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, April 28, 2008

An Honest Testimony

Thirty five years ago I was bowled over and my life changed for ever. Partly through the living testimony of another, Jesus Christ met me at my point of need and I became a Christian. Looking back, I still marvel at the simplicity of that miraculous event. But that is a story in itself.

Over the years, my wife and I have struggled with the usual life issues, but can testify to God's provision, healing and amazing love in often remarkable ways. We can also say that despite our failings, it has been God who has kept us in marriage and brought us closer together. I have experienced my own dark valleys and wondered how I would get through, but discovered He was right there in the deprivation, ready to comfort and heal.

We've many stories of how God has worked in our lives, but what matters is what is happening today. Right now, because of chronic illnesses and disability we are finding things difficult and very trying. It's not that we are without hope, because we know that Jesus is really with us and promises to bring us through. But more than ever, we have to lean on Him for His enabling and each day there is something to delight.

This leads me to think about testimony - often interpreted as speaking of our conversion experience - which can be very powerful. However, I have heard old personal testimonies shared through gritted teeth and quivering lips. This didn't detract from the truth of what happened, but led me to wonder "What is it really like for that person now?" To speak of what is currently happening in our lives, as we try to reach out in faith, amidst all the doubts and difficulties is real and honest. It may also be more relevant to the listeners who identify with where we are.

I have occasionally heard, "God told us to give away all our belongings and live by faith!" By which they meant they were relying completely on God for their income. This may have been so, but if in reality it meant they were living off state benefits, then it should be said. Another was said to have given up a high-flying career and comfortable home to work in a particular ministry for God. The reality may have been that they took early retirement on a company pension and still had a second home in the country. Nothing wrong with that, but unless it is stated, people can be misled and given the wrong impression and even felt encouraged to copy. Some details are important.

Sharing what God is doing in our lives can be very powerful. It does not have to sound triumphant or victorious, but should be real and honest.

"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son." 1 John 5:11 New International Version


Saturday, April 26, 2008

My Father is the Gardener

My father's middle name was Gardener, and true to his name he was never happier than when he was in his kitchen garden.

As a boy, I loved watching him lovingly prepare the soil, mix in the compost and fertilizer and sow the seeds. It almost seemed like he imagined a full grown plant, as he popped each seed into the seedbed. I sensed that he was at peace as he worked with fork and rake or tended his peas and beans. He taught me the names of each variety and how some were grown for size and some for taste.

We also had a few fruit trees and he showed me how to prune them, so that they would flourish in the coming season. When the blossom came he sprayed them and inspected the branches to make sure they were free from infection. Sometimes there was so much fruit he had to prop the branches to prevent them from breaking under the weight. After his family of course, his fruit and vegetables were his pride and joy. He cared for them almost like they were his children.

He even gave me a small plot to grow quick-growing salad things. The trouble was, I would get impatient and each day I pulled up a few radishes to see if they were ready. I caught from him the satisfaction of growing our own food.

When we make a home for Jesus Christ in our hearts and cling to Him, we have the absolute security in knowing that we are in Father's total care. Our Father the Gardener knows exactly what we need to flourish and makes every provision for us. All the resources of heaven are made available to us. As we feed upon His Word and rest in Him we grow effortlessly and bear 'fruit' that spills out to benefit others.

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener." John 15:1 New International Version


Friday, April 25, 2008

Facing the Fears

Mummy was expecting another baby and her toddler was taken far away to live with an aunt he didn't know. The aunt was a capable mother, but she was very strict. The little boy was used to sleeping with the door open and a dim light by his bed, but he wasn't allowed a light and the door was closed. Everything seemed very strange and he was frightened and wanted his mummy. After three weeks he was taken home, but he never really understood why he was sent away.

Several years later, whilst he was lying on the floor in the kitchen, a pan of boiling water on the range was overturned. His arm took the full force. He didn't cry, but his mother screamed and panicked. They were taken by a friend to the hospital, where he lay in shock. They didn't encourage visitors and he was very lonely. They turned the lights out at night and he was frightened. After several weeks he was released home. He had a nervous tic, but no one knew why.

It was so scary he certainly didn't want to go back to that place. He worked it out that somehow it must have been his fault, so provided he was a good boy he wouldn't be sent away again. This way of seeing things took hold into manhood. There were times, especially if he sensed a confrontational situation, when he thought it better to say what was expected. Deep down he was afraid that if he spoke out what was really in his heart, they may get angry and even reject him. So fear was getting in the way of him being his real self.

I leave you to work out who the little boy was, but I only tell this story to show how fears can take hold of our lives and partly disable us. This was about the fear of rejection, but trauma and fears come in many forms and we cope in different ways.

When we become Christians the love of Christ comes in to us, and the potential for change is available to us. As God highlights what is really happening in our lives and we dare to face the fears and open ourselves to His truth, we enter into more freedom. The emotion of fear is part of us and can have positive results. Fear can also be destructive and disabling, but the more we immerse ourselves in Father's love, it melts away.

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18 New International Version


Monday, April 21, 2008

Before We Die

Years ago we were urged in a group to make a list of those things we would really like to happen before we die. I hasten to add that there were no signs that was about to happen! My wife and I made our list and over the coming days refined it and checked it out with God. It consisted of our desires and dreams that we believed He had given us. We then surrendered them to God and kept them close to our hearts.

I'll mention one, because it's one of those that has already come to be. It was something that seemed impossible at the time. We wanted to see our children's children and we now have five grandchildren, who are a great delight. Other items on the list are more far-reaching and personal and we are still waiting. Over time we have had to adjust our thinking. There have been decisions to make and steps to take, some of which have not been understood, but we have had to live with that. At times we have felt really encouraged, believing fruition was just around the corner. At other times we have felt out on a limb, like pioneers walking through treacle in a fog, wondering if we shouldn't go for a safe option, except there is no going back.

I was reading about Nehemiah last night. He had a God-given vision to rebuild Jerusalem. He fulfilled this dream with determination, despite the misunderstandings and aggressive opposition. I noted that each man was responsible for his own section of wall.

God sees the big picture. He is the Great Architect. All we have to do is follow what we believe He has given us. He knows what the future holds and it will all fit together when the time comes. To follow our dreams may seem risky, but I don't think I could live with the regret of having done nothing when it's too late.

"We grow great by dreams ... Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they [flourish]; bring them to the sunshine and light, which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true." Woodrow Wilson

"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions." Joel 2:28 New International Version

"So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart." Nehemiah 4:6 New International Version


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bind Us Together?

Years ago I read "Miracle on the River Kwai *," a gripping book that made a considerable impression upon me. It was a true account of life in a prison camp on the infamous Death Railway in Burma during World War 2. In the midst of the hellish, disease-ridden, tortuous conditions, prisoners were bound together with love, forgiveness, sacrifice and faith. This 'church' triumphed over the evil and persecution that was their daily experience.

I have not know this kind of suffering, but have known from time to time, the kind of fellowship between those of us who have experienced brokenness of one kind or another. This is the kind of fellowship that transcends denomination, forms of worship or institutional structure. It is a 'oneness' that is very precious.

I have sung the chorus, "Bind us together Lord -" many times, with feeling. But you cannot make that sort of unity happen, you have to want it. On one occasion we had been discussing teaching on the Biblical reference to being built together as 'living stones.' One person remarked "I don't think I want to be built with you lot!" There was a tinge of humour in the remark, but I valued their openness and honesty in having the courage to say what was also on my mind.

In some areas, churches have got together to hold 'united' services or activities. I am sure there is value in that, but I don't believe that unity can be organised. In truth God has already made the provision - we are one in Jesus Christ - and it is He that does the gathering. We can only enter in, to the degree that we have allowed Jesus into our lives and responded in obedience.

Real unity is hard work and involves opening our lives to God and one another, a willingness to face confrontational issues, putting our wishes to one side for the sake of the 'community' and exercising a degree of acceptance and forgiveness which 'they' do not deserve.

Perhaps we should sing "Bind us together Lord - but go easy on us!"

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:3 New International Version

* I believe the book may have been republished by Zondervan.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Flying in the Face of Reason

When I was a boy I had some difficulty expressing myself, both vocally and in writing. This was particularly so with adults. I remember one of the teachers wrote in my school report, "I wish he would come out of his shell!" This improved with time and I learned to compensate for my lack. However, I always stood in awe of those who were well endowed with social and communication skills, especially if they were very intelligent and persuasive. There were even times when I felt inferior to them.

Things changed for the better after I became a Christian, entered into a heart relationship with Jesus and eventually got in touch with my feelings. I know now that when I speak or write something from the heart and it is within my experience, there is generally no problem.

I am still aware of a slight weakness in this area, so try to avoid competing with people on unfamiliar ground and stick to what I am sure of before God. This can be challenging when we are putting our whole trust in Jesus, especially if it concerns something very important and we appear to be flying in the face of reason. We open ourselves to being thought foolish and run the risk of being shaken off track by listening to the wrong voice. If in the end I am labelled foolish, then so long as I am being a 'fool for Christ,' it's of no consequence.

We all need wisdom, but true wisdom comes not from what we know, but from who we know. When we look to God for wisdom, the Holy Spirit will guide us and reveal what we need to know. We certainly need to be open to learn from anyone, but we need to be discerning or we run the risk of being swayed from the right path.

"For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. - - But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong." 1 Corinthians 1:19 and 27 New International Version


Monday, April 14, 2008

Walking With God

Before I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue I had strong legs and walked for miles. I really loved the thrill and excitement of walking in the hills and mountains. There I found stunningly beautiful scenery, contrasting with the solitude and adventure of the scary wild places. I couldn't get enough.

I miss it now of course and letting it go was difficult at first. I have since however, discovered even more of the thrill of walking with God. Walking in fellowship with Father beats it all hands down and surpasses any mountain experience. There is no greater challenge, with a surprise around every bend. Nothing is more beautiful and brings satisfaction that goes deeper than anything I have ever known. Yes, it is frightening at times, but nothing compares with it.

When we walk with God
there is peace and joy within

When we walk with God
there is life in abundance

When we walk with God
there is freedom

When we walk with God
there is contentment and rest for our soul

When we walk with God
there is beauty and intimacy

When we walk with God
there is adventure and challenge

When we walk with God
we discover who we really are

When we walk with God
there is so much more -

Let us take His hand today and walk with Him

"Enoch walked with God" Genesis 5:24 New International Version


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dysfunctional Families

We had lunch with friends the other day and shared childhood memories. I said that I experienced some emotional trauma as a child and was left to develop my own ways of compensating and coping with it. My parents really loved and cared for me and really did their best, but I thought ours was a dysfunctional family. Our friends' view was that most families are dysfunctional in some way, which made me think.

When we marry, both partners are in many ways incompatible. They may be a strong love for each other, together with common interests. But because of the differences, there is a lot of working out to do in the relationship. This will be just the same when children come along. However, the family is a God-arranged 'institution' to provide the ideal environment to shape us and bring us to maturity.

I list below a few suggestions of the ideal requirements for a functional family. I stress that this is not a complete list and it is ideal:

  • Both parents are present and available and demonstrate their love for each other openly and healthily.
  • The children receive affection vocally, by touch and with eye contact.
  • That communication is free and open.
  • There is a listening environment, with the freedom to express emotional pain and fears, without condemnation or shame.
  • The children are disciplined - I don't necessarily mean physical correction - in love with listening and full explanation.
  • There are shared family activities.
  • Children are increasingly encouraged to be themselves and not copies of their parents.
  • There is affirmation and validation of the children's femininity or masculinity, by word and example.
I should think the same applies within the Christian family, the Body of Christ.The difference is, there are not the same blood ties and so we have the choice to avoid confrontational people or painful situations. On the other hand, because we have the same heavenly Father, the ties are even stronger and more powerful. There's the potential for a healthy family and loving relationships, where the members can find healing, fulfilment and discover their purpose in life.

"God sets the lonely in families" Psalm 68:6 New International Version


Friday, April 11, 2008

Praise Ye The Lord!

We can learn so much from children. One of our little granddaughters came up to me the other day and said "I love you Grandad." The next day when I came down for breakfast the other said, "You do look handsome!" It warmed me and I responded in kind. All this is natural I'm sure, but it made me think about the subject of praise and I offer these very random thoughts.

The word 'praise' appears nearly 300 times in the Bible, mostly urging or inviting us to praise God. It's also written into the liturgies of our historic churches. I remember attending services where the minister announced, "Praise ye the Lord" and the congregation's ragged monotone response came, "The Lord's name be praised!" You could be forgiven for thinking it was the milkman being welcomed. On the other extreme we have been in meetings where the response came in the form of a spontaneous personal outburst of cheering and tumultuous applause, for an awesome and loving God.

But what about praise in our personal walk with God?

I've often held back through a fear of pretending, because I wanted my praise to be an honest heart response. But sometimes I just speak out what I know to be true. Sometimes I've felt my love didn't amount to much, but offered God what I saw as my puny capacity to love. After all I was only giving back to Him what He had given me. We are instructed to praise God in all things. But when my wife was carted off to hospital with a broken leg and arm and goodness knows what else, I didn't thank God for what was happening because that just wouldn't have been honest. But I did thank Him in faith - and desperation - that He was with us in the situation and would see us through. And He did, in an amazing way!

Once, during a lunch break at work, I met with a colleague in a small room, just to share and pray. We didn't know how to start, but made seemingly childlike offerings. Almost immediately we experienced a great warmth spreading through us. So much so, that we felt we ought to open the window to cool things off, until we realised what was happening. We just knew He was with us and what followed was a precious time of sharing.

Praise changes things. When we acknowledge God, express our appreciation, make a heart response to His love, things happen in the spiritual realm. We enter into a realisation of His presence, all enemy opposition is demolished, Father God is warmed, we are encouraged, our faith is built up and power is released. Perhaps we should do it more often?

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." Psalm 100:4-5 New International Version

"Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in." Psalm 24:7 New International Version


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Our Reaction to Pain

There was a small boy who was given a bike for his birthday. Just what he had hoped for. He practised at home before venturing out and kept falling off at first. He was impatient to show it to his friends, so off he went. They all inspected it and gave it the thumbs up. He felt so proud because he was now one of them. It was alright at first, but then he lost control and fell off, badly scraping his knee. It hurt, but what really hurt was that they laughed at him and taunted him. When he got home he kept quiet about it and put some sticking plaster over the wound.

For several days he didn't use his bike or play with the boys, because he didn't want to get hurt again. His knee was painful, so he put more plaster on it and tried to forget about it. The trouble was, it got so inflamed he realised it had to be seen to. In trepidation he asked his father to see to it. He thought he would be told off, but instead, he put him on his knee, gently removed the plaster and bathed it clean, removing any grit and dirt. He then placed some special ointment on it. He felt better already. His father seemed to understand what it was all about and reassured him that it would take a while to learn to ride it properly and he would help him. "Just you wait until you show the other boys!" he said.

Isn't this how it can be for many of us, where there is pain just below the surface. Some of us may even have a well of pain deep down that goes back a long way. We may not have been hurt physically, but may have been abused emotionally in some way, words of condemnation may have been spoken over us perhaps.

If it stays hidden it can begin to spread and fester and affect our lives in a disabling way. It can also lead us into unresolved anger or unhelpful behaviour patterns in trying to maintain the status quo. It stops us living to the full and reaching our potential. There comes a time when we know it has to be seen to.

Our heavenly Father is just waiting for us to bring it out for Him to look at. He will then put us on His knee and bathe the wound, remove the impurities and make it better. He will also give us words of encouragement to move forward.

"My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom." Song of Songs 2:14 New International Version


Friday, April 04, 2008

Restoration and Comfort

We live on the coast and love to spend time on the beach. No two days are the same as the seasons, weather and tides change. On some days the water is calm, still and clear, just inviting us in. Like on summer days, when it's warmer, whole families paddle and cavort in the crystal clear shallows. On the other hand, like this week, it's icy cold and restless, with angry waves crashing onto the shingle, leaving behind piles of debris and rotting seaweed. I have learned that on such days, for my own safety, I have to keep my distance.

There can be debris - unhelpful or ungodly attitudes and habits for example - in our lives, which, unattended to can build up and block the flow of God's love within us. We usually know it's there, but may pretend it's not or try to cover it over with activity or other diversions. The problem then, it can fester and spread, causing us to lose our peace and we become restless.

When we humble ourselves, take courage and face these things with Jesus, we find such forgiveness and cleansing that releases freedom and blessing. God's peace returns and we become calm and still inside. Others may even want to draw close and enjoy being with us.

"I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. -- I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him -- But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud." Isaiah 57:15-20 New International Version