The Peril of People Pleasing

So my journey through “The Dream Giver” is continuing.

I’m onto chapter 3 now, which tells of Ordinary’s encounter with the Borderland Bullies.

Sometimes when we move towards what we believe God has called us to do we encounter resistance. The resistance most often comes from people we know well, and who we love and respect. So we have a choice. Standing at the precipice of a choice that will change our lives, what do we do?

Around 20 years ago I had that choice.

I went to the first of several conferences where Andrew Wommack, Dave Duell, Wendell Parr, Don Francisco and some others were the central speakers and leaders. When I sat for five days in that atmosphere and watched people change, lives transform and saw miracle after miracle of healing it impacted me in a massive way. This, I thought to myself, is what Christianity is really supposed to look like.

I felt God’s presence in a more urgent way than I ever had done before. When I left, I knew I could never be the same again.

On getting home, I met up with some much loved (and sorely missed) friends from church. I shared what I’d seen that week, but there was one person missing. Marmaduke (not his real name) called and asked us to pick him up. When I got there, I could see there was something not right. His normally unstoppable smile was gone, and there was a great heaviness on his shoulders. A good friend of his who was not a Christian had been killed in an accident that day, leaving a widow and a young family.

The Spirit leaped inside me. Go and pray – Signs and Wonders Follow the Believer!

I immediately said to Marmaduke that I wanted to go and pray, and that I was absolutely certain we would see the man raised from the dead. And I mean ABSOLUTELY certain. I was more sure of it than I was that the car could carry all of us or that the sky was blue.

Marmaduke smiled and said to me “You don’t get it, Dave. She’s not a Christian either.”

I said “So what?” and he replied “What if you pray and nothing happens? It would destroy everything God’s been doing in that family.”

I thought for a moment, and then looked around the car. Everybody agreed with Marmaduke. Then came the crunch. “After all, why should it happen when one of us asks? We’re not ‘famous’ like that.”

I should have recognised the smell of brimstone. Or at least spotted the sulphur on the words. But I didn’t.

Deflated, I agreed that we weren’t “famous” Christians. That kind of thing was “beyond” us. God only really did that sort of thing for people who are “somebody” in the Kingdom.

I’d been formulating the idea for this ministry at the time as well. Blogs were still rare back then. In fact, most households still didn’t have satellite television and coped on only four channels. I was unusual in the church as I had satellite TV and a computer with internet access. I’d even registered eagleswingministries.org with a host – but had absolutely no clue about building a website, operating a blog or anything else that I’d need. All I had was a name and an idea.

But I wasn’t famous. So I didn’t renew the domain name, I let the idea for an internet presence fall away, and I stopped planning my book.

A year or so later I tried to re-register the domain, but it had been taken by another person so I gave up.

The bullies in my borderland had won that round.

Now at this point I need to say something critically important. Border-bullies often aren’t people who want to tear you down. Some are, but most are people who genuinely love us and want the very best for us. That’s why we listen to them.

Even Jesus had a border-bully.

Don’t believe me? Check it out:

 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Mark 8:31-33 NKJV

Moments earlier, Peter had told Jesus he knew He was the Messiah. Jesus outlines exactly what that means, and Peter becomes a border-bully. Not because he doubted Jesus, but because he loved Him so much he couldn’t bear the idea of Him going to the Cross and dying that way. He missed the part where Jesus points out He would rise again because he got caught on the bit where his best friend dies the most horrific death imaginable.

In “Risen”, Clavius describes crucifixion to one of the disciples. He throws the nails onto the table with a clatter. They are driven through the wrist and the bones rub on them. Breathing is like sucking in air through a wet rag and you realise for the rest of your life you will never breathe easily again. Nails through the feet mean you have to choose between the agony of your lungs collapsing under your own weight and the pain in your wrists, and the equal agony of trying just for a moment to ease that main by taking your weight on your feet. Most take days to die. From the descriprepossessed giftions in the Gospels we know Jesus took around six hours to suffocate.

From man’s perspective.

What truly happened was that He chose the exact moment. He gave a cry, more like the roar of the Lion of Judah, and yielded up His Spirit.

And at that point Satan realised what had happened…

Now people have regularly criticised me in the past for “adult” language when I talk (although I think that gif is the first time I let something into the blog). I go through phases where I swear like a trooper, and times when I hardly ever swear.

Back to the story…

Jesus reached the Cross because He didn’t pay heed to the border-bully in Peter (note: it wasn’t actually Peter). As a result, we have a relationship with God.

Things changed for me. Around 2010 I did a search and found the domain name was available again, so I bought it. Almost immediately things began to go badly outside my vision.

The difference is that now I can recognise a border bully. I can resist them (usually).

But it’s hard. My biggest cheering section is undoubtedly my wife. But at the same time, she can also be the most aggressive at trying to stop me moving into what God has put in front of me.

The last 7 years have produced enough stuff to fill a three-book series to rival Lord of the Rings in length, so I’ll focus right now on where I am as I sit here today.

A year ago we knew we needed to move to England, but the doors kept closing. We were in a flat in Cape Town and doing better than we had for a while, but we both felt we needed the move. We had different reasons, but we both felt the same thing. So when by November we were moving out of the flat to move back in with my mum we had become a little dejected.

Actually, we had become very unhappy.

Then she got the call to say there was a job in Somerset – maybe.

So an interview was set up for January. It went well and she was offered the job the next day, start date ASAP. It took nearly four months thanks to paperwork and legal hoops, but now I sit here in England writing.

My vision seems so much more viable here than it did in Cape Town somehow, but there’s a stumbling block to stepping out into it. I know my wife would feel more settled if I went out and got a “normal” job with a boss and an office and a steady pay-check. It would take the pressure off her to “perform” at the job she’s in (although she loves it) and she’d be able to relax more.

But just the thought of that kind of existence weighs on my heart. I’m praying what the way forward is from here. I know what I feel God has called me to, but I find myself questioning the timing, the form of the next step and even if now I’m here if it is the right direction.

My wife’s issues about my direction and my vision actually help me though. In order to help her see God’s hand guiding me through the next few weeks and months I will have to be far more proactive in seeking His face and listening for His guidance for what the next steps are. I need to be like King David and place my battle-plan before Him and ask His guidance. Ironically, I used to do that all the time but I’ve gotten out of the habit.

The next few days & weeks are going to be challenging, but no more so than the last 32 years have been.

So from this chapter I’ve found and remembered a few things:

  • Often times the people who will give you most objection are the people in your immediate circle. Leaving your comfort zone will upset theirs as well
  • The people who really care about you are usually trying to look out for you to not get hurt as well as trying to avoid their own discomfort
  • Just because someone is a “border bully” doesn’t mean their objections are without merit. Use them to focus your vision
  • Not everyone can be swayed to support your dreams. It’s hard, but sometimes you have to leave those people behind

One final thing…

My greatest supporters have always been close friends, but people whose lives wouldn’t be turned completely upside down whether I follow God’s direction or not – so people who care about me but care more about being right with God. They are the best ones to look to for advice and to pray through stuff with.

 

How do We Respond?

Bitter, or Better?

We can control only one thing in this life. That’s how we respond to outside stimulus.

We have a choice every time we are confronted with something that challenges us. Our response demonstrates who we truly are.

Most of us live this life in quiet obscurity, the choices we make are largely ignored by the world. Some rise to a level where our actions are noticed by a larger circle of people. Either by blogging or working as a teacher, a pastor or a local politician our actions and responses are taken on board by more people. And we get judged for them.

Sometimes rightly so.

Then there are the most visible. National Presidents, the “mega-pastors” like Jesse Duplantis, Andrew Wommack, Paula White and so on. Their actions, lack of action and other responses get the attention of millions. Their endorsement (or lack of it) for a particular candidate can sway tens of thousands of people.

But whatever their impact, as individuals they face the same issues we all face: whether we allow events to make us bitter, or use them to improve things.

Getting bitter is decidedly not what God has in mind for us. I wrote recently about trying to leave my comfort zone. For over a decade I sat blaming everyone else for not getting things moving even as far as writing this blog. It was frustrating, but eventually I met someone who became my closest friend. She managed to get me to realise that what stopped me was not what anyone else said or did. It was my response of choice – at that point generally letting myself get bitter about denied opportunity – that was the real issue.

By the time I met Thuli, I’d already started the blog. It was great to get the affirmation though. I needed the encouragement as I struggle to follow through sometimes. I still do.

Procrastination is “comfortable” when there’s no specific deadline. dino-arkBut eventually, not accomplishing what I feel God has called me to leaves me disgruntled. Then I look around and I can either get bitter or better from the experience.

I still choose “bitter” more often than I’d like to admit.

I’ve been invited to go overseas several times in the last year to preach. Finance is always an issue for me with these things. Travel is expensive, and it’s hard enough to cover our daily costs without adding an extra trip to it. But then I keep looking for where I can find funding and I get increasingly bitter that the sources dry up like a mirage when I step towards them.

Every time.

So I try to look at what I can do to generate the funding this ministry needs, within the confines of the law, to get me to Kenya, India and all the other places that have invited the ministry to visit.

Without getting bitter about not being able to just jump on a plane and go.

It’s not easy.

This going through “The Dream Giver” season of entries here wasstubborn inspired by wanting to open the doors into what God has for me as an individual, and this ministry as a vehicle.

So I keep trying to step forward. It’s not easy because I’m a little stubborn.

But we all can be like that.

I’m just trying not to be for once. I’m trying to be accountable to myself for my actions – because doing nothing is in itself an action.

It’s hard.

But it’s worth it.

Losing my Security

Some days I feel like Linus in the “Peanuts” cartoon strip on washday. His blanket ripped away from him, forcing him to face a harsh world without the security he longs for.

I know I’m not alone.  We all feel like that sometimes.

The key to keeping a sense of Peace it to identify what has taken the “blanket” we’re using. And Why we feel insecure.

This has been my thought pattern reading the second chapter of “The Dream Giver”. Then I put on an audio file of Andrew Wommack’s (I so miss saying a “tape”). He was saying in the teaching something that I hadn’t reached in the chapter yet, but that fits perfectly.

Ordinary feels uncomfortable because he’s where the Dream Giver has directed him to go. When Jesus finishes feeding the 5000, He tells the disciples to get into the boat and cross the lake. Several hours later, they are being thrown around, the boat is sinking and it looks desperate. But they were exactly where God told them to be!

Not every storm is because we’re not where we should be.

Not every lack of comfort is because we’re out of God’s Will.

My quiet time today has been centred around this thought too. It’s taken me a week to write this post because I’ve been struggling.

As I’ve possibly alluded to in the past, I was diagnosed with ADD a few years ago, and I already knew I was a hoarder, but found out 2 years ago the it is a manifestation of OCD. Combine the two and life can be tricky – unless you’re prepared to surrender control to God. Give up the “security blanket” of control.

For me, that has been brutal recently. I hadn’t realised just how muchFB_IMG_1487358294822 I’ve still kept my security in things. Now I’m back in England, but my belongings for the most part – including Maggie and Sam, my beloved and much missed dogs – are in Cape Town.

I’m in the middle of an emotional storm. And it’s because I’m doing what God told me to do. I didn’t see it coming in all the upheaval of getting ourselves to England, but I’m feeling it now.

Trusting things is decidedly unhealthy, I have realised. Not that I didn’t intellectually know that before this move. But sitting with only 11 DVD sets of “Bones” instead of them, “Angel”, “Stargate”, the “Marvel” movies, “Lord of the Rings” – books as well as discs – and 99% of my Christian reference library including about 9 translations I can’t find online and them not being a ten minute drive away like they were last time I had to move without them has given me a very rude wake-up call.

I’m applying for “traditional” jobs as well at the moment. Not because I feel particularly that I have been “called” to any of them – although I’m targetting things that will be a stimulating challenge for me so I don’t get bored and/or go nuts with frustration – but because not having a job or conventional “purpose” here is frustrating all on it’s own. Employment, while not only beneficial financially, will also help me stay out of my head-space. Which in all honesty has been (with one exception) the reason for me applying for every job I’ve ever had.

But being called out of my comfort zone, although in semi-familiar physical surroundings, is forcing me to look to my “Dream Giver” and ask Him to carry me.

I don’t mind admitting I’m out of my depth right now. I even (usually) include the web address of this journal of musings on my CV. I refuse to do what the “experts” say and not declare my Faith for the sake of getting an interview. It’s going to come up at some point anyway, it may as well be a first impression on paper is my way of looking at it. If any employer is going to reject me because of Christ in me, I don’t think I’d fit in well there anyhow. Been there. Done that.

You’d think at 45 I’d be better equipped. At least more “advanced” after 31.5 years as a Christian. But there’s something I’ve learned – really learned – in the last 32 years:

  • God doesn’t leave us where we are when we find Him
  • We usually choose to sit in the mud rather than let Him wash us
  • Going God’s way is often uncomfortable emotionally
  • If I think I can do something easily, it may not be God’s idea – I need to trust Him

So there it is.

We must remember not to look to our own strength, but to Christ in us.

To Dream, Perchance to Sleep

Pause for thought once in a while. It’s incredibly important. Take a moment to allow God to reach into the depths of your heart and ignite the fire that He placed there when He was drawing up the blueprint for your life.

As a part of that for myself, I’ve had it on my heart to go back through the Bruce Wilkinson book “The Dream Giver”. My next few posts are likely to centre around this book and how working slowly through it is impacting my life.

The first part of the book focusses on the parable of Ordinary, a Nobody from the land of Familiar. Ordinary receives a dream from God, the Dream Giver. His dream appears as a single white featheFeather2r. The first time I read the book, the day I got it a feather landed in my bedroom and I pasted it into the cover of the book. I was happy to give that book to a dear friend, complete with feather, some time ago now.

I was praying about what to do now, and the day before I wanted to start a new feather was on my doorstep. Yep, an actual feather.

Twice.

Since the copy I’m reading from now is on Kindle, it’s harder to tape it inside the cover this time. But I have it stored safely in another book on my nightstand.

Writing has become difficult recently for me. It’s alarming as I’ve staked much of my hopes for the future on the sense of God “dancing” over me when I’m writing. In “Chariots of Fire”, the future missionary, Liddel, tells his sister that when he runs he can feel God’s pleasure. It wasn’t until I began to write seriously that I really understood that statement.

When we find God’s purpose for our life, we can feel Him rejoicing over it.

Ordinary has that when he decided to set off and follow his dream. He tells his friend and his parents.

My dad’s dream was to be a published writer. Like me. He achieved it through a company called Mowbrays, who published some plays he’d written for children while he was a teacher. My favourite was “Starflight to Bethlehem”, where the crew of a space ship inadvertently arrive in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’s birth – their ship becoming the “star” the wise men follow!

Hey, don’t judge me – I was about ten when he wrote it. They are all out of print these days, but he was happy just to have his name on a published work.

My “dream” is similar. It’s funny how Ordinary’s life in the book has such a resemblance to my own. Have a read of the book, you may find yours is there too. Almost everyone I know who’s read the book has been struck by the similarity in their own life.

It’s a jolt to the system to find something like that. A real “wake-up call” for me. In a good way.

At the end of each chapter, Ordinary takes his feather and uses it to write what he’s learned. That’s what this blog will be about for a while. I’d love to hear comments on how your dreams are growing.

Ordinary found the following:

  • The Dream Giver gave me a Big Dream even before I was born. I just finally woke up to it!
  • My Dream is what I do best and what I most love to do. How could I have missed it for so long?
  • I had to sacrifice and make big changes to pursue my Dream. But it will be worth it.
  • It makes me sad to think that so many Nobodies are missing something so Big.

    Wilkinson, Bruce. The Dream Giver (Kindle Locations 158-163). WordAlive Publishers Limited. Kindle Edition.

My insights so far:

  • God placed a dream in my heart even before I was Born Again. To be a teacher, a preacher.
  • I love writing. It seems to be something I’m reasonably good at, but when I write, like Eric Liddell did as a runner, I “feel” God’s pleasure. Even more when I get the chance to speak.
  • In order to step into everything God has for me, there is going to be sacrifice required. Some of it I’ve already made. Some of it I haven’t reached yet. It’s going to be very hard to do.
  • Ordinary was saddened by the thought that so many people were missing out on their dreams. My call is to help those people who are missing out to find the courage to step into them and find the fulfilment God designed them for. I honestly have NO idea how to do that, but God will give me what I need as I need it!

Let’s make this a journey into God’s plans for us together. Please share your journey in the comments section and let’s all pray together for one another.

A Cry for Help

Peter Otieno from Kenya has a package that needs to be sent to him to help his brother’s medical needs from Dakar, Senegal by Saturday 15th April 2017.

The cost of this is $230 – a high price anywhere, but especially in Africa.

I am taking the opportunity to ask if someone reading this will support this ministry, and Peter personally, by donating something towards the cost of transporting the supplies to him.

If you can help, please message me: djb@eagleswingministries.org

Thank You.

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!