us to be able to.

500 years ago, the accepted facts were that the earth was the center of the universe and all the heavens moved around this flat space we live on. The known facts today tell us something completely different. Facts are generally accepted without question, although every so often there are people who choose to shatter these facts.

Even in the last 100 years many accepted “facts” have been debunked. The concept of a human running a mile in less than 4 minutes, an atom being the smallest possible measure, the possibility of space flight, supersonic flight, cures for all kinds of illnesses previously deemed uncurable. These facts have changed our way of life and made us less aware of the Truths surrounding us.

Truth is immovable. It never changes. Popular opinion and understanding changes facts daily, but Truth is unchangeable.

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”(John 14: 6,7)

Jesus not only spoke the truth, He is the physical embodiment of the Truth. Everything He said and did was an embodiment of Truth, from healing all those who came to Him and asked in Faith to driving the money changers out of the Temple. Never once did He say “come back later” or put sickness onto someone in order to teach them something.

He never took anything from someone without them receiving a Blessing in return far greater than that they had offered.

Facts were never a big part of Jesus’ teachings. Satan used facts to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus overcame these temptations with Truths.

Today we are quick to look for the facts. But facts can be misleading. It is a fact that there is more skin cancer now than at any other time in recorded history. It is also a fact that there is a hole in the ozone layer. It is also a fact that more sunscreen lotion is sold now than ever has been sold. The facts are suggestive that the hole in the ozone layer may cause skin cancer. But the same facts can suggest, if you choose to interpret them that way, that sunblock may cause skin cancer.

Now I’m NOT a scientist, and I don’t know the details of how sunscreen works or understand the workings of UV rays. But I do know that my own dad used sunblock, a vest, a t-shirt and a tracksuit on the beach and still got skin cancer. I also know many many people who use sunscreen and don’t develop cancer. Those facts suggest wearing too many clothes on the beach may be a cause of cancer.

We are quick to accept facts, but slow to accept the Truths we see.

Jesus heals. I’ve watched legs grow, have been healed of some physical ailments and met 3 people who have been raised from the dead. Truth is unmoveable. It is irrefutable. Facts are refuted and adjusted all the time. If we look for Truth, we must look in the Word of God. Jesus’ life and teachings, not just the current popular interpretation of them.

I heard of a church leader who refused to allow a song containing the line “here with the power to heal now” to be sung in his church because it may raise people’s hopes unrealistically when we know the fact is that healing just doesn’t happen.

Truth trumps fact. Every time. God heals. God prospers. God loves unconditionally.

If our body has symptoms, those symptoms are facts. Jesus heals.

Fact: I take medication for diabetes. Truth: By His stripes I have been healed.

I used to take medication for Gout. By His stripes I am healed.

Just something to think on…

Image vs. Character

We have no idea what Jesus looked like. No clue if He was tall or short, muscular or chubby. Did he have acne as a boy?

The disciples we allot physical types to. Peter, the Rock, was a fisherman. Muscular, ruddy complexion and imposing physical size. Levi, Tax collector. Less impressive, perhaps he looked like Danny DeVito.

But we have no descriptions. David was described as “ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features” (1 Samuel 16:12), and we know Moses didn’t think much of himself, but we couldn’t pick them out in a line up.

I think there’s a wisdom in that that is overlooked. The disciples who walked with Jesus didn’t recognise him cooking breakfast on the shore after the resurrection. They saw initially with their physical eyes, rather than their Spiritual eyes.

I knew a man many years ago who was a farmer up on the wild moorland in Devon. He spoke little and listened a great deal. His appearance was one that would have caused many to pass him by and pay no attention, but there was something in his gait that spoke more strongly than words. He had a presence about him from spending many hours alone in the wilderness on the moors with just his Bible for company. Eric was a man who spoke with authority because he knew his God.
 
Intimately.

Image meant nothing to Mark. He was born blind, and was offered prayer in his 20’s by a man who had seen blind eyes created seeing in the past through the power of God. He refused because he didn’t want his experience of God to be watered down by sight!

There are many more examples of men and women who have joyfully sought to rid themselves of any kind of image in order to find the Truth.

In the current climate Image is everything. Here in South Africa, Julius Malema – Leader of the ANC Youth League – regularly speaks out about anything and everything so he can change feet. Jacob Zuma, National President, said at a recent rally that a vote for the ANC means you go to heaven. The image that portrays is truly terrifyng!

Young men in particular are falling victim to the image-mongers. Cars, suits, hairstyle, skin condition, sunglasses are all essentials to say “I am a success”. Young women are bombarded with images on magazines like never before of “perfect” celebrities – but not told the details of the airbrushing that took them there. A few years ago I worked in Torquay, Devon, when some actors and actresses appearing in the local theater came into my place of work to relax. I stood and chatted to them for a while, then helped them get set up and enjoy their evening, totally unaware of who I was talking to, because out of make-up and costume they were just men and women like you and me. It turned out that when one of these men had been on TV, I’d been an avid fan and not missed an episode, but I couldn’t connect the real man with the character he’d portrayed – and rightly so!

Any magazine stand will scream the latest gossip from the covers about Charlie Sheen’s antics or Britney’s new hair or some other individual who we’ll have forgotten by next week existed as if the future of the human race depended on it. It’s all image.

George Burns made a series of movies in his later years in which he played both God and Satan. The Satan character had the flashy cars, suave suits, fawning women and money very obviously in his hand. The God character had a more “everyman” look to him. Grey jacket, loafers, flat cap and understated. Obviously, the characters were initially drawn to the flashy guy in the red suit, but as the movies progressed they found the image was hollow and the gentle guy in grey who was quietly waiting for them and offering advice ended up being the way they found they had to go to have peace.

In his song “Hollywood”, Michael Buble sings “Remember when you’re rich that you sold yourself for this – You’ll be famous coz you’re dead” It’s a great line, but how it gets lost in society.

Image is not improtant if you mean how others see you. What is important is Character, the person we are when nobody’s around to pat our back and say well done. That’s the image we should develop. It comes through every time.

For what we are in our most private moments is who we are. I’m a quiet guy with a bad temper that thankfully is mellowing with age, who longs to be a dad, a leader, a writer, a singer, but mostly a Husband and a Lover of God. I don’t care if people notice and ignore or notice and praise or even attack me for my beliefs and the way I live. I have chosen to develop my character. Granted it’s a work in progress, but I’m on the road at least.

Heart Surgery

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV 1984)
I never really thought about this passage in great detail until today. The “wellspring of life” is an interesting way of putting it.
I see a psychologist every couple of weeks. Unlike some of my favourite people I see nothing inherently problematic with this – as long as a correct perspective is kept on the whole activity. I have tremendous respect for her, and I understand myself better as a result of our sessions. I have, over the years, kept counsel with many people in a similar role in my life. I have opened my heart and shared the deepest recesses of my mind in an effort to better understand my motives and actions.
In truth, my current counselling leaves me feeling lifted and supported just as much as any of the Christian counselling I’ve had. My heart feels protected, and on an emotional level I feel strong.
Now I’m not advocating the path of psychology for every issue that arises. There are certain things we need to feel rotten about so we can move out of that area of sin. The issue is that once we have moved out of the area we must as a matter of urgency stop beating ourselves up about it.
I had a friend who used to go to AA meetings but stopped because he found a single issue with them. He still doesn’t use, and he is sober now for several years. He had a problem with every time he introduced himself having to say “My name is X, and I’m an addict.” His issue was that after he’d been in the program for several months and fallen flat on his face many times he had received prayer and the addiction had been taken from him. He simply no longer desired the alcohol he’d desperately needed just a day before.
Now don’t misunderstand me. AA is an important organisation, one I advise people to go to when I’m asked for advice. I just know my friend found the declaration broke down his heart.
Our physical hearts are fragile – ask any doctor. Our Spiritual heart is even more fragile than the physical one though. It can be bruised, pierced and broken in a far more deadly way than the physical one can – and if it hardens we can get to the point where we don’t even realise it. That’s where counselling comes in.
The people who know me best know I had a lot of loss in my youth. But the pain I carried hardened my heart in ways far beyond what I had experienced.
My brother died in a road accident when I was almost 13 and he was almost 10. It was a life-changing experience, but the power it held over me for many, many years was disproportional. I used it as an excuse to not develop close friendships at school. The school I went to was an all-male environment, and to say I didn’t fit in was an understatement. I wasn’t an athlete, I was a dancer. I wasn’t highly academically inclined (for the school), rather I was a musician – and I didn’t even reach the full potential I could have done in that because I didn’t bother to practice as much as I ought to.
I left school at 18 feeling like I was a worthless failure, then set out to prove the theory. I got a rude awakening in my first job – as a classroom assistant – where I got affirmation daily about my skills and knowledge. I left home and moved to Devon, where I would live for the next ten years, and received more affirmation that I was actually a capable, caring, witty and intelligent person who was worth being around.
I really struggled with that because I didn’t have that image of myself – but it was what I wanted me to be.
Now I’m nearly 40, I’ve finally completed a business degree – which I studied for part-time whilst running a medical practice – and I find myself advising younger men to guard their hearts from worthless advice given by older individuals who actually have no maturity. They stopped their hearts from maturing by locking them away and although its been 30 years since they were saved they have never moved beyond that initial level!
Now I’m not saying I’ve arrived. There are many areas of my life where I need to unlock my heart and allow it to grow and mature – hence the visits to a counsellor – but I’ve at least understood this and I want to move.
Movement is painful though. It involves having a heart replacement – stone for flesh. I’m comfortable with my stone heart in places. It’s familiar. I dislike change in a major way – so do most men. But change is essential if we are to grow close to God. We must not stay where we are, but we cannot change our own heart, any more than a surgeon – no matter how skilful – can perform his own heart transplant.
Jesus offers us a new heart, one piece at a time. My Grandad was 80 when he went Home to be with God, and he was still learning after over 60 years as a Christian – most of those as a minister.
Heart surgery. We all need it.

Perspective

Perspective is one of the most important things we must keep in our walk as Christians. How we perceive ourselves will directly influence our ability to receive what God has for us.

The overwhelming view of Christians is that they are filthy sinners who scrape into heaven after being lambasted by God until they finally die and are made whole. We are, in truth, saved from this existence and made whole right now. Until we take hold of that perspective we cannot truly hope to receive anything from God.

James writes “Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides].” (James 1:6-8) The perspective of the passage is the focus on the double-minded or wavering man, however if we look from the other perspective, that of the single-focussed man, we can see that this passage suggests (when taken in the context of the whole of James’ letter) that this man who is single-minded and focussed on Christ as his whole being can expect to receive everything he asks for.

We lose sight of ourselves at our peril, and we must learn to see ourselves as we truly are. Only when we can finally allow ourselves to overcome the fears and prejudices we feel and live in God’s perspective of us as His children can we hope to truly advance the Truth in our lives.

Faith

Faith is a tricky thing. It can be easy to think we have no faith.

In truth, we exercise faith every day. We have faith the cup will hold the coffee, the sugar will sweeten the tea and the chair will hold us as we sit on it. We use faith so often we don’t even realise it is faith.

We were designed to believe. That basic design is hardwired into the human psyche in a way no psychologist can ever fully understand. We believe.

Believing is easy. I believe God exists. I don’t have to do anything to prove this, merely state it. I believe He can heal, I believe He can prosper. Believing isn’t enough. James writes “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19) Satan believes. It won’t save him.

Mere belief is useless. What if Peter had believed he could walk on the water, but never stepped out of the boat? What if Moses had believed God could deliver the Israelites from Egypt but had not stepped into the Red Sea? Our beliefs alone are worthless husks of a pointless exercise.

Faith on the other hand produces action.

Faith let Peter step out of the boat, let Moses step into the sea, let Jesus climb Calvary’s Hill…

We must be moved by our faith. We move because we have faith, not because we have evidence we can sense with our five physical senses.

We had an example of this recently. My brother in law and my wife both reached a crossroads professionally recently involving their careers. Both had to choose between two paths. Both involved a drastic change or staying where they were. My wife finally felt that for now she should stay where she is. Her brother felt it was time for him to move and he resigned to move out on his own. Each of them was moved by the faith they have that God is in control and He will lead them in the direction they need to take.

We all face choices in our daily lives, some bigger than others. We often have to go on faith to justify our decisions, yet we dismiss it so easily.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence oth things unseen we are told in Hebrews. Faith brings the unseen into the physical realm. Health, prosperity, salvation and eternal life are all obtained by faith. Whether we gain health by pills or by prayer, faith is ultimately what causes it. We take the pills because we have faith they will work, yet we often don’t even consider asking God to intervene because there is a pill we can take. We prosper through hard work – sometimes – and we play the lottery and cross our fingers for a bit extra, but we don’t call out to God for that.

We are saved by the Faith God gives us, and we have Eternal Life through Him, but we don’t fully walk in that. Rather we plod through this life, setting up home in the valley of the shadow of death and being greatful it will be over soon. We forget what we have been given and go through religious rituals to try to eran God’s pleasure instead of just being real and trusting Him.

Faith without works is dead. Not limited, dead.

Unless we put our faith into action we will for ever be trapped in the stagnation of our lives, draggin onwards until death releases us to have the tears wiped away as we weep at the final realisation of what our lives here could have been if only we had acted on our faith…

Trust

It’s hard to trust sometimes. We put our faith in what we believe God has called us to do, but then things don’t go the way we expect, or we wind up getting hurt.

Last year was an awful year for my wife and me. A relatively straightforward operation we trusted God to helpp with the finances for – and received them just five minutes before the hospital would have cancelled the procedure – resulted in a mis-diagnosed infection that nearly killed her afterwards. It would be easy not to trust after that.

God is faithful though. He provided us with another doctor who was able to intervene and help her through towards recovery.

This year has started off in a similar vein. We are trusting God to provide financially for us through our business. Just as things are starting to go smoothly, we have been the victims of an armed robbery at the premesis. The temptation is to close up or sell off. But what we must do is trust.

Trust is hard. We have to overcome our natural urges sometimes to trust God. Proverbs urges us “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 16:25 ESV) Death not necessarily meaning physical extinction, but also the end of a dream or an experience that God would rather not end.

The answer is to trust Him.

No matter what.

Loss and the Body of Christ

26 Years ago today, my younger brother died in a road accident. He’d have been 35 now, probably married with kids of his own and a life full of adventure and daring. He was lively and a lot of fun to be around.

His best friend suffered from a form of Brittle Bone syndrome, but that didn’t slow him down. Robin always wanted to be around Carl and I hope Carl wante to be round him!

One year I broke my arm in scouts and had to spend a week in the local hospital so they could stabilise it. Carl was in for a routine op on his legs, to strengthen the bones and extend them. He had his bed moved s it was next to mine. It was cool. We had a TV with a video casette player of “Flash Gordon”, a movi I had never wanted to see, but after five days of it morning to night I could recite the lines, and Queen songs were starting to grow on me.

Ispent a lot of time chatting with Carl that week. His brother came for visiting, as did mine, and Robin and Carl would go off whicle Neil and I would sit and chat. We’d been friends at primary school,  but had drifted apart a bit  – my fault: I’m terrible at keeping in touch with people I know. Neil told me about Carl’s dream. Radio Presenter. I listened and the more I did, the more I felt God had inspired this. He accepted his disability and wanted to advance despite it.

Robin had the same attitude. No physical ability to hold him back, just a habit of doing things withouit thought of the consequences. February 20th 1985 he went out of our home on his bicycle and never came home. He was excited and itching to get to his destination to play – as all 9 or 10 year old boys do. He went, played HARD – the only he knew and headed off home to play Chuckie-Egg on the new BBC Micro Computer.

Part way home he changed his mind. He’d turn off and go to wave at the lorries driving under the bridge of the A1 Dual Carriageway just across the housing estate. “I’ll cut through here” he would have thought, then pulled violently out towards his new destination…

The driver never stood a chance. Robin’s reflexes were focussed on the next play and how best to get to it, not traffic.

He pulled out, struck the corner of the driver’s car and slid up the bonnet, falling back down to the street, landing on his skull and losing consciousness.

An hour later I got a call at a friend’s house. Robin’s had an accident. He may need to go to hospital.

I ran home – half the time it normally took – and pushed open the gate to be welcomed by his badly mangled little bike.

Very badly mangled… blood on the frame… Robin’s Blood.

“It should have been you” First thought in my brain.
“IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU”

The self accusation went on for weeks.

The funeral came and went, the rest of the world moved on, and I sat with my thoughts every day on his grave. “It should have been me. I’m Sorry.”

He didn’t get up, of course. I didn’t know about Spiritual Authority back then.

I lived with the guilt for years until God brought the right person into my life. Jim is the most Brash and abrasive person if you don’t know him, but there’s an amazing passion or God in his heart. He helped e to move past the death and see it from a more than just human perspective, from a REAL perspective.

He told me to give it to God and wait. So I did. Eventually I began to get impatient, I wanted healing and a serious explanation, Wait.

Wait…

Wait…

after days of waiting I was distraught. My brother was dead and I was still weak. I waited on God and I just sat there. I got angry. I got angry with Robin for dying, Myself for not being there, mum and dad for letting him go out, the driver – who never had a chance of preventing the accident – the ambulances for not getting there faster, the police for being so TALL when they told us, then finally at GOD.

I ripped into Him with every ounce of venom I had. Once I’d vented He said “Are you done now?”

“Yes”

“Will you let Me heal you  now?”

“Yes”

I feel the loss of Robin every day. It shaped my life from that moment forwards, just as much as my dad’s illness, my mum’s stroke, my wife’s ongoing battle with sickness. It’s all there, ut I rise up on wings like an eagle. I have been given strength from God and I can cope because of it.

I will wait on the Lord to renew my Strength. He will lift me jup and place me where I’m made to be.

A Household Pet?

Dorothy L Sayers wrote “We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah,” turning Jesus “into a household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”

The more I consider it, the more it seems to be true. We ask very little of God these days. Jesus’ Name was given that all may be saved, not that we can find the trivial little efforts we use it for today.


Now I’m NOT saying we can’t ask God for the details. He cares about every aspect of our lives down to the minutest molecule. I was marvelling at the intricacy of the flowers on the mint plant in my garden yesterday, and the tiny detail in it. Everything serves a greater purpose so He can be Glorified through it’s existence.


Rather we must ask God for the details He wants for us. He is a fierce God who jealously guards the lives entrusted to Him. His plans are complete and good, with a plan for prosperity for His people. To prosper we have to step on toes sometimes. Spiritual prosperity inevitably involves doing and saying things that will offend the beliefs of others. Christianity is radically different from Islam, Hinduism or the myriad of other beliefs in the world. It should offend the religious sensitivities of others. If my Christianity doesn’t differentiate me from a Muslim, I’m not living it right!


Now I’m NOT saying we must set out to upset our Muslim neighbours. Don’t get me wrong on this. I have friends who are devout Muslims and good people, their beliefs are strong, and they are moral and solid people. The issue is that ultimately they do not have a relationship with Jesus, and they are not in right standing with God as a result.


Yet we as a people have forgotten our history. 2000 years ago Christians were persecuted by the major power of the day to the point of being murdered. They were fierce in their resistance of the power behind the World, and didn’t worry about offending the religious sensibilities of those with worldly power to kill, imprison or torture them.


In our modern Western societies, this power has been abandoned, and the pared claws Dorothy Sayers wrote of a century ago are more apparent than ever.


It’s time for the Church to rise up and sharpen those claws. We need to recapture the fire and the passion that drove men like the Wesleys, William Booth and St Paul to accept persecution and ridicule, even to the point of Death.

Even When the Road is Darkest…

My wife and I have been going through a rough time this last year. Neither of us has had the fullness of health that we would like, but she has had far the worst end of it.

Following surgery last April she got an infection which her surgeon didn’t pick up. This infection spread through her body and began to break down the body itself. After five months she sought a second opinion, and was admitted to hospital for 3 weeks in an attempt to save her life. Thankfully it worked, although she is still far from fully recovered.

Our road has been very dark for nearly a year, yet Jesus has always been there to guide us. Just when we’ve needed Him the most something has happened in order for His Love to break through the darkness and pick us up.

Peter walked on water. He began to sink when he took his eyes off Christ. Physically I used to try to walk on water when I was a kid. Never once did I begin to sink. It was always “PLOP!” followed by “glug glug glug” as I went under. Even now, as an adult I don’t begin to sink.

I sink.

I float like a rock.

Like a rock wearing lead shoes.

You get the idea.

Spiritually things are different though. At my darkest times, when the road is at it’s most daunting and the waves seem like they will overpower me at any moment He breaks through and, like He did with Peter, halts my sinking before I can drown. He holds my hand and lifts me up until I am safe again.

When the road is darkest He is there walking beside you. No matter how bad things are, He’s there – waiting for you to ask for His help.