A Christian’s heavenly journey with his feet on the ground. Treasures shared that are discovered along the way.
Please note that this blog has now moved to: "Senior Eagle walking with Father"

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Gentle Potter

I enjoy painting in oils or pastels, but I had never tried working with clay until the day we attended a creative workshop. We were asked to join an activity that was completely new to us. I was given a lump of clay with the suggestion that I model anything that for me, represented God. I looked at this inert lump and froze inside. I stared without inspiration for ages until the time nearly ran out. In desperation I grabbed it, broke it into two pieces and almost without thinking, shaped it in a childlike fashion. From start to finish it only took a few minutes.

When I stopped to look at the completed product I gasped and was touched to the core. It may have been rough and ready, but the two figures seemed alive. A small child sitting on Father's knee. The child was looking up into the Father's eyes in absolute trust as Father held him. The embrace was so open and gentle that the child was free to move or even get off. That model represented how and where I wanted to be with God and He wanted that even more than me.

In some ways we are like the clay. But instead of being totally passive, we need to cooperate and yield into the gentle hands of the Master Potter. God accepts us just as we are, but He loves us too much to leave us where we are. He sees the masks we wear and the games we play, that cover up the desires deep within our hearts. He longs for us to be our real selves, as He made us to be. When we first realise the pretense that we live and become broken inside, it hurts. But as we stop resisting and surrender to Father, we become more pliable in His hands and get used to His touch.

How we are going to turn out, we can leave to Him. Except we can be sure, that as we keep our eyes on Father, He will reshape us into something beautiful!

"Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel." Jeremiah 18:6 (b) New International Version


Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Master Builder

I'm quite handy, so when we needed to alter the lighting in our living room, I decided to do it myself.

I climbed into the loft and checked out the circuits to make sure I knew what was what. Everything seemed to be going fine, except that there was more to it than I expected and I was running late. When I came to switch the power back on the fuse blew, so I double checked. The fuse blew again. I mulled over what I had done and could see nothing wrong. I kept going through it over and over in my mind, until I couldn't switch off - pardon the pun. In the end, feeling washed out, I had to leave it, without lights in part of the house.

I called an electrician the next morning and amazingly, he came in under two hours. He checked everything through and said there was nothing wrong, I'd done a good job. However, further investigation discovered a completely unrelated coincidental problem, that he put right.

Now all this may seem unimportant, but I had something to learn, because God is into small things. It wasn’t the fact I had done it wrong, but I had not done it God’s way. I may be able to do a variety of things, but God made me for a specific purpose. That evening we had a very important 'God-arranged' appointment and that was my top priority. In the event everything went fine, but only just!

I used to quote this verse "If the Lord builds the house - " thinking that so long as you are a Christian that's all that's needed. But of course it has to be worked out, we have to walk the walk. If we put God first in complete surrender, so that He is in control of our marriages, families and relationships, then we open ourselves to His magnificent efficient provision, otherwise we wear ourselves out to no avail.

It's the same in church life. Some years ago mission events and activities had been held in our area. Although they were well organised and had been successful on other cities, they were not working for us. They were not bearing fruit. Several of us met in prayer to seek what God had to say about it. The reply came loud and clear, that God was not in our good ideas:

"You have worn yourselves out doing it your way, now let it all go and try My way!"

"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves." Psalm 127:1-2 New International Version


Friday, March 28, 2008

The Husband's Challenge!

Getting married was the best thing I ever did. It has brought real fulfilment and happiness, but of course it hasn't all been married bliss. I didn't expect it to bring to the surface all my inadequacies, failings and above all my own emotional wounds. At times it has seemed more like a battlefield and it was only Jesus who has brought us through so far. I can now honestly say, that after so many years, we are closer together than ever.

So why the other day, did we suddenly have a such wordy confrontation, a spat, mini-row or whatever you may call it? I couldn't remember the last time that happened! What my wife said hurt me and I reacted strongly with words I regret. I was holding a chair at the time and just for a split second I could have thrown it across the room. For an hour or so I reverted to my old behaviour pattern and retreated to my den to nurse my hurt. The temporary rift was so painful, I just wanted to blank out the feelings.

Of course I know that attitude just doesn't work and anyway, I was not going to let the enemy have his way. I brought out the feelings with Father and worked them through with Him, before going to find my wife. We both knew that we hadn't spoken to hurt one another, but were speaking out of our own pain and frustration at the time, through tiredness and illness. We talked it through, listened to one another and forgave. That felt so good!

I once asked my wife what she looked for in a husband. The qualities didn't come as a surprise; courage, boldness, kindness, honesty and romance were just a few. But her answers and what I have gleaned from other women, lead me to the conclusion that the two qualities a Christian wife values above all others is submission and intimacy.

I believe a wife feels secure and close with a husband who is walking with God in surrender and obedience to Him and also is in touch with his own feelings and thoughts, which he will openly share with her and listen to hers. I know there's a lot more than that, but I go back to these two things time and again.

Getting to know God, getting to know ourselves, getting to know our wives -- getting there!

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up - In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. - For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." Ephesians 5:25-31 New International Version


Monday, March 24, 2008

Tradition or Life?

A friend of ours has constructed what she calls an Easter Garden on a terrace at the top of her steep garden. For several years we have gathered there before breakfast on Easter Sunday, for the breaking of bread, to celebrate the Risen Lord Jesus. Last year particularly, was an unforgettable experience. As we prayed and sang, the sun rose above the trees across the valley and the birds sang their hearts out. We planned to do the same this year.

We were mindful that Easter falls very early this year and half the country is in the grips of snow-laden northerlies. Nevertheless we believed it was right to go and trusted it would work out. After all, God can look after a mere detail like the weather? We woke early - and I mean early - to the encouragement of a clear sky and still air. Dressed in layers of thermal clothing and fleeces we set out, but as we drove up the hill the sky suddenly darkened and the rain came down in torrents. It was even worse when we arrived, so reluctantly we had to abandon our plan. Instead, around twenty of us squeezed inside our friend's cottage sitting room.

What followed was precious and intimate. We made our communion which was followed by breakfast together and a time of sharing what God is doing in our lives. We missed the surroundings of the garden of course, but instead we experienced what really matters, abiding in the presence of Jesus. we were blessed in a way that we didn't expect.

This reminds me of the dangers of following tradition. Tradition can be saying, "This is the way we have always done things and always will," even when God has moved on to something new. There is nothing wrong with tradition as such, but if that is all there is, then it is death and not life. Jesus always did what He saw His Father doing and so should we, if we don't want to miss out.

"Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!" Matthew 15:2 New International Version


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saving the Planet

There is a revolution going on in the supermarkets and shopping malls of Britain. It started several years ago in Ireland and is spreading. There are rumours that it may even be reaching the States.

Plastic bags that were previously so generously and freely available are to be banned because they waste resources, pollute the environment and cause congestion in landfill sites. Shoppers are being urged to supply their own and a variety of alternatives are on sale. You only have to walk through town, to see people proudly displaying their ethically produced bags of organic cotton bearing slogans to demonstrate we are doing our bit to save the planet from destruction. Alongside this, sales of large gas-guzzler cars are on the wane and we are being encouraged to save fuel and energy. This whole push is being supported by a raft of proposed government legislation.

Now, I am wholeheartedly for this and we are trying to do our bit at home to make changes in the way we live and reduce our carbon footprint. I am against the waste of resources and the pollution of the environment and have no doubt that mankind is contributing to global warming. However I can't help feeling that we are in danger of missing the main point and forgetting the real cause. All this is happening in the world because of what is in man's heart, so it is man who is on a course of self destruction. Saving mankind has become an extremely urgent, vital and important issue. Thankfully, God foresaw this and provided the solution.

If only the same growing fervour behind the environmental evangelistic efforts was put behind the real salvation message, what a massive difference that would make. We could of course have a gospel message on our shopping bags, but better still let us make sure that we are the message!

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 New International Version


Friday, March 21, 2008

Do We Really Need God?

In thinking about what to write this morning and what could be the most important thing to say, I am reminded of a time when I worked in a large organisation.

I was asked to show a young graduate around. He was keen and intelligent and I took an instant liking to him. I even taught him to play squash and within a few weeks he was beating me every time. It was obvious that losing was just not in his vocabulary, he had to win. He was self-assertive and confident, had high moral values and was well thought of within the company. In a few years he had overtaken me and actually became my boss for a time.

One evening, I had been working later than usual and was clearing up my things ready to go home, when he called me into his office. I remember feeling it was inconvenient and hoped it wouldn't take long as I was tired. He came straight out with it and asked me how you become a Christian. My thoughts of leaving vanished at that moment and I did my best to answer his question. I wasn't sure whether my explanation was getting through to him, so in the end I just said that Jesus meets us at our point of need. His replied that his problem was, that he had no needs. I'm not sure how that left him, but I held him in my prayers.

During the next few years I saw little of him. We both got promoted, but he soared up into the higher echelons of the company and became a success story. Then one day I was given the news he had died of cancer. This really upset me as it was a tragic loss of such a successful young man. I didn't know how it had been for him in those last days, but hoped that he had met with his Maker.

God loves us so much that He poured Himself out for us. He came right down to our level and made Himself as nothing. When Jesus died on the cross, it was thought He had failed, it was all over. But in truth God had won the victory, it was just the beginning.

When we admit to spiritual poverty it's not a sign of failure, but of strength. We come into the Kingdom by realising our need of God. Our need grows as we progress in our knowledge and love of Him, such that we cannot live without Him. That's the way we are made. That's the way of abundant life.

"Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!" Matthew 5:3 The Good News Bible


Monday, March 17, 2008

Heard But Not Listened

Our grandson is somewhere between toddler and small boy and I love him and really look forward to spending time with him. Apart from being lively, endearing and very good looking, he is great fun. When he says "I love you Grandad" it melts my heart. Then he'll say "Play with me Grandad?" That usually entails him coming up behind me and jumping on me from a great height, as I feign surprise. My muscles make me think I am getting a bit too old for this sort of thing?

On the other hand, there are times when he can be most exasperating. He gets so focussed on what he wants and what he is doing at that particular moment, that nothing else matters. He is not interested in anything else, no matter how important or vital. For his own good I try to reason with him, but to no avail. I try tactics to divert him away from his course of self destruction. It works sometimes, but often he will have none of it. Only the other week I told him to put his shoes on before going outside, but no, he knew better. Within minutes he was back crying with a bleeding toe! It's not a question that he's not heard me. He just does not want to listen!

Even though I am a great deal older, some of this sounds very familiar to me. Am I really open to listen and take notice of what my heavenly Father tells me? There was a time, not so long ago, when I was so wrapped up in the Christian work I was doing, that I ignored the longings of my own heart and so was not open to what God was saying about it. What I was involved in was good, others agreed, but it was not right for me and if I hadn't been given the grace to listen, I'm not sure where I would have ended up. I was hearing, but assumed those words were not for me.

Far more than a loving earthly father - or grandfather - Jesus has our very best interests at heart. God is always speaking and will use whatever means are just right for us. It's more a question of us wanting to know, being open to Him and taking time to listen. When we take notice and take on board what He is saying to us we prosper and flourish.

Oxford Dictionary definitions:

hear = to perceive sound with the ear
listen = attentively hear a person speaking, give attention with the ear, take notice of, to respond to advice or request.

"If my people would but listen to me -- you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you." Psalm 81New International Version


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Our Inner Security

Our upside-down house - we live upstairs and sleep downstairs - is perched on a hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and is about 200 yards from the beach. You may think it's an idyllic location and in many ways it is, but when the south westerlies blow, your perspective changes.

Three days ago, we were warned that the worst storm of the winter was imminent and all emergency services were put on alert. Later that evening, as the winds became more intense and howled down the chimney and our large living room window began to flex, I felt just a little vulnerable, if not anxious. We could have been on the deck of a small ship in a stormy sea. It's times like this, especially in the night, when anxieties can surface and hook into all sorts of fears. I sensed this and before going to bed, tried to put everything into God's hands the best I could. I particularly asked for protection for all the homes in our valley. After this, I felt a peace and contentment and surprisingly - and I say that because I'm a light sleeper - I slept like a baby through all the mayhem outside.

Next morning everything was intact, except some fencing had blown down and there was tree debris scattered all around. We turned on the news to see reports of flooding and storm damage and gave thanks that we had got off so lightly. We then had to drive the twenty miles into town and despite the main route into the village being under water and impassable and several large tree branches were partly blocking the other road, we made the journey without incident.

All this reminded me that many things we have taken for granted and even put our security into are being shaken. It's not just the weather and global warming, but the environment, food and fuel supplies and our financial institutions. Without getting into a theological discussion who is doing the shaking, all the signs seem to point to the fact that we are in for a hard time. It is clear the only thing we can be sure of, is to build our sure foundations on God. By that I don't mean just a mental assent to what we are told in the Bible, but a deep heart-knowledge of the Father's love as we surrender to Him. This is free, but is not handed to us on a plate. We need to want it.

"Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire" Hebrews 12:26-29 New International Version

"Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" Mark 4:38-40 New International Version


Friday, March 14, 2008

If We Believe ...

When we become Christian believers, followers of Jesus Christ, we start a journey of coming to know God. As we enter into the discovery of who He really is to us and live in the realisation of that truth, there is the potential to transform our lives.

God created the heavens and the earth, the whole universe
God is Almighty, all Powerful, all Knowing
He is to be exalted as the King of Kings
and is high and lifted up in heaven
but He bends right the way down
to hear our every whisper
even more than that
He is with us,
really for us
More -
He's within us
He lives inside us
just ponder on that
God living within us!
it's utterly mind-boggling
Feeling our every feeling
absolutely life-transforming
and it gives us a whole new perspective
of walking through a sometimes troublesome life with Father

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. -- "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." John 14:16-23 New International Version


Monday, March 10, 2008

Things Are Not What They Seem

My computer works on MS Windows and so the word processing software is WYSIWYG or "What You See Is What You Get." Unfortunately this is not always so in real life!

I descended our forty steps yesterday to collect our post from the box. There was a pile of junk mail, but there was just one that caught my attention. The tinted envelope was addressed personally in impressive handwriting; my spirits rose with anticipation. Someone wants me? I couldn't wait and tore it open, only to have my hopes dashed, as it was only a business reminder! The inside didn't live up to the outside appearance.

A few weeks ago, when I was recovering from the 'flu and a few other things I won't go into, someone remarked in passing, how well I looked. The truth was that I was far from well inside. I thanked the person and we went our different ways. You could say that they just did not notice the telltale signs of the bags under my eyes or alternatively, they could have enquired how I was?

I have heard it said about other men, "Oh he is such a nice man!" Now, I want to have all the attributes of a good gentle kind Christian, but I want to be "God's man!" By that I mean, I want to be in tune with Father, be bold and courageous, act with integrity, openness and honesty and speak the truth in love. That does not always come over as being 'nice' and may even upset some. Becoming God's man is a process and I am on the way. Also, sometimes I may appear on the outside as 'nice,' but some of the thoughts I have inside from time to time are not something to be proud of. God, of course, is not fooled, He sees me as I really am and that is a challenge in itself!

So beware! All is not as it seems. We need to accept one another in love, but don't judge by appearances. Next time you meet someone, don't be taken in by their ravishing confident looks and soft flattering speech. Be discerning and be aware that they are still on the way and maybe are going through inner turmoil and having a hard time. And if you are asked to join with some venture or endeavour, pause for a while and try to see the situation from God's perspective before you answer.

"But the LORD said to him, "Pay no attention to how tall and handsome he is. I have rejected him, because I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 Good News Bible


Saturday, March 08, 2008

In Times of Special Need

I remember when we visited a famous stately home with friends. It was a hot summer's day and I was not feeling well. Also, my mind was elsewhere as I felt anxious, wondering how we were going to get through the coming months. As we walked through the extensive informal gardens, I was very uncomfortable in the heat and only vaguely aware of the beauty all around me. I tried to join in the conversation, but it was mostly floating over my head. I had looked forward to enjoying the day, but in reality I wanted to be somewhere else.

After a while I excused myself and took time apart. I made for a large ornamental pool. Water flowed into it from a cascade that tumbled down the steep gardens from a large lake high up on the hilltop. In the middle of the pool a massive fountain reached for the sky. It was a beautiful refreshing sight. I sat by the water's edge and took in this healing scene. I could have stayed there all day. I reached out to God and as I pondered, a sudden warm breeze fanned spray from the fountain over me. As the droplets splashed my face it felt almost as if Father was caressing my cheek and reassuring me that everything was going to be fine. The words came to me, "I will not let you down!"

When we are in great need or when things seem hopeless, I believe God is present and available to us in a special way. We reach out from our heart to His and although it may seem a feeble approach, He comes to us in a way that is just right for us. He brings His Word into our situation that results in life and changes our outlook in an instant.

"To him who thirsts I will give of the fountain of the Water of Life freely." Revelation 21:6 Modern King James Version


Friday, March 07, 2008

A Love Response

My wife and I visited someone who was being drawn to Christ. Almost as soon as we arrived, even though we hadn't mentioned the subject, they said they would not get their hair cut or stop smoking. We said that was entirely their choice, because being a Christian was not about keeping rules, but was a love relationship.

The junior school I attended had strict rules and we were expected to obey them under the threat of punishment. During an art lesson, where we had to draw and paint a glass jug, I accidentally knocked my little pot of water over. The teacher hauled me out in front of the class and gave me six of the best with his cane. It not only put me off art, but was one of several instances that gave me a jaundiced view of authority figures. It was only many years later, during an evening class, that an encouraging tutor showed me that I really could do art. My work flourished under his caring and competent tuition and I eventually had paintings hung in exhibitions.

If we are a Christian and say that we love Jesus, then this will show in our actions and attitudes. This is something I find very challenging. Do I really demonstrate that I trust God and put Him first in my life? Do I carry out all my dealings with people with honesty and integrity? Do I really put the interests of my wife and family and neighbours at least the same as I do for myself and do I love them as much as I love myself? For that matter, do I love myself? If I don't then it's because I need to know more in my experience just how much He loves me.

God does not force me to obey, ready to cane me if I do wrong. No, out of love he gives me the freedom to choose. He has poured Himself out for me and is always there for me. He is my Father, my Daddy who stands with open arms, longing for me to keep coming to Him as a response to His love. His love breaks me up. The more I realise His love the more I will want to walk with Him in His ways in complete surrender. And the more I abide and obey, the more I flourish and enjoy, along with others, the benefits of His care.

It's a love response
It starts by coming to Him
It continues by coming to Him
and it last forever by being with Him.

"Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." John 14:23 New International Version


Monday, March 03, 2008

Being Ourselves

When I was little we had a canary that lived in a small wire cage. It fascinated me and I spent hours trying to attract its attention. I found that by making the appropriate noises or by rattling the bars of its cage, it would sing to order. Then one day, perhaps because I felt sorry for it or maybe I just wanted to get closer, I opened the door to the cage and let it out. It circled the room several times and then flew out through the open window into freedom. We never saw it again.

Much later in life, as an adult, I discovered I was a bit like that canary and would sing to order. I was trapped in a cage of meeting the expectations of others. I was afraid of speaking the truth of what was really on my heart in case I caused offence. I would agree to requests or volunteer for any work that came my way, even though it would overload me. To do otherwise and say no, would run the risk of not being liked and that was just too much. The phrase "Jack of all trades and master of none" comes to mind. I was not being true to myself or to God. Those bars had to be removed so that I was free to be myself, that unique person God had made me to be.

It can be upsetting when we realise an unhelpful or even ungodly behaviour pattern. But God only brings this to our attention when we are ready for Him to set us free. Free to be ourselves and to do the work He has already chosen for us. A work that is just right for us.

When we are God-pleasers and not man-pleasers, everyone benefits.

"I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." John 17:4 New International Version