Monthly Archives: October 2015

Unfundamentalist Christians

Every so often, I stumble across a website where I find people who appear to believe, at least in terms of major tenets, exactly what I too believe.

The people who write the blog ‘Unfundamentalist Christians’ appear to be such people, because they have a set of reasonable statements which, to me, present a balanced view of Christian core belief. This is not heresy; this is people trying to make sense of their faith in a world gone mad, where the main religions also appear to have gone mad.

Nobody is going to believe exactly the same things as everyone else, which is why I hold to the idea of God being really laid-back; nobody can ever be 100% ‘right’, and in any case things right for some people are not right for others. And it’s ok to believe something different from others; that was one of the hardest things for me to cope with when emerging from Fundamentalism.

They put stuff on that blog that I don’t agree with. And this is great. The ancient, well-tried Rabbinic method of trying to work out that which is not workable-outable – God – involves deep discussion with people of differing viewpoints, in order to reach greater understanding of that which can never be fully understood in our limited human understanding.

But their central tenets I agree with. I recommend you look at them; you might just say something like, ‘Oh yes! That’s what I’ve always thought too!’

And you will know you’re not alone in those beliefs.

Click the logo below to go to the site:

Unfundamentalist Christians square

You might also want to set up an RSS feed to get their latest blog posts notified direct to your bookmarks. This is how I keep on top of this stuff….

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Bombing Others with Scripture

Scripture is a precious gift from God, in which He speaks to us, points us to Jesus, and tells us how much He loves us. To use it as a weapon against others is inexcusable, and is a complete misuse of it. I have lost count of the number of times when, during ‘enthusiastic’ discussions on various forums, I have been on the receiving end of a ‘Scripture salvo’!

In this article, Susan Cottrell of Freedhearts.com explains a better way of using Scripture when interfacing with others.

“Every time [Scripture] is used, it should be used in a way that matches the heart of God. If it is not, it is being abused.”

Click the picture below to go to the article.

freedhearts

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Thank You For The Music

This is probably my favourite pop song. Thank You For The Music, by Abba

As with so many songs that have no ‘church’ content, it can in fact be used in a worship context. In this case, of course, as a thanksgiving song – especially as I am a musician and I value that gift so much…. “So I say, ‘Thank You for the Music!’ “

 

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DeHavilland Mosquito

This entry is part 5 of 16 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

The Mosquito, or ‘Mossie’ for short, was one of the great British success stories of the Second World War and afterwards. Made from wood, and with two very powerful engines, she was the fastest aeroplane in the war until the advent of the Messerschmitt Me262 jet fighter.

mosquito2

The wooden construction meant that she was probably one of the first ‘stealth’ aircraft (because wood doesn’t show up all that well on radar). But the Mossie was a true multi-role combat aircraft, made in many different versions for many different roles, and displaying the design’s real versatility.

mosquito over tail

However, it was in the low-level role that the Mossie really excelled. On one famous occasion, a Mosquito raid breached the walls of the Amiens prison, where the occupying German forces were holding a number of French Resistance and political prisoners. The raiding aircraft went in at an extremely low-level, some 50 feet above the ground, and at a speed of about 300mph or so. That’s some flying!

To illustrate this, here’s a very special photo of a Mosquito flying under the Eiffel Tower in the autumn of 1944; you might need to click the photo to get the full-size image up so you can see the aeroplane:

mosquito_eiffel

As you can see from the last two pictures, the Mosquito has very clean lines and a small frontal profile; respectively, these features make for high speed and low radar signature (how well it shows up on radar – the less, the better)

mosquito-ka114-wings-over-wairarapa-1

Most of the photos on this page are of one of the two airworthy Mosquitos remaining in the world; this aircraft was stored in a field for 30 years or more. Restored over a period of eight years by New Zealand company AVspec, the aircraft now resides in the USA.

Here’s a shot of that aircraft flying low over a lake near the factory where it was restored:

mossie_low_over_lake

mossie

So there she is – the Mosquito, another Beautiful Destroyer. Of course, this is yet another aeroplane I’d love to fly.

In my dreams!

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The Ultimate ‘Bad Witness’

One of the main stipulations that was laid on me as a new believer was that I was not to be a ‘Bad Witness’. Emphasis on the capital letters, please – a Bad Witness. Oh, Heaven forbid that any of us should be seen to be a Bad Witness! A Bad Witness was, (somewhat loosely, and never adequately defined or explained), where the believer did something that those outside the Church would see that would somehow cause them to disbelieve that Jesus is alive, that He lives in His Church, in me, and that I walked with Him. So I had to be so, so careful to ‘avoid all semblance of evil’ (1 Thess 5:22)*, especially when in the presence of unbelievers, in case they saw something that was a Bad Witness!

But actually the very worst Bad Witness is seen when Christians try to portray God in any way other than in the Love of Jesus. By being all judgemental, superior and condemning, by hating gays, by looking out for sin in others, they are being a Bad Witness. (The cartoon at the top of this post sums this up rather nicely!) We are not actually called to act in this way towards people; we are, however, called to be Christ to the people we meet. This is one reason why, at least for the sake of the ‘witness’, if you like, it is so important a) to be Christlike and b) to let Him do the transforming to make us like that, not to try to attain it by our own efforts. Trying to do things in any other way except for Jesus’s way is not going to bring Christ to those who need Him. It’s going to be a Bad Witness.

So, how do Christians manage to be such a Bad Witness?

Essentially, we do it by portraying the wrong image of God. Let me quote from a book I am reading just now, called Saints in the Arms of a Happy God’, by Jeff Turner. I have included a few illustrations too which I think emphasise Jeff’s points. Be warned: some of this reads quite negatively, but there is a purpose to this.

“Jesus Christ’s life of others-centered love and forgiveness was meant to do much more than give us a goal to shoot for. It was meant to unveil God. The Grace extended to us is the Sun that rises, giving illumination to His character. This revelation, according to Paul, does not elicit some sort of plastic, pseudo righteousness, nor does it cause us to burn ourselves out with the fever of religious performance. Rather, it brings about true, lasting change in our hearts. It motivates us to real Godly living, simply because in the light of Grace, God looks way too good to run away from, and far too friendly to fight against. When we see Him in the light of Jesus Christ our fear, anxiety, terror, and trepidation all melt into pools, and we find ourselves wondering how we could have ever been afraid of such a beautiful Father.

“Grace causes us to run from the tar pits of legalism and religious slavery, straight into the arms of a Father who, despite what we’ve been told, has never disdained or despised us. We may not have the Pharisees, with their man-made additions to the Mosaic Law among us today, but we have many teachers and preachers who have rushed in to fill the vacuum left by their absence. The same misconceptions of God abound today, though they look a little less Jewish, and a little more Evangelical.

“The sad truth is that we have all inherited a portrait of God that looks far more like Mt. Olympus than Mt. Zion, and it’s an inheritance that most are too terrified to discard. In our Western traditions God is often presented as being cold, austere, distant and judgmental. We imagine Him surrounded by dark clouds, with a scowl sprawled across his angry mug.

angry-god-wtf

He’s very eager to be pleased, but, unfortunately, extremely difficult to please. He is a hermit that is notoriously difficult to coax out of hiding and even harder to keep around because the slightest scent of sin can send him bolting for the hills in a rage. In fact, one of our imagined deity’s greatest weaknesses is His sin allergy. Wherever there are humans behaving badly, you can be sure he’ll be absent. Where there are broken people doing broken things with their broken lives, God will not be present, for in our mythology human sin works like Kryptonite against him, forcing Him to retreat and separate Himself from us.

“He is mostly sad andAngryGod1 mad, and rarely, perhaps when his enemies bite the dust, glad. He is heartbroken over our lack of devotion and disinterest in prayer, but is himself quite disinterested in the everyday events of our lives. He is a demented Santa Claus of sorts, who tightly clenches the naughty list – which we’ve all landed on, by the way – and dreams of filling our spiritual stockings with the burning coals of judgment. When he looks at [a nation], he doesn’t see individual people who desperately need love and mercy, but a widespread, faceless blob of darkness, deserving judgment. He’s sickened by our lack of fervency, repulsed by our spotty church attendance records, and gets all up in arms when our summer vacation extends over a Sunday morning. To put it simply, He’s angry.

“The God that a large percentage of us imagine and pay homage to is disgruntled, disappointed, and disapproving. While some may be fortunate enough to have imagined Him in His true state, my experience has been that 9 out of 10 people, myself included, do not see Him rightly. We’ve been subjected to hours of teachings that have subtly sown into our minds the idea that He is primarily a legal deity concerned with rights and wrongs, and this subconscious programming is absolutely killing us. I would even venture to say that it is the leading cause of anxiety, fear, discontentment, and depression among Christians. In all of this fear, turmoil, and mythology, however, Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, still stands in our midst, combatting these false ideologies, and seeking to shine the light of Grace upon the face of His Daddy.”

Saints in the Arms of a Happy God: Recovering the Image of God and Man, by Jeff Turner

I know that some of this sounds really negative, but I have included it to illustrate that this is in fact exactly how many people – both inside and outside the Church – see God. Isn’t it terrible? Isn’t it tragic?

So, how and why does that awful picture of God get transferred to being the way that those outside the Church see when they see certain Christians? I believe it is because those kinds of Christians portray, and represent, God in that way because that is how they believe He is, and they try to imitate Him or at least try to be His ‘representatives’, or ‘agents’ in the world. Which is, actually, exactly what the church is called to be – each of us being Jesus to those around us – but of course the actuality is a sick and twisted version of the reality that it should be. Many Christians can’t stand to see others having fun, precisely because they believe that because God is an angry fun-sucker, who is completely concerned with making sure that nobody has fun and is obsessively repulsed by our ‘sin’, then they should represent that to the world, and so of course that’s what the outside world see.

puritans

But as Jeff Turner says in my quotation above, Jesus came to show us what God is really like. He went to parties. His first miracle was to make some really strong wine, that, yes, people probably got drunk on. The religious authorities complained at Him for precisely the same reason as today’s fun-sucking religious types did: they saw His disciples having fun! In Mark 2:18-19,  we see this story: Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them”. They thought that being acceptable to God meant being all serious all the time and following strict religious observances, whereas actually we can give God no greater honour than to enjoy, and be thankful for, all the blessings He showers on us each day.

As I have shown in my post Graven Image, Jesus came to show us that the image of God we have picked up by reading the Old Testament, and that the people of His time also believed, was incorrect. The religious authorities of the time had fallen into the same trap as many of the believers of today, the trap of believing that God is angry and must be placated by us making all kinds of sacrifices, including sacrificing the enjoyment of life itself, and the religious authorities of our time too fall into the same trap. It’s all behaviour-based rather than relationship-based. God simply wants a relationship with us! However, when we persist in perceiving God as an angry dictator, we portray Him entirely wrongly.

And so, because we serve an ‘angry god’, we try to act towards others in such a way that be believe he would act – in other words, we try to point out sin, we are bigoted and intolerant, we definitely hate gays (because God says in Deuteronomy that He hates them, doesn’t He?) and we believe that anyone who believes things even slightly differently from the things we believe is destined for eternal punishment.

This, then, is the essence of the Bad Witness!

To come back, then, to the original stipulation of not being this Bad Witness, then, let’s look at what we’ve achieved so far. We don’t do things like partying, drinking, or anything else that others might see as a Bad Witness. What should be our walk of faith is reduced to a set of do’s and don’ts. But, you see, by having such a list of do’s and don’ts, which we then expect as ‘normal behaviour’ for Christians to the world around us, we reinforce in outsiders the belief that ‘Christians don’t do these things’. And so begins, and persists, the vicious cycle of legalism that puts off those people who would so love to have all the benefits of faith in Christ, but don’t want to become like us as the price of obtaining all those benefits. We live under the rules taught by other fallible men, we impose those rules on those in the Church, those outside see those rules and (quite rightly) want no part of it, and we are a Bad Witness. Isn’t it funny? Those ‘outside’ know perfectly well that we are doing things in the wrong way; we just don’t realise it ourselves!

Dont_Follow_Rules_Taught_by_Men

And so people in the world have expectations of what they think Christians should do, look like, behave like, and believe. And even then, that opinion varies from person to person. So it’s actually impossible at best, and destructive at worst, to try not to be a Bad Witness, only except by portraying God as a loving, benevolent Father like Jesus portrayed him.

It must be almost completely apparent by now that it’s time we stopped, as a church, trying to please humans. Because of all the above, you can’t please men. But if instead we please God, by displaying the qualities of Jesus to others, by being Jesus to others, then that will be the opposite of the Bad Witness.

Jesus said ‘by this shall all men know you are my disciples, that you love each other’ (Jn 13:35). Love each other. Love those both outside and inside the Church. Live a life of freedom, not of bondage to man-made rules and regulations.

This is how others will know we are His disciples. Not by our trying to avoid being a Bad Witness!


Jeremy Myers, of the blog Redeeming God, has published an article in which he frames this concept as an apology to the world outside the Church. Click the image below to go to that article:

Redeeming God logo


*Although actually the Scripture says ‘avoiding all kinds of evil’ – somewhat less useful to the legalism brigade!

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Praying the Blessing…..

There are very few things in this word that truly ‘make the world a better place’. But there are some things that could do that, if more people did them.

Here’s a good example: a superb concept from the blog of Ben Corey, where we develop the habit of praying blessing on people rather than judging them. This will probably revolutionise the way you view life, others and yourself. Give it a go!

Click the image below to go to the blog post:

ben_corey_header

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Kari Jobe – Revelation Song

This is a gorgeous worship song by American singer/songwriter/worship leader Kari Jobe.

As always with the worship songs I present, just relax, close your eyes and worship. Should your hands want to raise up as you listen, don’t stop them 😉

Enjoy!

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Holy, holy is He
Sing a new song to Him who sits on
Heaven’s mercy seat

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Clothed in rainbows of living color
Flashes of lightning, rolls of thunder
Blessing and honor strength and glory and power be
To You the only wise King

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You

Filled with wonder awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus Your name is power, breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings
You are my everything and I will adore You, I will adore You

– Kari Jobe

The chord vamp that forms the basic structure of the song is simply inspired. For those who might want to play it on guitar, the chords are D-Am-C-G and basically repeat. Remember it’s played on the dominant 5th rather than on the tonic, so the actual key signature is one sharp or ‘G’. Although, I personally prefer to play it in Gb (so, Db-Abm-B-Gb) as I feel it’s more atmospheric. Plus it makes me feel smug as it’s seen by some as a more ‘difficult’ key 😉

Finally, here is the same song, but performed live. Brilliant!

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Jesus is Your Qualification for God’s Blessings!

Remember my July post with the classic Wayne’s World clips ‘We’re Not Worthy!!‘? Well, here’s another affirmation to let you know that you are indeed worthy of God’s Blessings – through Jesus!

Recently I have been learning a lot about Grace. I have close relatives who are also rediscovering Grace, via the ministry of people like Joseph Prince. In the ‘Daily Grace Inspirations’ article I will link to, Joseph explains how Jesus makes you worthy of all of God’s blessings, through His Grace. And he quotes from Deuteronomy too; surprising for me to find blessing there, as I don’t normally find Deuteronomy ‘helpful’. But this has revolutionised my thinking on that. Thank you, Jesus, for all Your Grace!

Click the image below to go to the article. It will definitely be worth your while!

daily grace inspirations joseph prince

 

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