Children, buffets and the infinite resources of heaven (godly children)

Children, buffets and the infinite resources of heaven

In my previous godly children post on this blog we talked about how children being children can often teach us more about Kingdom living than all of our cleverness as adults.

Case in point: At home we always dish up set meal portions and so attending an event with a buffet where you can help yourself to all these foodstuffs was a wonder beyond imagination to my children.

Perhaps it’s a British thing but, out of politeness, we hold back from fully filling our plate to ensure others behind us in the queue get enough (or at least don’t accuse us of being greedy). Those who don’t keep to this unwritten rule are always talked about in the most negative of ways, especially when food runs out.

However, my children didn’t abide by this unwritten rule and piled the food high on their plates and even when they hadn’t finished what they had they went back for more again and again and again.

I could feel the embarrassment in me fuelling a volcanic eruption that would put Mount Vesuvius to shame. But then you get that feeling that God is standing by your shoulder, clearing his throat and saying “ahem” to give you a hint that maybe you’re just missing something beautiful….

Are my children being selfish and not thinking of others? Or is it that they simply have no concept of it running out?

Why would they? They’ve been brought up by parents who love them and provide for their needs and so when they see the huge array of food spread out why would they even think of food running out?

They are models for us to how we should relate to our heavenly Father.

We have a Father who gives good gifts to his children (Mt 7:11) – in fact our Father is so good that we who love our children are called evil in comparison. Think for a moment. The universe was created as a love gift for His Son Jesus (Col 1:16) – that’s the extravagance of our Father. And we are now his children (1 Jn 3:1) and co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17).

But do we act like adults at a buffet with God? Do we hold back from asking for too much frightened that our father’s heavenly storehouses (Mal 3:10) will run out? That there won’t be enough blessing to go round? Or that there are others who are more in need and so we shouldn’t ask?

Or do we hold back from asking too much so we don’t become too indebted? So we can live “safe” lives?

Or maybe we believe the lie that Satan has been telling from the beginning that our Father is holding out on us? That he can’t be trusted?

Let’s learn from our children that our Father can do far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20), who loves His children and wants to bless us.

Maybe it’s time to ask to see the riches of Christ poured out so that we will love so much more and become hopeless indebted to the One who’s worthy of it all.

Amen.

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Who decides the life of Alfie Evans? (Godly parenting)

Alfie Evans

Last week, Alfie Evans died after his life support was withdrawn by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital after a legal battle with his parents Tom Evans and Kate James.

Alfie had suffered seizures in December 2016 and has been on life support since then. Brain scans showed “catastrophic degradation of his brain tissue” and doctors at Alder Hey believed that further treatment was not only “futile” but also “unkind and inhumane”. His parents disagreed and thus the four month legal battle for the life of Alfie Evans began. The public nature of this battle through the high court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) brought it to the attention of the world. Even Pope Francis weighed in and gave Italian citizenship to Alfie and hoped for immediate transfer to one of their hospitals which was denied by the courts as the ruling had been made by then. Unfortunately, because of the “flight risk” the courts then denied the parents the right to take Alfie home.

Who decides the life of Alfie Evans?

Social media has made this a battle between the evil State and the loving parents:

How dare the state overrule the wishes of the parents! Parents are granted the “inalienable natural right to protect the life of their children”. How dare they remove basics such as Oxygen and, for a time, water when these are not medical treatments but the essentials of life.

Then there are those who object to Mr Justice Hayden’s ruling that says that Alfie’s life was futile which riles the pro-life side that believes all life is sacred.

But yet this same State has overruled parents who denied their children blood transfusions (as they were Jehovah’s Witnesses) and has also overruled parents who wanted to take their children abroad to euthanasia centres.

Who gets decide the life of children?

Whether that be through cutting them short through euthanasia or artificially extending them through life support.

I won’t pretend this is easy and the closest my wife and I have come to this nightmare was with our baby Rachel. She was an ectopic pregnancy and when my wife was admitted to hospital in agony they discovered the cause and prepped her for immediate surgery to remove the “problem”. We were overruled as the hospital saw that continued pregnancy would kill my wife.

Who gets to live – my wife or my baby?

But as is often the case in life, we are presented with a false dichotomy and are forced to choose.

You see our children’s lives and indeed our own lives are not ours.

They are a loan from God.

We are accountable to God for all the days of our lives and our children’s lives and it is Him that we should seek counsel from.

Not the State and not ourselves.

Back to that hospital room where my wife and I were weeping over the hospital’s decision. We knew that her life was not ours to take. We called out to God, we begged Him to take Rachel before they did.

And in His graciousness we experienced His peace that was beyond anything we can describe and contrary to the anxiousness we had been experiencing just moments before. And in His mercy we found out afterwards that Rachel had burst the fallopian tube and was already dead before they operated.

And in His infinite love and care he sent an angel to visit my wife after the operation – but that’s a story for another time.

When facing these trials let us not get sucked into the world’s two choices and end up demanding our rights, but instead call out to the One from whom all life comes and to whom we are accountable.

Father, I ask for You to send your angels to encamp around Tom Evans and Kate James and their family. Give them Your peace that passes all understanding and help them to grieve well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Odd one out or visionary? (Godly identity)

odd one out

So last weekend I had my issue focussed prayer ministry session from my local Restoring the Foundations team.  The plan was to work through some of the issues that had come up during my time of darkness that I went through at the end of last year.

The core issues they identified were abandonment, victimisation, rejection and anger.  One of the recurring lies that came up was:

I don’t belong, I will always be on the outside

Now part of the ministry is to reject this lie and ask the Holy Spirit to replace it with Truth.  But I really didn’t see this as a “lie”, just a sad fact of life.

Sure I have been told I was “leadership material” by a particular church but never given a role and in the end had to leave them to pursue what God had called me to.

Sure I have been told to stop ministering to people (despite the freedom that was being experienced by those I was praying for) because of .

Sure I have given prophetic words to two churches that were ignored but turned out to be true and had they heeded them it would have prevented their implosions.

It’s been a repeated sad fact of my life.  I just don’t fit in the comfortable church mould – that’s why my wife and I ran an organic church for 3 years.  We catered to those who didn’t fit in the box.

It is what it is.  I wouldn’t have said it was a lie.

But I trusted these two people ministering so duly repented and asked God to show me the truth as I really didn’t get it.  Here is the picture story I experienced in my mind:

I saw a vague path in a woods.  As I asked about it I saw Jesus’ hand extended towards me in invitation – so I took his hand to follow him and left everyone else around me.  As I did so I found that I was actually stepping off of a treadmill to go with Him.

I followed the path until it came to some overgrown bushes – I pushed through and found myself in a clearing with an overgrown fountain.  I cleaned off the moss and it started pouring out water.  I drunk some and it was refreshing.

I asked “Is this it?  Is this just a special place for me?”

I saw myself filling an ice-cream tub with the water and taking it back to those I’d left who were still back where I left them.  As I poured out this water for them to drink they were all clamouring to taste.  They asked me where I got it from and I told them.

So then we all set off together and hacked a wide path to the clearing.

There were now picnic tables there in the clearing and we all sat down to eat and drink.

To me this picture story opened my eyes to the truth of my identity.  I wasn’t an outsider – I am someone who goes places while they are comfortable staying in the same place.  I am a pioneer, a visionary, a prophet, whatever you want to call it.

But stopping with me having a nice time on my own drinking the sweet water is not God’s purpose for me.  Visionaries aren’t just meant to go off and do their own thing or “what God told them to do” – starting up a ministry on their own independent/outside of the Body of Christ.

We’re not meant to think that we’ll always be on the outside.  That’s a lie that Satan tells us to prevent the blessing spreading to others.

We are meant to bring back what we find to the Body of Christ and let them taste it.

Just telling them won’t shift them.  It is only when they taste and see that the LORD is good will they develop any desire to go beyond where they are currently happy at.

And then we will all go and occupy the new place that has been found and share God’s blessing together.

Don’t believe the lie that we don’t belong and have to be separate to the Body – it’s a lie to prevent blessing from being shared – it’s a lie to prevent the Kingdom from expanding.

I do belong to the Body of Christ and I’m the nerve that communicates Jesus’ dream of our future journey to the senses of the Body so that the whole body wants to move and go up to Zion together.  Amen.

 

The power of story to communicate truth (godly parenting)

The Power of Story

A tricky situation

Some years ago, one of my daughters was a bit sweet on a boy who lived in our local neighbourhood. At first, I thought she was just going out to play with his sisters, but then I could see that she was openly flirting with the lad even though she was only about eight years old at the time.

Whenever she saw him, she would go outside and hang around. But it wasn’t until a chance observation that I realised this boy was treating my daughter appallingly. In addition to his nasty behaviour toward her, he was using her affection to get her to do whatever he wanted. I tried talking to her about the issue, but she just couldn’t see it.

Why lectures don’t work

In the West we pride ourselves on Greek logic and rational thinking. Christians in particular are caught up in this and so we teach truth via clear explanations and facts.

But it doesn’t work.

Be honest. How many sermons can you remember? How many lectures from your parents can you remember? In fact, how many of your university lectures can you remember?

If you do remember anything then I can pretty much guarantee it is because you remember a story or illustration or you remember how you felt.

You see information is great for the mind but it doesn’t engage the soul.

Facts are dry and don’t engage the heart whereas stories draw you in and teach concepts in a much deeper way than ever “objective” facts could hope to do. This is the Hebrew way of life – sharing their collective redemption story with their children.

For example, telling their children the story of Israel’s redemption through the Passover meal (Ex 12:24-27) or telling their children the story behind the memorial stones placed by the river Jordan (Josh 4:2-7).  Indeed much of the Bible is written as narrative/story of God’s interaction with people and then Jesus primarily taught truth through parables.

Stories, unlike facts, draw us in and invite our participation whether they’re true or fictional.

A great example of this is the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk 10:25-37). What more needs to be added to the narrative that would help us understand the Father’s love? It perfectly carries the message as is.

You see parables aren’t merely illustrations for the message – they are the message.

It is imperative that we let the story do its job and don’t reduce it to a moral.

Those who tell the best stories will have the most power.  Many criticised C S Lewis for “wasting time” writing the Narnia books.  But history tells us the power these stories have had in shaping and inspiring people.

This is why Hollywood holds so much power – they are telling stories which influence people far more than a church that simply shouts truth.  This is also why “Christian movies” have often been weak: they are so concerned about getting the message across clearly that they neglect the story.

How a story set my daughter free

Facts and warnings weren’t reaching my daughter and so I needed something else that would communicate the danger of giving her affection to someone who was mistreating her.

So I made up a story called “The Princess and the Crocodile” where a princess who loves animals wants a crocodile but her father refuses saying it won’t be a good pet because it won’t love her back.  So she decides to go to the river and…well, let’s just she gets in a sticky situation…

This opened her eyes to the reality of her situation and now five years later, I’ve expanded the tale, and have released it as an ebook to help other parents teach their children to realise how precious their love is.  It is my prayer that it will help children to only give their heart to those who will value it.

You might also enjoy this post on speaking to children’s hearts (not their minds).

The Florida shooting: WWJD?

Once again there has been another mass shooting this time in a Florida school in Parkland where 17 students were shot by a former student Nicky Cruz.

Once again the media is full of people using it to advance an agenda whether it be gun control, mental health, school security, the uselessness of prayers or abortion as the biggest killer of children.

But perhaps we should ask the most important question: what would Jesus do?

In Luke 13:1-5 we see Jesus told about a tragedy where Pilate murdered some Israelites as they were in the middle of their sacrifices which was considered a truly heinous action.

Does Jesus respond with outcry against the Romans? A demand for justice? A demand to rise up with the Zealots to fight back? Does he respond with sympathy? A call to pray to stop these injustices?

No.

He responds saying that we all deserve to die.

This seems shocking and barbaric to us today.

You probably, like me, want to explain away Jesus actions to something more palatable. Whilst we will look at context in a moment – the important thing is that Jesus is the truth so if we react adversely to his words or actions then it is because we are believing a lie.

Now in those days it was believed that sin would be punished in this life – therefore if something bad happened then it was a sign of Gods judgement. Hence Jesus responds by asking whether those who were killed by others or even by accident are more sinful.

At which point we probably laugh at such foolish behaviour and think ourselves superior and never likely to fall into such errors.

However, CS Lewis hits the nail on the head with:

“[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.”

Today, we believe the opposite error – that none of us deserve death or punishment and all of us should go to heaven. This may be expressed more subtlety as “those poor innocent children” and “no-one deserves such a death”.

Jesus’ answer to the false belief of those days, which was repeated by Paul in Romans: “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and “the wages of sin are death”, speaks against both errors.

Since all deserve to die and be punished for our wilful rebellion against the Creator of the universe then a death doesn’t mean that victims are more sinful but nor does it mean that it is unfair because they are innocent or don’t deserve it.

However, it does mean that “we do not know the day or hour” and it is important to get ourselves right with God before we face judgement. And such a tragedy always brings us all face to face with our mortality and provides a window to speak to people’s hearts however much we might think it’s not the time.

Some years ago in our town a small boy drowned in a garden pond. This was a heart-breaking tragedy which severely affected my wife and I remember praying for God to intervene in this couple’s life. A couple of years later my wife met the mother of that boy and expressed her deepest condolences. Her response was a testimony to the greatness of God and how so many of her family had been saved as a result of this tragedy. For we have a God that can bring light into the darkest places.

So let us not be so insensitive that we don’t “mourn with those who mourn” but let us also not be so inoffensive that we waste a golden opportunity to share the Gospel.

Let this time be a time to bring not just earthly comfort to those trying to make sense of this tragedy but eternal comfort of a life with Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The meaning of divorce (godly marriage)

Blog pictures1

Two weeks ago my older brother sent me a message to let me know that he was divorcing his wife.

It was like a punch in the gut.

I messaged him back telling him our story of how God turned our marriage around using the marriage course and I pleaded with him to get help from the God who can bring light into the darkest of places. But it was to no avail. He had already determined that was the action he would take and nothing was going to change his mind. All that is left for my wife and I to do is to support his soon-to-be ex-wife in whatever way we can.

Why does divorce affect me so deeply?  Because I understand it’s true meaning.  So let’s take a look at what the bible says about divorce.

The Old Testament and Divorce

Now actually the OT testament only hints at how divorce worked amongst the Hebrew people. For example, it makes no mention the provisions made in the ketubah (marriage contract) of the money that had to be paid to the wife if the husband divorces divorce her and only mentions the certificate of divorce when addressing the issue of remarrying your wife.

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favour in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD.” (Dt 24:1-4a)

It appears to say that if something is so bad that it warrants divorce then it’s clearly so bad that remarriage is out of the question. This protects against hasty decisions and protects the woman against exploitation. Indeed, the combination of a certificate verifying her status and receiving at least her dowry back upon divorce meant she had a chance of life unlike women in other cultures.

The New Testament and Divorce

Fast forward about 1500 years and this passage is no longer about remarrying but about the meaning of “indecency” that Moses commanded them to divorce their wives for.

There were two schools of thought on this: Rabbi Shammai took the conservative view that the sole grounds for divorce was some grave matrimonial offence whereas Rabbi Hillel who took the liberal view that any trivial offence such as burning the dinner or the husband losing interest in his wife.

You’ll never guess which view was preferred by the Pharisees and indeed the population at large and hence why they asked Jesus whether it was lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause (Mt 19:3)

Jesus and Divorce

So what does Jesus say about divorce?

Well Jesus would have none of this – he takes them back to how marriage was designed in Gen 2 – one man, one woman, one flesh, joined together (literally glued) by God in a lifelong covenant (Mal 2:14) and no man should ever separate what God has joined together! (Mt 19:6)

“The man who hates and divorces his wife…does violence to the one he should protect,”.
Mal2:16

This is a hard teaching. Small wonder that the disciples despaired saying “it is better not to marry” (Mt 19:10)

Jesus makes clear that the commands about divorce were a concession due to man’s hardness of heart (Mt19:8) and not part of God’s plan at all.

Remember the man and woman and the Spirit are a prophetic image of the Trinity. God is many but One eternally. Divorce caused by our hardness of hearts ruptures that image.

Paul and Divorce

However, Paul gives us more insight to the meaning of marriage – not only is it an image of the Trinity but it is a prophetic image of Christ’s marriage to His Bride, the Church (Eph 5:31-32).

Hence to divorce is to proclaim that Christ gives up on us.

Now Israel repeatedly broke their covenant with YHWH and ran after other gods (Jer 3:6).

How did God react?  He wanted to forgive them and have them return (Is 54:6-7). Hosea was even commanded to marry a prostitute (Hos 1:2) to demonstrate YHWH’s commitment to Israel despite their waywardness.

Today and divorce

2000 years on and history repeats itself.

We have the conservative camp (like Rabbi Shammai) that says you can’t divorce except for adultery – even if one spouse is abusing the other.

We have the liberal camp (like Rabbi Hillel) that says you can divorce for whatever reason as God wants you to be happy.

The argument is over whether Jesus really meant what he said or whether we can excuse it due to a cultural thing or whatever gives us what the hardness of our hearts desire.

And Jesus is still calling us back to the heart of marriage and its prophetic declaration about the nature of God and Christ’s love for us.

Reality and hope

Anyone who says marriage is easy is lying – it will bring us to the end of our pride and ourselves as we journey into oneness.

There should be no surprise that it is hard as Satan, the anti-Christ, desires to destroy anything that glorifies Christ and since marriage prophetically speaks of His eternal love for us then of course it will be a target. Of course he’s going to tempt us with lies like “the grass is greener on the other side” or “you don’t feel it anymore” or “it shouldn’t be this hard” or “you deserve better than this”.

We will find ourselves on our knees calling out for His help to overcome our selfishness and hence it is no surprise that the biggest indicator of a marriage surviving is whether a couple prays together. We need Christ’s help and the support of the Body of Christ to daily take up our cross and walk the path of love.

If there are struggles then we stand with them as the Body and support them however we can through godly wisdom, prayer and practical support.

If someone is not living up to their calling in marriage then we should challenge them and use church discipline if necessary — always hoping that they will turn and repent.

However, for reconciliation there needs to be repentance and forgiveness. And without both of these divorce may occur. But let it always be with weeping that Christ has not been glorified and anything thereafter (even if they have successful remarriages) now no longer images the God who gave up everything for us to keep His covenant of love with us.

My wife and I have sought to support those in marriage struggles however we can and we have wept with those where there has been no reconciliation and then practically supported the injured party afterwards.

There has even been an occasion where I have had to rescue someone from dangerous spouse and then ensure they have somewhere safe to go.

However, in all these occasions I don’t rejoice over how things are better now – I weep for what should have been.

Yes the world is broken but may that never lead us to accept anything less than that which brings glory to Jesus, let us do all we can to declare His undying love to a dark world before it is too late.

Amen.

Top 10 godly sexuality posts of 2017

Best blog posts 2017 v2

Now in the third year of my blog and things have only got more honest as I continue to share the revelation I have received my journey into sexual wholeness and to my true identity as a child of God and how that works out in my roles as a godly husband and father.

I can only continue to express my gratitude for those who handle my vulnerable posts with care and give me encouraging feedback and messages of support. Thank you so much.

So in order from least to most views here are the top ten posts of the year:

10. Finding God in the darkness (godly worship)

This vulnerable post spoke of a period of depression I went through, how I sought to worship God in the midst of it and how He brought me through. (124 views)

9. A brief history of Christian sexuality (godly sexuality)

Despite not being written in the last year, organic search traffic has led to this entry into the top 10. It’s a very quick overview of how we have got mixed up, particularly in appreciating the goodness of our god given sexuality. (124 views)

8. Male and Female: transcendence and immanence (godly sexuality)

This post looks at how God designed male and female to embody his polar characteristics of (masculine) transcendence and (feminine) immanence. So that together male and female give the full image of God. (173 views)

7. Christ, the Church and Charlottesville

A topical post that sought to expose the lies that are being used to divide us and God given answers for unity. (184 views)

6. Speak to the desires of the heart (teach your children godly sexuality)

The second entry for an older post. I talk about how addressing the root desires can help our children’s behaviour. (185 views)

5. Why is God expressed as principally masculine (godly sexuality)

There is much pressure on the church to change the image of God. This post builds on our understanding of what masculine and feminine mean and therefore why God is expressed as principally masculine and we are feminine in relation to Him, even though both male and female are in His image. (331 views)

4. How to stop looking at women lustfully part 2 (godly desire)

A follow up to my original post (and number 2 on this list), this one talks about how viewing women as mothers, sisters and daughters in Christ can transform relationships and put to death lust. (376 views)

3. Hugh Hefner I’m sorry for what we did (godly sexuality)

A topical post exploring how Hugh Hefner’s religious upbringing affected his sexuality and how we can learn from our mistakes. (1,414 views)

2. How to stop looking at women lustfully (godly desire)

The third entry from a previous year that is picking up a lot of organic traffic. In this vulnerable post I share the difference between worldly solutions to lust with a godly approach which has helped me. (1,672 views)

1. Forbidden friendships – can men and women be friends (godly sexuality)

A guest post from Joshua D Jones on the need to develop godly friendships across the gender divide to experience the fullness of Christ’s body. (2,783 views)

Honourable mentions

  • The fourth older post (and last year’s top post) that is still receiving a lot of organic traffic is this one on recognising how bad behaviour is often an immature gifting that needs to be directed to its true purpose (112 views).

Four posts from 2017 that got bumped off this list due to traffic to older posts were: