Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Most Useful Bible Study Tool

Today I want to introduce you to what is probably the most useful Bible study tool I have ever been shown.

It’s the idea of Hebrew parallelism. Now, before you let the name put you off, please let me reassure you: it’s really very simple!

Much of the Bible, including much of Jesus’s and Paul’s teachings, is written in the style of Hebrew poetry, in which two concepts or ideas are presented together, so as to emphasise the point being made. This is called ‘parallelism’, and there are two types of parallelism: ‘synonymous’ or ‘synthetic’ parallelism; and ‘antithetic’ parallelism.

Again, don’t be scared off by the technical terms; it’s really easy to understand. It simply means that the two concepts either compare with each other, or they contrast with each other. Synthetic means that the concepts compare; antithetic means they contrast. The Biblical books of Psalms and Proverbs are full of such writings, and it is mainly from these books that I will draw examples.

So, synthetic parallelism is where the two concepts agree and reinforce each other. Think of it that the two concepts ‘rhyme’, if you like. In synthetic parallelism, the second line of the stanza completes, clarifies or complements the first line. For example, Proverbs 2:6 says,

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding”

So we see here two rhyming concepts – the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. The writer is helping us to understand that wisdom is to do with both knowledge and understanding. He also tells us that these benefits come from God, and not only from God, but from His mouth – as in, they are personal and integral to God’s character and what He says. So, the second phrase clarifies and defines the first – and not only that, but the truth is greater than the sum of its parts, because we get to look at the idea from two different yet complementary angles. We therefore get the idea that wisdom and listening to God are in fact intertwined; although this is not explicitly stated in the stanza, the conclusion is inferred by the parallelism and would not have been apparent without it.

A second example would be from Psalm 23:6 –

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Here’s an interesting one. He refers to ‘all the days of my life’, and yet also refers to ‘[dwelling] in the house of the Lord forever’. Does this mean, then that David (it was the legendary King David who wrote the psalm) feels that he will have ‘life’ in the house of the Lord forever? Like, for eternity? Is this an early indication of belief in an afterlife? But whatever the case, David is equating dwelling ‘in God’s house’ with ‘goodness and love’. Each line by itself would not communicate this, but when combined using synthetic parallelism, the two lines complete and explain one another. Lovely!

So, this is synthetic parallelism. The joining together of two complementary ideas in order to improve the benefits gained from what is written.

The other type of parallelism is called ‘antithetic parallelism’. Antithetic parallelism is where, instead of complementing each other, the two lines contrast with each other. If you like, they are opposite concepts, rather than rhyming concepts. The use of opposites clarifies both extremes, and the truth of the statement is found somewhere in between. In Hebrew poetry, the use of opposites brings a sharper contrast to the statements and provides a greater focus to the desired message.

For example, let’s take a look at Proverbs 28:1 –

“The wicked flee when no-one is chasing them, but the righteous are bold as a lion”

Again, standing on their own, these lines would not mean much more than they say. The wicked flee when no-one is pursuing them. Oh. Is that right? But when contrasted with the antithetic line ‘the righteous are bold as a lion’, then it makes sense. It shows the benefits of being righteous – because the boldness of the righteous is great just because they are righteous, whereas the wicked flee for no reason. It’s a bit like saying the wicked have a guilty conscience, whereas those who are righteous – in right standing with God – do not.

Or in another example, Ephesians 5:18 says,

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit”.

This is not an injunction that Christians must never be drunk, as it is most commonly used to ‘prove’. Instead, this is an antithetic parallelism that contrasts being drunk on alcohol with being filled with the Spirit. Both situations produce ‘good feelings’; both might lead us to do things we wouldn’t normally do. But when taken together, the contrast of being filled with the Spirit (and its consequence of gorgeous singing*, worship and general well-being) is so far away from drunkenness (and its consequence of ‘debauchery’ – doing possibly harmful or hurtful things; what some call ‘sin’) that you would be almost forced to agree that being filled with Holy Spirit is far, far better than being drunk. You see the point? Two opposing concepts are presented that, when contrasted, bring out the meanings of ‘why’ we perhaps should think twice about getting drunk, but instead go on being filled with Holy Spirit. I’m not trying to lay down rules here, of course – far from it, I’m just using this passage as an example of how much we can get out of using parallelism in our studies.

So, this is parallelism. As you study your Bible, then, try to look for examples of these parallelisms in your reading…and then when you combine this use of parallelism with the illumination of Holy Spirit, what you have is dynamite. Your understanding of the Scriptures will be so much better!

I could go into whole passages where the parallelism is not so much in one phrase following another, but indeed whole passages using this technique from paragraph to paragraph. Really, once you start to see this parallelism stuff, you will keep on noticing it and recognising it for what it is. And, when you do, remember how to use the tool to get the most out of the passage. A particularly beautiful use of parallelism is in the so-called ‘Beatitudes’ passages in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (Matt 5:3-12; Lk 6:20-22) where Jesus uses it in both ways, but the whole concept is in terms of the brilliant sequence of synthetic and antithetic lines used with that first line of each beatitude, ‘Blessed are….’. Read those passages with parallelism in mind, and you will immediately see not only how useful this tool is for understanding, but also how useful it is for teaching as well. Those lines would have sunk in, believe me!

So, that’s parallelism. Give it a go. Use it if you find it useful. Discard it if not. The choice is yours. It’s just that I’ve found it really, really useful and I wanted to share it here so that you can use it too.

Be blessed!


*If you’ve never heard the wonderful sound of people singing ‘in the Spirit’, have a listen to the beginning of the track ‘Come Sup with Me’ in my previous post. That’s a bit rhythmic; there is a lot of softer stuff on my Vintage Worship Tapes site. Go take a look.

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For Unto us a Child is Born

This isn’t really a Christmas song, but the sheer breathtaking magnificence of it, and that it is about Jesus, the Child from Heaven, means that I really must share it with you today. And someone’s shared it on YouTube too, so I will embed the track from there:

For Unto us a Child is born, unto us a son is given
And the government shall be upon his shoulders.
For Unto us a Child is born, unto us a son is given
And the government shall be upon his shoulders.

Chorus:
And He will be called Wonderful, Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God
The Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,
Mighty God

And there shall be no end to the increase of His rule
To the increase of his government and peace
For he shall sit on David’s throne, upholding righteousness
Our God shall accomplish this

Chorus

For He is the mighty God, He is the Prince of Peace,
The King of Kings and Lord of Lords
All honour to the King, all glory to His name,
For now and evermore!

Chorus*

Be blessed this Christmas morning. Jesus is the greatest Gift ever given in all of history, the Gift that all our earthly Christmas gifts symbolise.

God offers you the Gift of eternal life in Jesus, beginning right now, if you will just simply receive the Gift.

Unwrap. Open the Box. Enjoy!


The song is also on the ‘Enter His Gates‘ collection on my website Vintage Worship Tapes. Click one of the red links above, or the logo below, to go to the site:

enter_his_gates_dales_84

*Words and Music copyright David J Hadden, who is the vocalist on the recording above.

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North American XB-70 Valkyrie

This entry is part 9 of 16 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

The remarkable North American XB-70 Valkyrie was probably the most advanced aeroplane of its time. It was conceived and designed not long after the Second World War as a high-speed (Mach 3+), high-altitude (70,000ft+) bomber capable of striking targets in the USSR from bases in the USA.

xb-70a_aircraft_1

The idea of a bomber aircraft’s design is to enable it to get through to its target, and then deliver its weapons effectively. Since the beginning of the history of bomber aircraft, then, they had been designed to fly ever higher and ever faster, in order to ensure penetration of enemy air defences to reach their targets – the idea being that the faster and higher you flew, the less exposure you had to your target’s defences. Traditional air defences up until the late 1950’s consisted of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) – meaning basically guns, also known as ‘flak’ – and manned interceptor aircraft. Already, by the end of the Second World War, designers of such defences recognised that high-flying jet aircraft would be almost completely immune to ground-based guns; the idea then behind making the XB-70 such a fast aircraft, as well as being high-flying, would be to also render it virtually immune to interception by manned aircraft. There are technical reasons for this that I will not go into right now*, but basically it would have meant that this aeroplane would have been unstoppable in its mission.

xb-70a_aircraft_6

So, the XB-70 was designed to fly so high and so fast that nothing would be able to stop it from reaching its target.

You can be forgiven for noticing that there’s a lot of smoke! The XB-70 was powered by no less than six  afterburning turbojet engines, producing 28,800 pounds of thrust each with full reheat.

xb-70-engines-visible

The XB-70 was capable of Mach 3 speeds (three times the speed of sound or about 2,100mph) and altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet. An interesting (and as far as I know, unique) feature of the type was its ‘drooping’ wingtips, shown in the pictures below:

xb-70 mountains

xb-70_rear

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This feature gave several aerodynamic benefits, the most unusual of which was to compress the supersonic shockwave (essentially the phenomenon that causes the ‘sonic boom’) under the aircraft to produce extra lift, known as ‘compression lift‘. This increases the aerodynamic efficiency of the aircraft at higher speeds.

xb-70-side

xb-70 ground

Sadly, though, the XB-70 programme was cancelled because of developments in Soviet surface-to-air missile (SAM) technology. Because of the effectiveness and high performance of the Soviet SAMs,  speed and altitude were no longer necessarily an adequate defence against being shot down. The era of the ‘unstoppable’ fast and high-flying bomber was at an end; from now on, the principal tactic for a bomber to ‘get through’ would now be to go in at very low level, ‘under the radar’, which is why there is so much emphasis on practising low-level flying in today’s air forces. The XB-70’s performance was no longer going to help her ‘get through’, and other aircraft such as the Boeing B-52 could do the job, but at low level. So the XB-70 was no longer required and the program was cancelled.

North_American_XB-70_above_runway_ECN-792

However, the type had a temporary respite: because of its performance, which was right out on the limits of what was then (and even now!) possible, the two examples of the aircraft that had been built were adopted by NASA to explore the limits of aerodynamics in the kinds of high and fast flight regimes that the XB-70 was capable of.

xb-70-landing

Despite a double-fatality mid-air collision in 1966 with an F-104 fighter, which destroyed one of the XB-70s, the remaining example continued as a research platform until 1969, when she was retired and placed in a museum.

Even on her final flight to the museum, they used the flight to gather yet more research data! So I guess you could say that there was still life in the old girl even then….

XB-70-streaming

So there she is: the XB-70 Valkyrie, a graceful, beautiful (if a little unusual-looking) aircraft that, despite her advanced and indeed totally awesome performance, was obsolete before she was able to really come into her own. What a gorgeous Beautiful Destroyer.


*The reasons why manned interceptor aircraft would not easily be able to catch the XB-70 are several-fold.

Firstly, it is to do with radar detection: aircraft travelling at extremely high speeds are difficult to track on radar and hence it would make it harder for fighter controllers to give correct guidance (known as ‘vectoring‘) to their interceptors; also, the time spent in range of each radar station would be drastically reduced (at Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound), an aeroplane travels a mile in just under two seconds)  and so the controllers would have insufficient time and/or co-ordination to be able to vector their interceptors to the bomber. And even then, this is assuming everything is up to scratch and working properly; in the event of the kind of war that the XB-70 was designed to fight in, there would be anything but this kind of efficiency. There would be radar jamming, there would be power failures and communications breakdowns, there would be nuclear weapons popping off all over the place, which would cause electrical system failures for several reasons, many of which would be unavoidable. These problems all compound the difficulties faced by the radar controllers.

Secondly, it is to do with the performance of the interceptors themselves. Even given adequate warning by radar, and efficient vectoring by fighter controllers, even the fastest and highest-performance jet fighters would have a hard time in both climbing to the bomber’s operating altitude – which many of them couldn’t anyway – and also to catch the bomber, which they couldn’t do in a ‘stern chase’ (trying to catch up from behind) because they weren’t fast enough, and for a head-on attack they would have to get to altitude well in advance of the bomber (which they couldn’t do because that requires far more space and time than would be available given the radar warning time), and even if they could position themselves properly, attacking a Mach 3 target in a head-on pass using the weapons of the time would not give a good probability of shooting it down. And of course there’s the tactical and strategic environment described above, which would compound the intercept problems considerably. This, then, is why the Valkyrie would have been immune to fighter interception.

In fact, the Soviet interceptor known as the MiG-25 ‘Foxbat’ – the fastest-ever manned interceptor – was designed primarily as a response to the XB-70. You can find out more about it by clicking this link. No doubt the MiG-25 will turn up in this series soon, as it too is another amazing aeroplane! 🙂

 

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A Picnic with Jesus

This is a personal testimony about the healing grace of Jesus in my own life.

Earlier this week, I went for a Picnic with Jesus.

Why? Well, as my regular readers will know, I really get tired of religious people making God look nasty, by their attitudes towards ‘unbelievers’. I have put in a lot of time on various religious forums, trying to reassure desperate and hurting people that actually God does love them, He accepts them exactly as they are, and that following Jesus is not about carrying a huge burden of religion, but instead is about walking with Him. Pure and simple.

Much of this, of course, has been done under heavy fire from various people on those forums who have some serious religious problems, who also carry the need to inflict those problems on others too – just as happened to Jesus when He did the same thing. These people are of course the modern-day Pharisees.

Anyway, the long and the short of it – and I will not go into further detail here – is that I have taken a lot of soul damage from these battles. Even though I distance myself from these people, and although I (admittedly somewhat grudgingly!) call them brothers in the sense that we all have the same Father, still the overt nastiness of these fellow believers is hurtful and eventually erodes at my peace.

And so I have decided to take a break from the big forums, and instead concentrate on writing wholesome stuff on my own blog.

And aside from that, I also needed healing from all that damage. And as I felt I needed a lot of support from Father God because of having to cope with my wife’s illness, and all the pain that causes, it was with a heavy but hopeful heart that I decided to go for a Picnic with Jesus.

I packed up my flask and lunch box and headed for the hills, literally. I am fortunate in having a Nissan X-Trail car which, although of course fitted with standard road tyres, is still pretty capable on unmade roads and, indeed, off the road entirely. So I found an isolated track a couple of miles from my house, followed it, and parked in a field in the middle of nowhere. On a hill. In the rain and mud, but in the solitude we needed for our picnic. I say ‘we’, because Jesus was there. Right there in the car with me.

Part of the damage I had taken in the forums was that I had almost lost my appreciation of the Bible as the Word of God. I have always called it the Word of God; however actually Jesus Himself is of course the Word of God, and the Bible is naturally one of the primary ways that God spoke to me, but because it had been misused as a weapon against me and others, I had drawn away from it because it had somehow been tainted by the interactions I had had with these Pharisee people. I’m going to expand more on the apparent tension between the Bible being the Word of God vs. Jesus being the Word of God in a later post. But for now, let’s just accept that this was some of the damage I had taken.

So, we arrived in our field and I started talking with Him. I had a prayer time for a while and then Jesus pointed me to certain Scriptures in the Old Testament (OT), and began to speak to me through them. Interesting how He did that first, because in actuality the OT was the part of Scripture I’d had the most problems with from the Pharisees’ bombardments. So He proceeded to speak to me through two or three OT Scriptures… then He led me on a tour of various New Testament (NT) Scriptures. He reminded me, gently and patiently, that He still speaks through the Bible, and that when it’s He Who is speaking through a certain passage, that is the time when it becomes the Word of God. Revolutionary teaching from the Master Himself. And the words He gave me were words of encouragement, hope and faith. How do I know it was Jesus speaking? Because without Him, the Bible is just another book. He made those passages come alive and I recognised His Voice speaking to me.  The Bible is the Word of God – but Holy Spirit needs to speak it to us for it to become real to us.

And then we had lunch together.

After that, I had another prayer time where Jesus told me some more stuff which was really encouraging. It’s personal, but it’s important to share here that He told me more, because this was not from any Scripture. It was Jesus speaking directly to me in my spirit – the distinction is important because the believer should expect to hear personally from Jesus in this way if indeed He is alive and living in us by His Spirit. This should come as no surprise!

And then we fired up the 4×4 and got out of the field and came home. Something like four hours alone in a field with Jesus, during which time He healed my broken soul, taught me much I didn’t know, reminded me of much I had forgotten, and just spent time with me.

My lovely wife told me that I looked different when I came home. I think He’d done a deep work.

Thank You, Jesus, for coming on that picnic with me. I loved spending that time with you.

We’ll have to do it again sometime really soon….

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Faith and the Suspension of Disbelief

A vital element of all storytelling – from any genre or time period – is the suspension of disbelief. The ability to believe that the characters and events in the story are really happening, or at least possible, is essential in order to enter in to the story, appreciate it, and enjoy it.

I’ve deliberately published this blog post today, on the day of the release of Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens – the first new Star Wars movie in ten years. I’m a huge Star Wars fan; I love the characters, I love the stories, I love the hardware, I luurrrve the music, and I love the fantasy and escapism of being spirited away to a galaxy far, far away for just a couple of hours. And I love the parables and parallels for everyday life that, despite it being a fantasy, still come across so clearly in all good stories, like in the Star Wars saga*.

Apparently, they’re going to be producing a new Star Wars film every year, so forget the annual Christmas countdown; from now on it’s going to be the annual Star Wars countdown for me and other Star Wars fans – now that’s some Bah, humbug!

star wars composite

And as for Lord of the Rings – well, I could easily live in Middle-Earth….. 😉

(Problem is, of course, there would be no Internet…. 😉 )

One of the lessons I have learned from being a Star Wars fan is that the ability to suspend my disbelief is actually a powerful aid to faith. Naturally, I believe that the ability to suspend disbelief is a God-given ability, enabling us to believe what can easily be dismissed as unbelievable. The idea of a supernatural, all-powerful, all-loving Being; the idea that He can make the sick well and raise the dead. The idea that He appeared as a human and came to live with us in the flesh. All mighty concepts, and all almost unbelievable.

Except that, of course, we have the ability to suspend disbelief.

imperial-star-destroyer

Naturally, you’ll know that I’m not saying that I believe that having faith is ‘false’, as in, it’s all made up. However, I do believe that God gives us the ability to suspend disbelief so that it’s easier to believe in Him, because it makes it easier for us to believe the unbelievable. To put this another way, I mean that the ability to suspend disbelief, in order to enjoy a story (a fantasy story or indeed any other story), enables us to far more easily believe things that would be hard to grasp by the the rational mind alone. And so the reality of what appears at first sight to be yet another giant fantasy – the Gospel – is more easily grasped.

And this especially applies for people like myself who have a natural tendency – both in my thinking and training – to believe only in evidence-based things that can be proven empirically. For the straight-laced, dyed-in-the-wool scientist, there’s nothing quite like a bit of pure fantasy to enable the supernatural-belief systems to kick in as required! 🙂

star_destroyer_wallpaper-bow

And it also allows us to believe God for so much more than we see, so much more than we read, so much more than we think is possible. Our expectations of God are then limited only by our imaginations; however, God Himself is not even limited by that! “…Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” – (Ephesians 3:20)!

In some ways, it’s like when Jesus said that we needed faith ‘as small as a mustard seed’….if you like, that small mustard seed of faith can be supplied by our imagination, and God does the rest. We imagine as far as we can, and God takes over from there and makes it all real. Now that’s pretty deep, and you will need to pray that through with Jesus in order to get full understanding of it.

But the essence of all this is that our imagination, our ability to suspend disbelief, even our love for a really good story – which is all from the same roots – is a God-given gift which is there to help us in our faith.

Let’s use it!


As a postscript, you may also be interested in this article by Harvey, owner of the blog ‘Evangelical Liberal’, where he discusses why imagination is so great and why some Evangelicals feel threatened by it. Click the logo below to go to the article.

cropped-cross-sky1 evangelical liberal


 

*Of course, there are many Evangelicals who would claim that the mythology of Star Wars – the Force, the Jedi Order and all that stuff – is just a thinly-cloaked pile of witchcraft, sorcery or other ‘evil and dangerous’ – well, they’d probably use the loaded word ‘dabbling’ in there somewhere. To those people, I would say that you need to get out more and enjoy life – it was made for living! The Force is just a metaphor for God, and is a parable of the supernatural gifts that are ours for the taking; maybe not in an exact Biblical sense, but there is still so much to learn about God, you don’t have all the answers, and neither do I. Relax a bit and let the people have their fun! And you might have some fun too….

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The Aspergic Christian

My regular readers will know that I have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) called ‘Asperger’s Syndrome’. I’m Aspergic; I’m an ‘Aspie’, and I’m proud of it!*

I’ve written this piece for two reasons. Firstly, in order to help other believers who have Asperger’s Syndrome, to help them see how they ‘fit in’ to the Church and the Things of God. To help them cope with people who do not see the world, the Church and the Father in quite the same way as they do. And secondly, in order to inform that majority of people who are not Aspergic – we Aspies call them ‘Neurotypicals’, or ‘NTs’ – a non-derogatory term simply meaning that their brains are wired ‘typically’, or ‘normally’, as in, like those of ‘most’ people. I hope that NT readers of this article will be able to gain some insight as to how we Aspies think. I will use the abbreviation ‘NTs’ in this article. Aspies’ brains are, however, ‘wired differently’.

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For example, one of the things that Aspies do exceptionally well is to think ‘outside the box’. In fact, for many Aspies, there is no box!

aspie_box

I mention this because it is important that we understand right from the beginning that Aspies do not think like NTs. It means that some NTs may find it hard to follow their lines of reasoning, and may even wonder how they arrive at the conclusions they do. This is all part of it. In fact, I am very blessed in that my boss is great: he often invites me to give my perspective in meetings precisely because I offer a (sometimes very) different viewpoint from everyone else. I think of things that no-one else does. And he likes to take advantage of that. Granted, NTs too can think outside the box, but some Aspies really excel at it.

Anyway, I know how hard it can be to ‘fit in’ to any ‘community’ of NTs, especially in a Church where maybe people have set lines drawn that it is ‘forbidden’ to cross; the Aspie, however, doesn’t even notice these lines! Here, then, I present some ‘tips’ for Aspergic Christians, and indeed for Aspies in general; I do not feel I am being presumptuous in offering these because a) I am Aspie; I wouldn’t recognise presumption if it bit me on the bum, and b) I’m writing from 50+ years’ experience in interfacing with NTs. Here we go, then:

  • Despite its name, Asperger’s Syndrome is not a ‘condition’ or a ‘syndrome’ in the sense that it’s not an illness. There is nothing wrong with you; you’re just different from others. You can’t ‘cure’ it because there’s nothing wrong to cure; it’s simply the way you are made. In some ways, it’s the ultimate in individuality!
  • Give yourself a break – (as in, ‘Gimme a break, willya!’) – don’t be too hard on yourself! As an Aspie, you may have perfectionist tendencies, but you don’t have to be a slave to perfectionism. Go easy on yourself.
  • Remember that other people will not see things as you do. Give them a break too. People might not see or understand things that to you seem obvious. And their points of view will be different. This does not necessarily mean that either of you are wrong.
  • Sometimes you might find that you can listen to several conversations at once, or perhaps you find your mind spinning with thoughts and ideas while in a conversation. One of the things I found hardest was finding a way to integrate this into times when I was in a conversation with one person. It’s sometimes hard to stay on track with the conversation because your mind wants to fly off at a tangent, and it’s easy to get distracted, or to stop listening. This is often normal for an Aspie, but it can be disconcerting for the other person. So here are some ideas on how to help others to be more comfortable when in conversation with you:
    • It’s best if you think before you speak.
    • Try to talk about them and their interests, not about you and yours. This helps to make you concentrate on listening to them, and also people like talking about themselves, so will feel good about talking to you. Make a point of taking an interest in what they say and in them as a person.
    • Try not to interrupt people, but wait until it is your turn to speak. This might be signalled by them looking at you while they wait for your reply.
    • An interesting trick is to try to hear one point that the person says, and store that up in your mind. Then later, when it’s your turn to speak, use that point to make it look as if you were listening fully. This isn’t deception; this is a learned social skill that can help others relate to you. For example, you might hear that the person is an Arsenal supporter. When it’s your turn to speak, you can ask, for example, how their defence has been playing, or perhaps if their striker is on form.
    • Learn how to be aware that you are boring someone. If you have been talking for more than a couple of minutes on your most fascinating subject, and they haven’t been able to get a word in, the chances are they will be bored. And, at that point, look at their body language; that is what boredom looks like! And then give them a turn to speak!
    • If you have a pedantic nature – and many Aspies do – then if they say something that your pedantic nature disagrees with, feel free to hold your tongue; you don’t have to refute everyone’s mistakes, and you are not going to change the world – or anyone’s mind – by saying something without thinking about it first!
  • As an Aspie, you will have ‘super powers’. They give you a view on reality that few NTs can see, if any, and sometimes, insights that are simply lost to NTs. However, you might not realise that they are super powers because to you they are completely normal. You can’t imagine that others can’t do the things you can do. Your super powers might be, for example, a heightened sense of smell or hearing, maybe a gift for navigation. One of my best friends, also an Aspie, has a gift for being able to feel exactly what his car is doing when he is driving, and his mind projects the best driving line on the road into his mind as a series of coloured lines. Blue line for safe, red line for danger, and so on. Discover your super powers! Rejoice in your super powers!
  • Keep your super powers secret if you can; this may sound crazy to NTs, but superheroes in the comics and the movies have secret identities – and that’s for two reasons: firstly, so the bad guys can’t use their friends and families to get at the superheroes; and secondly because if people know that you have super powers, they will expect you to use them all the time (“What do you mean, you didn’t hear the phone ring? You’re supposed to have super-hearing!!”). This way, you get to choose when and where to use your super powers, and maybe use them quietly and in an understated way so that others don’t discover them! And also, some people in Churches will certainly not understand and might even be suspicious of you. This is normal, because they may be afraid of something they a) don’t understand and b) can’t control.
  • You think differently from other people. It is very likely that God made you this way so that you can see aspects of Him that most others cannot see. Whether you choose to pass on these insights to others, or not, is for you to decide. But perhaps try the idea out on a trusted friend first.
  • In light of the above comment, this means that you will be able to see things about God that others don’t, and/or see things in a different way from others, and sometimes you might be afraid of being seen as an heretic or something. Don’t be. You have been gifted with insight that others don’t have; you can bring people things from God that others cannot**. God is so much bigger than any of our little man-made opinions, and He rejoices in your abilities even if others, through a lack of understanding, can’t or won’t. You may experience rejection because of this, even by – and, sometimes, especially by – other Christians. Remember at the end of the day it’s God’s opinion that matters, not that of humans.
  • Remember that you also have the ‘Mind of Christ’ and all the other aspects of the New Nature that Christ gives. You have the Holy Spirit, you have the assurance of His witness in your heart. You are just as much a New Creation as other believers; just because you are ‘different’ it doesn’t negate any of this. Don’t let others convince you otherwise; I have had people question my salvation status because of the way I think, and I was having none of it!
  • Remember to love yourself. If you’re to love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:31), you can’t really do this easily unless you love yourself properly. This involves being comfortable with who you are, Aspie and all! 🙂
  • You decide as to whether to ‘come out’ as Aspie, or not. It’s entirely up to you.
  • Although being Aspie has some disadvantages, sometimes (but not always), these can be overcome with a little practice. Apply your mind to the problem. Try to develop coping strategies, like the ones in the paragraphs above about how to hold conversations with others. You will find that with use and practice, you actually learn to appreciate others and what they think, and this makes it easier to relate to them.
  • And finally, remember that being Autistic is classed as a ‘disability’. This can give you two advantages in the employment stakes: firstly, it is worth bearing in mind that your employer has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’; and secondly, you will also count towards your employer’s ‘equal opportunities’ disabled persons quota. And for severe Autism, where you need help to get along in daily life, you can get benefits to help with this. At least this is the case in the UK, at the time of writing; other countries may of course differ. There are links on the National Autistic Society’s website about this sort of thing; click the logo below to visit their site, where there is also lots of really useful information about coping with Asperger’s Syndrome.

*For those unfamiliar with Asperger’s Syndrome, or for those who would just like a bit more insight into what it’s all about, you can do no better than to check out the National Autistic Society’s pages on Asperger’s Syndrome; click the logo below to go to the first page (there’s a series of pages to look through but it’s all very informative)

autistic_society

**This is why some of my blog entries represent some quite unusual ideas about God and His Kingdom.


For my own background, I’d just say that I always knew I was ‘different’. All my life, I have learned to adjust to living life in a society where I was not understood for much of the time. We’d suspected I was Aspergic; I’d done some tests online (just Google ‘Asperger quiz) and I’d always shown as a ‘possible’. However, it wasn’t until I undertook a proper series of tests that I got my ‘diagnosis’, for want of a better term for something that isn’t really an illness. I was ‘diagnosed’ at the age of 50, and it was really a great relief to know just why and how I was different! And I love being Aspie.

If you feel you need to be tested for Asperger’s, or any other ASD, the place to start is with your GP, where you should ask to be referred for the tests. And don’t let them fob you off; you are allowed to insist, or if that fails, ask another doctor.

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I Will Trust In You

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)

Sometimes life just throws so much at you that it is easy to just give up and go under. But, you know, God is faithful. He ‘heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds’ (Ps 147:3)

Maybe you’re going through it at the moment. Maybe you need to know God’s presence and strength right now. My family and I are going through it right now….but on my mind these last few days has been the classic Vineyard song of 1987, by Danny Daniels, ‘I Will Trust In You‘. Here it is. join in and declare your trust in the One Who will never let you go – ever.

When I can’t see You, I know You’re here
When I can’t feel You, I will not fear
I will trust in You, and I will not be afraid

And when the battle is close at hand
I know You’re with me to help me stand
I will trust in You, and I will not be afraid

    I will not (I will not)
    Be afraid (be afraid)
    I will not (I will not)
    Be afraid (be afraid)
    I will trust in You (I will trust in You)
    I will trust in You

And when the darkness is closing in
And I am running against the wind
I will trust in You, and I will not be afraid

’Cause when I’m standing upon that shore
And all the battles have gone before
I will trust in You, and I will not be afraid

    I will not (I will not)
    Be afraid (be afraid)
    I will not (I will not)
    Be afraid (be afraid)
    I will trust in You (I will trust in You)
    I will trust in You

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Praise Looks Good on You!

Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him – Psalm 33:1

In the light of my former post, where I said that worship is a two-way thing, where we sing to God about how much we love Him, and He can say back to us how He is feeling about our worship, I wanted to present to you this song too.

In that post, I was writing about spontaneous prophetic song, but God can of course also speak to us of His approval through pre-written songs too. Here’s an example of such a song – Praise Looks Good on You by Don Moen, and sung here by him:

When you lift Your hands up high
And you sing a song of praise to Me
It brings Me great delight
Such a lovely sight
And yes it is true
Praise looks good on You
Morning night and noon
Your praise ascends to heaven
Like the smell of sweet perfume
Filling every room
And yes it is true
Praise looks good on You

You bring your sacrifices
And you offer up your praise
You lift your voice with singing
But your heart seems far away
More than a sacrifice
I am looking for your life
Holy and acceptable
And pleasing in my sight

So offer up your lives
Holy and acceptable
A willing sacrifice
Precious in my sight
But in all that you do
Remember all I want is You

So lift your hands up high
And worship Him before the altar
Consecrate your lives
A willing sacrifice
But in all that you do
Remember all He wants is you

And yes it is true
Praise looks good on you

And remember too that this doesn’t just apply during worship. There is nothing God likes better than a life lived in His Presence, because then He gets to spend time with His kids.

There’s nothing He likes better than that!

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You Who Stone The Prophets

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you”

Jesus said in Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”.

In this day, there are established, well-known and sometimes indeed ‘celebrated’ (I don’t like to use that word for people but it’s valid here)  people of God who, after a lifetime of hearing God’s voice, are ‘coming out’ in various ways. They are saying things that the conservative people in the Church don’t like. Things like how they believe that LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people should be completely accepted into the Church. Things like saying that Muslims may be in Heaven. Things like going against the evangelically-accepted norm of believing that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and is the perfect manual for all life’s problems, decisions, morality etc.

These people are modern-day prophets. They are speaking God’s Heart to His Church, because He loves the Church and wants them to reflect Him, not horrible man-made doctrines like the religious-sponsored (and religious-approved) persecution of the minorities (like said LGBTQ people) and widows and orphans (divorced people and, by extension, their children). Doctrines like the inerrancy of Scripture, a doctrine that has done so, so, so much damage because it opens the door to manmade but supposedly Scripture-approved legalism. In this way the Yeast of the Pharisees makes its way through every new congregation until that church is just like all the others in its legalism.

Anyway, what happens is that many in the established church reject these people and their message. The prophets are stoned; that is, they are publicly vilified, rejected and persecuted by the very people who used to love going to hear those people speak, sing or whatever it was they did so well – and in the Spirit, too – that got them their reputations as great people of God. Stoning was a public execution, participated in by all who wanted to join in, done to those who went against the religious structures of the day, and this is no different.

Take, for example, the Christian gospel singer Don Francisco, a man who has ministered to millions in the Church over the past four decades, in power and healing, through his songs. He and his wife Wendy have recently expressed support for gay people, and have also expressed the thought that maybe we should remember that Jesus is the Word of God, and not the Bible itself. The response of modern-day Pharisees to that post on Facebook  was largely horrible; it was also the case for another of Don’s postings, when he put forward the idea that “Perhaps hope does extend beyond pat formulas” when he shared a Billy Graham quote; There was no Grace whatsoever in their attacks on him – although many people did support him too.

Another example is the great evangelist Dr. Billy Graham, whom Don quoted in the above link. Saying that he believes that truth seekers from all faiths might be in Heaven. Some people have ripped into what he said (example), but thankfully some have also supported him.

Or what about the Rev. Dave Tomlinson (one of the leaders at the forefront of the house-church movement in the UK in the eighties), who declared himself as “post-evangelical”, and has been hauled over the coals for it (‘heresy’ was of course mentioned!)

Or how about Dr. Tony Campolo, who earlier this year declared his support for welcoming gay people into the Church. Naturally, his change of heart and his resulting theology has been largely rejected by the conservative church, and he has of course been ‘stoned’ by the Pharisees in various places.

And there’s Rev. Steve Chalke, a British Baptist minister who has (fairly) recently declared his support of monogamous same-sex marriages. He’s also declared that he believes the Bible is not inerrant or infallible. And, oh guess what, been rejected by people for it. Not everyone, but still there’s been people who reject his message.

There’s Pastor Rob Bell, who, in declaring his wrestling with the concept of a loving God sending people to eternal damnation, has questioned the established doctrine of hell. He’s done it in his book, Love Wins – and the reaction against him was so extraordinary that the other day I heard one preacher using Rob’s name as a sort of byword for heresy. Something like, ‘This is the sort of thing that is said by the likes of Rob Bell‘. What an ignorant attitude….

Do I detect a pattern here? Men of God, who up until they declared either what they have been wrestling with for years, or what God has just shown them, have been ‘celebrated’, welcomed, had people flock to see them – these people suddenly become personae non gratae and are shunned by the Church – or at least that part of it that is deaf to what God is saying!

The thing is that because a speaker says something you don’t like, you suddenly turn on them like enemies, and everything they have said in the past that you have agreed with, that has blessed you, suddenly counts for absolutely nothing and vanishes like a soap bubble. You liked them well enough when they visited your church, didn’t you? They haven’t changed, you know!

Actually that’s a really a silly way of dealing with differences! It is the way that dysfunctional families deal with those who do not agree entirely with the family line – they get shunned and ostracised until they give in, fit in and agree.

Tell me: Is it better for a Christian leader to lie about how he really feels or thinks on a subject, and be accepted; or is it better for them to own up and risk rejection? What sort of leader would you prefer? I know which sort of leader I would rather work with!

Rejection of the prophets is what religious people do. It is in fact what happened to Jesus. And in the Scripture that introduces this blog post, Jesus was speaking to the religious authorities of His time, and part of their problem was that of resistance to change. People who were so entrenched in their religious position – some, partly because of their graven image of God – that they could not recognise the true move of God’s Spirit that was happening right in front of their eyes. And so they crucified Him.

In the opposite way to how these people did, we need to be careful to discern the Voice of the Spirit in our time; we have an advantage nowadays that people before Jesus came didn’t have: we have the Spirit. Remember it is the natural human tendency to drift towards a settled religious complacency where acceptance by God is felt to be achieved somehow by our actions, rather than through Jesus. This is simply not what God intends at all!

And always the same ‘proof-texts’ are trotted out. Things about people ‘following the desires of their own hearts’, how the heart is ‘deceitful above all things’, about people with ‘itching ears’. To be honest, it’s samey and boring, and these critics would make terrible chess players because of their predictability. Always these people forget the New Creation, the new heart, the Mind of Christ, that these prophetic believers are and have. Do they really think that these prophets just suddenly changed their minds from their previously firmly-held positions just on a whim?

No. These modern-day prophets have spent a lifetime listening to God, which, remember, is what got them their reputation in the first place. To set at naught the sayings of these people, just on the basis of it being different from what platitudes you might expect to hear, is not a sensible course of action. These people know the Voice of the Shepherd (John 10:27). Sure, disagree with them if you like; that is your right and your prerogative. But do not stone them. These people are not the enemy. To ignore them completely is folly. To reject them could well be to close your ears to what God is saying.

Resistance to change that is of the flesh or even the enemy is only right. Resistance to change that is of God, however, is futile and ultimately counterproductive (Acts 5:38-39, where Gamaliel says, “…if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”).

So, the take-home message is that it’s time Christians stopped shunning great Christian leaders like these just because they say something we don’t like. So, for example, let’s say we loved this guy when he came to our church to speak – well, he hasn’t changed; maybe his message has, but isn’t that all the more reason to listen to him? These men do not simply change their minds overnight; if they have changed their belief system, there must be a pretty good reason, and that reason – based on their previous reputation – will be worth listening to.

Listen up, Church!!

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