The True Value

Realize The  Value of the Tree.

 

I’m 44. I’ve been a Christian since November 1985 – coming up 31 years.

Currently I don’t go to church every week. I’d like to, but it’s not always easy. When I do go, I’m not well known or easily recognised these days. I sit and pray, listen to the Word being taught and worship with all my heart. Sometimes when I worship I even join in the songs.

I’ve met one of the pastors once or twice personally, but I’m not known by them – or them by me. I simply go when I can to be around other Christians.

I usually get raised eyebrows when I “confess” my current non-member status of a local church. I’ve applied for jobs where I’ve been rejected because I don’t have a “current” pastor and the last Pastor I had is not in “ministry” any more so apparently he’s not a good enough reference. I’ve been self-employed most of the last 20 years, but organisations want the reference of my last employer or manager.

Eventually it always comes down to one thing when I tell people I write a Christian Blog and I’m working on a book.

“What makes you think you’re qualified to write or talk about God in your current ‘spiritual condition’?”

There is much in my life I don’t share with everyone. There’s a good reason for that. It’s none of their business.

What I do share s what Jesus in my life means.

I didn’t become a Christian so I would avoid Hell – and yes, I do believe there’s a literal Hell. I didn’t become a Christian because I wanted a comfortable life. Or a good job. Or no problems.

Or a million other reasons than people who don’t really know Jesus think I became a Christian for.

I asked Jesus into my heart at the age of 13 because I knew I was terribly broken, and He could fix me. The break was something missing. I recognised I needed a relationship with God to be whole. And no matter what I did on this earth it would never be enough to earn that relationship.

I realised the value of the Cross.

I read an article about a man who described himself as a “secular follower of Jesus” a few days ago. He said how he was better for living by following Jesus’s example. He befriended prostitutes, the homeless, the broken. He made time for veterans begging on street corners in his city. He refused to judge people by their skin colour or religious background. He simply went about doing “good”.

And missed the point completely.

 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:40-43

The thief on the cross next to Jesus didn’t go out and make friends with the poor. He never even compensated the people he’d stolen from. All he did was accept Jesus as Lord. He realised Jesus’s Kingdom was not of this world, but rather was a place beyond and above this mortal coil. He didn’t go and embrace the LGBTQ (and any other letter they want to add) community.

All he did was realise the value of the tree Jesus was hanging on.

I’m looking forward to meeting that guy. I’m longing to know his name. But I know his story. His story is my story. He realised he was broken and the only was to find the relationship He realised in his dying moments he needed was to embrace the one hanging next to him. Jesus.

Somewhere in the last 150 years we’ve lost sight of the Cross.

How did it happen? How has the central message of Christianity become so sidelined by false issues?

We’ve become so politically correct in the way we treat one another we’re afraid to say anything for fear we’ll offend someone.

A few years ago I worked in property maintenance for a while. I loved the job, but the best part was the friendship with my boss, Duncan. We used some tools manufactured for American companies although we were based in England, and the safety instructions were amazing. All the instructions were in cartoon form – no words. There was a cartoon of a man chopping his fingers off by putting them into the rotating blades of a lawnmower.

Now I may not be the sharpest tool in the work-shed academically, but I don’t need instructions, cartoon or otherwise, to tell me if you have a razor sharp blade rotating at 300rpm underneath a solid steel plate which wraps around it and holds it close to the ground that it’s probably not the best idea in the world to flip it over and put my fingers into the path of the blade.

What does that have to do with Jesus?

It’s an example of how we’ve become so obsessed with coddling people. The manufacturer of the mower was sued by a man who cut his fingers off by putting his hand in the path of the blades while it was running. 75 years ago he’d have been called an idiot for doing such a daft thing. But 20 years ago, he won the case.

Because of a side issue.

The real issue was his foolishness to put his hand into a moving lawnmower. The case made it about the manufacturer not putting adequately visible warning signs to keep fingers clear of the moving blades.

Our real issue is we are inherently sinful and consequently separated from God – He even gave us an instruction manual we call “The Bible” outlining what the real issue is and how to circumvent the consequences.

The sheep mentality of the 21st Century has spent all it’s timebc346-sheep screaming about women’s rights (which would be advocated in a truly Christian society), whether Bush was a good President, whether Obama was a good President, why the Republicans chose Donald, whether Hillary should be wearing a pantsuit, what went wrong with Brad and Angelina, can Justin Bieber sing, is the Hulk stronger than Thor and most importantly, will there be another “Harry Potter” book.

Incredibly, the fact that Islam is a false religion that leads people away from relationship with God and back into slavery of religious duty has become a dirty statement for Christians to make. What God says about sexuality – which He designed in the first place – has been decried as outdated and anyone who dares mention out loud that the Bible says God never changes, that He is the one constant, is now called a heretic. We’ve had 30 years of “famous” preachers who have become household names. Those who have stuck to the Biblical teaching are ridiculed and those who bow to the tide of public opinion instead of the declared, known Will of God on the topic are lauded as the “real” christians because they don’t “judge” people for their choice.

What they actually do is become sightless guides, leading people into a pit.

Now we’re not called to judge people, but we are called to recognise them by the fruit they bear as to whether they are from God. Jesus spent His time talking to prostitutes, tax-collectors, adulterers and Samaritans. But it didn’t mean He was making use of the prostitute’s services, swindling the people out of their money, cheating on people’s spouses or abandoning God. It meant He saw in each of those people a fertile soil for the seed of His Word to grow in and lead them away from the actions that pulled them away from God.

That’s what the Cross was about. Rebuilding relationship with a Loving God who created us specifically in His own image so we could have a relationship with Him.

The “progressive” message is insidious in it’s phrasing. It starts with a measure of Truth: Jesus wouldn’t reject this person because he/she is gay/queer/trans/Muslim/etc. I completely agree – He wouldn’t. He would offer them unconditional Love. What He wouldn’t do is leave them in the place He found them – which is what the “progressives” want us to do.

Take the woman brought to Him from the very act of adultery. Probably at least partly naked. Terrified because this mob wants to kill her. Thrown to the ground in front of this man known for His Holiness, His righteousness. The Law is clear…

So this Rabbi turns away from her a little, crouches down and begins to write in the sand.

Everyone looks at Him. What wisdom is He writing? Why has he crouched there?

How tender. How merciful. A moment before all eyes were on her – and her nakedness. Now everyone’s attention is on Him. She has a chance to cover herself. She has an opportunity to restore some dignity.

He stands and turns back to her. What is most significant now is what Jesus doesn’t say.

He doesn’t say “Where is the one she was with?”

He doesn’t tell them “The Law says do it!”

He turns the accusation back on the accusers.

However, when they persisted in questioning Him, He straightened up and said, “He who is without [any] sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:7 (Amplified)

And they walk away.

Then He turns to the woman.

Again, Jesus doesn’t ask who she was with. Or if it was a man or a woman. Or for the details of what they did. He knows what they did was sin – that’s all that matters to Him.

Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She answered, “No one, Lord!” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

John 8:10-11  (Amplified)

The “progressive” attitude omits His last sentence. “From now on sin no more.” But that’s the key to the real issue. Sin separated mankind from God. Trusting Jesus, giving our life to Him and really nailing our past to the Tree with Him, is what restores that relationship. Sin no more.

Every time Jesus talks to someone crippled because of sin He tells them to stop that sin. In one case he even warns something worse may come. (John 5:14)

Forgiveness without repentance. It’s the “progressive” gospel, but it’s a lie. Unconditional acceptance is not the message of Jesus. There’s one condition: repent. Repentance means realising the significance of the Cross. It means accepting Jesus and the price He paid for us and as a mark of that acceptance, turning away from our past life. An outward manifestation of this Salvation is Regeneration – a change in behaviour, speech, even associations.

But the lie of the “progressive” movement is that you’re saved and forgiven. It’s a lie of omission. To be forgiven we must repent. To show we are saved we must demonstrate the regeneration inside us.

For the geeks out there, imagine Dr Who goes through his regeneration and is still exactly who he was before. He looks the same, he talks the same. He is the same. Now for fans who like David Tennant (or Tom Baker if you’re my age) that might be a good thing, but the story doesn’t change. There’s no difference. It’s as though the regeneration never happened.

I never imagined I’d quote Dr Who in an article here.

But it’s a brilliant analogy. Each regeneration of the Doctor changes his character. Tom Baker’s Doctor was nothing like William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton or John Pertwee before him, and Peter Davison bore no resemblance to Tom Baker and so on. The character changed when the regeneration happened.

So our character should change – be restored actually – to what Jesus intended it to be when He designed us and gave us the Gifts we carry. I’m still quick tempered now, like I was before I committed my life to Christ, but what I get angry about has changed. Mostly. Like everyone I’m a work in progress. As Andrew Wommack is fond of saying in his sermons, I may not have arrived – but at least I’ve left! Praise God!

Go to the Cross.

Right now. Go there in your heart.

Look at it. Really see what Jesus did.

I have no words better than Isaac Watts, so I’ll leave with this thought:

 

 

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

 

1984

The Church in Crisis
We live in a time where the Truth of the Gospel is challenged more fiercely than at any time in history.
Televangelists spout their message across the airwaves in such a way the Truth often gets missed in the message. No ministry can run indefinitely without funding, and there comes a time when funds need to be raised, but the World hears this and screams “All these preachers want is your money!”
Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes the ministry in question is questionable.
More often they’re wrong. A minister of the Gospel spends hours each day researching, learning, reading, praying, counselling, writing and teaching the Gospel of Jesus. It’s a full time job.
You never hear “All that doctor wants is your money!” when you go to the office with a stomach bug and he charges you for his time, his knowledge, his research, his counsel and the writing of a prescription.
The World ignores them because they don’t conflict with the World’s values.
Jesus dropped into 1st Century Palestine at a time when there was universal deceit. He spoke only Truth, and they killed Him for it.
Today you can be charged with inciting violence by hate speech in many countries, but these laws are never enforced on the people who use it the most: politicians. Rather they are pushed on simple and ordinary people. Bakers who don’t want their store associated with homosexuality because their understanding is that it’s sinful and they want to take a stand for their Faith, the Truth as they understand it. Clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples for the same reason. Preachers who have the audacity to say that a collection of writings from two millennia ago is still applicable in full in modern society, that God doesn’t change and His decrees are absolute.
In some countries they get fired or put out of business. In others they get decapitated. Both are persecuted.
Now I’m not saying I agree with everything here in terms of action. We are called to allow ourselves to be subject to the law of the land, sometimes that means doing what it says, and sometimes it means not doing it and accepting the consequences. Should the clerk issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple? The law of the land says yes. But what is marriage in the eyes of the law and what is marriage in the eyes of God can be very different things. In law, marriage is primarily a financial institution. In Faith it is much deeper than that and goes to the core of humanity’s sexuality.
Be subject to the laws of men. Eventually God will have the last laugh anyway. Two men may enter a non-sexual “marriage” in law so that they have a person they can turn to to make hard choices in the event of failing health. In modern terms, it could be argued that King David and Jonathon may have had a union of this kind as they are described as being of one spirit – yet there is no hint that they were sexually involved. I have lived with men as a younger man. One of my closest friends was my house-mate and confidante for over a year. I introduced him to his wife. At that time he knew me better than anyone else alive, but there was no hint of sexual intent on our part towards each other. We jammed music, ate, shopped, prayed and travelled together regularly. When his fiancee came to visit we found space. I wasn’t dating at the time, but if I had been there would have been the same consideration there as well.
Then came the “Politically Correct” crowd.
It started as a good thing. A moral compass led by men and women of value and principle who wanted to take a stand against the decay of society. But it got taken over by “equal” rights groups.
Language changed. Simple terms like “chairman” were designated as sexist. Describing an individual of African origin as “black” was racist. So we moved into a world where individuals were not short, they were “vertically challenged”, paraplegics were “differently-abled”, those considered not to fit into society’s image of attractive were “aesthetically challenged”. Schools could no longer stream pupils in terms of A and B because “B” would feel inferior. No matter that group “A” was working on quantum mechanics and group “B” was still learning the basic times tables.
And then the PC crowd turned it’s head to God.
Suddenly real Truth is offensive. Christmas has to be called “Winter Festival”, Easter “Spring Festival”. The Bible was removed from schools in America because it was not politically correct to “brainwash” children into believing in God, whilst the doctrines of atheism were planted firmly in place. It reached the point where public schools can’t put on a Nativity play in case it offends someone. This in a society that glorifies sex, violence, drug use, vampires and all kinds of nonsense.

 

Most children are taught sex education at primary school these days unless the parents specify that they must be witheld from that. I was horrified in England about 15 years ago when I was taking part in a church school activity to find the seven and eight year olds were coming from sex education classes. These kids knew about erectile dysfunction before they knew how to spell it.
Like the Roman Empire, we are desensitised to violence from an early age. An estimate in the 1990s suggested by the time the average high school student graduates he (or she – must be correct) has witnessed 100,000 murders thanks to television and film makers. I pulled out an old movie I enjoyed a long time ago recently, “Malone” starring Burt Reynolds. It was given an 18 certificate for graphic violence when it was released. Compared to films that today get 12 and 15 certificates it was nothing. Even “Highlander” as a movie in 1986 got a 15 certificate in the UK, but the TV series was more graphic and broadcast at peak viewing time just six years later.
I read 1984 by Orwell as a teenager and thought it could never happen. “Animal Farm” and “Lord of the Flies” were also on my reading list. The concepts in them were so inconceivable that we had to suspend disbelief to follow the story and remind ourselves that in a civilised society this could never happen.
Fast forward to 2016 and we have Government bodies regulating what we can say and where we can say it. A Christian TV channel in England moved it’s base of operations away from the UK because it was not allowed under UK law to air any program that stated Jesus is the only way to God because it might offend those who didn’t believe. In my experience with television if I tune in to an Islamic program I expect it to try to convince me that Islam is the truth. So I switch it off. Not so any more, the thought police of “1984” are beginning to arrive.
“Free Speech Zones” are another PC thing. Very Orwellian in their construction. You can say what you like, but it will never be broadcast.
There are certain issues which rightly need to be addressed. Men and women doing the same jobs should be paid the same salary. If a man and a woman have the same qualification they should receive the same compensation for their work as long as it is of the same standard. There should be no place for saying a woman is simply there to make a man look good or vice-versa.
Consider the Gospel for a moment. Jesus is teaching and the woman caught in adultery is thrown at His feet. What does He do?
He writes in the sand.
Huh?
Immediately the crowd take their attention off the woman and her humiliation and focus on Jesus. “What’s He writing?” “Is He drawing something?”
He could have been writing out the theory of relativity or doodling a cat. It’s irrelevant. His action restores the woman’s dignity by allowing her time to cover herself. These Politically Correct accusers are seeking to trap the Teacher. So He hits them with Truth. Instead of calling for the stoning or asking where the other party involved is, as adultery generally requires more than one active participant (or it did before the internet), Jesus simply says “Ok, but the first to throw a stone must be sinless himself.” Then he goes back to doodling or calculating pi or whatever He was doing.
Thud, thud, thud. The stones fall to the ground beginning with the longest grey beards and finally the youngest walking away leaving only the woman and Jesus – the only one qualified to throw that first stone.
And Jesus restores her. He tells her to leave her sinful ways, but He refuses to condemn her. Read the story in John 8. I love the version in The Message, but they all say it. Jesus refuses to condemn her.
Once a year in Cape Town there is an event called the “Sexpo” for a few days, and predictably there are the “christians” outside waving banners and shouting “You’re all going to Hell, Directly to Hell, Do not pass ‘Go’, Do not collect $200” like some transcendental Monopoly card. How different to the act of writing in the sand.
Researching an article I was working on some time ago I was looking for accounts of life changes and how acceptance works out in the real world. I stumbled on a blog by a writer called Jennie Ketcham called “Becoming Jennie”. I’d never heard of her, but I read an entry or two and found myself cheering for her as she told her story through this blog of leaving the sex industry and trying to find a place in the real world again. Hopefully in the not too distant future nobody will know her for her past, but for her skills as a writer on the Huffington Post, a published author and a counselling psychologist. I don’t know where she stands from a Spiritual perspective, but her actions show a clear repentance – completely turning away from her past life.
That’s what we are called to do. Repent. Turn away from the past and set out in a new direction. Learn from it, yes. But not repeat it. It takes incredible strength to turn away from past addictions. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or even things we don’t think of like washing the car. Anything that puts itself between us and God we need to turn away from.
I find personally that I’m a work in progress. Like Paul, I do what I do not want to do, and I do not do that which I want to do [paraphrase of Romans 7:19-20] and I find myself spinning in ever decreasing circles.
But thankfully, the thought police are there to remind me how despicable I am.
No, wait. That’s Orwell.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit witnesses inside me that I am the Righteousness of Christ. He convicts me of Righteousness and that gives me the strength to turn away from whatever the sin of the moment is. Currently the big one for me is coveting. Mainly because of things that I had in the past that the old me wants back. I covet the things from my past and trying to recapture them often gets in the way of doing what I know God has called me to do. Procrastination is another one.
The Truth of Jesus is becoming known as hate-speech. We need to guard our tongues and hearts and make sure what we say lines up with the Bible, not the twisting of specific verses to fit the current worldly morality, but the Truth that is constant through the entire Scripture. We need to remember that the Word of God is Jesus, not the book. The book is there as a way for us to find Him.
But if we’re going to follow a book, better the Bible than “1984”.

Facing the Past to Move into God's Future

We all have them. Skeletons in our closets that make us feel unusable. Things we wouldn’t want the people around us to know.

“Peter had an affair”. “John left his wife”. “Before she joined the church Anne was a prostitute”. “Alan embezzled to get where he is today”.

Maybe not as big, but we all have them. Events from our past that haunt us. Playing “doctor” as a child and exploring the opposite gender for the first time – or the twenty-first as an adult.

It’s the seemingly little things that haunt us. The accusations that come in the night when we’re alone. Our husband or wife asleep beside us and the guilt that floods our minds. Images real or imagined flood through our beings and we lose sleep. Actions whether taken or not haunt us as God’s Children. We feel the missed mark more acutely than the bullseye.

I remember very little of my childhood. My brother died when he was ten and I was 13, and the majority of the time we had together is more a memory of a memory. There’s very little clarity in my head. I remember the loss. The pain of losing Robin but not the joy of having him in my life.

I remember skeletons we shared with cousins and friends as small children do, exploring out of sight of adults the mysteries of our differences. Why did this cousin play with dolls and this one with toy guns? Robin died in 1985 and personal computers – although available – were things of luxury. We finally got one just a few weeks before he died and instantly all our friends wanted to come and see and play games on it. But mostly we went to other people’s homes and played traditional games.

Simpler times. No cell-phones or facebook to interrupt us. We played and explored as generations had done before.

Something happened as we grew up. Friendship got replaced with BBM and Whatsapp. Facebook dominates the time of the majority of the youth at a time when they need to find out who they are they are too busy trying to find out if Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears are wearing underwear. A few years ago in the movie “True Lies” (1994) a character laments that Axl Rose and Madonna are the one’s raising their kids these days, not mom and dad. 21 years later how much has that deteriorated. Now most parents might be happy for that influence instead of Ashley Madison…

The assault on the nuclear family in the media has been relentless. Pre-nuptuial agreements, contracts settling how equity will be divided in the event of divorce are routine contracts these days. The concept of “All my worldly goods with you I share” is replaced with an addendum “except the lake house in Virginia, the ski lodge in Aspen and the Yacht in Miami.” Marriages are entered into with the expectation of failure.

At a time when families are needed more we have fewer men capable of being real men because they have never been fathered themselves.

I was blessed that my grandfathers both survived the second World War, one as a minister on the Home Front – something he regretted to the day he died as he wanted to go to Europe and fight the Nazis, and the other as a Major in the British Army serving as a motorcycle outrider and accountant for the regiment with distinction gained for valour on the Normandy Beach assaults, D-Day, June 6th 1944.

The foundation these strong men left was passed down to me as an example of what a real man should be. Fearless in battle, both spiritual and physical, a protector.

Too many of my friends growing up didn’t have what I had. Parents had divorced, grandfathers had died and fathers had had no guiding influence because their own grandfathers had died between 1914 and 1918. Two lost generations dead physically or too traumatised to raise sons to be Men.

This is the past we must face.

This is what as Christians we must overturn.

The steady moral decay from the 1950’s through to today, removing Christian influence in schooling in the 1960’s, the rise of a powerful atheist minority who make a lot of noise while the Church stays silent has resulted in a world gone mad. Smaller wars like Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands, Afghanistan, Desert Storm along with genocide in African countries and now ISIS and their atrocities added to “ethnic cleansing” in central Europe makes for a holocaust of slaughter that Hitler himself would be proud of.

We must repent of our past.

Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech 53 years ago this year. He called on citizens to rise up and break the bonds of tyranny and segregation. Just 20 years ago my wife and I would be criminals in South Africa as I am white and she is not. I have been accused to my face of betraying my race by both black and white individuals.

It is a past we need to move beyond.

God has a plan for the future of Mankind. He called it “Incarnation”

He took our own form, lived a human life and died a human death so we could have a future in Him after His resurrection.

His plan for the future is what we need to remember.

My wife and I watched “Evan Almighty” recently. God appears in the form of Morgan Freeman and instructs a young congressman to build an Ark like Noah had been told to.

His explanation after a burst dam floods a housing project and the ark has saved hundreds of lives is that to change the world, all we need to to make one act of random kindness a day.

Act of
Random
Kindness.

ARK.

The simplicity of the message is right up there with the parables if we approach it from a Godly standpoint rather than an entertainment one.

What if God’s future were really based on building on Acts of Random Kindness? What if we could effect change simply by adopting a puppy or making peace with a neighbour?

That’s a personal dig at myself. I can forgive people who steal from me – and I do so easily. I have forgiven people who threw the first punch physically (even when I threw the last one) and gone on to have long friendships with them, but forgiving my literal next-door neighbour has caused me great anxiety. My olive branches have been made into kindling to start a new fire. After an attempted break-in on our property which sent our dogs nuts at three in the morning I went round to apologise and ask if they were ok as the intruder had jumped the fence between our properties. I left feeling like I was the bad-guy because his sleep had been disrupted.

Forgiving him has been difficult. And is a work in progress.

It’s also essential for my own growth. Unforgiveness is a cancer in the soul that prevents us moving to the next level with God. To move into the future I must forgive the ones who have hurt me.

All of them.

So do you. We all have the annoying neighbour, relative or acquaintance we can’t escape. Sometimes the easiest way is to decide to forgive, but to sever contact with that person. It’s not always easy. Especially when it’s family – believe me. But in the end we don’t need conflict in our lives. Conflict prevents God from giving us the Best He has for us. Forgiveness opens that door.

So face the past. Acknowledge it, but don’t hold onto it.

Move into the Future God has for you.

You’ll never regret it.
Mistake