Monthly Archives: September 2015

Come Away

I love walking with Jesus. He walk by me, speaks to me, guides me, comforts me and holds me up. Amongst other things… Walking with Him is the greatest and most unbelievably freeing thing that can happen to a person. We talk to each other in conversation, or we just walk in companionable silence. This is what walking in Him is like, for me at least.

Sometimes, though, it’s good to spend a more dedicated time with Him. To get alone with Him in a quiet place so that we can discuss things in more detail. Or simply to hear His voice more clearly without the hurly-burly of everyday life. It’s very much like going out on a date with my wife – a time for just us, without chores to do or other people to please.

Like how Jesus said to His friends in Mark 6:31, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while”

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away” – Song of Sol 2:10 (ESV)

Many believers practice a ‘quiet time’, in which they do just this; they retire to a secluded location – say a bedroom or study – and spend time just being with Jesus. The quiet time can consist of anything that the believer wants to bring to Jesus: worship, prayer, chatting, or just spending time sitting with Him. And such times are beautiful, sacred and blessed times.

Sadly, I’ve also heard of some people who see the quiet time as a ‘requirement’; a sacrament almost, and they have an almost legalistic approach. ‘Unless I have my quiet time’, they think, ‘God will not bless me’. Well, that’s not true. He meets with each of us in a different way according to our personalities, needs and predilections. There’s no need to be legalistic about something that’s supposed to be a joy; equally if the idea of ‘quiet time’ does not work for you, that’s no problem either! You and He, between you, will find a way in which you can bless each other in your own personal way.

So, if you love the quiet time, go for it; grab it with both hands. Don’t have any hangups about it, though, if you miss one! Really, it’s a decision for each believer and there’s no right or wrong way of doing these things.  But I would recommend you try it. Relax and bask in His Presence. There doesn’t need to be any prayer requests, and conversation even. Just be there and see what He says to you.

What if you can’t find somewhere to ‘hide’ for your quiet time? What if you need His presence right away? I believe that each person has a ‘secret place’ within their own heart where Jesus lives by His Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 6:6). And I believe that this, with practice, can be accessed at any time. So, even in the midst of trouble, you can ascend the secret stairway into your Secret Place and commune with Jesus. This is going to be different for each believer, but in essence we are achieving the same thing. It’s finding the still, quiet place in the soul from which all your strength flows.

I hope this makes sense. It’s a bit deep, I admit, but it is really good to be able to do this. Ask Jesus for His instructions on how to do it!

Here are a couple of songs which may be of help.

Firstly, Don Francisco’s classic ‘Come Away’:

come_away_df

Come away, come away
Into quiet and trust, come away
Come away, come away
In repentance and rest, come away

For the heavens are telling the glory of God
The works of His hands teach His ways
The night reveals knowledge we must understand
His invisible nature, is explained through the days

Come away, come away,
Into quiet and trust, come away
Come away, come away,
In repentance and rest, come away

For the Lord of creation is calling you now
To a place where the thief has no key
Where your Father gives treasure that can never be lost
And the love of the Spirit of Grace sets you free

– Music and Lyrics by Don Francisco, used with his permission


 

And then the brilliant ‘Awesome in this Place’, led here by Kent Henry:

As I come into Your presence
Past the gates of praise
Into Your sanctuary
Till we’re standing face to face

I look upon Your countenance
I see the fullness of Your grace
I can only bow down and say

You are awesome in this place, Mighty God
You are awesome in this place, Abba Father;
You are worthy of all praise
To You our lives we raise
You are awesome in this place, Mighty God

So, can I encourage you to think about generating the habit of spending time with Jesus. Walk with Him, yes of course, but take the time to be alone with Him too on occasion. Daily, weekly, every hour, whatever you would like to do. You may well find that you love these times so much that you want to do it more; alternatively, maybe you’ll realise it’s not really your thing. But just give it a go and see what happens!

Bless you!

man_avenue

00

Watch the Lamb

…and how the song changed my heart….

A few years ago now, I quite accidentally discovered this song, and its writer/singer Ray Boltz, while looking for Don Francisco songs. I can’t listen to this song without weeping; this is true for only one other song, Into the West, performed by Annie Lennox. The anointing on the song (by ‘anointing’, I mean the evident seal of God’s approval; the added je ne sais quoi that He adds to things that He’s got His Hand in) – anyway the anointing is so strong that I just lose it every time. I’ll let you listen to the song (and the video is very good too) and then I’ll tell you a bit of a story.

You see, apart from its emotional effect on me, this song was also pivotal in my walk with God in another way.

This was the song that Holy Spirit used to bring me to my present place as an open affirmer of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) people .

I’d never heard of Ray Boltz before. But I was really impressed, as I’ve hinted, by the anointing on this song, and I wanted to learn more about him. Long story short, I discovered that Ray is gay.

At the time (this was about mid-2009) I was in my fifteen-year ‘wilderness period‘, and would be for another six years or so (it lasted from 1999-2014). Although God had already retrained much of my thinking with regard to theology, doctrine and practical faith, still the dislike (to put it mildly) of all things LGBTQ was a stronghold in my life. I am embarrassed to admit that I thought that gay people were way off-beam and deserved everything coming to them, as I saw it then. I cringe to write that, but that’s the honest truth. And I was wrong.

Pride-Flag1

I had to wrestle with God on this. “If he’s gay [and therefore ‘wrong’]”, I put to God, “then why and how can you put such obvious anointing on his music?”

(Only recently, though, has my thinking changed on the issue of God’s anointing of ‘obviously wrong’ people – read about that here – but back then, this was a major issue for me)

God then led me on a journey of reading, research, study, prayer and contemplation wherein He eventually brought me round to His Heart on the issues surrounding LGBTQ people.  I found that God loves them, God reaches out to the outcasts of society, He upholds the minorities and He lifts up the downtrodden. In each age, there are such people, and in our age one such ‘group’ is the LGBTQ ‘community’. He changed my heart towards these people by showing me His Heart; the natural thing for me to do was to follow His leading. I am too honest a man to deny the truths He gave me; too honest to ignore His prompting. I knew this was the way he wanted me to go. It fits right in with His love, His compassion, His gentleness and His forbearance. And, as you know from the subtitle of my blog, I always love to “do what I see the Father doing”.

And in the years since, I have found out that some of my old friends from Yorkshire (with whom I am still in touch) have also had to wrestle with these beliefs, especially one whose daughter has ‘come out’ as a Lesbian. I’m not on my own; God is challenging, and changing, the ‘firmly held’ beliefs of those who have ears to hear – many believers in this time are also coming round to this point of view.

This line of thinking also got me pondering very deeply on things like the nature of sin, the deadness of legalism and religion, and on many more things that now form a part of the way my theological thoughts now sit, and which you can see in my blog posts. And all because of that song, and Ray Boltz, the gay man who wrote it.

Ray Boltz

I now have several gay friends, some in real-life, and some who are ‘Internet friends’. And I have learned that they are good people – if you’d told the old ‘me’, ten years ago, that this would be my attitude, I would never have believed it could be possible. But thanks to God’s grace, and Ray Boltz’s song, my heart has been changed for good.

Thank You, Jesus!


For more help on faith and LGBTQ issues, check out my other blog posts here, here, here and here.

10

Theology, the Oyster and the Ballerina

When people like me read and write about theology, we need to bear in mind that a lot of the time, we don’t really have a clue what we are talking about.

Sure, I have a relationship with Jesus and because of this I am aware of the Presence of God in my life. But the immensity, the infinity, the immeasurable, unknowable complexity and grandeur (I can’t find the words!) of Father God in His awesome Majesty; even eternity will not be long enough to plumb the depths of His greatness – so how much more so, while we are still human, mortal and limited in understanding and perception, how much more so will we be unable to comprehend God?

Jesus makes God more understandable, more approachable, as He Himself is God and shows us what the Father is like. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”, Jesus said in John 14:9. But even so, and much as I am in full appreciation of Jesus’s work in His life, death, resurrection, ascension and His continued presence with us by His Spirit, still we really don’t understand everything. We don’t really even scratch the surface!

Here, then, via well-known Christian writer Jeremy Myers of ‘Redeeming God’, is a parable about a rock, an oyster and a ballerina. Funny, entertaining, and hopefully helping us to laugh at ourselves and our limited concepts and perceptions, I wholeheartedly recommend my readers to give it a go. It’s quite long, but it’s worth it.

Click the image below to go to the article:

Redeeming God logo

 

10

Signs, Wonders, Fruit and Doctrine

You know, I think there’s something really hilarious about the way in which God chooses to use ordinary people to do His works.

We humans have all these petty little denominations, groups, doctrinal positions, firmly-held beliefs, cults and other such ‘tribes’. And do you know what? God doesn’t care about all that stuff. He chooses to use those whose hearts are turned towards Him in signs, wonders, miracles and just everyday Kingdom stuff. He provides for us all, He walks with us all and most of all He loves us all.

When I was younger, I had very firmly-held doctrinal positions on most things, some of which were things to do with me, some of which were not.

I have friends who tease me and exchange tongue-in-cheek comments about their reliance on the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible as being the only, or at least the best, translation to use for all purposes. (Personally I prefer the 1978 New International Version (NIV) but not the newer NIV, although still there are some passages I feel are not expressed properly even then). Jesus heals people through those friends. I know people who are honestly struggling with the theology surrounding homosexual relationships. Jesus heals people through those friends, as well. I know churches where they are really legalistic; I know churches where it’s all about Grace. Jesus heals through those people. I know people who have addiction problems – with porn, alcohol, drugs, whatever. Guess what? Jesus heals….you get the idea.

A really funny thing for me is this: some people maintain that the Word of God is spoken, and then its authenticity is confirmed by the signs and wonders that follow. There’s lots of Scripture to back up this argument, and I will leave you to Google them for yourself. But you see this means that they then feel that the signs and wonders ‘prove’ that they are ‘right’.

And I kind-of agree, in essence. But for me the signs and wonders following do not necessarily mean that the people who spoke the ‘Word’ were necessarily entirely correct in their doctrine (if indeed there is such a thing), and God proved it by doing signs and wonders. If that were the case, then God would not so honour another preacher who preached another, slightly different doctrine – but in fact He does. Signs and wonders might well follow that preacher’s speaking too. This is mainly why I think it’s funny 🙂 . People from the two different camps would even possibly claim that the other’s signs and wonders were ‘counterfeit’ miracles from the enemy. Well, this is complete rubbish. What’s happening is that God cares so much about the people receiving the ministry of the signs and wonders – those being healed, delivered, set free, what-have-you – He cares more about demonstrating His love and His Kingdom than he does about correct theology – and so He heals them. Period.

Jesus told His disciples that they should not hinder another person who was doing signs in His Name – someone who was not ‘part of Jesus’s Group of Disciples’ – because, as He explained, “He who is not against us is for us” (Luke 9:49-50). Romans 12:15 also says that we should “rejoice with those who rejoice” – if the Kingdom is being demonstrated, then rejoice! If the enemy’s kingdom is being decimated by another group of Christians, even if we don’t see eye to eye with them, rejoice! The enemy’s kingdom is being pushed back and the “Kingdom of God [is] forcefully advancing” (Matt 11:12), and “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the evil one” (1 Jn 3:8). So if God is honouring someone else’s works, who are we to argue? It’s the same Jesus healing one group as it is the other, and He’s not partial. So let’s not be Pharisees and spoil the fun for those ministering in signs and wonders, but with whom we do not fully agree. Their doctrine isn’t important to God; and to be honest neither is yours! Instead it’s the willingness to minister God’s Love to the broken that is important.

But what about those whose doctrines are clearly in opposition to our own? How do we relate to them? Well, firstly, we should indeed rejoice with them when the enemy’s kingdom is pushed back. Even if it’s only quietly rejoicing; you don’t have to go throw a party with them! 😉 But still thank God that the Kingdom is advancing and Jesus is being preached.

No, the real sign of someone’s ‘rightness’ with God is that of their fruit. The Fruit of the Spirit. I’ve written on this subject here. And the other sign of how submitted you are to Christ is the way in which you react to others’ successes – as I said, rejoice in God’s Kingdom; if you do that, it is a clear sign that you are putting His Kingdom first (Matt 6:33)

To me, this all shows how tolerant God is of those who really want to worship Him from their hearts; no matter how ‘wrong’ they may seem to other groups, He still blesses them. Why? Because God is Good – all the time. Even to those who are faithless, those who are ‘wrong’…..we are all in a state where Grace needs to improve our thinking and our belief systems. Sure, gifts, signs and wonders are a measure, but the real measure is the fruit. Also many people will usually quote the “Lord, Lord….” passage (Matt 7:21) to try somehow to ‘prove’ that the others are wrong – but this is plain incorrect. Firstly there is no evidence to suggest that ‘their’ group is ‘wrong’ and ‘ours’ is ‘right’. And secondly it’s a non-sequitur: their conclusion does not have a logical link from a preceding axiom or established principle, nor does it follow a logical line of argument. What they are saying is that God will, one day, justify their position by casting out these others into some undefined ‘place of wailing’….but this is plain incorrect. God does not take sides on doctrinal issues. And He actually sees all us different believers as one body; isn’t it about time we put aside our doctrinal differences and did the same? A friend of mine commented on this idea thus: “… I do believe that God is doing [the signs and wonders] to prove that HE is right… And more importantly, to glorify the Son”. Absolutely right.

So, this is why God honours the faith of so many doctrinally different groups – because He’s good (all the time); because He loves them and the people they’re ministering to; and because really God’s not too bothered about doctrine as much as we think He is. As with so many of the Things of God, it’s simple once you see it!

00

How do aeroplanes fly?

flight_dynamics


A word of explanation: the ‘FAA’ is the Federal Aviation Authority, the national regulatory body for aviation in the USA; here in the UK we have the CAA – Civil Aviation Authority. These national regulatory bodies are often seen by many pilots and aviation enthusiasts as barriers to the free enjoyment of the skies. They do a lot of good, though – modern aviation wouldn’t work without them – but they are also largely bureaucratic in their mindset. Here in the UK, some pilots even refer to the CAA as the ‘Committee Against Aviation’.

The diagram is a spoof of the ‘Four Forces of Flight’ diagram that normally illustrates the four main forces acting on an aeroplane in flight:

four_forces

But of course everyone knows that what really holds those huge airliners up in the sky is all the passengers clinging on tight to the armrests. Without those forces, the plane would just drop out of the sky….. 😉

00

Happy Birthday to Me!

On this day, 35 years ago, I began my walk with Jesus. Although I don’t like the term ‘Born again’, because of all the extremist connotations it carries, I did begin a new life – like being re-born if you like. I began a life walking with my Friend, Teacher and Saviour, and He’s never left me, even (and especially) through the ‘wilderness years‘.

In John 16:12, Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear”, and He has indeed spoken to me many truths and insights, some of which I share here on Flying in the Spirit. My point being that although the Bible is full of the things Jesus said in the past, He still speaks to His people in the present day, and continues to do so. There’s always something new with Jesus!

So, i just thought I’d mention it here on my blog. I’m 35 today (sounds a lot better than 53!), and we will be having one of my favourite ‘unhealthy’ meals this evening – Fish finger sandwiches with parsley sauce – so it’s Happy Birthday to Me!

00

“The Wilderness between Legalism and Grace” – a blog series

My regular readers will know that I am a strong proponent of Grace over Legalism. My own personal journey from Legalism to Grace took about fifteen years. However, here is a lovely open, honest, personal and balanced blog about one young lady’s story of her walk to freedom from Legalism. I say ‘balanced’ because she epilogues the series with, would you believe, a list of the benefits of legalism! But she’s right in what she says.

Anyway I can do no more than to recommend this series most highly. Click the image below to go the series landing page; an index of all the blog posts.

wilderness

00

Site Admin Message: Problem with User Registration Sorted

After months of blogging, I have finally worked out why nobody has commented on any of my posts. Despite having over 1200 ‘registered’ users, nobody has been receiving their welcome emails. Having said that, only one person has contacted me about this!

I am so sorry that this has happened, and although the problem is now fixed, I have no realistic way of re-sending the welcome emails which allow users to post comments. The only plugin available for the WordPress software that I use to create my blog, that would enable easy re-sending of the emails, has not been updated for over a year and therefore does not work with this, the latest version of WordPress that I use.

What this means in practice is that I’m going to have to ask users to re-register with this site in order to be able to post comments – but at least it should now work properly. At the same time as I post this message, I’m going to delete all existing user registrations – as far as I can see, none of the registrations have worked anyway.

Ah, the joys of running a website. But normal, ‘proper’ service will now be resumed.

Thanks for your understanding 🙂

[Edit: It transpires that most if not all of the 1200 ‘users’ were in fact fake registrations for spam/marketing purposes. So perhaps it all worked out for the best in the end. Anyway, normal commenting is now working properly]

00

Vision of the Valley

In 1991, the Christian musician Don Francisco published an album entitled ‘Vision of the Valley. The title track, ‘Vision of the Valley’ was a prophetic song depicting God’s feelings against the fake shepherds of the Christian Church; those interested in being leaders only for the money, the power and/or the prestige and social standing that the ‘job’ gave.

Now, almost a quarter-century later, I believe that this song is echoing what Father is doing in this time.

You see, for too long, many (but not all) churches all around the world have concentrated on god’s anger, judgement, ‘holiness’ (in this context, meaning his being ‘set apart’ from, or in other words allergic to, ‘sin’), rules and laws, and other unsavoury aspect of the character of ‘angry god’ portrayed especially in the Old Testament. Churches have been harsh and unbending, they have been unwelcoming to those that don’t fit in. The way they treat their members, at least those who deviate even slightly from the ‘normal’ behaviour, is reprehensible. They have persecuted the minorities – such as gay/lesbian/transgender people, they have rejected the widows and their children (divorcees and remarried people – see my article on this here) and they have shunned those who do not agree with them on absolutely every point of doctrine.

There are people bleeding and broken by ‘heavy shepherding’ – bullying, strong-personality leader types who make their congregation do things without question and order them around in God’s Name, and confront them with their ‘sins’, supposedly ‘in love’.

Love could not be further from these people. They are not being Christ to their people, nor to those outside. Is it any wonder, then, that the world looks in on the Church of today – whether that particular congregation is guilty of this or not; they are all tarred with the same brush by those outside – with contempt. This is the face of Religion – cold, hard, unbending, unmerciful. The Church, generally, is no longer seen as representing Christ  to the world – the Christ Who turned the cold face of Religion on its head and redefined how people can relate to God…..

So what Father is doing is that there are many people around the world who do represent Jesus, and He is raising these people up and bringing them out into the limelight. People whom before we ‘…hadn’t noticed’. People in every walk of life who love Jesus and love others. People like me, who have recently ‘come out’ as an affirmer of Lesbian/gay/transgender people. People like good friends of mine, who have realised that the harshness of the Old Testament is not a true reflection of God’s nature, and that proper interpretation of Scripture is essential in determining doctrine, if indeed you even need doctrine as such, but in any event at least where that doctrine dictates how you treat others.

Jesus is in this day reaching out to those who need Him in their lives. The broken, the bleeding, those damaged by bullying religion, those bound up by archaic rules and laws that Jesus came to set us free from.

So, here’s the song – Vision of the Valley – by Don Francisco, used here with his permission:

Vision_of_the_Valley

The vision came unbidden, at an unexpected pass
Where the winds of change blew colder
Whippin’ snow that cut like glass
But like an old man in regret
For foolish sins and wasted youth
The scene that lay before me
Had no beauty save its truth

For the wind came down the mountains
Never slow and never still
And the sheep were scattered shepherdless,
Alone across the hills
They were prey to every beast that roamed,
And entrapped by every curse
And they stumbled in their sickness,
In their weakness and their thirst

Below them in the valley,
The polluted waters flowed
Where the shepherds that were hirelings sat
And argued what was owed
And the ambitious and the abusive bragged
And they boasted on their might
And their profits from the slaughter
Of the ones who could not fight

And the wind just kept on howling,
As I cried, “Oh Lord, how long
Will your people be the victims
Of the ruthless, proud and strong?”
And at once there came an answer
In the quiet of my soul
“The time has come for judgement
And to make the wounded whole”

“For my heart is still a shepherd’s heart
I know each one by name
The ragged and the beautiful,
The healthy and the lame
And I myself will lead them out,
And I’ll feed them on the best
In pastures by still waters
In a place of peace and rest

O, but woe unto the shepherds who abuse my sheep and kill
With harshness and severity you’ve bent them to your will
And today I am against you as I take them from your hand
When the fire of judgement comes
The stubble will not stand!”

Then darkness filled the valley
And I saw it take up form
Screaming winds and fire and lightning
More than any earthly storm
Where it passed were no survivors
For the land was cleansed and bare
But the streams flowed clear and purified
And the grass grew green and fair

I saw a man come walking
And his heart glowed like a flame
All the sheep began to run to him,
And he called each one by name
He spoke to them in gentle words
And he soothed their fearful minds
And he healed the brokenhearted
And the crippled, sick and blind
Then many others like him,
All with hearts that glowed the same
That before I hadn’t noticed,
From the farms and fields they came
They weren’t famous, wise, or noble
But they spoke a common word
A word the flock could recognize
And follow when they heard

They led them in green pastures,
By still waters in the light
Standing guard against the wolves
And other creatures of the night
Going out into the mountains
In the darkness and the cold
Bringing back the lost and wounded
To the safety of the fold
And the news went out around the world
In every street and town
That something wonderful was here,
That heaven had come down
And millions gave their hearts in trust
That long had been betrayed
And the bride at last was ready,
And the trumpet call was made

And the news went out around the world
In every street and town
That something wonderful was here,
That heaven had come down
And millions gave their hearts in trust
That long had been betrayed
And the bride at last was ready,
And the trumpet call was made

The ‘many others like Him’ are those people who, in this time, are spending time getting to know the Great Shepherd’s Heart, and then expressing that Heart to those around them. They are the ones who have forgotten their ability to judge others, and instead have decided to preach the Good News of the Kingdom either directly, or by the way they express the Love of Jesus in their lives.

Are you one of those people? Would you like to be one of those people? Maybe if you listen to ‘Vision’, your backbone feels like there’s electricity running down it right from that opening harp arpeggio right at the beginning of the song? Does your heart burn with the dual emotions of excitement of believing what God is doing today and the deep weeping for those so badly treated by those who should know better? Does your heart weep for those sheep, and long for them to be released into the freedom that Jesus bought for them? If any of these descriptions strike a chord with you, then the Spirit is indeed speaking this to your heart – so be encouraged! He will work this out for you if you ask Him.

What does this mean, then, for the ‘shepherds’? What is this ‘woe’ that the song speaks of, reflecting the passages in Ezekiel 34:2-10 and Jeremiah 23:1?

Quite simply, as people leave the churches of these people, they will be out of a job! Sure, their existing congregations might well stay the same size, since they will probably be made up of people who are equally hard and harsh. But as Holy Spirit works on the hard hearts of those people, and even on the leaders, they will come round to His way of thinking. And the Church will grow, but not the churches that are hardened, at least not with people who know their relationship with Jesus has saved them from the hell of a life lived on the streets without Him. They will form their own groups around those who go out and find them; in short, relationship will win over rules and organisation. Don’t forget that God loves even the harsh shepherds, and longs for them to realise their error and to come into the fulness of His Kingdom in this life. They are missing out on so much!

So, listen to the song again and again. Soak in it; hear its message, and if you are one of these hard-hearted people, then let the Spirit change you into the person you always wanted to be.


Edit: Here’s another version of the song, live by Don Francisco, in the 1989 UK ‘Vision of the Valley’ Tour. The keyboard player is Yorkshireman Dave Bainbridge, of the band ‘Iona’; I played piano at his baptism….

00

People who will build you up – More on Fruit of the Spirit

Recently, I published a blog article on the Fruit of the Spirit. I described how spending time with God produces in you the fruit that will last and will bless you and others.

Here, then, is an interesting article by well-known Christian blogger Ben Corey, on looking for the Fruit of the Spirit in others, and the benefits of spending time with those people. Not necessarily people who only believe exactly the doctrines and things that you personally believe, but those who bear fruit. And how much good their fruit will do you.

Click the picture below to go to the article:

ben_corey_header

 

00