Posts Tagged ‘God’

Becalmed? Be calm.

November 8, 2020

[Sailing. Unable to move through lack of wind]

Right now we are in a season which feels somewhat as if we are a boat with the sail up but there is no wind.

When there is no wind at all the people on a sailing boat might feel powerless and impatient, maybe even frustrated. Those who believe in God might think of the Bible account that refers to Jesus in the storm when he commanded the wind and the waves and afterward they exclaimed “even the wind and the waves obey him!” [Matthew chapter 8]

 In our situation we want Him to make the wind blow into our sail right now!

A few weeks ago, the leaders of a Christian community that I am part of, met to pray and listen to God. Over the past two years we have been challenged to ‘lay down’ all that the community had been doing, and to wait on God for a new thing to emerge. As we prayed I had a clear sense initially that God was simply saying, “You have been drifting.” I immediately felt some defensiveness within me, as my own instinct is to admire action and progress. To me, being described as ‘drifting’ is very negative. I immediately felt that God started to expand on this idea and I had the impression of being in a sailing boat when there is no wind at all – absolute calm.

If you have ever experienced being in a boat with the sail up and the air being still, you will know that powerlessness and lack of a sense of control. In fact, all you can do is paddle, or if you have one, start a motor!

I felt God started to speak to me with an encouragement: He has caused the wind to stop and He has caused us to “drift under the influence of the currents away from previous assumptions, commitments, and norms.” This has been His deliberate and gentle repositioning and realigning. We mayhave felt that we have been drifting, but actually the currents of the water represent His sovereign leading in our circumstances and events. God himself has been moving us away from what was ‘normal’ to a new outlook and new position.

At this moment, the temptation is to paddle or start a motor – this would be human effort: To do something! To get back in control, and be able to direct the boat. However, We need to trust Him.

I felt God quietly making me aware that as soon as He causes the wind to blow, the boat will immediately start to move, and we will be underway, able to steer and make progress. This will be His timing. Anyone who has been in a becalmed sailing boat will know that as soon as the slightest breeze begins, the boat can start to be directed and move forward. We need patience and trust. [Isaiah 30:15]

Right now, there is a sense of the wind having dropped and we feel powerless. Some examples of this: The Coronavirus and Covid has brought so many aspects of life to a halt; The stand off between China and the West seems to be stuck: The Brexit experience since the UK referendum four and a half years ago seems to have paralysed UK politics. There has been a lot of heated discussion on the boat, but very little progress for the nation! The USA elections are another example. Whatever anyone’s opinion on the result of the USA presidential vote, right now the process is somewhat becalmed – stuck – with many on both sides feeling like the wind has been taken out of their sails.

This is a time to acknowledge that God is Sovereign. This means that even when there is no wind in our sails, His currents which are deep and unseen, are moving us to a new position, a new outlook and new situation. God is far from inactive or passive in all this.

The great encouragement through all this is that we await just the slightest breeze…

I sense that the breeze is about to blow. [Habakkuk 1v5]

Unmasking the Invisible Enemy amongst us

July 27, 2020
Don’t be deceived

Unseen, infectious, makes people sick and can kill. Stalking amongst us, causing suspicion between communities, cultures and families. Perhaps these descriptions fit the threat that you see as the most serious in our time. Coronavirus? Racism? Antisemitism? Political extremism? Addictions? The enemy has been wearing masks – but now the mask is not working so well anymore!

The real threat that is destroying communities and nations from within is secular humanism.

The global levelling effect of the internet, with the communications revolution has fuelled populism and distrust of the globalist powers that have trodden down the small person. Coronavirus has stopped the world in our tracks and given everyone a motive to rethink the purpose and priorities of life. All these effects are stirring an awakening of questions. Questions about who is telling us what to believe; who is defining the news and information we get? Who is making money and manipulating us? Ultimately – what if the worldview that we have been convinced to accept is not the right picture?

The truth is coming into view for those willing to seek.

This lurking enemy must be clearly identified:

Secularism has been killing and hurting and hindering lives forever, but our society has been desperately infected with this invisible killer in recent decades. The economic boom in the west after the second world war – producing the ‘Boomers’ – also produced a materialistic culture with an accompanying addiction to comfort and convenience. Prosperous societies started to buy the deception that somehow our need of God has diminished. The activists with a determined goal of breaking the powerful influence of a Judeo-Christian worldview became invigorated from the 1950’s onward. The effect has been corrosive and destructive: Most of the past two generations have been brought up to believe the nihilistic thinking of godless evolution – producing an epidemic of identity confusion. If children are taught that they are the result of a cosmic incident and life is ultimately meaningless, it seems reasonable that millions grow up with confusion, anxiety and self-doubt mixed with lack of trust. The follow on consequences are numerous, including so called sexual liberation which has caused hurt, abuse, confusion and dysfunction; We’ve seen comfort eating on a national scale – resulting in diabetes which is a health tsunami waiting to crash our health systems; we’ve seen addictions to mind altering drugs and alcohol as people attempt to anaesthetise their pain – leading to further abuse, crime, violence and increased addition; materialism has developed to offer its own pain relief with accumulation and worship of possessions and security in financial resources.

I perceive that the 2020 Coronavirus is greatly exposing the secular humanism that has been infecting us. The pandemic is having an effect that might well see secular thinking retreat.

There are rather obvious advances in the traditional measures of spiritual and religious persuasion amongst us, such as public prayers, Bible sales, church attendance or reporting of public commentary from church leaders. These shifts don’t, on their own, indicate a meaningful shift in thinking.

There are many other signs that atheistic secular thinking is in retreat: Churches are for the first time in a generation thinking seriously about reaching their communities in ways other than gathering in a building on a Sunday morning. Prayer has been prioritised across the world – partly because in-person meetings have not been permitted – so somewhat ironically, believers have had to pray and read their Bibles on their own! This too is encouraging but still not the real evidence of a shift in the big picture.

The real shake up in mainstream thinking is the shock that our health systems and medical resources might actually not save us. The awakening to the thought that our wealth and technology can’t solve all threats; Our obsession with health and safety can’t fully protect us.

Our lives are fragile.

We have come to a point of inflection in the trajectory of our culture – where for the first time in history we have a global collapse of trust in human capacity and resources. The secularist train was already running out of steam because of internet enabled populism.

For at least a generation, prosperous societies have promoted secular humanism and one dimension of this has been the increasingly intense obsession with personal and social identity. The Bible is clear about our identity and our precious individual place in the universe, but this does not suit the political and social agendas of those who oppose truth.

The ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras stated “Man is the measure of all things.” In this statement he put in place a key pillar of humanist thinking. Most of the 20th century has seen this central idea promoted to children, young people and adults from every angle – resulting in a huge need to know who we really are!

Humanism has spawned secularism, which amounts to the dryness of life without the spirit, focusing on this age rather than the eternal. In most of the so-called developed world we have been trained through fashions, government policies and commercial pressures to esteem secularism. We have been persuaded that secular thinking is the safe neutrality between all the unknowable mysteries of the world’s religions. The secularists have used their persuasive arguments to minimise the spirit, to minimise human beliefs and life that comes from spiritual inspiration. Much of this has been argued on the basis that we must be equitable and tolerant – a level playing field for all. I believe that this has really been the lure of the candy-man to get into a cage where we deny reality and hope. Secularists claim that ‘science is pre-eminent’ but are quite happy to ignore scientific analysis when it doesn’t suit the agenda of the day.

We’ve been led to believe that it is gracious and kind to deny our heartfelt beliefs.

Humanism and secularism thrive when we accept relativism. That is that there is no absolute truth. Ultimately secularism and humanist thinking depend on relativism.  ‘Your truth is good for you, and my truth is good for me.’ This feels pleasant and tolerant for as long as we are content to not really address difficult issues of morality and conflict. Relativism is essential to discourage you and me from seeking truth. We are encouraged to stop at emotionally satisfying answers, even when we know these are shallow, transient and insufficient. You just need to believe a little lie.

Before long you will be disabled from dealing with the big lies.

I believe the invisible and destructive enemy that is secular humanism is now being exposed and found wanting. We are at an inflection point in history, and an awakening is happening – as people start to think for themselves, ask questions, and begin to pray.

It’s time to unmask the enemy! It is time to take our masks off and be truthful!

The Boy on the Beach

October 16, 2015

Imprint of Life

Imprint of Life

The horror of finding a drowned boy on a beach is more than a news headline to me. The recent ‘news’ photograph of a dead refugee child on a beach brought back awful memories for me.

Some years ago I was on holiday with family and friends and we went swimming in a lake on a hot day. The beach was developed for leisure and the section of the lake for swimming was partitioned off with a cable and floats. In fact many swimmers would swim out the 15 metres or so to the cable and hang onto it as a resting place. Children paddled on the sandy shore and older kids played on inflatables. Towards the end of the afternoon many families retreated to their BBQ and snacks. I took that opportunity to swim in the freed up expanse of water. As I did I became aware of a young man calling out across the water. I was immediately concerned: Calling to people from the shore is fine when there are people swimming or floating, but the lake was empty. I asked the young man what he was doing and he said he was looking for his cousin. I asked if the missing lad could swim, to which the reply was no. I raised the alarm and shouted to people to start looking in the adjacent woods in case he had wondered off that way. I then swam back and forth underwater urgently looking – knowing that every moment might be a matter of life or death. As I searched I hoped that I was over-reacting and that the boy would wander out of the woods any minute. Within minutes as I swam and stared through the murky lake water I saw a sight which will never leave my memory, the motionless submerged body of a young man.

With all my strength I hauled him up to the surface and held him afloat while trying to get to shore and shout for help at the same time. I dragged the heavy limp lad onto the dry sand and yelled for help. My friend took over with attempted mouth to mouth resuscitation. Although he, and then the paramedics, tried for a while, this was unsuccessful.

As I stood next to the lifeless boy, while every effort was made to revive him, I prayed, and asked God what this was about and why it had happened. I was painfully conscious that I, a strong swimmer, had been near this tragedy for the whole time. I felt God speak to me in that intense moment. The gist of what I heard was, ‘Many give the impression of being able to swim, and lack of accountability leaves them in danger of death.’

Accountability is not about someone being in control of us – but a relationship which guides and ultimately protects.

It seems that this young guy had probably worked his way along the cable – well out of his depth – and lost his grip. He must have thought it unlikely that he might let go of the cable – but one slip was deadly.

Lack of real relationships means that many in our disconnected world are giving the impression of being able to swim in life – but can’t really. Many are in mortal danger. Many know the language of knowing God and his salvation, but may be in danger of slipping off at any moment. Many act confidently but are disconnected and unsupported. In a world of flimsy connections on Facebook and Snapchat we  all need to ask whether we are in right relationships – life giving relationships.

If one person had asked that young man if he could swim; if one person had been watching when he slipped; I could have been that person and he might well be living life to the full right now. We are all accountable for those around us.

Imprint of life upon life

Imprints of Many Lives

The Bible says that ‘Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34) William Barclay translated the word ‘Righteousness’ as ‘Right Relationships’. God calls us to righteousness – let us pursue a right relationship with Him – which is possible through Jesus, and promote right relationships all around us – for the sake of life!

A New Tsunami

September 28, 2012

A few weeks ago I had a dream of a tremendous tsunami wave going through England. In the dream I was in a room on the second floor, half-way up a mountain in the Lake District. The huge wave roared up the valley and those I was with were afraid that the building where we were would be swept away, but I exhorted them to not be afraid. The water did indeed flow right up to our feet but the building remained firm. I did not know how to interpret this dream immediately, but two days later I was part of a group who met in silence to listen to what God would say about the current state of our nation. During the silence I was drawn to meditate on Psalm 46 – which climaxes with the well known phrase, “be still and know that I am God…”

As I read verse 2 and 3 the dream came vividly back to me:

“Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart if the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging”

I believe that I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “There is storm coming which you cannot avert, but if you listen to me, I will help you to navigate.”

I read on to verse 4:

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells..”

This contrasts so powerfully, as an image of peace, security and eternal safety. It speaks of hope through the Church, Jerusalem and the uncompromising purposes of the Living God.

Verse 6 speaks right into our current world situation:

“Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.”

God is Sovereign. There is global turmoil and God is certainly active in the world. At the moment that His voice is heard, his intervention is dramatic.

I believe that I heard the Holy Spirit warning that He his about to take action to shake this nation and the world, and to awaken the world to His purposes. There is a rude awakening coming for our nation which has turned our collective back on Him, His word and His plan for the nations.

The climactic verse 10 is personal and global:

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth”

This is a personal encouragement to those who quietly submit to the Living God and make Jesus Lord. It is also a warning to the nations and people everywhere who seek to oppose Him.

Finally, verse 11 offers a refrain of verse 7, and in doing so, gives us a key truth to understanding our time and God’s strategy in the nations:

“The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

The reference to the ‘God of Jacob’ is a pointer to the crucial role that Israel and the Jewish people have in God’s plan for the nations. The God of Jacob is personally our fortress in the imminent tsunami. In our personal lives, businesses, cities and national leadership we need to acknowledge quite clearly that it is verse 1 of the psalm where our priority should be:

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.”

God is calling us to turn back to Him.

William Roscoe – Good to Great?

May 26, 2011

William Roscoe - looking to the future

Three powerful features link William Roscoe from Liverpool in 1811 to Liverpool in 2011: He had a passion for Liverpool to rise to be the cultural capital of Europe. He was determined to see the end of the slave trade, and he understood the value of communication, arts and business in making a difference in society.

Roscoe came from a humble background, his father a pub owner and market gardener. He started out helping his father but life changed when he was twelve and he bought his first book. This led him on a journey of self education and awareness of the arts. He qualified as a lawyer, wrote poetry and fell in love with the classic arts and in particular Italian art and culture.

Although he became a successful banker and lawyer he held onto his beliefs and values. While he was collecting Italian art he was writing moving poetry and used his poems to challenge the educated classes to think differently. In one poem he saw through the ages to a time when Liverpool might suffer hard times:

“The time may come – O distant be the year – When desolation spreads her empire here, When Trade’s uncertain triumph shall be o’er, And the wave roll neglected on the shore . . . and not one trace of former pride remain”

His passion and determination to see the transatlantic slave trade ended was captured in a 10,000 word poem called ‘The Wrongs of Africa’ captured in these few lines of challenge to British society and Christians:

 Blush ye not,
To boast your equal laws, your just restraints,
Your rights defin’d, your liberties secur’d,
Whilst with an iron hand ye crush to earth
The helpless African; and bid him drink
That cup of sorrow, which yourselves have dash’d
Indignant, from oppression’s fainting grasp?

Roscoe directed his vision and values on many fronts. He was successful in business, promoted the value of parks and the countryside, championed the arts and was active in politics on behalf of the poor and oppressed. He was elected as an MP and spoke for the bill abolishing the slave trade in 1807.

This man sets an example for leadership in 21st century: He was a man of conviction and values, who demonstrated determination in his own education and business development. He was a campaigner for human rights and environmental concerns. He was not afraid to venture into politics and risk making enemies by challenging the status quo. Roscoe understood that greed and abuse of fellow human beings will ultimately be judged by God, and that there is much in this life to enjoy, much more than mere material gain.