More “New” Things…

I don’t usually write an entire post in response to a comment, but “Nip” commented that, after reading “New Things… Again…” I should do what other over-qualified people do – get a job at Tesco rather than expecting God to “do it” for me.

I found it a rather troubling comment and I’ve spent the last 10 days pondering how to respond.

Scripture, both Old and New Testament, shows us time and again that when God’s children look to Him, it delights Him to open up the windows of Heaven and pour His Blessing down on them.

It’s easy to sit back and blame God for nothing happening in your life.

It’s easy to blame God for lack.

It’s easy to say we have to do ourselves.

There’s nothing wrong with relying on God. Abraham left Ur with only his household. A few sheep, servants, but basically just his Faith.

Joseph had only his Faith in prison until Pharaoh promoted him to Prime Minister.

David simply asked God about every move he made. He didn’t apply for any position.

Jabez simply asked God to increase his circle of influence and God did.

The crazy thing in this world we live in is that God’s own children have lost how to really hear His voice and live each day in a constant conversation with their Heavenly Daddy.

On 22nd August, my life changed in the most massive way. My son was born.

My life will never be the same. I have the tremendous Blessing that I write this Blog and do the other things associated with the Ministry from home (or a local coffee shop with WiFi!) It means I get to be an “at home” parent because I have the privilege of setting my own hours for work – although now my son sets the hours available to me.

The point of my post was that we can and must learn how to call on the Lord as our provision. Sometimes He will provide through a job at Tesco. Sometimes, Tesco will be the ones who tell you you’re over-qualified for the job, but thanks for applying. That’s God’s way of saying “Not this door”.

I have a box of samples now from Kenya of traditional tribal beadwork made by some of the village widows. I’m getting them ready for sale to raise funds for the villagers after raids left their cattle slaughtered, some of the villagers dead and orphaning more children. They can make blankets of pure wool too with vibrant colours. My ministry partner in Kenya, Peter, is trying to get some samples to send to me so I can get an online store open.

In the area, teachers earn around 10,000Kes a month. That’s about $60 (£50). That buys food, rent, travel expenses and all the necessities of life.

Peter is hoping we can start to sell the items being made so that the proceeds can build the orphans a school house in Isiolo. As an example, one wool travel rug in a store in the UK sells for around £40. So just two blankets can provide the average monthly income for a teacher, plus any admin fees, shipping etc. He just has Faith.

So do I.

It doesn’t mean he is just sitting around doing nothing.

It doesn’t mean I am.

Faith in God’s provision is nothing more than trusting He will open the doors for us to receive the Blessing that He wants to give us.

I love the story of Jabez.

Jabez was honorable above his brothers; but his mother named him Jabez [sorrow maker], saying, Because I bore him in pain. Jabez cried to the God of Israel, saying, Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my border, and that Your hand might be with me, and You would keep me from evil so it might not hurt me! And God granted his request.
[1 Chronicles 4:9-10 AMP]

Two verses that challenge us to redefine our constructed ideas about God and His Provision.

I’m not into the “Prosperity” Gospel the way it’s been forced onto us recently.

But I’m not afraid of being prosperous. I’m not afraid to really look at God the way my son looks at me when it’s time for his bottle.

Jesus said we had to come into the Kingdom like a little child. I never truly understood that until two weeks ago.

My son has no doubt that I will give him his bottle of formula. He does not call out to me and beg me repeatedly to be certain his bottle will be made up with clean water in a sterilised bottle and the correct ratio. He doesn’t worry whether his nappy will be changed.

He does nothing whatsoever to earn my love for him.

And he will never have to earn it.

God tells us that this is how we must approach Him. He will give us what we need on a daily basis. For some people, that may be a private jet – if what He has called them to do requires they have access to one. Others may just get a good pair of walking boots. Whatever it is we need, He longs to provide it for us.

Maybe we need to look at the Provision Gospel instead of the Prosperity Gospel.

I don’t particularly want to be a millionaire. I don’t care if I work in a supermarket as a cashier or as CEO of a Fortune 100 company. I just want to be where God wants me to be, so I push doors and see what happens.

And for now I am content to write this blog, slowly develop the website to allow the sale of the goods from Kenya, and most importantly learn what it means to be a Christian by watching how my baby son looks to me.

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Michael Finnegan…

“There was an old man named Michael Finnegan.
He grew whiskers on his chin again.
The wind came up and blew them in again!
Poor old Michael Finnegan
Begin Again!”

michael finnegan

As my dear followers can’t have failed to observe, I’ve been absent from writing on a regular basis for some time.

Actually, I’ve not been absent from writing, just from being prepared to publish what I’ve written. I have 11 “Draft” entries on this site, and about a dozen more in actual notepads strewn around my home.

But, like the song says, time for me to “Begin again!”

The tide of my life changes regularly, a typical ebb-and-flow existence. I move through the time and try to ride the waves as best I can.

I returned to England in April 2017 after 14 years in South Africa.

I got a shock.

This country is not the country I left. Not by a long shot.

I finally truly get what CS Lewis meant when he wrote “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” (I think that’s from “Mere Christianity”, but I’m not 100% certain – but I AM certain it was Lewis that said it!)

I loved living in Cape Town, my family is there now since my mum moved there ten years ago to be closer to me (ironically, since I’m now 8500 miles away again!), and my wife’s family is mostly in the city. It’s a wonderful place and some of my dearest friends I met there. But as much as I loved it, the country somehow never felt like “home” to me. I longed for the Westcountry of England, the only place I ever felt “happy” as a younger man.

I couldn’t really talk to Rene (my wife) about it because I didn’t have the words to explain it to her. Now we’re living in Somerset and she tells me most days how much she longs to be “home” in Cape Town again I’ve finally been able to talk to her a bit about it.

But there’s a problem.

This isn’t the country I left.

I said this to someone recently in town, and they immediately launched into an extremely offensive moaning session about immigrants coming over and taking British jobs etc, etc. He shut up and walked away when I interrupted him by saying “My wife isn’t British.”

It’s nothing to do with migrants, travellers, refugees or any other group that’s come into the country.

It’s the people who were here to start with.

Since the whole “Brexit” insanity and the open hostility since the vote towards anyone perceived to not be “British” is not the country I left. There was a certain racist element I experienced before leaving in 2003. My wife is South African, and we are of different “ethnicities”, whatever the hell that means. As a Brit, I can trace my ancestry back to both the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons that fought at Hastings in 1066. It made watching “Ivanhoe” very confusing for me as a young man since I had no clue who I should be rooting for! I also have Viking ancestry, as shown by the red in my beard (which is now going grey), and my skull shape (I’m told) has Celtic features. In short, I’m more of a “Heinz 57” than anyone from South Africa – as are most Brits.

The young racists I encountered before moving away saw me walking with my then fiancee and decided to give us some local sedimentary formations… by throwing them at us as we sat on a bench. They ran quickly when I challenged them – probably because I was at the time 240lbs, 6′ tall and a biker: hair I could sit on and a beard ZZ Top would be proud of.

Then the move to Cape Town (and a trimmed beard & return to a short-back-and-sides haircut).

Much of my time there is chronicled in earlier posts, so for brevity’s sake I won’t go into fine detail here, but in a nutshell…

The area we moved to was a previously “Whites Only” area, and Rene still got some hostile looks from the less enlightened white inhabitants. Particularly the ones who were left in a low-income employment bracket despite living on the “beneficial” side of Apartheid. There was a great deal of jealousy towards her for her achievements professionally and academically – which she managed in spite of the regime.

Then there was the area we worked in.

Rene had grown up there and wanted to give back to the community. I was cool about that. Until we got there.

The first few months were insane. Despite everyone knowing her, and knowing she was the doctor, people called me “doctor” – no matter how I tried to explain I wasn’t the doctor – and treated her like the receptionist!

After a few months it (mostly) settled down, and eventually I went to being simply “David” instead of “Baas” or “Doktor”.

The racism there is still far more overt than it ever has been in England – stone-throwing teenage jerks included. In the 14 years I lived there I watched the tide turn and saw what Madiba had left as his legacy become bastardised into a format that prevents experienced, qualified “white” or “coloured” people getting jobs or promotions over the inexperienced young “black” applicants. The biggest difference between the immoral and corrupt Apartheid government and the government of the ANC in recent years is nothing more than the amount of melanin in the skin of the people at the top oppressing the poorest members of society. I’m sure if I were to visit Nelson Mandela’s grave that the sound of his turning in it would be deafening.

But after 14 years away we decided to come to England after Rene got a job offer too good to turn down (on paper, anyway).

So we’re back, and now if I get a reply to a job application I’m being told regularly that either my experience is not “relevant” because it was in South Africa – apparently there are different criteria for “relationship management” specialists there than here. Presumably managers think I will be conversing in Zulu (because they don’t know there are 10 other “official” languages and cultures in South Africa) or that somehow the nature of a business relationship in Africa is different than it is in Europe (hint – it isn’t. We’re all human!). Alternatively, I’m told I am too experienced for a job. I have applied for several entry-level positions recently in fields which, while related to Relationship Management, are different enough that I know I would need to start at the bottom and be trained. Yet when I called some managers to ask if they could guide me I was told I should be applying for positions in senior management – just not with them!

So I’m back to my fail-safe position: Trusting God for guidance and provision.

But suddenly I find that’s not as easy as it used to be.

I’ve listened to Him though, and this week I have registered this ministry as a company in the UK: Eagle’s Wing Ministries Ltd.

It’s daunting.

Terrifying, even.

Having to draw up a “business plan” for a ministry is difficult to say the least. I mean, how do you put “I do what God tells me to do” into language that a bank will take seriously when you go to open an account?

I have a number of people through the years who I have looked to as a form of mentor spiritually or in business, and sometimes both. One of the men I admire most, Dave Duell, went Home to his Friend, Jesus, a couple of years ago but I still have some of his teachings on cassette tape and one or two I even found on “YouTube”! Another is Andrew Wommack. The best thing about these Men of God is that I don’t agree with everything they say – and they don’t expect me to! I loved listening to the late Mike Yaconelli as well for the same reason. He said that he hated when people would come up and say “I agreed with everything you said”. I remember asking him after one talk at Greenbelt in 1991 in the UK why, and he said simply “I want to tell them ‘one of us isn’t necessary!'”

So I’m back. I hope regularly.

And I don’t expect you to agree with everything I write here, or that I post on the updates on Facebook or even when I finally start making videos and audio files on eagleswingministries.org

In fact, I’d love to interact with you! “Iron sharpens iron” says Proverbs 27:17. We are supposed to learn from one another.

So let’s sharpen each other.

And I’ll try to make sure I don’t have to begin again, again!

 

New Things… Again…

Permit  me a little latitude here please.

My “in progress” box on here has a dozen unfinished entries I’ve abandoned for some mundane reason or another. I’m struggling to focus and my mind is racing all the time.

Even more than usual.

Normally I try to focus for a couple of hours a week to write an entry or two on this article factory, but for the last few months – I realise now – I’ve actually been battling quite a deep depression.

Moving back to England last April was supposed to be the move that opened the doors for me to finally really get EWM growing in a big way. I had dreams of renting an office, launching a magazine and truly moving into the vision God put on my heart nearly 25 years ago. Instead I’ve found myself being trapped in an endless cycle of stalling and writer’s block that has stopped me getting things done.

I got trapped in the “you have to apply for a job” cycle, where I sent out my CV for jobs I’m qualified for, have experience doing and that hopefully won’t drive me completely insane.

It’s a small window.

I’ve mentioned my battle with ADD before in this blog. I had anticipated that getting a continuation of the medication I’ve used for about 6 years in South Africa would be straightforward in England. After all, it’s a “first world” country.

The problem is that the NHS is grossly underfunded, and the “requirements” for treatment have to be met precisely. To that end, the NHS sends out a questionnaire to establish whether a person actually needs treatment for ADD.

That’s Attention Deficit Disorder.

The questionnaire is about 15 pages – front and back – long.

I wanted to cry when it arrived in August last year. It took me five days to get through it because one of the problems people with ADD have is an inability to concentrate on things like 15 page (front and back) questionnaires. I sent it off, and waited.

And waited…

And waited…

And – well, you get the idea.

In October I called them to be told the form had not arrived yet, but I’d probably get an appointment in November. In December I decided I’d wain until I got back from my visit to see family in Cape Town (I’ll get to that in a minute).

On my return in January, a lot had changed.

hit the fan 2

So I called the ADD/ADHD clinic to see what had happened.

The form had never arrived – but (the helpful lady said) they would happily send me another to complete.

I don’t cry very often, but I actually broke down on the phone. The thought of having to go through 15 pages (front and back) again was too much to bear. The lady asked me if I was ok. They must get a lot of 45 year old crying men on the line who are actually perfectly fine. Then she asked if I had any suggestions what they could do.

So I said “Can we just fill it out over the phone now?”

She freaked out a bit – it’s a long form, after all – but then she said she just needed to get a glass of water, and we spent the next 90 minutes going through the questionnaire together.

Hopefully I’ll get an appointment in March.

But enough of the negative stuff.

December and January saw some massive changes for me, and in particular the beginning of an answer to a prayer I’ve been praying for 30 years…

Baby 1st scan

It’s taken 14 years of marriage, more heartache than I thought I could ever deal with, and some extremely expensive medical help, but a week ago we went to the hospital and were given this amazing picture.

I don’t care that it’s only 10 weeks this coming Friday. I’m going to be a daddy!

God has been telling me to pray for my children since I was 15 years old. I’ve never doubted this day would come, but I’m completely blown away that at 45 it’s finally arrived.

Now, however, the real test of my Faith begins.

While I try to do what God tells me to do, I don’t get an actual income from it (yet). Since my wife will need to take maternity leave, I need to begin earning an income in the next two months.

It’s a scary thing,starting a family at 45. Even scarier when I’m not in 100% health. But I’m doing it. It’s too soon to say if it’s a boy or girl, and honestly I don’t mind.

So things can change. And we never know when the change will come, or how it will impact our lives.

I started worrying I was too old to be a dad before Christmas. Then God reminded me Abraham was just a little older than I am. I can deal with that.

I’m still trying to work out where I am in regard to the “Dream Giver” project. But I’m fairly sure I’ve reached the Giants.

Ordinary reaches the Land of the Giants with nothing but his Big Dream. The first giant he meets is “Moneyless”, a giant I know we can all identify with. But his dream is enough to slay the giant.

I’m fighting that battle right now. This ministry is my dream, and right now I’m battling the same giant Ordinary had to fight.

I’m NOT asking for donations here by the way.

Just support in prayer.

I think we all need that though.

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…

 

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.