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, July 28, 2008

Without Prejudice

Some years ago, when I was helping out at a conference, a young woman came up to me and made a direct remark concerning my personality. It was a childlike observation and her command of the English language was halting, but I knew it had the ring of truth about it. I was taken by surprise and rather than ask her to explain further, I thanked her and carried on with my business.

However, my thoughts inside went something like this: "How cheeky and anyway, who does she think she is. After all, we haven't spoken before, so how can she possibly know anything about me!" Even now, I shudder at having had such proud and arrogant thoughts. It was well over a year later, when through personal need and looking to God for the way forward, I began to have some understanding of what she had discerned.

Hearing what God is saying to us brings life and freedom. If we really want to hear, then God will use whoever and whatever to get his message over. The question is, will we have the humility to accept His chosen messenger or are we prejudiced? Obviously we take what we believed we have heard and compare it with God's Word. But are we open to hear through someone who we may not like, is from a different background or culture, is much younger than us, appears unintelligent, has no position in a church organisation - need I go on?

"Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?" Numbers 22:28 New International Version


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Church Without Walls

We may never go to 'church' or we may attend a church service twice on Sunday, plus mid-week. But either way, is that it for the week? There are still over 100 waking hours left for Church.

What about:

The unexpected exchange in the street,
while traffic whizzes by.
A tuning-in, a gelling of minds during
a few minutes when
something happened deep and true.
You parted feeling lighter, even warmed.
Was that not Church?

The lunchtime gathering at the office,
an impromptu meeting of like-minds.
Just being together,
sharing of lives, joys and fears.
That was Church

The knock on the door,
just as you were off out.
Someone in distress,
so you dropped everything
and lent a listening ear
and perhaps some prayer.
This is Church

Husband and wife
intimately share feelings, hopes and fears.
Praying together and
asking God what He has to say.

Are you getting my drift?
In all these God-arranged or inspired
linkings, meetings, exchanges of His people,
outside of any committee, structure or organisation,
He was there.
This is Church

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25

"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20 All quotes New International Version


Friday, July 25, 2008

Getting bthe Balance Right

I'm a fan of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas. In the 'Pirates of Penzance' there is a chorus: "A paradox, a paradox, A most ingenious paradox. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, That paradox."

I sometimes think that on first sight the Christian life can appear to be full of paradox's, with conflicting instructions between two extremes. For example, in the Bible we are told that salvation is a free gift, but it costs everything we have: that walking with God is effortless, but it takes effort: that we don't have to compete, but we need to run the race to win!

Of course the Bible is not a set of rules - we have been freed from all that - but it's about a love relationship with Jesus. We find the balance as we follow Him and allow Him into our lives.

Even as a Christian, I tended to swing between two extremes. There were often crises and difficulties at work which could be scary and stressful. However, as I faced the problems and the adrenalin flowed, I found it stimulating and fulfilling. In a way I didn't want to stop, so took this pattern into my private life. And then, as I tried to relax I would swing the other way and even become lethargic. There seemed to be little in between full pelt and stop.

I have discovered something about adrenalin. It boosts your energy, but it also releases a stress hormone that eventually can have a suppressive effect on the immune system. Now you just cannot live on adrenalin for too long before you get stressed out and you become ill. That's what happened to me.

My life was out of balance and I was forced to take stock and spend more time just abiding in Jesus and feeding on that love relationship.

Now, I try to flow with Him rather than do things in my strength and cause stress. I am mindful of two things. First, that God's energy and power are His, not mine - obvious, but very important - and secondly, when God's power works through us, it is effortless. When things are moving in our life in the right balance we are at rest - and that's another paradox!

"You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life -" John 5:39-40 New International Version


Monday, July 21, 2008

For Richer For Poorer

Last Saturday didn't turn out quite as we planned. There were some unexpected turns to keep us on our toes. At the end of the day I went down to the beach for a breather. There was quite a swell on and I noticed a kite-surfer way out at sea. As he raised his sail into the wind he was carried back to the beach on the crest of a wave. This set me thinking:

We enter into God's provision and blessings, as we surrender to Him. Surrender is the key. When we yield to Him He takes over and achieves what we may think is impossible in our strength. Complete surrender equals complete succour. I have often struggled with this and surrender to a loving God hasn't always come easily.

The big question was, could I really trust Him. In other words, is it safe? Of course you don't find out until you surrender. It's can feel bit like jumping off a cliff. It's not until you jump do you find out there's a safety net under you! A risky business? God often seems to do things in ways I would never dare dream of. It can be scary, even seemingly dangerous, but always safe.

I liken surrendering to our marriage vows. The words may vary, but when we marry we promise to stick with other, "for better, for worse: for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health;to love and to cherish, 'till death us do part -." We willingly and eagerly enter into this, surrendering to each other, because we love one another. We take the rough with the smooth. My wife and I have certainly had our for 'better or for worse,' but God always has brought us through.

Surrendering is simple, but I have not always found it easy. When I do get it right there is a deep peace and even joy, as I get carried along in the flowing waves of God's loving provision.

Each time He waits for our 'yes' and then He does the rest.

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." John 15:11 New International Version


Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's All in the Name

Before we were married, I remember that in conversation, friends and colleagues often referred to their 'girl friend.' This alone, told me very little about their relationship and left me wondering whether they were referring to a casual acquaintance or something much more serious. In the same way, the married men sometimes used the phrase 'the wife' or even worse, 'her at home.'

I became so passionately in love with my 'girl friend,' that just saying her name was music to my ears. I couldn't bare for us to be apart and found it difficult to wait for our next meeting. When the time eventually came to introduce her to my parents, I was just a little apprehensive. After saying, 'this is Sally,' I waited and held my breath. I wanted them to like her, but I was so taken up with her, no matter what they may have thought, I wouldn't have changed my mind.

So often we may talk about 'religion' or 'church' or 'prayer' or 'faith,' but unless we go further, the conversation stays impersonal, general, cerebral and safe. We may even use the word 'god,' but unless we explain what we mean, listeners are left in doubt and can apply their own interpretation. Maybe that's right at times, but once the name 'Jesus' is used, it starts to become personal, because we are talking of a heart relationship with God. It almost demands a response and at this point some may even feel uncomfortable and want to change the subject.

Now Jesus loves me with a passion and I love Him. He has implanted a longing inside me and He has become my life. I often mess up and let Him down, but at such times it seems - if that's possible - He loves me even more. He forgives and forgets and wipes the slate clean. His name is music to my ears and I long to use it and speak of Him without meaning to cause offence.

Everything is in that name, because he is God.

"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." John 14:6-7 New International Version


Friday, July 18, 2008

Giving From Where We Are

What would I say to someone in distress? What would I do, if I was in a hurry, but I could see that they were hurting inside?

Such 'God opportunities' always seem to come when I least expect them! But I hope that I would have the grace to lay aside my 'important' agenda and give them my whole attention. As a Christian I believe that I have something special to give, but at the same time I have to stay within my limits. It's no good trying to give what I have not yet received or I would be in danger of trying to 'fix' their problems with empty words.

I always think that to quote Scripture at someone may not be helpful. To say "Jesus loves you," may fall on deaf ears, especially if my own experience of God's love is lacking. My lack of compassion will be obvious. Similarly, if I quote to someone who has recently lost a loved one, "God uses all things to the good -" may not be appropriate. On the other hand, if I have 'been there' and identify with their suffering, it will show.

There are two things I am very sure of:

To listen is a wonderful thing. By this I mean, to put myself out of the picture and really listen to what a person's heart is saying and hopefully hear what God says about it. This can be a really healing gift to someone who is hurting. Also:

I have found that an offer to pray simply with someone is powerful and nearly always well received. I know I should do this more often.

Be bold and sensitive and give what we have.

"One day Peter and John were going up to the temple - Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. - Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Acts 3:1 New International Version


Monday, July 14, 2008

The Burden Bearer

When walking in wild places I always went well prepared. I filled my backpack with all the essentials: maps, compass, emergency rations, extra clothing and waterproofs and much more, just in case. I had difficulty cramming everything into the bulging sack. It felt heavy to start with, but once I was into my stride I got used to it. When, after several hours of walking I was slowed down and the straps chafed my shoulders, I just reminded myself to get a bigger and better sack and forged on!

On one memorable hot day in the mountains, I began to wonder whether we would ever make it back to base. When we eventually arrived back, worn out and dehydrated, it was such a relief and joy to remove my pack and bathe in the cool clear waters of the lake. It was an exquisite joyful feeling of freedom.

A burden can be a responsibility laid upon us by others, a wrong attitude, or just the weariness of life's circumstances that we didn't choose. Whatever, it can creep upon us almost without notice. We may even feel that it is our lot and think, "this is as good as it gets" and grit our teeth and keep going. We may look for diversions to take our mind of the pain, but the weariness of it all can wear us down and effect our well-being and health. There may come a time when deep inside we are really saying, "I can't take any more!"

Scripture makes it clear that Jesus wishes to carry our burdens for us. He longs for us just to come as we are and hand them over. I often imagine, that when we offer them, He snatches them away with glee and they are gone for ever. In Biblical parlance, we have laid them at the foot of the Cross and left them there.

It may be difficult to do this if the burden seems to be crushing us. We may need help, such as a trusted friend or minister to listen. I have found it helpful to write it all down as a letter to Jesus and even afterwards burning it. Such symbolic actions can help. Once, when I realised I was carrying a heavy responsibility that wasn't for me, I picked a large rock to represent the burden and heaved it into a deep lake, never to be seen again.

Don't give up, but give over and let Jesus take the strain.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 New International Version


Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Servant Heart

We watched a remake of the musical, the "King and I," the other day. In this, Anna the governess, was told that she must always keep her head lower than the king's. It was just one of the ways he used to remind his subjects, that they were his servants. As king, he had to remain and be seen as 'top dog!'

This is just the opposite to how it is in God's Kingdom, where Jesus comes right down to our level as a Servant King!

At a low time in my life, when I was in great need and desperately reaching out to God for help, I suddenly became aware - and I can put it no other way - that Jesus was kneeling at my feet, looking up to me. Immediately, I felt Him ask, "What can I do for you?" This just stunned me and touched me to the core of my being! This was my God, kneeling at my feet, desiring to meet my needs.

I have always felt that I am somewhat lacking in a servant heart. But what I am learning, is that as we humble ourselves and allow Jesus to wash away the dirt in our lives; when we allow Him to minister to our deepest needs, something happens at the heart level. Our compassion and capacity to be available to God for others is increased and we are given something more than words, to pass on.

Jesus identifies with where we are, stoops down and waits for our response.

"After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. - - "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet." John 13:5-14 New International Version


Friday, July 11, 2008

Just Do It!

We have just returned from a week away at a Christian retreat. Apart from anything spiritual, it was so good to get away from routine, relax in beautiful surroundings and be catered for. There were some fixed teaching and prayer sessions, but I had no fixed agenda and I was open to what God wanted to show me. I am never surprised at the ways and means He uses to get through to me.

This is just one simple example from the time:

One morning we were outside the conference room waiting for our session. Rather than walk round to the main entrance we waited at the side doors. We knew the doors would be opened as soon as they were finished inside and ready for us. We chatted amongst ourselves for a while, until we realised that it was past the start time and the doors were still closed. Almost as an afterthought, I suggested we try the doors and look inside. As we nudged them open, we saw that nearly everyone was seated and ready to start.

The double doors were plain white and very big - the biggest I had ever seen - but the shiny brass door knob was tiny. One slight smooth turn of the knob and all was revealed and began to happen. Now you may think so what? But I knew this was significant.

How many times have we believed for something we have longed for, prayed for, but have waited for God or someone else to act and make it happen? When all the time God was waiting for us to make an initial move of faith. It may be a very small action, but it would release the power of God in the situation.

I know the key to this, is keeping a close walk with Father, but there are times when we dither. There was a time when I knew it was right to move my mother from the other side of the country, into a nursing home near us. I wasn't sure what to due and waited and delayed any decision and of course God knew this. With this on my mind, I was driving along one day, when I saw a poster in the rear window of the car in front, saying "Just Do It!" And so I did and after that first action everything unfolded without a hitch.

"- faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:17 New International Version


Sunday, July 06, 2008

"I Am With You!"

My journey with Father has been very much up and down, over the years. Perhaps there were too many peaks and troughs? There have been periods when the sense of His presence was so great, that I kept saying, "I never knew he was so close!" and "I will never be the same again!"

The last statement was true, because not long afterwards, that sense and feeling of His presence left me. It was taken from me. It was as if God knew what was on my heart and so wanted to raise the game. I was pitched into a dry 'wilderness' and for a long time it felt as if God just was not there. I felt bereft! I had to learn a very important lesson the hard way - is there any other way? - that His presence does not depend upon our senses or feelings or perception. I discovered that, if anything, He is even closer and available during those lonely, difficult times, than when everything appears rosy.

My journey of discovery continues.

When we become a Christian there is one absolutely amazing truth that is set in concrete and will never ever change. God, our loving Jesus, is with us. It may seem at times that He is hiding Himself from us, but I believe that is only because He longs for this intimate closeness to be more of a reality within us.

To know and know with concrete certainty on an on-going basis, that Jesus is with us, is absolutely life-changing and mind-blowing. This truth and reality is - He is - our security, our comfort, our strength, our life and our future.

He knows we need Him because that's the way we are made. But in a way that I don't understand, He needs us, although much of the time He has to do without us. He longs for our response.

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20 New International Version


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Our Glass is Half Full

We had a doctor's appointment yesterday and forgot that the main road out of the village had been closed for repairs.

We diverted into a very narrow side lane, flanked on either side by tall Cornish hedges - these hedges are built of stone and soil and overgrown with hawthorn, wild flowers etc. We were making good progress, until we came face to face with the refuse truck. He was bigger than us, so we gave way and I reversed back to where I guessed he could pass. As I pulled right in close to the edge, my wife remarked, "What a lovely hedgerow smell." Whereas I said, "or the smell of scratched paintwork?"

Now my wife has a very keen sense of smell and I did respond with my tongue ever-so-slightly in cheek. This may seem trivial, but isn't it an illustration of two ways of looking at the same event? What would God say I wonder? "Look son, what's a scratch on your beloved car? Pouff!! Just take in the life of my creation all around you!!" Get a life!"

I find that as I reach out to God for more in my life, I am continually having to change may way of thinking. I need to align my mindset with God's point of view or I miss out. In His Word, God's perspective is always creative. Everything in the Kingdom is positive not negative, optimistic rather than pessimistic, possible rather than impossible. We need to be real and honest with God of course, but as we open ourselves to Him, we come to see that the reality is that He is for us and not against us.

Our glass is half full, not half empty.

"Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits —" Psalm 103:2 New International Version