Advent 2017: Getting Out of the Boat – Again!

OK, it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted. Sometimes life gets in the way.

I’m working on getting back into this ministry properly now. Starting by getting back to the “Dream Giver” series.

I’d felt like I was in Wasteland when I was writing a couple of months ago. There was a lot of loss and a lot of hurt going on in my life and so after much thought I stopped writing for a season.

I’ve been job-hunting for the whole time, and have had more rejections in the last few months than I can count. I hit wall after wall. My wife has had a very hard few months as well. Both physically and emotionally we have had a real beating.

That’s why I feel Advent is a good time to shake myself offsdr

and get back out of the boat.

I feel like I’m writing a new chapter on a blank page… (and yes, that actually is my desk!)

So to start off, I’m looking at the last few months as though they have been told me as a story from someone else. It’s a technique that allows me to see events from a vastly different perspective, and one that has helped me break barriers of Doubt in the past.

I ask myself some simple questions and so here is the first of the answers I’ve come up with…

I think I missed it. Sanctuary. I look at the last few months and I realise what I thought was Wasteland was actually something quite different. It has been a time where I’ve wrestled to surrender my own “big Dream” to God.

In April when we arrived in England we were staying in a beautiful Bed and Breakfast in Kewstoke, Somerset called “The Owl’s Crest” for a month. My wife was in a great place in regard to her health, we had a secure income and for the first time in years I was able to simply “be” for a while.

I missed it.

I could have relaxed and let God wash the battle from me. But I didn’t.

I remember a few years ago hearing a teacher talking about Psalm 23. He said we have a tendency to become human doings, instead of beings. That’s definitely me. I’ve been busy for 8 months and I’ve got nothing to show for it. “He makes me lie down in still pastures”. He has to force me to stop and take stock, relax and recharge.

And I’m terrible at it.

My dad stopped working as a teacher when he was 49. They called it “medical retirement” and paid him the same amount to stay home that they had been to teach thanks to insurance. But he never stopped working. In fact the next 7 years until he died may have been the busiest I’d ever seen him. But the first thing he did after he accepted he had to retire was stop.

Only for a few days, but he stopped.

We took a holiday together, just him and me, to Italy. It was a whirlwind, but we managed to see Pompeii and Herculaneum, visit the top of Vesuvius and drive a rental car on an Italian freeway that made me begin to consider the concept of survival of the fittest. He rested and recharged, then he started his battles again but he fought in a different way and a different arena.

I missed that chance in April.

I even missed it again in July when we took a few days to visit the Lake District.

In a week we travel to Cape Town for Christmas. I am determining not to miss it again!

Living in a Spiritual “sinking boat” for a few months shakes you up and makes you doubt everything. So the only way to rest is to fix your eyes back on Jesus and step out onto the water – and ignore the storm.

It’s only the last few days as I’ve determined to refocus onto Jesus and I’ve found the desire and passion to write again that I’ve realised what’s been happening. A big part of it is not my story to tell, so forgive the holes over the next few entries and please don’t sit screaming “WHY????” as you read. I can only tell my story.

As the chapters unfold over the next few weeks I hope it will become clear…

 

Advertisements

True Grit

I’m a HUGE fan of John Wayne. My favourite of his movies is, without a doubt, “True Grit“. The rugged character, rough around the edges and more at home in the wasteland outback than in 19th Century “civilised” society.

Aside from having both eyes, I’m starting to feel like a Rooster Cogburn type.

This current spell in Wasteland is pushing my limits, but at the same time I’m finding myself beginning to become comfortable in the environment.

That’s a red flag in the biggest possible way.

The last place God wants us to be comfortable is a barren wasteland. In Wasteland, there’s nobody around to touch your life, and nobody who’s life can be reached. The Christian Walk is not an easy one, but it should place us firmly in the face of other people. Walking around in Wasteland is actually what the entire world is doing.

Let me just say that again:

Walking in Wasteland is what the WHOLE WORLD IS DOING.

There is a real danger in getting comfortable in Wasteland.

Conformity.

Just consider for a moment. In the story of Ordinary that I’m walking through right now, he begins his life in the land of Familiar. OK, that sounds like a description of where we are in the West. But he is “comfortable” there.

“Comfortable”.

It’s a dangerous situation. How long does it take for Wasteland to become “Familiar”?

Disturbingly, not long. We get to be so used to fighting the same fight over and over again that we lose sight of the Truth. We are more than conquerors.

Paul writes:

And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

Romans 12:2 (Amplified)

It’s heavy to read, but I love the Amplified translation because I don’t understand Greek, Aramaic or Ancient Hebrew, so it helps to get the full context of what was being said. I read an article a few days ago by an “educated” atheist who based that the Bible couldn’t be true because Jesus didn’t speak English, and there were so many differing accounts of His words (translations).

The lunacy of the argument was completely lost on the individual. The same person told me my argument about science being able to replicate the molecular structure and chemical composition of an acorn, yet on planting it would never become an oak tree was a terrible argument about evolution – because they thought I was saying an acorn had to evolve into an oak – not knowing it was the seed of an oak tree.

I didn’t know whether I was being “punked” or if they were in earnest.

This week I was accused of being a “liberal” theologian because I argued that Donald Trump might not be the best president the USA has ever had, and also that an individual in England born female who had been having hormone treatment to “become” male and insists on being called “he” now had given birth.

Granted, many Yanks who hear me talk of 45 might paint me “liberal”. If that means I reject the inhumanity, sexism, racism, fear-mongering, lying, backstabbing and betrayal he has brought to the office, then all I can say is “Thanks”. But if it means they think I dilute the Gospel and twist the words to make the message more palatable to the 21st Century listener, then they are in for a shock if they bother to get to know me.

It takes courage to stand up for unadulterated Christianity today.

This is a time when the pressure to conform to the pattern of this world has never been greater.

Paul had to deal with people living in a time when there was a brothel on every corner or a temple to a false god, or both. Some homes might have an altar to a Roman god, but many didn’t. Today, our altars sit in pride of place in most living rooms with their little false gods we worship beamed in directly, be it sports teams, singers, actors or televangelists. We sit waiting for St Arnie to say “I’ll be back”, or a crumb of wisdom to fall from the lips of St Jeremy or holy father Donald. Or we keep our deity in a special room attached to our home, lovingly taking it out to wash and wax it weekly so it looks good when we go to the social club we call “church” on a Sunday morning.

It’s nothing for us to sit for seven or eight hours a day in front of the altar, as it tells us who to adore, who to watch, what to wear and what to think. And then the clowns that buy into the message admonish Christians for being “brainwashed”.

I’m actually glad I’m brainwashed. Something needed to clean our the garbage that the world has dumped in there like an open sewer.

I looked at several translations of Romans 12:2 by the way. I could be wrong, but they all seem to indicate that the transformation of our minds is not something we do, but rather something God does in us – if we will let Him.

Another thing that has his me recently is this: Even Christians today can’t tell the difference between “meek” and “weak”. We have the world’s definition of “humble” drilled into us.

Now Numbers 12:3 says Moses was more humble than anyone else on the earth. We read that. We accept it.

But consider the human author for a moment.

Moses wrote it.

Humility in God’s eyes – if you look through the whole Bible – is not seeking to make yourself out to be more or less than God says you are. It means standing up for yourself sometimes. Jesus was humble. He never sought to be seen as anything more or less than He is.

So to be imitators of Christ – “Little Christs” or “Little Anointed Ones” is what “Christian” actually means – we must be prepared to be humble the way He was humble. Quit putting ourselves down. Stop making out we are less than we know God created us to be. It’s not Godly to be self-deprecating.

It insults our Creator.

Have the nerve to declare ourselves boldly to be exactly what God created us as.

That’s real Grit!

Mindless Drones

In the news recently there have been a lot of shots of supporters of various people and organisations. Something struck me as I went through the reports.

All the supporters in the crowd in each picture were the same. No evidence of original thought anywhere. Each of us is merely a passenger as we walk through this life, carried along by the society we live in.

Then I looked at some pictures of churches I’ve been to…

I stood out at one church in terms of appearance. I was a biker, could sit on my hair and tuck my beard into my belt quite comfortably. I raised a lot of eyebrows on visitors when I was part of the welcome team, and even more when I helped out in the youth church activities – especially with the youngest kids!

But for the most part everyone looks the same. Suits in some churches, and hats for the ladies. Jeans and polo shirts all round in others. Even the preachers sounded the same, no matter how many there were in any given church. Everyone follows the same pattern of behaviour, the same dress code, manner of speaking and association. Everything is predictable.

Every so often something comes along and shakes things up – thankfully.

Change for the sake of change is pointless. There has to be a genuine need for the change. And the change must, must drive us towards the Gospel.

Read my last couple of posts and you’ll see where my heart has been for the last few days. It’s about returning to the basics. What drove me to Christ in the first place.

I don’t mean the events. Robin’s death, Yvonne’s, could have pushed me away from God – especially with the pseudo Calvinistic stuff I was being taught about God’s Will and nothing happening unless He allows it. Free Will and Predestination are fascinating thoughts, and not in complete opposition to one another. Our future is foreknown, not written. God does not exist within the confines of Mortal man and Time. Rather Time exists within the confines of God. And as such, for God, everything is now. The last dinosaur is in the same image for Him as the last man.

In the late 70s and early 80s my dad had a few children’s plays published in England. He had written them to use in his job as a Primary School Teacher and I’m sure in today’s “politically correct” environment they would never have made it. One reason I believe this is he included jokes that were aimed at lampooning the religious leaders of the first century. He had the shepherds on the hills just before the angels appear asking each other “What do you get if you ask 2 rabbis a question?”, “3 answers!”. The humour appealed to his (and my) sense of humour and is accurate even today if you look at any leaders – especially religious ones.

The anecdote may not seem to “fit” here, but bear with me!

One of the issues I had, and often still have, with leadership is the problem of unity in the Church.

I have a friend whose father is a senior minister in his denomination. The denomination teaches that certain spiritual gifts – tongues, prophecy, healing in particular – passed away with the Apostles, and that the 11 Apostles and Paul had a “special” anointing for that particular time and place and the ministry of “Apostle” died with them. One worship leader in the church was instructed not to use certain songs that spoke about healing because it might make people think God could still heal today.

Mainline denominations all have these oddities reducing Christianity to a moral code and supporting the concept of pre-destination to an extreme view in some cases.

There’s no Grace in that. It’s highly intellectual, even reasonable in its logic. But logic is cold. Would you want a typical Vulcan to babysit your child? Of course not. (Mind I wouldn’t want a Klingon to either).

Every denomination produces clones. It’s truly scary.

I loved going to conventions a few years ago because they shatter the cloning process. 2000 people from different denominations, backgrounds and religious rituals camping in a field for a week, sharing worship drawn from all their backgrounds, is an amazing experience. The only common factor is usually God and a hunger to deepen relationship with Him.

Andrew Wommack talks about needing to live in the balance of Grace and Faith, and there is much wisdom in that. Learning to find that balance is a very personal walk for all of us though. For some it means letting go of repetitive actions in order to find a way beyond the purely intellectual and learning to feel God. For others the opposite is true. I went through a stage a few years ago where I waas so far into the “feeling” side of things that I was getting into dangerously shaky foundations. My pastor at the time suggested I say a Rosary twice a day. It freaked me out until he went through it with me, explaining that the purpose of the repetition is to cement the foundation in both my heart and mind. Otherwise we end up hopelessly stuck in an overly liberal all-encompassing everyone’s-the-same-anyway theology with no power behind it or the opposite, a group that is all an exclusively about power where forgiveness and Grace have no place.

To paraphrase Tolkein, our quest walks the blade of a knife, stray but a little in either direction and it will fail, to the doom of all.

The best way to deal with conformity is to shake things up. The problem is we like our comfort zones. Jesus told the disciples to go into all the World, so they went to Jerusalem and sat on their behinds. If the Sanhedrin hadn’t begun to persecute them and forced them to run then the Church might have ended within a few years. Instead, persecution made them finally do what Jesus had told them to do in the first place, leave Jerusalem and tell the whole World about Jesus.

 Do not be shaped by [conformed to; pressed into a mold by] this ·world [age]; instead be changed within [transformed] by a new way of thinking [or changing the way you think; the renewing of your mind]. Then you will be able to decide [discern; test and approve] what ·God wants for you [is God’s will]; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.

Romans 12:2 EXB

Paul was concerned two millennia ago that Believer’s minds were corrupted by the morals of the day. Acceptable behaviour not very different from the society we now live in was the norm.

I went to Pompeii and Herculaneum a few years ago with my dad, on the last holiday he and I took together. The official guided tour insisted on taking us to several houses excavated that had been identified as brothels. Each room had a mosaic on the wall beside the doorway depicting the “speciality” of the prostitute within. These days we find that online instead on door posts, and the “actresses” would have a fit if they were to be described as prostitutes – but that is, to all intent and purposes, what they are.

It’s too easy to turn a blind eye. But we do. We repeatedly fail to stand up to the society we live in because we will be ostracised for doing so.

I heard some time ago of a young person confined to a mental hospital for hearing voices and seeing an individual telling them how to behave, tormenting them. The individual was put on major anti-psychotic drugs to control the “hallucinations” and silence the voices. But the more I looked into the situation, the more apparent it became that this individual might actually be experiencing something spiritual rather than psychological in nature. The description of the complaints and behaviour is not without similarity to the youngster who Jesus drove a demon out of, who had thrown himself into the fire. Self-harming, abnormal physical strength, all the symptoms that today get you thrown into the loony bin were encountered by Jesus and treated as possession. Yet today suggesting such a thing is enough to get you locked up with them!

We stop thinking for ourselves and become slaves to the society. Drones who do anything we’re told to preserve the “status quo”.

It’s time to shake things up a bit I think.

Better than “Good”?

I’ve heard some dumb things the last couple of weeks as I’m making my way through the current Wasteland experience. Many that made me cringe.

But the worst is just one word: “Better”.

Read Genesis, specifically the story of Creation. God says as He completes each stage that it was “Good”.

Then He makes Man. And Man invents “Better”, with a little assistance from Satan.

It’s about deception.. Eve was deceived into believing there was something God was witholding from her. That there was something “better” that was contained in the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.

It was a lie then, and it’s a lie now.

“Better” is a lie.

God made things a certain way and said it was Good.

What amazes me is the Tree Eve was tricked into eating from was the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yet somehow that has got confused in the 21st Century.

It began with little things. Language changed. Words’ meaning became inverted. “Wicked”, “Bad”, “Sick” all took on a meaning through slang that was the exact opposite of the original meaning of the words. Other words changed their meanings too, and eventually things slipped through that began to make behaviours God expressly condemned into acceptable parts of behaviour to our “better” society.

A while ago one particular website, Ashley Madison, was the embodiment of this. Life is short, too short not to have an affair, was the “concept” behind the marketing.

And it worked.

Lie built on lie, and ministries were toppled, marriages destroyed, families torn apart. All for the desire for something “better”.

I heard an interview a while later with a man whose marriage had fallen apart after his wife had found out he visited the site – not that he actually had an affair, just that he’d considered it. Another search for “better” instead of working on what is “Good”. The man said he knew he was in trouble when a woman he wrote to wrote back calling him “Tiger”. He explained that it wasn’t the moniker itself that was the issue. It was the effect it had on him because of who had said it. He described how he realised he longed for someone to think of him that way again. He was just “Bob” or “Jim” (I can’t remember his actual name) to his wife. Not “Darling” or “Sweetheart” or any of the pet names they’d had for each other twenty years before when they got married.

So his “good” marriage fell prey to “better”.

Recently a tower block in London burned down, taking 80+ lives with it. Babies, children, parents, the elderly all died. Because a business thought it would be “better” to use a particular cladding on the outside that was slightly cheaper than the fire resistant type.

Sometimes, “better” can be catastrophic.

Yet we don’t learn. Paul writes that the point of the Scriptures is so we don’t have to learn by making mistakes – we can learn from the example of those who came before. It’s the First Century equivalent of “those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it”.

Yet we sit watching tyrant after tyrant elected by “intelligent” populations. Policies from both the far Right and Left wing get thrown at us ad nauseam that historically have proved catastrophic for the countries that have adopted them. Fascism, communism and everything in between being touted as the “latest” ideas.

In England, Jeremy Corbyn wants something “better” than the Tory manifesto – so he suggested policies which were shown in the 1970s to be disastrous for the country. But the youth who voted for him en masse weren’t born then, and haven’t studied history to see the mess the country was in as a result. But on the other side is Theresa May, who seems to want to be Margaret Thatcher. And the policies she’s suggesting are no better. Thirty years ago they may have worked, but it’s 2017 now, not 1987.

Most days it feels like it’s 1984.

The news coming through from America is no better. Donald Trump seems to be bent on making sure his maladministration simply undoes everything Barak Obama did during his administration. If someone had presented the last 12 months as a script to a Hollywood executive twenty years ago they would have been thrown out because any script must be able to withstand the concept of “suspension of disbelief”, and it would have been deemed that the current insanity was too deranged to pass that test. The closest we got was “Demolition Man”, when Stallone got to fight Snipes in a post-apocalyptic future ruled by a crazy leader (Nigel Havers) and Schwarzenegger had been President. All things considered, that was less unlikely than what we’ve ended up with.

So as Christians, what can we do to fight this slide towards chaos?

Firstly, we need to return to a basic set of concepts.

Jesus put it best when He was asked what the greatest Commandment was:

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV

To find the original “Good”, we need to return to the source: God Himself.

As a society, we are devolving at an alarming rate.

I try not to engage too often with atheists online as the results are predictable. If, as a Christian, I challenge them about the issue of Creation the result is universally ridiculed. I get the “so you believe the earth is only 6000 years old” argument – even if I preface my answer with rejecting that notion clearly and unequivocally. If I bring up the example of life itself, using the example of a seed growing into a plant I am always responded to by someone trying to argue nonsense about another clause in my sentence, never the issue of the question itself.

This week I (foolishly, I know) tried to argue a point on the Huffington Post about life. I asked an atheist to explain, if there is no creator, why a scientist can mix the chemical components that make up an acorn into something that on a molecular level looks like an acorn, and to the naked eye looks just like an acorn, yet when placed in soil it simply rots and doesn’t become an oak tree. The response I got was that it was a poor argument for evolution!

I replied that I wasn’t trying to prove or disprove evolution, but that an acorn doesn’t evolve into an oak, it is the seed from which an oak tree grows.

As yet, the atheist has yet to respond.

I’m not surprised. Their own argument defeats them every time.

First we must seek God.

Wholeheartedly. Unflinchingly. Unwavering in our search.

My time in Wasteland – again – is reminding me just how essential it is to do this.

Wasteland is not a waste of time. I think of it as a time of preparation. A time to shake off the dust of the past, to drop everything that is not absolutely vital to our moving forward with God.

It’s not an easy time. And I think how long we spend in the wastes is determined by us. We tend to limit how fast God can work in us by refusing to let go of the past, or daydreaming of a decidedly ungodly future. I’ve been guilty of that in the past, and even a little this time through.

My last major trip in Wasteland cost me 20 years. I’m hoping right now that I learned something from that time I can apply now.

Continuing Through Wasteland

I had something of a revelation this week. I could write entries going forward from here as though I’m through my “wasteland” time.

But that would kind of defeat the object of this journey. My reason for wanting to share the journey I’m on is to (hopefully) demonstrate God’s Faithfulness when we stick with Him.

I found myself thinking about Daniel a few days ago. I try not to write until the thought is complete – which can lead to some long periods of silence – so although I’m still very much in Wasteland, I’ve got some stuff I can share going on.

Daniel prays twice of note in his story.

While I was speaking, praying, confessing my own sin and the sin of my people Isra’el, and pleading before Adonai my God for the holy mountain of my God — yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gavri’el, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, swooped down on me in full flight at about the time of the evening sacrifice, and explained things to me. He said, “I have come now, Dani’el, to enable you to understand this vision clearly. At the beginning of your prayers, an answer was given; and I have come to say what it is; because you are greatly loved. Therefore look into this answer, and understand the vision.

Daniel 9:20-23 (Complete Jewish Bible)

The great thing is the message Gabriel (Gavri’el) brings. The statement that he was sent at the beginning of Daniel’s prayers with the answer.

Just think about it for a moment.

Daniel starts to pray. He opens his mouth to speak to God. And as he does so, God hands Gabriel the answer and despatches him.

Daniel hasn’t actually finished talking to God when the answer is sent to him. In fact, he hasn’t even got through the first sentence.

That used to trouble me, except then I realised God looks at our heart. Everything in Daniel’s prayer is in his heart as he begins to pray – and God sees it as soon as Daniel inclines his heart to present it to God for an answer.

King David would take his plans for battle before the Lord and never moved until he heard an answer. Moses did nothing until he’d spent time in God’s presence asking for guidance and arguing with God about what was to happen next.

Yes, you read that right. Arguing with God.

I think God actually enjoys debating the next step with His children. It’s through debate that we come to a mutual understanding of the move. We truly own the step before we take it through active debate because we get a chance to grasp why God is guiding us in that direction by interacting with Him.

These days church tells us we should have a “monkey-see monkey-do” attitude. It’s in the book, so that’s how we’ll do it.

The result is looney-tunes pastors playing with rattle-snakes, spraying their congregation with bug spray and drinking disinfectants and detergents because they latch onto one particular verse and build their entire theology around it.

In “Red Dwarf”, the cult sci-fi comedy, Arnold Rimmer, the hologram crew member tells his crew-mate Lister that his family are “Seventh Day Adventist Hoppists” thanks to a typo in their edition of the Bible that made it read “Now there are three things that last for ever, Faith, Love and Hop. And the greatest of these is Hop”. As a result on Sundays his entire family would only hop on one leg to go anywhere.

Now obviously that was written for comedic effect, and the scene made me roar with laughter the first time I watched it (apologies if the quote isn’t exactly verbatim – it’s been several years since I watched it). But it made an impression. The incredible lunacy of taking a single verse in a single translation – any translation – and making a doctrine out of it is mind-boggling.

Yet we do it all the time.

There’s a scene in “Deep Space Nine” where Ben Sisko is discussing baseball with his ds9 Baseballgirlfriend, Cassidy Yates, and she tells him about a revival of the sport in the outer colonies of the Federation. Sisko asks her about the rules they use, the size of the field and even the material the bats are made from. I had visions the first time I watched it of him suddenly screaming “HERETIC” about any detail she shared with him.

Whilst it’s funny in fiction, in reality it’s not so much.

And in the church there’s no place for it at all.

I was told today of a village in Kenya where one denomination came to distribute food to the people who are starving there. They only gave to families that belong to their particular denomination. Irrespective of need.

I digress…

Actually, not so much. Daniel’s first prayer answer is despatched before he has the chance to finish speaking it out loud. A matter of moments and the answer is given to him.

But then look at chapter ten.

 At that time I, Dani’el, had been mourning for three whole weeks. I hadn’t eaten any food that satisfied me — neither meat nor wine had entered my mouth, and I didn’t anoint myself once, until three full weeks had passed.

Daniel 10:2-3 (CJB)

Three weeks. Twenty-one days Daniel has been praying, and no answer has come yet.

He’s fasted. He’s done everything he can, but there’s no sign of an answer to his cries to God.

If Daniel had been an average member of a 21st Century Western church, he would have quit.

Probably after the second day.

But Faith includes waiting sometimes. We don’t know what might be going on in the Spiritual areas.

Gabriel arrives, and tells Daniel he was delayed by a spiritual force for three weeks.

But Daniel’s answer was given to him the time Daniel first prayed!

There’s the lesson for us.

What looks like wasteland, may be a time of preparation. It may be that the enemy has recognised the importance of the answer we are waiting on and is fighting hard to prevent us receiving it.

It’s very hard to not get an instant response to prayer. I’ve seen both extremes in my own life, instant response and delayed by days, weeks, months and even years sometimes. And a delayed response isn’t necessarily God saying “wait”, it may be the enemy saying “oh crap!”

We can often delay receiving an answer from God. We limit God’s ability to Bless us by being unable to believe we are “worthy” of receiving a Blessing from God at a certain level. We may refuse to accept the Blessing as a result. God may be wanting to Bless us far more than we realise or can believe we are going to receive.

Limiting God is a far more complex issue than I can deal with in a single portion in a post, so I’ll go into it in more depth another time.

But right now, just remember that even in Wasteland times we get blessings from God throughout the journey.

 

Languishing in Wasteland

I prefer to write entries once I’ve finished working through the latest chapter of “The Dream Giver” at the moment, rather than just a portion of it, but it feels like it’ll take for ever right now.

After Ordinary crosses the rivers of Borderland to move towards his Dream, he enters Wasteland. Although I’ve read the story before, this time I seem to be living it while I read. Almost like I’ve fallen through into an alternative literary reality.

It’s driving me nuts.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve battled ADD in the past. Somehow right now having more time on my hands is making it worse and I’m struggling to prioritise things simply because there are fewer time constraints on me during an average day. The result is very stressful.

VERY stressful…

I’d hoped that when I got to England I’d easily find a church (not happened yet), get some reasonably paid part work (nope), and have enough time to work properly on this ministry to raise some funds for projects in Kenya (because they asked first), Liberia, South Africa, Myanmar, Pakistan and other places, with a chance to actually use the recording software on my computer to create some audio teaching for the other side of this blog. Somehow I’ve not been able to get anything ready to upload yet.

More than that, I feel lost.

England has changed so much in 14 years that I barely recognise it. Walking around the town I hear languages I don’t speak regularly, mostly Eastern European, and there’s a distinct difference in the appearance of people from different countries – and it’s not the melanin level in their skin. Their dress is not quite the same as locals. Hairstyles differ as well. I get caught out sometimes as the longer that people are in a country, the more they begin to resemble the locals so sometimes when someone speaks to me the accent catches me off guard, but it’s refreshing in a way. Almost like Cape Town.

Almost.0c1bb-p3270015

But even after 14 years there, and family and friends that I love and miss, it wasn’t quite “home”. But now England doesn’t feel like “home” either.

The culture has changed – and not for the better. There’s less tolerance to diversity now. Which given the starting point is very disturbing.

Now I’m the first to say if you move to another country you should try to abide by their customs rather than try to force your own on them. I realise I may be the only Englishman who moved to Africa and said that.

But if someone doesn’t share my religious convictions and consequently dresses differently than the majority of that society there should be some grace extended to them. Instead, this country seems to have been taken over by attitudes alarmingly similar to 1930s Germany or Donald’s White House Cabinet. (Sorry, trying to keep politics out of this.)

There’s a distinct advantage to living in a small town. Firstly, it’s less likely to be targetted by Douche Daesh or other extremists like the Tories and Labour parties. Secondly, I can go quietly away and pretend it’s still my home by sitting by the sea, which has not yet got a Facebook or Twitter account, and enjoy the fresh air.

But I’m in Wasteland nonetheless.

Right now, I know where my heart tells me I should be. If I was in Cape Town still, I’d have some inkling of how to get there.

But I’m not in Cape Town.

Finding a local church where both my wife and I feel comfortable and God is moving is not as easy as you’d think. We both prefer small churches, up to about 100 members. There is one we’ve been told of in the town, but we haven’t managed to get there yet.

Fellowship with other believers is essential to our Spiritual health and growth. That doesn’t mean join the first church you see, rather it means get together with other believers. Church serves a useful purpose as it gives a structure physically and spiritually where we can go and meet. But religion isn’t what Jesus was about, and restricting ourselves to a single service once a week will kill the faith we have.

Church should be a place that enables and equips us for the rest of the week, not a social club. Think of it as a training camp where we get to touch up our battle-skills for the coming week’s fight. If we approach Church in that way, we are more likely to be armed and prepared when the enemy attacks on Sunday afternoon.

Religion is what the Pharisees had. It brings death, not life. Condemnation, not Freedom. And a list of rules and regulations that bear no resemblance to Jesus whatsoever.

One pseudo-christian group insists all the member churches preach the same sermon each week. Literally. The text is sent out each week and the pastor may not deviate from it. Members must wear black and white clothes, hats for the women, suits for the men. No shorts and skirts must be below the knee. With stockings or tights to cover the “tempting” skin that would otherwise be on show!

That kind of “heavy shepherding” drives people away by the thousand. It’s oppressive and domineering. Admittedly it’s more up to date than rejecting buttons and zippers (thinking of no Amish rules in particular), but it’s a system ripe for abuse by those who seek power over others instead of relationship.

Entire congregations are sitting in the Wasteland in their smart suits and fancy simple hats with no idea they are dying of thirst spiritually.

Wasteland is a terrible place to get stuck.

But the good news it that it is a place to pass through, not to set up home.

So right now, yes I’m wading through what feels like some major issues. But then every so often something happens to remind me of what God has called me to do. A friend will call and ask for help with a CV, or I hear of a victim of a physical assault I can go and visit to comfort. It’s hard going, but it’s about having enough for each day and being thankful until I get to the other side.

I’ll write more once I’m more “on target” again.

For now though, Consider these things:

  • Everyone has a wasteland time
  • Wasteland is essential to re-learning how to trust God
  • Wasteland cannot be avoided – there are no short cuts

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.