BLOG

Casting Crowns


The casual visitor to this blog will quickly realise that I enjoy listening to contemporary gospel music. Indeed, several Christian artists have already received a mention on this site. Artists such as David Crowder and Zach Williams.

For me, however, musicians that stand head and shoulders above all others are those whose song lyrics appear in full on my post ‘In the Middle’ published back in September. That band is Georgia-based ‘Casting Crowns’.

Christian artists ‘Casting Crowns’

What do I think is so special about Casting Crowns that I feel moved to make them the subject of a blog post?

The answer is a simple one.

I feel that the words of their songs speak to me directly. They encourage me but, more importantly, they challenge me as a Christian:

  • Am I doing enough?
  • Am I becoming the man God wants me to be?
  • Am I setting a good example for others?

I could keep adding to this list until my fingers ached but these few will suffice as I’m sure I’ve made my point.

When starting out on my path as a Christian back in the 1980s I would regularly attend both of the Church’s Sunday services – the morning worship and the more-relaxed family service in the evening.

During the latter we’d sing many uplifting songs of the sort I now consider to be ‘feel-good music’ – music which prompted my late father to nickname my church ‘The Happy Clappies’. Whilst heart-warming and jolly, there was usually little in the content to provoke reflection or confront issues of faith.

In stark contrast, Casting Crowns are performing a vital ministry, connecting with people through music. In the words of Mark Hall, the band’s founder, lead singer and prime songwriter:

‘…what I’m starting to understand is that it’s just a totally different side of ministry because the church is already in that city. God doesn’t need me to go in there and be the church. God’s calling me to go into that city and pour water on the seeds that are already planted there. We’re not bringing anything into town on our bus that wasn’t there before. We’re not saying anything new that hasn’t already been said. We’re just reaffirming what’s already going there.’

Since the release of their first album in 2003, they’ve regularly performed to sell-out audiences, not only across the USA but also the world, and have been awarded with many prestigious awards.

One commentator summed-up the band’s influence on the Christian music scene by saying:

‘There’s not much within the realm of Christian music the band hasn’t accomplished. The impact of Casting Crowns is incalculable, the fingerprint of their songs forever imprinted onto the hearts of millions of people.’

Despite this and other accolades, Mark Hall is keen to deflect the focus away from the band and toward the one they sing about, and their mission to promote understanding of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice. Through song he invites listeners onto a ‘heart-journey of foundational faith, immovable trust and ultimately, freedom in Christ.’ He declares:

‘I want people to see that God is the author and the finisher of our faith. He starts the work and He finishes the work. If we could just rest in the fact that He saved us, that He’s got us, we can rest in what He’s doing now and strive for what’s ahead.’


It was more than simply the music quality and the message contained in each song that so impressed me.

As someone who’s endured a lifetime of uncontrolled epileptic seizures, I’m sure another factor that so endeared the band to me is that Hall, who is also youth pastor in his home state of Georgia, has himself been forced to overcome personal hurdles to achieve his life’s goals. In addition to being diagnosed with learning disabilities as a child, he was found to have dyslexia.

Mark defines himself as ‘a broken person made whole’. I can relate to that so well.

That then is a potted history of the band. The best way I can explain exactly what it is about their music that resonates with me – and no doubt with tens of thousands of other believers – is to use the band’s own lyrics.


A good place to start will be with the song ‘One More Song for You’ as this encapsulates Mark Hall’s commitment to ministry-through-music.

The song begins with a personal reflection. This possibly relates to his years spent in music college.

Staring at this old piano
Playing through the memories that it holds
Singing through the stories that it's told
And all the prayers that have been lifted
The leaps of faith, the giants slain
Desperate cries, and broken praise

Have all the songs been sung?
Is there still room for one?

Mark’s personal impediments (strengths?) are also reflected in the second verse:

What can I offer You but weakness?
All my life I tried to hide
You brought it all into the light
I'm still amazed that You would choose me
If You can use the least of these
Then there is no one You can't reach
In a world that's lost its song
Show them there's still room for one

Of all the lines in this song, perhaps it is the following ones that underscore his – and by extension the band’s – commitment toward spreading the gospel:

With no one here but You to listen
My heart is bursting at the seams
Out of all the songs I've lifted
What I truly hope to see
Is one more broken life made whole
One more prodigal brought home
What better way to praise Your name and majesty

Than one more hand in the air saying, "You are holy"
One more shattered heart singing, "You are good"
Maybe one more voice crying out for mercy
One more hungry soul declaring, "You're enough"
As long as there's breath in me (As long as there's breath in me)
Lord, there will always be
One more song for You

From where I stand as 2020 draws to a difficult and uncertain close, the following example is one that embodies perfectly where I am in faith right now.

One part of me wishes to surrender fully to God (and just ‘be held’, as another ‘Crowns’’ song puts it), whilst another is struggling to fight the injustice and tyranny that I see is destroying so many lives. No-one ever said the Christian life is an easy one.

The opening verse of ‘Already There’ sums-up this conflict perfectly:

From where I'm standing
Lord it's so hard for me to see
Where this is going
And where You're leading me
I wish I knew how
All my fears and all my questions
Are gonna play out
In a world I can't control

This picture of doubt and its ensuing sense of instability is brief and does not continue beyond this first verse. From there, the lyrics deliver an assurance that God is in control and the song ends with a confident pledge that, whatever may transpire, all of life’s jumbled pieces will fall into place and all will be well.

One day I'll stand before You
And look back on the life I've lived
Cause You're already there
You're already there
When I'm lost in the mystery
To You my future is a memory
Cause You're already there
You're already there
Standing at the end of my life
Waiting on the other side
And You're already there
You're already there

You are already there

I’ve already alluded to the fact that much of the band’s music provokes serious contemplation at a personal level. Some songs, however, are a challenge to the church as a whole. Here the messages are usually direct, clear and are calls to action.

As one who has sat in church, feeling unworthy due to a ‘life messed up’ while surrounded by supposedly impeccable believers, and who has consequently turned away to continue walking ‘in the wilderness’, the lyrics of ‘If we are the Body’ chime well with my own experience.

The song portrays two individuals searching for truth and who experience rejection. First up is what we perceive to be a young girl who enters a church to seek God but finds only scorn:

It's crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls' teasing laughter is carrying
Farther than they know
Farther than they know

Next we are introduced to a male traveller. Like the girl he is ‘found wanting’ in the eyes of others.

A traveller is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgemental glances
Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

These two stories are followed by an appeal to churches; a reminder of the one who suffered so much to save the souls of those such as the young girl and the man.

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ

If we are the body
Why aren't his arms reaching?
Why aren't his hands healing?
Why aren't his words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't his feet going?
Why is his love not showing them there is a way?
Jesus is the way

Start Right Here’ is a similar provocation to churches. This time, however, it appears to be a call for believers to step outside the comfort zones of their church buildings to deliver the gospel into their own communities.

We want our coffee in the lobby
We watch our worship on a screen
We got a rock-star preacher
Who won't wake us from our dreams
We want our blessings in our pockets
We keep our missions overseas
But for the hurting in our cities
Would we even cross the street?

As with ‘If We are the Body’, the first verse sets the scene and is followed by a direct summons to awaken churches to rise:

But we wanna see the heart set free and the tyrants kneel
The walls fall down and our land be healed
But church if we want to see a change in the world out there

It's got to start right here
It's got to start right now
Lord, I'm starting right here
Lord, I'm starting right now

‘Every Man’

The instrumental opening to ‘Every Man’ is a reminder of 1970s Brit Pop and, whilst it begins with a picture of a ‘typical’ man, it leads into a heartfelt cry for hope – a hope for love and peace ‘in troubled times’.

It goes on to convey a desperate search … a search for someone ‘…who knows my pain and feels the weight; the uncertainty of my tomorrow, the guilt and pain of yesterday.’

Once again, the songwriter perfectly encapsulates the fear, uncertainty and anguish of a lost life for which the only answer is in Jesus Christ:

I'm the man with all I've ever wanted
All the toys and playing games
I am the one who pours your coffee, corner booth each Saturday
I am your daughter's favourite teacher
I am the leader of the band
I sit behind you in the bleachers
I am every man

I'm the coach of every winning team and still a loser in my mind
I am the soldier in the Airborne facing giants one more time
I am the woman shamed and haunted by the cry of unborn life
I'm every broken man, nervous child, lonely wife

Is there hope for every man
A solid place where we can stand
In this dry and weary land
Is there hope for every man
Is there love that never dies
Is there peace in troubled times
Someone help me understand
Is there hope for every man
Seems there's just so many roads to travel,
it's hard to tell where they will lead

My life is scarred and my dreams unravelled
Now I'm scared to take the leap
If I could find someone to follow who knows my pain
and feels the weight
The uncertainty of my tomorrow,
the guilt and pain of yesterday

Here, just when the evocative plea for help reaches its climax, the music stops. There is a brief pause for reflection – before a repeat of the song’s opening bars recommence and we are presented with the final verse.

In this the words ‘is there’ are reversed to become ‘there is’, in a convincing assurance that:

There is hope for every man
A solid place where we can stand
In this dry and weary land
There is hope for every man
There is Love that never dies
There is peace in troubled times
Will we help them understand?
Jesus is hope for every man

Many of the band’s songs hold personal significance for me, with words that perfectly encapsulate my own feelings and my own ‘Lifesong’. As stated above, I’ve already detailed one such song in my post ‘In the Middle’. One other, however, never fails to resonate with me as soon is the opening bars commence.

I’ve already explained on this site how I strayed from my church, drifted in the wilderness for forty years before, in 2019, Jesus’ ‘searchlights’ found me and directed me back.

The first time I heard the following song was when I was busy cleaning the bathroom. As soon as I heard the opening words I was so overcome with emotion that I was forced to sit on the edge of the bath, where I wept.

The song is ‘Love Moved First’:

This is the story of a runaway
With no way home and no way out
I threw the best of me away
I had my chance, it's too late now
Too far gone and too ashamed
To think that You'd still know my name
But love refused to let my story end that way

You didn't wait for me to find my way to You
I couldn't cross that distance even if I wanted to
You came running after me
When anybody else would've turned
and left me at my worst
Love moved first
Oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-ohhh, oh-oh-ohh

What kind of grace, relentless grace
Would chase this rebel down
Crawl into this prisoner's cage
Take my hand and pull me out
You knew I couldn't make the change
So You became the change in me
And now I live to tell the story
Of the God who rescues

You didn't wait for me to find my way to You
I couldn't cross that distance even if I wanted to
You came running after me
When anybody else would've turned
and left me at my worst
Love moved first

From the throne to the manger
From a manger to the grave
Your cross is the proof
Love made the first move
From a grave meant to keep You
To a stone rolled away
Your cross is the proof
Love made the first move
I remember where You found me
I'm amazed by where I stand
Your cross is the proof
That love made the first move

You didn't wait for me to find my way to You
I couldn't cross that distance even if I wanted to
You came running after me
When anybody else would've turned
and left me at my worst
Love moved first
Oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-ohh
Love moved first

Before commencing this post it had been my intention to include one of the band’s records. Such has been the impact and poignancy of Love Moved First that it simply had to be that one.

Here’s the link (click on the image):


I’ll end this post with one more excellent example of a song which challenges on a personal level. The song is provocatively titled ‘What if I Gave Everything?’

There are many other songs I could have chosen, all of which deliver similar messages. My reason for selecting this one is that it contains a clever use of words and imagery which convey a vital message with crystal clarity. As with the above example, it’s worth showing the lyrics in full.

All my life I longed to be a hero
My sword raised high, running to the battle
I was going to take giants down
Be a man you would write about
Deep in my chest is the heart of a warrior

So why am I still standing here
Why am I still holding back from You
I hear You call me out into deeper waters
But I settle on the shallow end
So why am I still standing here

So afraid what it might cost to follow You
I'd walk by faith if I could get these feet to move
But I don't want to live that way
I don't want to look back someday
On a life that never stepped across the line

So why am I still standing here
Why am I still holding back from You
You've given me a faith that can move a mountain
But I'm still playing in the sand
Building little kingdoms that'll never stand
I hear You call me out into deeper waters
But I settle on the shallow end

I'm so tired of standing here
What if I gave everything to You

What if I gave everything
What if I stopped holding back from You
Starting now I'm stepping out onto deeper waters
What if I gave everything
What if I stopped holding back from You
Starting now I'm stepping out onto deeper waters
I want to see some mountains move

Ready to give everything
Say goodbye to standing here

I have personally gained so much from Mark Hall’s gifted songwriting and the unique talents of Casting Crowns, both of which have combined to enhance my Christian journey.

I would not be able to close this post any better than by using the songwriter’s own words:

‘I want to shake people up and help them see that Jesus is not a religion, and God is not a book. You can’t pray to a book and you can’t draw strength from an idea or standard. If there’s no relationship with Jesus as a person to you, you’re in trouble. It’s about life, not religion. It’s about relationships, not books.’

Mark Hall – ‘Casting Crowns’

For more information on the band, visit their site at:

https://Casting Crowns.com


Weapons of Mass Intervention

The Power of Prayer and Why it is Under Attack


If you arrived here via my Welcome page you will already realise that the silencing of Christians during the lunacy of 2020 doesn’t sit well with me. If you arrived here directly, this is what I had to say:

‘Christian voices were silenced at a moment in history when they should have been at their loudest. I for one have no wish to remain silent. It’s time our voices were heard.’

In using the term ‘were silenced’ I’ve clearly expressed the view that this ‘gag order’ has been deliberate.

I’m writing this post to explain why I believe the action – or rather the attack – has been pre-meditated, targeted and strategic. First of all, I’ll give one recent example of Christian suppression.

On September 23rd, three Christian men were arrested in Moscow for participating in an outdoor worship service.

This snippet of news may not surprise many, given that the event occurred in Moscow. However, this didn’t happen in Moscow, Russia, but in Moscow in the state of Idaho, USA.

The United States of America, home to the largest Christian population in the world; a nation in which sixty-two percent of polled adults claim to be active members of a church congregation; a nation whose Pledge of Allegiance states:

‘I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’

Sadly, repression of Christian worship in America is not limited to Idaho.

Idaho is one of many states in which severe restrictions on church gatherings and worship are enforced. For example, the California state governor has banned totally all indoor worship.

Meanwhile, in San Fransisco, the city’s Mayor, not satisfied with the usual two metre distancing ruling enforced across many nations, has ordered that only one person at a time may be permitted to enter houses of worship. Perhaps the man, London Breed, is all too aware of Jesus’ assurance stated in the book of Matthew:

‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.’

Matthew 18:20

What are world leaders, such as Mayor Breed, so afraid of that they seek to prevent Christians from meeting together? Why do they seek to forcibly silence those who engage in vocal worship?

I’ll tell you what I think – in my own meandering way, so please bear with me.


To retake Port Stanley from Argentinian invaders in 1982, the British army advanced overland in what was a gruelling forced-march in full kit over difficult terrain. Between them and their goal were a series of hill defences upon which the Argentinian forces were heavily entrenched and well equipped with artillery and mortars.

The battles to retake these hill-top defences generally took place at night. During one such battle, to capture the hills known as Two Sisters, the British were again outnumbered, their enemy well dug-in and heavily armed.

The fighting was bitter, with artillery shells and mortar fire raining down on the British soldiers who, by that time were exhausted and almost out of ammunition. Things were desperate. The attack to retake the hills was about to stall.

The British commanding officer, Clive Dytor, then fixed his bayonet and ran screaming at the opposing forces, firing from the hip. His men quickly followed suit and charged the enemy lines, yelling like berserkers. Though heavily outnumbered, their fearsome attack so demoralised their enemy that the British quickly overwhelmed the Argentinian defences.

Outnumbered, outgunned, and open to enemy fire the British employed fear to discourage and dis-empower their enemy. And it worked.


I’ll now dial the clock back further, to 1944.

The second episode of the 2001 TV series ‘Band of Brothers’ is titled ‘Day of Days’. It covers events occurring on D-Day. During the episode, Easy Company are tasked with performing an airborne landing behind enemy lines prior to the beach-landing of the main invasion force.

Allied commanders were aware that the enemy had positioned heavy artillery in bunkers behind the beach-line defences. They knew that, unless they were disabled, the heavy fire from these would rain down on the allied soldiers and may even prevent a successful landing. Easy Company’s mission was to attack the bunkers and put the guns out of action.

For the invasion to have a chance of success, the greatest threat had to be silenced.

These examples suggest two things:

  • When attacking well-protected opponents from a weaker position, fear may be successfully employed as a weapon.
  • For operational success, it is vital that those elements which represent the greatest risk to the mission are neutralised. The heavy guns.

I make no apology for including examples of military conflict when discussing this year’s silencing of the Christian community. Anyone who can’t see that what is taking place right now is a war of epic proportions is simply not paying attention.

As I’ve alluded to several times already on this site, we’re witnessing history being made on a scale this generation has never seen. Many people, however, remain ignorant of this reality as much of it is unreported, downplayed or misrepresented in our media.

Nevertheless, Christian commentators familiar with Biblical end-time prophecy, are sitting up and paying attention.

This brings me to a further quote from my Welcome page:

‘I am sure [events of 2020] will eventually come to be recognised as, not only an attack on humanity, but an attack on Christianity.’

One might consider this to be a touch melodramatic, or take the view that, as buildings of worship are now re-opened, everything is hunky-dory. Such a view would be a mistake.

Bearing in mind my summary of the two historical examples above, here is a sample of text taken from the UK government’s ‘Guidance for the Safe Use of Places of Worship …’

The UK is currently experiencing a public health emergency as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The transmission characteristics of COVID-19 are outlined by Public Health England. The transmission of COVID-19 is thought to occur mainly through respiratory droplets generated by coughing and sneezing, and through contact with contaminated surfaces. The predominant modes of transmission are assumed to be droplet and contact.

‘… fear may be successfully employed as a weapon.’

I’ve extracted the following from similar guidelines produced by the local church which, until recently, I regularly attended:

There will be no singing by the congregation or raised voices.

‘… it is vital that those elements which represent the greatest risk to the mission are neutralised.’

To understand why I no longer attend that church I suggest you visit my post ‘A Question of Obedience’. Once there, consider those enforced regulations and judge for yourself whether they represent freedom to worship or Christian persecution.

So, why would anyone suppress the act of Christian worship, using fear of a virus to do so?

I’ve already hinted at the answer to that question above, but I’ll elaborate here:

Christians, and their power of prayer are the big guns. Effective, target-focussed prayer represents such an overwhelming threat to those in service to Satan that, to have any chance at success in whatever evil agenda their’s may be, it is vital that they muzzle Christ’s army.

Furthermore, as with the Falklands’ example above, our oppressors have launched their attack from a position of weakness, using fear as their weapon.

I know from personal experience that prayer brings results. However, before sitting to write this post, I consulted a number of books in my collection to gain a fuller understanding of the true potency of prayer.

It’s unsurprising that my first and most trusted resource was the Bible. Here, there’s a multitude of scriptural references on the subject. Perhaps one of the most pivotal examples is this statement given by Jesus:

‘Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.’

Matthew 18:18-20

Prayer, however, is not a contrivance with which, like petulant children, we appeal to God into satisfying our every wants.

The act of prayer is a cool-headed acceptance of our true situation before our heavenly Father. It’s also an admission of our need for His intervention in our lives.

It isn’t something we simply do for ourselves, ‘intercession’ is a prayer by which Christians pray for others. We are urged to intercede for other people. Used this way, prayer is both unifying and strengthening.

In his Concise Commentary, Matthew Henry wrote:

‘The disciples of Christ must be praying people; all, without distinction of nation, sect, rank, or party.’

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary of the Whole Bible

I take comfort in the fact that the power of prayer isn’t determined by the one praying. Its success isn’t dependent on a magic formula of buzzwords, scriptural slogans or godly gobbledygook. It’s in an honest, open hearted and reverent approach to God. The almighty power resides in Him, of who Jesus said:

‘… with God all things are possible.’

Matthew 19:26

Unfortunately, the power we have available to us through our authority in prayer is widely underestimated. Our enemy, however, knows full well our true potential.

It is for this reason those prominent and priviledged pawns strutting on Satan’s chessboard have sought to demoralise, muzzle and silence Christians worldwide.


It’s time our voices were heard!


‘The prayer preceding all prayers is “May it be the real I who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.”’

C.S. Lewis

Fearless

In nineteen eighty-nine, three enterprising young men created a clothing brand, billed as an ‘extreme sports brand with added attitude’. It now includes its own highly successful energy drink, and the brand has even been promoted by Hollywood through several of its ‘blockbuster’ movies.
The brand’s name?

No Fear

No Fear has been a global success story. So much so that the logo could often be seen on bumper-stickers, vehicle windows and, of course, on the clothing itself.

At one time, if you were to walk down almost any high street, you’d probably see the name – ‘No Fear’.

Fast forward to 2020 and what do we now see as we walk those same streets? We see fear. Despite faces half-hidden by masks, we see a population afraid. A demoralised people living in fear. But fear of what?

We’re warned of a dreadful ‘hidden enemy’ that stalks our land like a bacteriological Grim Reaper, striking down countless thousands as it cuts swathes through the nation. So goes the warning. But what do we actually see?

We see TV bulletins. We see headlines in newspapers. On the radio we hear an unrelenting chorus of pessimism and hopelessness every hour, on the hour. Of course people are afraid. Isn’t it inevitable?

But …

… what if that which people fear most is simply the bad news itself? They dread the next baffling bulletin, the next bizarre broadcast. What if it’s these things that are blighting their lives?

Like moths drawn to a flame, they can’t resist the urge to do that which causes their pain and they switch on, tune in and hang onto every word. Unbeknown to them, their greatest fears are being realised each and every day.

Fear.

Of course, there may be some whose desire is for us to be fearful; some who consider that fear renders us compliant, placid and helpless. After all, before 2020, were the headlines that much different? Were they, really?

Whatever the reasons may be, God doesn’t want us to be afraid.

“… do not fear for I am with you …”

Genesis 26:24

Any non-Christians reading the above verse may doubt the relevance of a phrase written fifteen hundred years before Christ. What validity does it have to those events occurring in the twenty-first century?

However, the bible teaches us that a fear-less life, living under the assurance of God’s love and protection was not something that was limited to Abraham’s generation all those years ago. The verse is a timeless one and applies to every single one of God’s children. I am one. As are you.

Despite the extraordinary and perverse events I see around me I don’t allow fear to dwell in me. I never allow it to gain purchase. That’s not to say that I’m a stranger to fear. I’m no more brave or resilient than the next man. Far from it. Fear has featured in my daily life for many years.

With God’s help, however, fear is now a temporary intruder, hastily evicted, rather than an unwelcome lodger permitted to squat in the basement of my psyche.

Such control over this unwelcome guest hasn’t always been the case. I’ll explain.

In 2017 I was invited by my medical specialist to give an account of living with uncontrolled epilepsy – a condition that goes hand-in-glove with stress and fear. This is what I wrote at that time:


Imagine if you will, driving your car down a busy road at night. It could be a narrow road such as those in North Yorkshire, flanked by dry stone walls. The walls have stood for over a century. They’re solid, rugged and unforgiving.

As you contemplate the stone-cold walls, you hit black ice and spin out of control. Please now focus on the nauseating fear you have in the pit of your stomach. Imagine removing your hands from the wheel—for you are no longer in control of your body’s motor function.

Now, remove all your lucidity, knowledge of the likely outcome; eliminate any memory you may have of previous such experiences. Disregard your earlier sense of logic— for at the onset of an epileptic seizure, logic no longer has a seat in the house.

You may fear crippling injury; you can’t influence the outcome. Anxiety piles on distress. You may die. Your fate is out of your hands.

Now, imagine how that feels. But let me tell you, you’re still not even close to experiencing the all-consuming fear of a seizure.

Consider the sickening sense of relief you experience as you regain control.

Your heart rate settles, the trembling in your limbs eases. Sweating ceases as your body and mind recovers.

Now, contemplate the dawning realisation that this will happen again later in the day. It will happen twice, three times maybe. And you have no idea of when they’ll hit you or where you’ll be when they do. Imagine the dread at facing a tomorrow loaded with the same constant threat— and every day of your life.

Now, put on a smile and carry on.

You see, the fear doesn’t come and go with the seizure activity. It remains a constant feature, albeit at a fluctuating level each day.


That was my life in 2017.

Two years later, almost crushed by the burden of responsibility in an increasingly hostile and dysfunctional world, whilst at the same time struggling to maintain control of body and mind, I cast my cares onto God, and declared:

‘Lord, I can’t do this on my own. I need Your help in my life.’

I waved the white flag. But mine was not a flag of surrender, but one of victory, for that’s when my life changed.

That’s when my unwelcome lodger was finally expelled from the basement.

Worry and anxiety not only drain the spirit, but deplete our physical strength and consume our joy for life. Worry and fear are unacceptable. Jesus told us not to worry. He knows it can break us physically, mentally and spiritually – and this is not what he wants for us.

‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

Phillipians 4:6-7

To further illustrate the secure, unflinching confidence of a life filled with God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, what follows is a statement written by a Christian brother. Before proceeding, you may read his brief testimony here.

Here is his declaration:


Declaration

Fifty-three years ago as a hard-drinking foul-mouthed soldier who tried to kill his friend who had become a Christian, God used that same friend to bring me to the cross of salvation.
God took me from the barrack room and anointed me to preach His Word.

He took me to nineteen different countries on four continents, some of them up to eight times. I have traveled on every type of transport known to man, and some that should not be known to man. I have slept in high-class hotels and under the stars. I have lived in villages and shanty towns in Africa and India, have walked through war zones and deserts, and have climbed mountains and traversed forests.

I have faced wild animals, been chased by angry mobs, had guns pointed at me and been caught up in riots (not of my making).

I have been with kings and politicians and with street beggars. I once climbed a mountain to minister to two dear souls and have preached to vast crowds at open-air meetings. I have conducted seminars for hundreds and Bible studies for two seekers.

I have worked with some of the finest children of God in all of the countries I visited. I have been inspired by their devotion to the work of His Kingdom and have counted it a great honour to have been able to work alongside them.

Now I am nearing my seventy-sixth birthday. I am still on fire for God and His Word; I am fit and (as far as I have ever been) am of sound mind.

I will not be cowered by a virus or intimidated by immoral liars of any political party. Nor will I be kept down by weak church leaders.

I am an eagle and I will rise up and proclaim the Word of God.



A final word on ‘fear’.

In the words of a song by American artist, Zach Williams, fear is also a liar:

Fear he is a liar.
He will take your breath,
Stop you in your steps.
Fear he is a liar.
He will rob your rest,
Steal your happiness.
Cast your fear in the fire,
‘Cause fear he is a liar.

To hear the song, click here.


Answering the Call

Several months ago, when electing to create a faith-based blog, there were a number of elements I’d decided from the get-go that wouldn’t feature on the site. One of those was prayer.

I’d noted while doing background research prior to building my site, that some Christian bloggers include prayers in one form or another. I considered, however, that as prayers are intimate discussions between the one praying and God, they were not for airing on an open forum such as a blog-site. I emphasise that this was simply my own view on the matter at that time. I’m not criticising those who think differently.

What follows, however, is a prayer. So what happened to change my mind?

For several months I’ve been keeping a Prayer Journal. I personally find it useful and consider that it enhances my prayer-life. As a keen writer I’ve long found that I can express myself more fully through the written word rather than the spoken one. My thoughts are more focused, I’m less distracted and the result expresses more effectively those things I wish to say.

I’ve also found there to be other assets to maintaining a prayer journal. These may be a subject for a future post.

When reading through my journal, I’m struck by how each prayer is unique, but each one follows a similar structure: praise, thanks, personal requests, intercession for others, commitment to serve and so on. Today’s prayer, however, was different.

As I wrote my prayer, the words seemed to appear on the page without pre-meditation. It was as though they were being spoken by my inner-self, without conscious thought. It was as though I was being ‘led by the spirit’. Consequently, it’s structure differs from previous examples. As does its tone. Its rhythm also differs from those on previous pages. This, together with the overall content has given me pause for thought.

Why this prayer? And why now?

If you’ve already read my previous post ‘A Question of Obedience’, you will gather that its final paragraph may be viewed as a closing chapter in my life as a Christian. One that has ended with me walking away from my church, disgusted by the establishment’s willingness to obey government rather than God. But, what am I walking towards?

I’ve no idea what the future holds. I do sense, however, that as I enter what appears to be uncharted territory, God has had this course mapped-out since before time began, and He is calling me to join Him for what lies ahead.

It is as though the past sixty-two years, with its trials, sorrows and disappointments have all led to this amazing time in history. All God asked of me was to answer His call. This morning I did just that.

Here is my prayer:


Lord Jesus, I thank you that you re-entered my life at this moment in history.

Make me your vessel.

Mould me and shape me as the potter moulds the clay.

Make me a instrument of Yours; a weapon, keenly-edged and strong for the fight to come; a fight in which I gladly serve in Your name.

Father, Your lifelong servant and my friend in Christ has told me he wants me strong in body, mind and spirit for the road ahead. I come to You in faith now. Heal me. Heal me. Lift these seizures from me, Lord. Clear my mind from their distractions, confusion and mind-weakening hold on me.

Make me strong. Make me Your warrior.

Jesus, be my shield and buckler now, my rearguard, too. I swear to You today, Lord, that I take on the full armour of God; the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth. I put on the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace. I take up the shield of faith, the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God. I put on the garments of vengeance and the cloak of zeal.

I will not be afraid.

For I am but one in Your mighty army, Lord.

Use me as You will, Jesus, for I am Yours, devoted to the service in Your just and righteous cause, working toward a certain victory that will give glory to Your name.

Jesus, as a paladin knight on the eve of battle, I ask that You cleanse me, purify me and forgive me of all sins. I devote my life to You, Lord, with love and thanks, for I am washed by the blood of the lamb. I am Yours.

And I know that all things work together for good to those who love You; to those who are called according to Your purpose. I have been called, and I answer that call.

For You are my Commander-in-Chief and I offer my life to You, as You gave Yours for me.

Lord, I ask for Your protection for my family, my home and all in my stewardship. Protect and strengthen all my brothers and sisters in Christ – Your holy remnant in this fight, in these final days.

Lord, everything I do from this day forward, I do for You, willingly and confidently. Victory is assured.

By the blessed blood of my Lord and Saviour, I pray. Amen



A Question of Obedience


If you’ve previously read my posts ‘…more than conquerors …’ and ‘A Proverbial Spider’, you will have already realised that I have long held doubts about the veracity of the whole ‘coronavirus pandemic’ story. A story that we have been fed ad nauseam for over eight tedious months.

My views of both aren’t necessarily important right now, and my own interpretations are not really relevant to the issues I’m about to cover. Whatever our understanding of 2020’s global phenomena may be, we have all been affected and our lives seriously disrupted.

Many people have lost their livelihoods as a consequence of the autocratic ‘pandemic’ precautions taken worldwide. Additionally, whilst many have lost their lives as a direct result of a virus – the source of which is not yet clear – a staggering number of lives have also been lost due directly to the draconian measures taken by governments around the world.

But, enough on that. Books may be written for decades to come, analysing and dissecting the minutiae of these events. My six-pennyworth is neither necessary nor useful here.

Instead, I simply wish to explain why I wasn’t among the small congregation earlier today when my church opened its doors for the first time in over five months.


I knew that when our church reopened, it was to be in full compliance with ‘Guidelines for the Safe Use of Places of Worship During the Pandemic’ issued by the UK government.

Some may consider that our church has no choice in the matter but to obey these parliamentary directives. But there lies the crux of the problem. When official, secular rulings conflict with God’s directives, who should we obey?

For me, the choice was simple, albeit painful. And that is why I have not attended church.

There are those in the church who direct my attention to the book of Romans:

‘Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.’

Romans 13:1

I can say, hand on heart, that I have been a law-abiding citizen for all of my sixty-two years. However, when rulings issued by our ‘governing authority’ contradict those of God, there can only be one outcome. This point is illustrated in the Book of Acts, chapter five, verses twenty-six to twenty-nine.

‘But Peter and the other apostles answered them and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men”’

Acts 5:29

So what are those problem areas that so prevented me from joining with fellow Christians in worship today?

For ease of explanation I will quote a sample of those instructions issued by the church, beginning with the obscene masks:

  • Face coverings are mandatory for places of worship – except for those who are leading services or events in a place of worship, and those who assist them, (or unless you are exempt) [sic].

When God breathed that initial breath of life into man – as described in the first book of the bible – it wasn’t through a cloth face covering. There was no intervening fabric reducing or befouling man’s first lungful of air. It was a breath of life, God-given – as each one should be.

In addition, the Book of Deuteronomy includes the following instruction:

‘You shall not muzzle an ox when he treads out the grain.’

Deuteronomy 24:4

Interestingly, and as a direct consequence of this law, this humane practice continues in parts of Syria, where oxen are permitted to tread the grain, unmuzzled. Furthermore, in his first letter to Timothy, apostle Paul applied this verse in reference to the fair treatment of:

‘… those who labour in the word and doctrine …’.

To continue, in full compliance with government, today’s church also forbids close contact between worshipers:

  • Do not shake hands, hug or lay hands on anyone.
  • Observe social distancing within the building.

There are two issues with this. The first is what has been shamefully termed ‘social distancing’. Such an instruction ought to be anathematic to all Christians. God, through Paul’s first letter to Peter, provides a clear instruction on how we must greet one another:

‘Greet one another with a kiss of holy love.’

1 Peter 5:14

How on earth are we to do this while six feet apart? Furthermore, in his first letter to Timothy, Paul also wrote:

‘Do not neglect the gift in you, which was given you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the body of elders.’

1 Timothy 4:14

Once again, how can we administer such aid to those in need whilst maintaining obedience to government? We can’t.

As if these ordinances weren’t enough, Christians are no longer permitted to express their joy in open worship:

  • There will be no singing by the congregation, or raised voices.

This appalling rule, given to appease authors of a political decree, flies in the face of numerous contrary edicts we’ve clearly been given by God in His Word. Such as:

‘Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.’

Psalm 100:2

‘… be filled with the spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.’

Ephesians 5:19

‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, reaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.’

Colossians 3:16

There are no ambiguities in the Word of God. His instructions are clear.

To contravene the ‘guidelines’ of a profane government may solicit an unfavourable response. Disobeying God, however, will have way more serious ramifications. This was something Adam and Eve discovered right at the start, to the detriment of all mankind.

As a footnote, I’ll add one further prompt that appears on my church’s ‘Covid-19 Guidelines’.

Whilst those directives shown above reflect church’s willingness to place government policy above scripture, there is one biblical component they do wish to uphold – tithes and offerings:

  • We have appreciated most people have been able to give their Tithes & Offerings online, and we would encourage this as much as possible. If this is difficult for you there will be a marked box that you can use as you exit the building.

I was sorry to miss today’s meeting, and my decision has caused me some considerable distress over recent days. However, as with the story of ‘The Emperors New Clothes’, I consider that vital truths have been laid bare here, and this church is one to which I will not return.



Treasure, More Valuable than Gold


Guest Post, submitted by Ray, a brother in Christ


A brief bio of my guest:

Following a difficult childhood, Ray had decided there was no God. While serving as a hard-hitting, heavy drinking young man in the British Army’s Corps of Transport, Ray’s best friend and fellow soldier, Mike, became a Christian. It was more than Ray could bear.

Ray’s friend became a target for his anger and was subjected to a series of pranks and beatings until one day, Ray’s rage was such that he tried to kill Mike during a barrack room brawl.

The two men parted, leaving Ray embittered, isolated and unhappy.

His isolation led him to consider how his friend’s life as a Christian starkly contrasted with his own. At this point, the two men met once more and Ray declared:

Mike, I want what you’ve got.

Mike then led Ray through the Bible, showed him that he was a sinner who needed the salvation offered by God through His son, Jesus Christ, who’d died on the cross for him.

Ray asked Jesus into his life and became a changed man.

He left the army, and in the ensuing forty years, God led him from the Barrack room and into ministry, during which Ray took the gospel message to nineteen countries on four continents.

Ray with friend, Pastor Lucas in Tanzania


One of the first things I was told when I became a child of God was that a half truth is worse than a lie. Sadly, the church in general is today full of half truths and many out and out lies.

Each year, how many churches have Father Christmas for the children? A nice little lie, I am told. Revelation 21:8 should be read and re-read by those who think God accepts any form of lying.

One of the reasons people are led astray is that they do not have the knowledge of God’s presence in either their own lives or in the church.

In referencing the church here I am not referring to the emotional excesses we have witnessed in many churches over recent years where both leadership and led have been trying to work up some sort of ‘spiritual experience’. 

If people really grasp what we are, where we are and what we have, many would stop trying to fill their lives with the things of this world, but would instead enjoy true fellowship with their heavenly Father.

First of all, we need to understand what we are. Romans 8:16 declares:

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

Those who are truly born of the Spirit will have this absolute assurance, that they are a child of God, and that their Father loves them. They will not need to go to church every Sunday to be told that God loves them. They will have the peace of His presence within them at all times.

Secondly, where we are.

Hebrews 12: 22 says:

“You have come … “

This is present tense. We are not on the way. We have arrived – this is the here and now, not something that will happen in the future.

Where have we come to?  Hebrews 12:22 goes on:

” … to the city of the living God … ”

Verse 23 adds:

“ … to God the judge of all … ”

We have come; we are in the presence of the living God.

In Ephesians 2:4 Paul writes “But God” – then in verse 6 adds “raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

What do we have here?

In one word: ‘Fellowship’ – that is, a true unbounded relationship with our Heavenly Father, the true treasure of heaven, which is more valuable than gold, more fulfilling than worldly possessions.

Jesus said:

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 12:21

 

Where is your heart?



Every Good Gift

Before life pitched one of its unforeseen curve-balls, I was a keen amateur writer. I wrote fiction, non-fiction, screenplays – pretty much whatever took my fancy. Monetary gain was never a priority … sure, it was good to get paid, but for me that was always ‘the cherry on top’. The pleasure of writing was its own profit.

Prior to putting words to paper, or onto a screen, I’d ask myself two basic questions:

  • Who am I writing for?
  • What do I want to say?

In the case of this blog post, the first question is an easy one.

My ideal reader will be one who’s possibly received the gospel – either as a child or later in life. Someone who’s taken the view that it isn’t for them – life has been ticking along okay, and all that ‘religion’ is for other people. But now, in 2020, life has pitched the mother of all curve-balls, and nothing is so certain any more.

I’m writing to someone who no longer has any idea what the future holds for them and who may be afraid for themselves and their loved ones; someone looking for assurance in an uncertain world.

That’s the first question answered.

The second question is one I can’t yet answer. By the time I’ve finished this draft, things may be a bit clearer, but not right now. I felt a need to get things down and I’ve not yet sorted the finer details. Moving on.

I, like many other people, have been sensing an increasingly oppressive mood descending on not just my local community but on the nation as a whole. I don’t need to sketch out the nuts and bolts of this. We all see the inescapable insanity only too clearly each and every day. Further analysis is just what we don’t need.

Sickened by so much gloom and hostility in the media and on social media, too, I recently felt compelled to retreat into nature and enjoy God’s gift of creation. I knew this would lift my spirits. I knew it would re-align my focus onto things beautiful, and away from the grubby absurdity of global politics.

I hauled my bike from under its dusty cover in my shed, pumped up my tires and propelled myself out onto the country lanes that surround my village.

It was then, with a fresh breeze sweeping away the last shreds of gloom and the sunlight glinting off my handlebars that the idea of writing about this day in a future blog post occurred to me. I figured that, if the ride could lift my spirits so immediately and so easily, it could – with a few carefully chosen words and phrases – do the same for my readers.

But … that still hasn’t answered the question of what exactly I want to say – the message I wish to convey.

I’ve found that the only thing to do under such circumstances is to keep bashing the keyboard and to write as the spirit takes me. Here goes.


The title of this piece suggests that, at some point, I’d write about a gift. Perhaps this shouldn’t be too surprising as, despite everything we see, hear and experience in the unfolding madness of 2020, there are an abundance of gifts to be found. All we need to do is to look. Personally, I always try to find them as early in the day as possible.

We know from our familiarity of Christmas mornings and birthdays, too, that to begin the day with a gift is heartwarming and adds an abiding joy. The daily gifts I receive and which add richness to my life are often to be found in the wide, uncomplicated outdoors.

I begin each day by walking our Border Terrier, Freyja.

We’re blessed to live in a rural location and our walks often take us onto narrow lanes, farm tracks and bridleways. It’s here I often find the wealth of creation and it’s here I feel closest to God.

It’s little wonder. His handiwork is visible in every blade of grass and every oak tree. It can be heard in the warbling of a songbird, and can be felt as a breeze on the skin or a drop of rain on the face. When enjoying the outdoors I’m reminded of a verse found in the Book of Psalms:

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.”

On the morning of my ride for example – in fact it was this event that prompted me to dust off my bike and take to the open road – my early morning gift was a wonderful view of a small Egret.

Egrets are now a native of Britain but it’s a breed of bird I rarely see.

My walk with Freyja had taken us onto a bridge that spans a fast-flowing beck, known locally as ‘The Skitter’. It was here I saw the snowy-white bird as it launched itself from the beck and into the air on slow, laboured wing beats. It was a joy to see, and like many such sights, is a memory that will endure.

Later that morning, my ride through the quiet back-roads of neighbouring parishes followed a regularly-used circuit. The sun shone, there was little wind and traffic was almost non-existent – aside from the occasional tractor. This was to be expected. After all, the harvest was now in full swing.

Here is a pictorial account of my journey.

The lure of the open road





Thornton Abbey – Inspiration for my children’s novel ‘The Door to Caellfyon’

I had begun the day blessed with the sight of one beautiful bird, and ended it having been showered with an abundance of gifts – the sights sounds and smells from a simple ride in the countryside.

Cycling the tranquil lanes between their wide verges and hedgerows so lifted my spirits, I’m sure at one point I heard the sound of applause:

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

Isaiah 55.12

To bring this piece to a close, allow me to share a further gift. This time it’s one from this morning’s walk.

This modest dandelion flower was growing along a field edge. It was a solitary thing of colour that drew my attention and prompted me to take this picture.

It wasn’t long, however, before I realised that today’s gift was to be one of two parts.

As I resumed my walk, a large flock of sparrows flew out of the hedgerow to my left, so close that one or two almost brushed my face with their wings. I’d been given a flower, then sparrows. I immediately understood the significance.

Today’s gift was a clear message.

It was a reminder that the Bible tells us that neither the flowers of the field nor the birds of the air need fret about what to wear or what to eat, for God arrays them in beauty and provides for their every need. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus expands on this assurance by saying:

“Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Today, I was being told in no uncertain terms that, whatever befalls in the coming weeks and months, I need have no fear.

You need have no fear.

And that assurance is a gift to treasure.


In the Middle


In several places on this site I’ve alluded to what I’ve described as my ‘faltering walk with God.’ In My Testimony I explain how, having known and experienced God’s love, together with the fellowship of a vibrant church community, I eventually shunned both, opting instead to walk alone for forty years in the wilderness that is the world outside the church.

To maintain a reasonable word-count for my Testimony I declined to mention that, during those years, I repeatedly had a desire to find my way back to that narrow path for which this site is named. At such times I’d reach for my Bible and dust it off. Then, aided by a small book of devotional readings on the theme of ‘First Steps in the Christian Faith’ I’d try to re-ignite my own spark of faith.

Each time I tried, I failed.

My efforts were doomed to fail. Without the support of others I may as well have been trying to clap with one hand.

There were occasions, however, when I’d seek out and attend an evangelical church in the hope that the fellowship of other Christians would add the necessary fuel that would turn the spark I mentioned earlier into a flame. Again, it wasn’t to be.

My sense of shame and inadequacy at failing to remain strong in my faith rose up like a wall around me. I was sure that, what I perceived to be the solid foundation of faith in others gave them an insight into my own shortcomings. To put it another way, I no longer felt worthy of God’s love.

I continued my walk, not knowing whether my defection from God had led to His rejection of me; not knowing whether, for this sinner, there was to be no way back to Him.

If you’ve read my Testimony you now know that wasn’t the case. You now know He welcomed me with open arms. As he does for all those He loves.

I’ll never know why I was unable to return to my life as a practicing Christian between the years 1983 and 2019. However, I’m sure God knows. Furthermore, I’m sure that He’ll use experiences I gained during those years in His plans.



I do know that living a Christian life – a life in which one strives to be Christ-like – is not something I or anyone else can do alone. Once again, it would be like trying to clap with one hand. No, I need God’s help to do this each and every day.

Nevertheless, I know that each day will have its victories and each day will have its failures. But, knowledge of this, accepting it and thanking God anyway becomes its own victory.

An awareness that I am inherently flawed, yet striving to follow in the footsteps of the one man who wasn’t creates an inner conflict – a duality of existence. This is not unique to me – it’s the same for all of us.

For me however, this is perfectly summed up in the words of the song ‘In the Middle’ by American Christian artists, ‘Casting Crowns’:

Somewhere between the hot and the cold.
Somewhere between the new and the old.
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be,
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me.

Somewhere between the wrong and the right.
Somewhere between the darkness and the light.
Somewhere between who I was and who You're making me,
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me.

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender
without losing all control?

Fearless warriors in a picket fence,
reckless abandon wrapped in common sense.
Deep water faith in the shallow end
and we are caught in the middle.
With eyes wide open to the differences,
the God we want and the God who is.
But will we trade our dreams for His
or are we caught in the middle?
Are we caught in the middle?

Somewhere between my heart and my hands.
Somewhere between my faith and my plans.
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves.
Somewhere between a whisper and a roar.
Somewhere between the altar and the door.
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more,
Somewhere in the middle You'll find me.

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender
without losing all control?

Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You're by my side,
Loving me even on these nights when I'm caught in the middle.

Should you wish to hear the song performed, click here.

 

Powerful Illusions


When I was growing up, I knew to be quiet while in the lounge when the news was on TV. At six in the evening and later for the news at ten I kept my mouth zippered so Dad could hear of the day’s events. My parents also received the Daily Mirror newspaper, satisfying my Dad’s political leanings.

Consequently, the BBC, ITN and Daily Mirror were my family’s windows to the world and shaped their view of it. Fifteen minutes at six pm, thirty minutes at ten and however long it took to read the Mirror which, as anyone who has ever read that rag can tell you, was never very long at all.

My formative years were the sixties and seventies. Amidst the trials and tribulations of global politics at that time, not once did my parents – or anyone else in my family – become agitated by the issues of the day.

Threats of annihilation – and life went on.

Current affairs at that time included the so-called ‘Cold War’ with its threat of nuclear annihilation. We had a continuous chain of union-led industrial disputes that featured the miners’ strike, power outages and the consequential three-day week. On top of this we also had the Vietnam War and, of course, the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’.

Despite all these and more, life just went on. As it should, of course.

My, how things have changed.

Now we’re bombarded twenty-four seven, through TV screens, newspaper headlines, computers, tablets and more. We even have constant access close at hand through Smartphones, which for many are never far from ever-twitchy fingertips.

We’re now receiving up-to-the-minute updates on events occurring thousands of miles away within moments of them happening. We’re so used to this pace of delivery that, for today’s news corporations, speed has taken precedence over accuracy.

First with the news is more important than being correct with it.

It’s also a sad fact that bad news sells better than good. Media executives may ask ‘who wants to hear uplifting or heart-warming stories nowadays?’ The answer to that is ‘we do.’ But sadly these accounts are rare, and are never given top-billing. No, that’s reserved for the ‘bad stuff’.

‘Bad stuff’ assailing us constantly from all sides can be overwhelming and unhealthy.

Worse still, it can be dangerous to some. It’s therefore vital that we pause and reflect on the impact so much distressing news may be having on us.

Is the news helping us? Or is it having a detrimental effect on our life quality?

The following questions may help you arrive at an answer:

  • What is your mood after watching the news, or hearing of world events?
  • Are you afraid?
  • Do your resulting views lead to arguments or division among family or friends?
  • Does social media leave you anxious?
  • Does the news influence your opinion of other people – people you don’t know anything about, aside from what has been revealed in a short, often deeply prejudicial broadcast?
  • On hearing negative information about someone, be it politician or celebrity, do you then feel an urge to express your anger on social media, without taking time to check the accuracy of the story? And does this anger lead to you submitting posts laced with bitterness and spite? If so, do your actions leave you satisfied or more anxious than before?
  • Do you rely on the news for comfort in an ever-changing and increasingly turbulent world?
  • Do you tune-in hoping for the best only to be dismayed upon hearing the worst?

It’s hardly surprising that many of us are stressed to the limit, living lives that are lacking in joy, and devoid of hope.

Polish-American diplomat and political scientist, Zbigniew Brzezinski, stated:

‘Shortly the public will be unable to reason or think for themselves. They’ll only be able to parrot the information they’ve been given on the previous night’s news.’

We see this happening today. It’s therefore vital that our sources are trusted and are proven to be reliable.

Are your sources widespread or narrow?

We often have our go-to news outlets, but to gain a balanced view it’s helpful to expand our sources. This allows us to weigh information and arrive at a well-considered viewpoint. Exercising freedom of thought often helps us to rationalise details, and to arrive at a more educated perspective.

The mere process of researching truth for ourselves imparts a degree of control. We become our own journalists – citizen journalists. Once we demonstrate freedom to employ critical thinking we may even find that real truth is often contrary to what we’re being told through the mainstream echo-chamber.

One such undeniable truth that flies in the face of mainstream assertions is that God does exist.

Another profound reality is that our own existence is no accident of physics. This leads us to yet another significant truth:

We are all loved by the very God who created heaven and earth. In fact, we feature in His plans and He eagerly awaits every one of us to accept Him and turn to Him.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I taking in more information about events happening around the world than I am in understanding who God is?
  • Am I spending more time scrolling through Facebook or Twitter than I am in reading God’s Word?
  • Have I processed the news with Jesus?

If the answers to these questions is ‘no’, is it any wonder that many of us struggle to find peace?

In a world beset by lies, another awesome truth is that Jesus is standing by your side right now, waiting for you to share your burdens with him. A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes.

Furthermore, it is also true that a load will get heavier when the only person carrying it is you. That’s why it’s so important to not only regulate the amount of so-called news we’re consuming every day but to also ask Jesus to help us process it.

Each day, it’s critical that we tell Jesus in prayer how we’re feeling, before asking for his wisdom. Looking up Scripture is a crucial way to ease our minds and hearts when we need to know the Lord is in control.

Once we learn to interpret the news through the lens of what God’s Word says we find that, like most things in life, the news isn’t all bad or all good.

When the news begins to impact our joy, our relationship with Jesus and others, and begins to jeopardise our overall mental health, it’s time to take a step back and assess whether being informed is helping or harming us.

It is vital that we balance our desire for information against our absolute need for a close relationship with God.

Our overall health – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual – depends on it.



‘… more than conquerors …’


Earlier this year on the day before Valentine’s day, my Bible study at that time was on the subject of ‘witnessing’. It included a text from Luke I considered to be appropriate, given the task I was about to embark on. In the text, Luke quotes Jesus, saying:

‘And he said to them, “The Harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.”‘

Luke 10:2

The following day, I met with some friends at our church to hand out Valentine’s Day roses to passers by. Attached to each rose was a brief greeting and invitation to attend our church services.

I explained to one of my friends that I’d felt unwell that morning and almost declined to attend. I reasoned I was probably being coerced into feeling that way. Satan wanted me to stay at home.

My friend replied that this was to be expected. While we remain inside our churches, singing our happy songs and enjoying fellowship, Satan leaves us alone. But once we venture outside – to witness or spread God’s word – we become a threat.

This threat is also reflected in Luke as he continues to quote Jesus:

‘… behold I am sending you out as lambs into the midst of wolves.’

Luke 10:3

Matthew also refers to this quotation in his own gospel:

‘Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’

Matthew 10:16

The wolf metaphor intrigued me so I reflected on why it should be used. Why wolves? What was it about wolves that prompted Jesus to choose them? Among those things I found were these:

  • Wolves are relentless predators
  • They hunt in packs
  • They begin to devour their prey while it’s still alive

It’s fair to say I’ve often felt as though I’m being devoured at times – sapped of spirit or wearied by a world changed beyond all recognition from the one of my youth. A world in which we’re assailed by an endless parade of headlines that appear to have one of two agendas:

  • To divide us
  • To make us ever fearful

Now, it is the Coronavirus ‘pandemic’. Before that we had:

  • Sars
  • Bird Flu
  • Ebola (1 & 2)
  • Aids

As a backdrop to this we have ‘climate change’ and numerous terrorist events and other acts of mindless violence, all of which – to those with eyes to see – appear to follow a defined playbook.

Today, evil activities and agendas previously conducted covertly have breached the surface, visible for all to see.

Satanic symbolism is flaunted openly, transgenderism encouraged, abominations and perversions applauded and countless thousands of children and babies murdered by traffickers and abortionists alike.

What happens to the bodies of these innocent victims? The victims of wolves in the form of men and women? Here the word ‘harvest’ takes on a new and horrific connotation.

We all know what a wolf looks like.


How do we recognise a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Truth about our world is far more horrible than we could ever imagine. But truth will out – it always does. And when that happens, we need to be ready.

One thing the Bible teaches us, however, is that we’ve been here before.

The previous quote from Matthew took me to the book of Ezekiel, chapter twenty-two. In it, Israel is being judged and found wanting. The wolf metaphor is used once again.

‘Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing their prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain.’

Ezekiel 22:27

Destroying lives for dishonest gain.’

This paints a familiar picture. One has only to consider today’s geo-political chess-game, the perpetual wars, terrorism and misery. The text continues:

‘The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted the sojourner without justice.’

Ezekiel 22:29

If this image isn’t yet familiar, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary provides clarification:

‘All orders and degrees of men helped to fill the measure of the nation’s guilt. The people that had any power abused it.

It bodes ill to a people when judgements are breaking in upon them, and the spirit of prayer is restrained. Let all who fear God, unite to promote his truth and righteousness; as wicked men of every rank and profession plot together to run them down.’

Matthew Henry’s Concise Comentary

Where am I going with this?

I’ve painted a picture of a small number of Christians going out, roses in hand, into enemy territory. It is a territory of ravening beasts tainting God’s creation with their evil, perversions, greed and corruption.

Under such circumstances it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, except God has left us with numerous reassurances scattered throughout the Bible. Such as:

‘No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.’

Romans 8:37

On Valentine’s Day there were three ‘conquerors’ manning the front line.

This has since put me in mind of the TV series, ‘Band of Brothers‘. In one scene depicting the eve of a battle one officer warns another: ‘Looks like you guys are going to be surrounded.’ To this the series’ hero replies: ‘We’re paratroopers, lieutenant, we’re supposed to be surrounded.’

In another, the film ‘We Were Soldiers‘, Mel Gibson and his troops face off against the Vietnamese in a Hollywood account of the first major land battle of the Vietnam War.

In one scene, the situation is dire as Mel’s boys are about to be overwhelmed by advancing Viet Cong. All appears lost when Mel snatches a radio mike, contacts HQ and calls in an airstrike, saving the day.

As Christians we not only man the front line, but we operate behind enemy lines, surrounded and vastly outnumbered – on the earthly battlefield. But, just as Mel Gibson could rely on his wireless link to headquarters, we have a direct link to God.

We need no radio, microphone or antennae. We simply pray.



I delivered this piece to my church in February 2020, little knowing the degree to which the ensuing months would increase its relevance.