Friday, December 05, 2008

Mr Magoo Experience

Are you old enough to remember the Mr Magoo cartoon character. He was someone who was very short-sighted and could hardly see anything, even with his glasses on. I seem to recall there was a film about him with Steve Martin playing the role. Even his car windscreen had prescription glass.

I am not that bad but without my spectacles I can't see well as all. I have a condition which means I am long-sighted in one eye and short-sighted in the other. I also don't have binocular vision and can control which eye I can see out of. The sight in my right eye is now at a place where the lens prescription can't be improved.

Mrs P and our daughter Jenny have decided to attend keep fit classes, the gym and swimming. This decision also affects me as I am told I need to go along too. I confess that exercise for its own sake bores me so it is a discipline that I don't relish.

Out if the three evils swimming is the least painful for me, or so I thought. I have not swam in earnest for several years so I was not looking forward too it. I hate the getting changed bit and trying to make sure that you don't get the clothes you are putting back on wet in the process which I am not very good at. I got into the changing rooms, got changed, put my things in a locker and put the key on the wristband around my wrist. I was ready. Only problem was I had no glasses on and I hadn't worked out the direction that I needed to go in before putting them away in the locker. Instinctively I headed back in the direction I came thinking I'll find my way from there. As I passed several guys on the way I thought they looked at me strangely. That's not unusual so I continued.. out of the doors and back into the reception area. I was stood in my swimming trunks on a dark winter's evening in the middle of the reception. Realising my mistake I fumbled my way back, past the guys who had given me strange looks who were now sniggering. Eventually I found the route to the pool, managed to see my wife's waving arms (good job it wasn't someone drowning and asking for help) that indicated to me where she was in the water and quickly joined her. I can testify that getting older does mean you are less embarrassed, if I was younger I would have got dressed quickly and left vowing never to go back.

I did enjoy the swimming and realised how unfit I've become, especially the next day. I've been back since and am beginning to feel the benefit of exercise.

As I thought about the incident, laughing at myself in the process, it reminded me what the Bible says about people who don't know Christ personally. It says they are blind. I walk in my faith being able to see the things of God because my spiritual eyes have been opened. They can't see those things.

What should my attitude be to those who don't see what I see. Do I shout at them, blame them for walking into things. Do I snigger at them because its obvious to me they are lost? No. I try to guide them, speak truth in love to them, show them the way as one who was once blind. I am saved by grace. Once I was lost too.

It would have only taken one word from someone who saw my plight to put me in the right direction. Maybe all it will take is one word from you and I to direct people to Christ. It could make an eternal difference to someone.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I want one of those

I have just got back from a weekend ministry trip in London where I met up with several guys from Harvester Church, Cape Town including Apostle André Pelser.

It was a great weekend of fun, fellowship and ministry, despite having to endure the embarrassing spectacle of the England verses South Africa match with three South Africans.

As I journeyed back on the tube I saw a poster for a website entitled 'I want want of'. What a contrast to the weekend's blessing. A website that clearly is enticing people to buy not what they need but what they want even if they can't afford it. I began to think of how many families at this particular time are going to go into debt at Christmas because of 'I want one of those' mentalities.

As a child I was told never to ask for things or I wouldn't get them. That continued into my parenting of children too. I then realised that even this was an extreme that wasn't right. As a father I should want my kids to enjoy life and teach them that sometimes we do receive rewards from those who love us. I have learned that my heavenly Father also rewards and delights in His children and sometimes for no apparent reason He just blesses us. I revel in His delight in me and it is such a strength and comfort.

The Bible is full of wisdom concerning money and materialism. Good advice that will help us to prosper in the correct way. Even this divine book has been used in an extreme way. Some of the teaching on prosperity has more to do with 'I want one of those' than 'My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory" (Philippians 4:19). In the full context Paul tells us about how he handles need and plenty:-

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul found a place of contentment in need and plenty. He was glad their care had revived for him but this wasn't the basis for that contentment. His contentment was in his relationship with Christ. His strength for living was from Christ.

Things are nice to have, although most things we get for Christmas are forgotten in a few days.

What do I want for Christmas? I want to find that same place that Paul found. A place in Christ where He strengthens me and I am content in that

Friday, October 17, 2008


One word has been running around in my brain for the past couple of weeks and that is the word, 'endure'. It seems that is not a popular concept these days. If you look at advertising you will see that most products are quick fixes, or have a 'get want you want today' message attached. I can't help thinking that a lot of the economic problems that we are currently seeing have something of a 'have it today' rather than 'save and wait' thought behind them.

I confess that I have also in the past fallen into the trap of buy today and afford it tomorrow. When I gave up my job to give God room to do what He wanted with my time that had to go. I no longer had the big salary so had to think long term if we needed to buy things.

This past week Mrs P got a new job which she starts in January. She has been in her present role in teaching at the same school since 1992. She has endured a lot. The school was badly run at one point and got into trouble with the inspectors. A new Head arrived and had to make many unpleasant changes. Many of the teachers left, they took sideways moves to get out of the stress of change. My wife decided to endure. She made the adjustments and learnt from it how to be a better teacher. She gained a role in Senior Management and now after being there 16 years has gained a Deputy Head position at a different school. She endured, counted the cost and learned how to be better. Her reward was promotion.

Endurance is about going through things rather than round them. To put up with things for a season. I find God is a long term planner and along the way He expects us to endure hardships and suffer trials which produce in us something that can't be produced any other way.

Jesus gave some solid advice in Matthew 6:28 to 34

“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

In the prayer we call the Lord's Prayer, He talks about daily bread. Literally that means, 'today's bread'. So He was saying we should ask for today's bread today.

It is hard to remain focused on today's issues. We do need to plan but all we can do is plan in preparation for tomorrow. If we began to think too much about tomorrow we get anxious and worry sets in. Mrs P and I try and ask God for today things as much as we can. That way if things come that we need to face today we do it knowing God is in it somewhere. It may call for endurance rather than asking for a 'quick solution'.

Today's issues are sufficient. When we suffer we need to endure it. Its not easy and is against most of the thinking of today. I am getting to the age where I have been through one or two recessions. I remember in the 1970's interest rates of 15% for mortgages and inflation running at a high of 26%! I recall not being able to get a job when I left the ministry in the 1980's because unemployment was several million. If we learn to endure then we will come out the other side different.

God promises us the basic needs for today: food, clothes and drink. I can trust God for a day's provision at least.

Paul exhorts Timothy in his apostolic letter, 'Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus' (2 Timothy 2:3)

We are in a fight as Christians. We are opposed by the god if this world. We though, have overcome by the blood of the lamb and we can stand against those things that come against us.

Endure hardship, it has its own rewards.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Meeting old friends

This weekend was a time of meeting up with friends we haven't seen for a while. They are missionaries in France and God has allowed us to work together over the past few years. Some of you will know Wayne and Wendy and their work in St Etienne. It was great to remind ourselves of what we found together and what in each other makes the friendship important.

It brought excitement to us all, especially my daughter who was thrilled to meet them again. We planned a meal for other mutual friends so invited Wayne and Wendy to join us. Nine for dinner, my wife excelled herself. It was good to catch up and enjoy the witty banter that always occurs whenever Wayne and I get together.

I remember a few years ago joining Friends Reunited. Its a social network on the Internet that allows you add details about yourself, your school, workplace etc. As other people list their details you discover people you haven't seen for years. It was this that fired my curiosity to seek out my best friend from school, Stephen. We were really close for most of Grammar school until he left and I continued into Sixth Form. I eventually tracked him down and rang him. It was almost thirty years since I had spoken to him. A little while later I was on a business trip and stayed in the area where he lived. We arranged to meet in a local pub for a drink and to catch up. I remember being really excited and full of expectation. The person who greeted me was not what I expected, I was still thinking in terms of a thirty year old image of him. In walked someone in his late forties, balding and much heavier than the stick insect he used to be. It was at that point that I realised I too had changed. Grey hair, also no longer wafer thin as I was in those days, and a lifetime of events that had resulted in who I am now. As we talked, things like familiar mannerisms and expressions brought recollections of what it was like back then. It was a great time of catching up but I quickly realised that that was all it was going to be, a past schoolboy friendship. We send Christmas cards and that's about it.

I learned that Godly friendships have a divine purpose to them. They run to a divine drumbeat. Sometimes there is intensity and at other times they are just keeping time. These kind of friendships are led by God in their direction and even after many months apart you can pick up where you left off without missing a beat. That's what it was like with Wayne and Wendy.

Jesus wants us to enter into friendship with Him but there is a price. True friendship costs. It can be inconvenient as well as pleasant. True friendship is serving the other and seeking their best. Out of that heart true friends bring precious wounds at times but it is worth it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Safe Pair Of Hands

When I was at school I played for the 1st 11 football team in various positions but for a while I was goalkeeper. I was deemed to have a safe pair of hands. It is an unenviable position. You are many times the last line of defence and if you had a bad day it was likely the team lost. A lot of responsibility.

I read an article about the singer Britney Spears, not that I am a fan but I feel compassion for her. She has messed up quite a bit in life. I can empathise with that. Her mess is public. I read today that they have extended the control that her father James has over her affairs. He is the safe pair of hands the judge has entrusted things to. She no longer has control of her finances or career until the judge says so. It seems that most things Britney has touched she has lost control of, even her children. Today I noticed she won three awards at the MTV ceremony in Los Angeles. In true American style she thanked, "God first and foremost for just blessing me like this". She had done well and praised God for it. That is a good sentiment. I sighed inside as I said a silent prayer for her, 'if only you had put God in control of your life, He is a safe pair of hands.'

I have discovered the safe hands of God many times. I usually find that when things have gone badly its because I chose to take back control of the life I surrendered to him at the age of 10. Like Paul says in Romans 7:19, "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice". He goes on to say that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

I am learning to reject that condemnation that comes whenever I sin. Its not God's voice. The Holy Spirit convinces me that I have sinned but also inspired me to go back to the Father trusting in the work of Christ. Jesus deserves the right to take my life in His hands. He stretched them out willingly, allowing them to be pierced so that I could be set free from sin. The true gospel is not asking Jesus into your heart, that's not a scriptural concept. The true gospel is the complete surrender of my life into the control of God - my safe pair of hands.

Surrendering your will, decision-making and control of your life goes against everything in us that is flesh. To truly die to self and take up our cross is painful and will cost us everything BUT its the only safe way to live.

Deuteronomy 33:27 is a great verse that tells us of our security: "The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you and will say, 'Destroy'"

He is not just a place to go when we need comfort or protection. Its a place to live in. There is a place of rest and here it is. In His safe hands we can rest. He will dispel those things that seek to attack us and proclaim their destruction. Its not easy to just rest in God. We are not taught to rest these days but to wrestle. God wrestles on our behalf.

Thank you God for being my 'safe pair of hands'.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Laying it down

Long time no posts. Just after my last one I was in South Africa for three weeks in lions enclosures and riding on elephants (no joke). Since then I have been organising gatherings and helping with a conference in Scotland. In the middle of all that I have had a bad ankle which left me unable to drive or walk for a month. Painful and frustrating, there is only so much Loose Women a man can take. Being laid up has its advantages. At first the pain was bad but later after that was controlled it gives you time to meditate and think about where you are going and what you are doing. I have learned that suffering is part of God's economy. It is something that eventually you learn to embrace.

A friend once told me about the 5 T's; trouble, temptation, trials, tests and tribulation. They are all different and have differing impacts no us. Sadly one strand of the Church sees suffering as 'lack of faith' and yet Jesus suffered much even unjustly.
All of these things can be a distraction and something that can take your life out of alignment from God's plan. I am learning that even in the worst of times I can have a rejoicing spirit and discover the truth of the joy of the Lord as my strength. It doesn't mean that's easy but then no-one said it would be.

I have laid down my life for Christ and the sake of the gospel. It may seem a noble thing but Jesus said this is what we would have to do if we are to follow Him. At the conference I attended in Scotland someone testified that they had seen a vision of a cobbled bridge and their face was on one of the stones. At first they were upset and didn't want to be walked over but then they realised the vision was about laying your life down for Christ and His kingdom. The Lord spoke to me through that picture. I realised that the stone had no say in where it was placed, it surrenders to the will of the bridge builder. If a stone is prominent and protrudes then it is a danger to those walking over it. People stumble over protruding stones. If you lay your life down then maybe you will not be prominent but you will be significant. Each stone is significant to the strength of the bridge.

Jesus said in John 12 verses 24 to 26

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

The grain needs to become obscure before it can produce a harvest. This is true kingdom gospel. Not easy, contains some moments of suffering but its an eternal perspective that we need to have. We live forever.

Paul says that the small amount we suffer in this life is not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us.

Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow.

Monday, April 07, 2008


I am so fortunate to have many special friends. We attended a baptism last evening and I was reminded how many people support and care for us as a family. This is a precious thing. Friends are people you can count on to bring comfort, laughter, joy and sometimes correction into your life.

I remember the first 'best' friend I made. It was a school pal called Stephen Dagnall. I was never one for many friends but he was one who was special. I am afraid our alliance started as smoking colleagues behind the chemistry labs, not the best way. His dad managed a public house in a village about five or six miles away and I used to visit quite a bit at weekends and holidays using my bike as a means of transport. I remember the long steep hill which going was a pain but coming back was a delight. This friendship opened me up to many joyful experiences - hay making, learning the process of pasteurising milk and the joys of wondering across fields just enjoying good company. He left school a year before I did and so the friendship ended. I tracked him down a few years ago and we met up almost thirty years since we left school. It was enough to meet the once and now we exchange Christmas cards. The friendship was for a time and that time passed.

Friends come in different types. I suppose my current best friend and forever best friend is my wife. She is stable, solid, always there for me and gives me the grace and love I need to do what I do. The friendship grew out of the attraction and chemistry of falling in love with her and is far more precious now than ever before.

My oldest friend who I still count as a friend is Anita who now lives in Holland. We don't see each other for years but the shared memories and knowledge of each other means that we can easily pick up where we left off. It still needs the occasional e-mail or phone call to remind each other but it will always be there.

I was never one for many friends but as I have grown older I have accumulated a lot more. Perhaps its easier to make friends and sustain friendships as you grow older. I have 54 friends who support the work I do in prayer. That is very special and a great privilege. Too many to mention by name.

I know that my greatest friend is my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The bible tells me that He is one who is closer than a brother and that is so true. I am constantly telling Him I love Him. I find myself doing that many times a day. Something inside me just wants to reach out to Him and express my love and gratitude for all He does and is doing in me and around me and for my family and friends.

A good friend is hard to find and I now have so many. I thank God for friendship.

Monday, March 17, 2008

New glasses

I have been moaning for about two years that I could not see to read with my varifocals and for the most part to read I took them off. Over the past few months I have been repeatedly saying that I needed to get my eyes tested. I know all of these things because eventually Mrs P told me to 'put up or shut up'. In other words she was tired of my moans and wanted me to do something about it.

What did I do then? I shut up about it. It had been five years since my last eye test and I confess to being a bit embarrassed about it. I had ignored all the reminders thinking that my eyes weren't that bad.

Last week I dropped my car off with my mechanic mate for its MOT. It mean that I had to find something to do for a few hours in Tamworth. I asked him to drop me off at the shopping complex that houses all the IT related shops and also Asda. I thought at least I can get a cup of tea and window shop.

As I was walking around I decided to go and get a cuppa in Asda Café. Noticing the Opticians in there I decided that if they could fit me in then I would have an eye test. They could and so I did.

In the five years since my last test a lot of the technology had changed. That impressed me, I love technology. Three different machines as well! After the test I was told that my eyesight had changed quite a lot in five years and I would need new lenses. I decided to have varifocals again. I also discovered that I could now have plastic lenses that were also react to light. No more changing specs when the sun comes out or remembering the sun specs are in the car when I am on the plane to Cape Town. Amazingly the new glasses were ready in two working days and were half the price of the last ones.

I realise that my 'make do' attitude wasn't very clever. I had put off something that was painless, (apart from the price) and made a vast improvement to my enjoyment of life. I can now read with my glasses on (once I get used to not having to do it without them). I was also glad that in the five years new technology made the process quicker and more efficient and that the advances actually saved the cost of a second pair of specs.

I have begun to realise that there are also times when I 'make do' with God. I allow what I have grown used make me stop progressing into new things. He has moved on but I have stood still. To God nothing is new but to me lots of things are new because I have not walked in them yet. Once I have seen something then surely I should not ignore it but walk in it.

What stops us moving on into new things? I was proud and didn't want to admit my stubbornness. There are times when I know God has revealed something to me but the fear of what others would think if I said holds me back. I remember when I was first taught about the gift of tongues I rejected it because the church tradition I was in had said it was not of God. When I embraced it I had to declare the teaching I had received, albeit sincerely, was wrong. I had to move on.

I am learning that it is better to obey God than man. It will cost but in the end it reveals new spiritual technology and adds to your faith. God is looking for those who not only believe His word but walk in its revelation. I am learning to do that more and more.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Identity Theft

A couple of summers ago my wife and I were holidaying in France. We hadn't heard from home for a few days so we decided to text our son and check if all was well. The reply indicated all was fine but he had a question, 'Did you order another GPS because one has arrived?'

I realised something was wrong so called Ben to find out what was going on. I then discovered to my horror that someone had stolen my details and was ordering items to be delivered whilst they thought we were on holiday. In total nearly a £1000 worth of things had been ordered.

I had to call my bank from France on my mobile phone and after a lengthy process managed to convince them that I was not the one ordering the items. I discovered that the thieves had probably got my details from someone working at an online company I had used who was passing them on. The scam was to order the goods when they thought I was on holiday and then pick them up from the parcel depot where they would have gone to if I didn't sign for them.

I was angry not just because of the cost and inconvenience but because someone was trying to pretend to be me. It was my identity they were stealing.

None of us like to be mis-represented. I used to become very agitated at work if anything I had said or done were mis-represented to others. I was reprimanded once for calling someone a liar in a Senior Management meeting. They were lying but it wasn't the done thing to say that.

As a Christian I am God's representative. I represent Him to my family, friends and even the strangers I meet. Being Jesus to others is what I am called to do. He lives in me by His Spirit and I am His witness to those around me. It should be that if people want to know what Jesus is like then something of what I am in Him should be seen. The Apostle Paul said to one church that they were God's letter to be read by all men.

I have learned not to feel condemned but just to accept that. I am so many things in Christ that I must just accept and walk in. I am the righteousness of God, I am a new creation, I am more than a conqueror. I have not done anything to deserve any of this but I accept that this is what God says I am since Christ is my Lord. Its a Kingdom of God thing. This is the exchange that took place when I repented of sin and made Christ my Lord.

My identity is now in Him. I am hidden in Christ. I no longer live but Christ lives in me and even the life I now live in the flesh I live to the glory of God. Even if I mis-represent God then there is an advocate who speaks on my behalf named Jesus. All I need to do is confess my sin and He is faithful and just to forgive it.

Its not arrogant to say what God says I am. If I deny it then its inaccurate and I can't claim the benefits of sonship that are mine. I have stopped struggling with who I can't be and have received who I am. For those that are led by the Spirit are sons of God. Accept it and see what happens.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fitting In and Fitting Together

This week we have a full house. As well as the four of us in the family we have three guests. Seven people in a semi-detached house even with four bedrooms is tight. To add to the equation we ordered a new bed and carpets for two of our rooms that were supposed to arrive in time for our guests but we still await both.

Two of our guests are from South Africa, one from France on an exchange visit with Jenny. It is interesting to watch the communication take place between English, Afrikaan and French.

How do you make things work in this situation? As well as coping with guests the normal busyness of daily routine has to go on. Doing the school run, shopping for the extras, sight-seeing, chauffeur duties etc. I think it works well if all concerned just try to fit in. Just one person working against that would cause disruption.

Another thing has also happened which is more precious. Not only have guests fitted in but somehow we have fitted together. My kids suddenly have gained the wisdom of two extra parents, we have gained extra sisters, relationships have formed. There has been a deposit into our lives because of this visit. We have been added to and enhanced and will change.

It reminds me of the wonder of God in forming His body, the church. One has a psalm, one a hymn, one a tongue etc. Church is not just fitting in but fitting together. Its the linking of hearts and minds led and influenced by His Spirit. Dr André Pelser named His book about the body of Christ, 'The Genius of God'. God has no plan B. His intention is to use the genius of His body to show Christ in the world. How we fit together tells the world what Jesus is really like. He is reforming His church to look like Jesus.