Monthly Archives: February 2016

Come To The Table

“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” – 1 Cor 11:23-26

The Holy Communion, the Eucharist, The Lord’s Supper, call it what you will. It’s the sacrament where Christians eat the ‘bread’, which is representative of Christ’s Body, and drink the ‘cup’, which is usually wine or some other red drink (like red grape or blackcurrant juice) which signifies Christ’s Blood. And just like with baptism, the other main Christian sacrament, some Churches make it so complicated – but really it isn’t, and it doesn’t need to be.

When we come to the table, and eat of Christ’s Body, and drink of His Blood, we are signifying so many things. We are declaring that Jesus died and rose again. We declare that the bread and wine, being physical objects, represent something that is no less real (God) just because we can’t (normally) see and touch it. We are remembering Jesus and what He did. We declare our unity as Christians, and as a body of believers – because we all ‘eat from the same bread’, we declare that we are one body – which indeed we are.

And there’s more. We declare and remind ourselves that we are in Christ, both in terms of identifying with Him, but also in terms of that we were ‘in Christ’ when He died, and therefore not only did we die with Him but also we were raised up in Him too. Hallelujah!

Communion is so important for healing; because Christ is whole and healthy, by remembering that we are in Him, we also declare our own health and healing. As He is, so are we! (1Jn4:17 NKJV) And the blood for forgiveness – we are talking here about a whole, full and complete healing for our bodies, our souls and spirits, and our relationships – both with humans and with God.

What a feast Communion is, then! Ok, we get only a tiny bit of bread and a little sip of wine, but in spiritual terms it’s a real banquet!

So why has the Church made such a fuss about who can and cannot take Communion? My theory is that the Church are trying to act  responsibly. You see, if you read the entire passage in 1 Cor 11:17-34, it looks at first sight as if it is possible to do yourself real harm if you eat and drink the Lord’s Supper ‘in an unworthy manner’. This is, apparently, mainly justified in that they prevent an unbeliever – and therefore someone supposedly ‘not worthy’ of receiving Communion – from drinking and eating something that may be ‘harmful’, although the harm is never really adequately defined, apart from saying that he ‘eats and drinks judgement on himself’.

Well I’m sorry (well actually I’m not!), but this smacks mightily of superstition to me. It’s actually not like that at all. For an unbeliever, all he’s doing is eating a bit of bread and drinking a bit of wine that he could probably buy off the same shelf in Tesco that the priest did on Saturday. It’s just bread! It’s just wine! No, the actual context of the original passage is that the people in the Church at Corinth, to whom Paul was writing, were all Christians already. Unbelief was not an issue. What was at issue was their behaviour – read the passage again if you like – people were bringing their own food for private consumption instead of sharing it out; people were being separatist rather than expressing unity, some weren’t waiting for everyone to arrive so some went hungry – that sort of thing. We don’t even know the ‘format’ of their meal, if indeed there was one. They were probably just meeting in someone’s house and all bringing something along. This was the problem Paul was addressing; it had nothing to do with people being ‘unworthy’. The judgement that people ate and drank upon themselves, by not ‘recognising’ the Body and Blood, was that they did not recognise the true significance of the sacrament, and therefore missed out on all its benefits. People ‘died’ because they were not being healed as part of the sacrament, not because they’d done something wrong.

Jesus, remember, is so much more relaxed than we give Him credit for. Jesus invites us to come to His table. As with all Grace-related things, Jesus invites us based not on who we are, how good we are, or how much we keep the Rules, but based entirely on His own merits.

The truth of the matter is this: anyone, at any time, can take Communion, wherever and whenever they like. You do not have to have it administered by a priest or someone like that – although equally there’s nothing to stop you receiving it like that. You can do it by yourself or with friends. You can include believers and unbelievers alike. We regularly ‘do Communion’ at our dinner table; we have a bottle of wine, a glass and some sort of bread to hand so that anyone can take it at any time as they feel like it. There’s nothing heavy about it; we simply appropriate the Lord’s goodness and blessing, receive His healing and forgiveness, feel His presence. It’s not ‘religious’, we’re not being pious, its just what we do as part of everyday life.

So, if this piece has spoken to you; if you feel you might have gained a bit of freedom through reading this, then why not make this a habit for yourself? In fact, when you have time, why not take ten minutes out of your day and spend some precious time with God over His Communion? You could do it right now, if you like. Get yourself some bread and wine now out of the cupboard. Go on, go and do it! Or even a cream cracker and a glass of water if you like; it doesn’t matter.

Sit yourself down with your bread and wine, and maybe play this music track, from Hosanna’s vintage tape ‘Come to the Table’, from 1991. Beginning with ‘Your Grace is Sufficient’, then the lovely ‘Come to the Table’, then the Communion itself happens in ‘Remember Me’, let Marty Nystrom and his band lead you into the Presence of God….Hold on to your bread and wine; Marty will prompt you when to take the Communion during the last song.

Sure, this was recorded 25 years ago, but remember that Jesus is exactly the same now as He was then, and He will be overjoyed to meet with you once again. If you’re not yet a believer, still you’re welcome. Jesus said in John 7:37, “Whoever is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink”. If you feel the need for Jesus today, then go ahead and accept His blessings, no strings attached. Expect to feel His Presence – which you may need to learn to recognise – but trust Him and believe Him to come as He promised. “He who comes to Me I will never turn away”, Jesus said in John 6:37

And believe for your healing, believe for your restoration, believe for your forgiveness, believe for your new life. This stuff is real, it is powerful, and it’s here right now in the Person of Jesus, even as you read this.

But be warned. This could seriously change your life, for the better, like you never imagined possible!

I hope this has helped you. Be blessed!

 

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Dealing With Guilt, Shame and Remorse

Guilt, Shame and Remorse. These can be terrible feelings, and for Christians, who are supposed to be forgiven, they can be crippling for your faith if you don’t know how to deal with them. So, today, let’s see what we can do about that! If you like, consider this a practical application of the teachings in my recent blog post, ‘Left in the Grave!

First up, let’s take a look at some definitions.

Guilt is feeling bad because of what you’ve done.

Shame is very different, and is defined as feeling bad because of who you are

Remorse is different again – it’s feeling regret for the actual things you’ve done wrong

Let’s deal with these things by looking at what Jesus has done for us.

Guilt. Everything you have done, everything you are doing, everything that you ever will do, that is or was or will be wrong – call it ‘sin’ if you like – its all been nailed to the Cross of Jesus Christ. Your sins are taken away, destroyed forever, forgotten. Psalm 103:12 says this: ‘As far as the east is from the west, this far has He removed our transgressions from us’. Hebrews 8:12 echoes Isaiah 43:25 in saying, “For I will forgive their wickedness, and I will remember their sins no more“. Be assured, God has forgiven your sins because of what Jesus has done. You need no longer feel guilt for what you have done, because Jesus has made open the way to God, and you need never feel that your guilt – either now or in the future – can ever again separate you from God! Don’t allow your guilt to block the way; tell it to take a hike. The conviction of the guilt of sin is useful only to bring you to Jesus, who then takes away the guilt; and after that, you no longer need to feel it any more.

Shame. Everyone’s heard the phrase, “You should be ashamed of yourself!”, and in one sense that’s correct because ‘yourself’ is the only thing you can feel ashamed of [feel shame for] is yourself. You don’t feel ashamed of things you’ve done (that’s Guilt); no, you feel shame for who you are. The feeling of ‘what sort of person would do the things I have just done’ is Shame. It’s feeling bad about who you perceive yourself to be – maybe as a result of things you’ve done, of course, but it’s still about who you are. And the answer? Again, it’s found at the Cross of Jesus. In an earlier blog post, I describe how Holy Spirit revealed to me that I was ‘crucified with Christ’ when He died on the Cross. And He did the same for you. Your old self – the self that causes you to feel shame – that old self was included in Christ when He died. In Galatians 2:20, it says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. And in Romans 6:5-7 it says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin“.

Do you feel as if that old self, of whom you feel ashamed, deserves to die? Do you feel that there’s nothing you’d like better? Well, too late! It’s already been done! And this means that you can walk in freedom from shame; that freedom is yours by right. 2Cor 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new is come!” You – yes, you! – are a completely new creation. A new creature, completely separate from the old. And this is what counts. [Rules are of no] value; what counts is the new creation – Gal 6:15. So you can be free of shame because, again, it’s all been dealt with at the Cross. Both your guilt, and the cause of your same – the old self – have been nailed to the Cross.

Now isn’t that something?

And another thing: Shame has the effect of making you feel worthless. Nobody could value a person like me. But God loved you so much that He came in person to do something about it. He came to show you the Kingdom; He came to heal you; He came to die for you and to give you abundant, eternal life! Now if that doesn’t put the shame into perspective, I don’t know what will….

So, you see, you don’t need to own your guilt and shame any more. You don’t need to give them any space in your life, ever again. Sin is dealt with; shame is defeated. Don’t give them another moment’s thought!

But, you might say, I hurt someone. I murdered someone. I [did whatever to] someone, and that harm still exists. That person is still hurting; that person is still dead. I wish I could undo the past; I wish I could make things right again after what I did. And I feel so bad about that.

Right. This is what is called Remorse. Think of it like this: once guilt and shame have been dealt with, what is left is remorse. And it too can be dealt with. But first you need to deal with the guilt and shame. So, bring the sin before God. Ask His forgiveness; you have assurance of this forgiveness because all your sins have been forgiven through Christ’s work on the Cross, as we have seen. And then deal with the shame; reassert your new creation, stand up and leave behind the shame which has been nailed to the Cross. It’s in the grave; it was not resurrected with Him! Remember these feelings have no place in you any more!

So now, the effects of the sin on you – the guilt and shame – have been dealt with and your path is now clear to deal with the remorse. Perhaps you’ll need to apologise. Perhaps you need to put things right. You need to judge each situation individually, prayerfully, and according to the circumstances. Some things cannot, but some things can, be put right; you will have to be the judge for your particular situation. Ask Jesus to give you wisdom.

But sometimes you still have to live with the remorse. And in that case, decide to use it for good, rather than letting it destroy you. Remorse can be a healthy thing, for example if it prevents you from doing the same thing again.

Say, for example, you injure a person because you are driving too fast. Believe me, you will most likely be so affected by the remorse that you will never speed again, and your driving will most likely be more careful from then on.

You see, life is a learning curve, and providing you can deal with your guilt and your shame effectively, your remorse can actually be a good thing. And I believe that this is sometimes the reason why remorse does not always go away, because it can be a positive force for change provided it has been cleansed of the guilt first. So, once again, because of the Cross, this can be positive – because the Cross takes away the guilt, so that the remorse can now be constructive. In the new life, Holy Spirit is in the business of (amongst other things) transforming us into Christ’s likeness. So, ask Him to use it to effect His changes in you.

Offer the remorse up to Jesus and ask Him to take it and use it. You will most likely feel the difference straight away, if you really let go of it. In that way, it’s just like any other burden you feel; if you “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1Pet 5:7) then He will take it if you’ll let Him.

Cast your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you!

You may never forget the remorse; the memory will fade, and its burden is gone, but you may not forget. But you can use it for good, so that one day it will be a jewel in your crown rather than a stone in your shoe.

And be encouraged. You can never lose your salvation, no matter what happens. Jesus is walking close to you; even if you can’t feel Him, He’s there. Romans 8:18 says that, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us“, and this is true. Guilt and shame have no place in the Christian’s life. Remorse can be useful but only as an aid to growth, when it is committed to God.

If this is for you today, if you are struggling with these feelings, then I sincerely hope that you’ll find this piece helpful.

Be encouraged!


For an interesting take on how to deal with Fear and Guilt, check out this article on RedeemingGod.com

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Left in the Grave!

Just a short piece today!

Crucifixion is really quite deadly. It kills people.

And in the case of Jesus’s crucifixion, more than just His body was killed there.

According to Scripture, the ‘sinful nature’, the ‘body of death’, our sickness, our sins, even our mortality, were all nailed to the Cross and crucified with Christ. The Letter of Paul to the Romans goes into great detail on this, as do many of St. Paul’s letters. These were all nailed to the Cross and left in the grave; they are dead, buried and gone. Also, each believer was also crucified, dead and buried with Him.”…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Col 2:12) – and so we also were in Christ when He was raised from the dead.

And here’s the thing: the only thing that is resurrected is the new creation. All the other rubbish is left in the grave! They are still dead and buried!

And so we can rejoice because our sicknesses, sin, the old nature, our guilt and shame, the Law that stood against us and was hostile to us (Col 2:14) – all these and more have indeed been left behind in the grave, and the newness of life that we now have does not have to contain any of these things. It is as if they are no longer a part of our nature, since we are indeed in Christ Jesus. This is simply incredible news! Not only does God love us and want to have fellowship with us – to enjoy our company, and we to enjoy His – but He has also provided freedom from the things that beset those who have not accepted all that He has done. Freedom to walk with Him in newness of life, unhampered by the ‘sin that so easily besets us’ (Heb 12:1)

And sometimes, that’s us. It’s not just the ‘unbeliever’. So often those in the Church do not realise just what Jesus has done, and do not appropriate it for themselves.

So maybe it’s time that we realised that indeed all that bad stuff that was crucified with Christ is still in the grave, and it need trouble us no more. Take this in, meditate on it, let it change your life. This is freedom. This is ‘truth that shall set you free’ in Christ.

Praise God!

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The Misguided Concept of ‘Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin’

‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’. We’ve all heard it said. And sadly we’ve seen it done, too, and most likely had it done to us!

But not only is this idea actually not a Scriptural concept, it is based on a misunderstanding of a) the nature of ‘sin’, and b) what the believer’s response should be to such perceived ‘sin’.

In this excellent article, Tim, of the blog ‘Jesus Without Baggage’, challenges those who feel that they should ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, and stands the thing on its head. And, for those who still like to look for the ‘Biblical’ support, Tim’s is spot-on.

Click the graphic below to go to the article:

jwb

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How Not to be Double – Minded

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do – James 1:5-8

I believe that this ‘doubt’, this being ‘blown and tossed by the wind’, is actually the wavering between Law and Grace that goes on in a believer’s mind. This is the double-mindedness James speaks of.

Joseph Prince put it really well in Chapter 8 of his book, ‘Unmerited Favor‘, where he says this:

Be sure that you are receiving from a ministry that is established on the new covenant of Grace, and not a ministry that slips in and out of the two covenants. Failure to rightly divide God’s Word leads to confusion, and [this is called] ‘Mixture’. He cannot* bless Mixture, which portrays Him as being angry with us sometimes because of our failure to keep the Law, but wanting to bless us at other times because of His Grace. Mixture teaches that God is happy with us sometimes, but at other times our fellowship with God is broken because of our failures.

“A believer can find no peace, no assurance and no confidence in Mixture. You cannot put new wine into an old wineskin because you will lose both (Mk 2:22). The Law will lose its convicting power to lead you to Christ if it is balanced with Grace. Grace will lose its essence of being unmerited, unearned and undeserved when people are told that they still need to depend on themselves and their works to deserve God’s presence and favour. It is an outright contradiction. What man calls ‘Balance’, God calls ‘Mixture’

I can put this no better myself, so I will leave it at that. Ponder this in your heart and see what God says to you!


*Those who know me may be puzzled by my use of the phrase “God can’t”. Because they know that I believe that God can.

The only time when God can’t is when the thing in question is an intrinsic impossibility. For example, a simple light switch can be in either the ‘On’ position or the ‘Off’ position; it cannot be in both positions at the same time. This is an intrinsic impossibility and it is the way that God has made things.

On the other hand, an impossibility that is simply because of human, theoretical or technological limitations – like, for example, raising the dead or suddenly displacing your body two hundred miles in a second just by snapping your fingers – that sort of impossibility is only a conceptual impossibility; it’s not impossible by nature in that it’s not self-contradictory like the light switch being on and off at the same time. So, when Joseph Prince says “it is an outright contradiction”, that is actually the best way to put it because we are saying that it is in intrinsic impossibility to live under both Law and Grace at the same time, and therefore it is wholly correct to say that ‘God cannot’ bless Mixture. It simply doesn’t work; it is an intrinsic impossibility. It would be like having the light switch both on and off at the same time. Its being intrinsically impossible sounds like it’s putting it a bit strongly, but that’s actually the way it is.

Some people interpret double-mindedness as being other combinations – for example, faith vs. doubt; my way vs. God’s way; the flesh vs. the Spirit; not making your mind up about God; or even divided loyalty (whatever that means). But actually these, while possibly sometimes applying, are nowhere near as fundamental as the divide between Law and Grace. You simply can’t have both!

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Tupolev Tu-128 ‘Fiddler’

This entry is part 11 of 18 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is with about this aeroplane that I like so much. Maybe it’s the lovely wing-sweep angle and the slim area-ruled fuselage*. Maybe it’s the typically down-to-earth practical Soviet solution to a problem unique to their country, as it was (of course, the Soviet bloc has now broken up). Possibly it’s the idea of a dedicated pure interceptor designed solely to shoot down enemy nuclear bombers over huge mission distances. Or perhaps it’s the whole ‘Cold War’ flavour of the whole thing; an aeroplane which, when it was designed, was at the forefront of its technology era. And based at freezing cold, snow-covered airfields in some of the most remote places on Earth.

Tu-128 01

The Tu-128 is the largest interceptor ever built, measuring nearly 100ft long and with a 57ft wingspan. Although its NATO reporting codename was ‘Fiddler’, the initial ‘F’ signifying a fighter, this aircraft was never designed to go into combat with other fighters. The Tu-128 was designed purely to shoot down intruding enemy nuclear bombers, those entering Soviet territory over the more remote of their borders.

tupolev_tu128(tu28-80)_01

Some understanding of this huge aircraft can be gained by looking at an atlas. What was then called the Soviet Union had an air defence problem of truly mammoth proportions, and no amount of money could ever provide a totally comprehensive defence of the entire frontier. While most of the Soviet Union’s population and industry (and therefore the really heavy air defences) was concentrated in Western regions, there were still many important regions in the interior of that vast country which would have been vulnerable to attacks from aircraft entering via the more remote frontiers, for example, from the Arctic Ocean direction and/or over Siberia.

i08ZcjX

tu-128_climb

The aircraft had to be so big in order to house all the fuel necessary for it to be able to fulfil its role, that of ‘long-range interceptor’. It would most likely have been used to mount standing patrols in times of tension, and then directed to its targets by radar-equipped airborne warning and control systems (AWACS). Certainly the aircraft would have been vectored (steered) to its target by radar controllers, whether ground-or air-based, because the speeds and distances involved would have been so great.

tu-128 dispersal

We can understand, then, that the operational requirement for the role was for a supersonic aircraft with enormous fuel tanks for both a good patrol time and a long range, a capable radar, and the most powerful air-to-air missiles possible. And so they came up with the 43-tonne Tu-128, of which weight about a third was taken up by fuel. It was capable of Mach 1.5 speed, and with a combat radius of about 1,600 miles and an armed ceiling of about 51,000 feet. However, with a maximum g-loading of only 2.5g, it was certainly never going to be dogfighting with small fighters. But that wasn’t what it was designed for anyway.

tu-128 rear

Armed with four Bisnovat R-4 air-to-air missiles (NATO codename AA-5 ‘Ash’), two of which were radar-homing and two of which were heat-seekers, a Tu-128 would likely have been more than capable of knocking down one or two American B-52s, should the unthinkable ever have happened.

Here’s a series of shots showing the crew getting out of their aircraft, and then the instrument panels in the front and rear cockpits respectively.

tu-128 crew

tu-128 cockpit

tu-128 rear cockpit

I get the impression that the whole operation would have been carried out mainly by remote direction; a radar controller would detect targets and guide the interceptor into the correct position for it to acquire the target using its own radar, and then it would proceed to attack the bomber using its own fire-control systems. All the time, the pilot himself would have been only the driver, obeying commands from the ground or AWACS plane at first, then relying entirely on the radar officer in the back seat to complete the weapons acquisition and release. But it would get the job done.

tu-128s at domodedovo 1968

tu128u-5

tu128-2 (2)

tu128.1

I particularly like this fascinating picture; you can see where there’s been a dog patrol walking round the aircraft, and also where the ground crew have been walking around her in order to clear snow and ice from the airframe:

tu-128 snow

tu-128

Here’s another of my favourite shots of this aeroplane – the supersonic area-rule design* is clearly visible, and you get a good look at all four of the missiles on their pylons:

tu-28

This next shot is a classic Russian winter shot, in Siberia perhaps?

tu128iapvonieve2

So, there she is, the Tu-128 ‘Fiddler’; an odd-looking aeroplane in many ways, but she certainly has a fascination all of her own. Another ‘Beautiful Destroyer’.

tu-128 brake chute


*Area-ruling is an aerodynamic principle seen in most supersonic aircraft, that is, those that can fly at speeds faster than the speed of sound. It can be seen easily in the Tu-128 in the views from above; the ‘wasp-waisted’ shape of the fuselage is the key giveaway. The fuselage is wider nearer the front, tapers inwards to a narrower ‘waist’ and then flares outwards again towards the rear.

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Precious Child

Just wanted to share this testimony with you today.

In June 1989, the morning after my youngest son was born, I was somewhat tired – as you can imagine! I phoned in to work to ask my boss if I could have the day off, and he was pretty nasty about it, but did – grudgingly – indeed give me the day off. I guess he knew there wasn’t much he could do about it; I wasn’t in any fit state to go in. Somewhat demoralising, eh? – and what a spoiler; what a thing to do to someone who’s just had a child arrive in the family!

But as I was cleaning my teeth that morning, the Lord spoke something so clearly to my heart. He said to me, ‘Son, it doesn’t matter what they think – you’re My child’. It came right out of nowhere; I wasn’t thinking particularly God thoughts nor was I feeling particularly spiritual. But nevertheless, God spoke to me.

And that truth that He gave me that day has never left me, not even through my wilderness years. It has changed my life completely. I have never, ever had the slightest doubt that I am a child of God, just as described in John 1:12, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God“. Wow!

And then a couple of months later, I heard the song ‘Precious Child‘, by Andy Park. And it hit home so forcefully that again I have never been able to listen to it without being reminded of God’s words to me on that morning – such was the power of the initial revelation.

In fact, I have to confess that, although I have sung (as in ‘performed’) the song many times as a solo when leading worship, I have never once led a congregation in singing it. It was such a special song to me that I didn’t want anyone else messing it up, I suppose! But now I’m ‘releasing’ it for others’ blessing.

Here then is the song and its lyrics. Make it your own. Ask God to reveal to your heart, like He did to mine, how much He loves you, His precious child!

Show me, dear Lord, how You see me through Your eyes
So that I can realize Your great love for me
Teach me, O Lord, that I am precious in Your sight
That as a father loves his child, so You love me.

I am Yours, because You have chosen me
I’m Your child, because You’ve called my name
And Your steadfast love will never change
I will always be Your precious child

Show me, dear Lord, that I can never earn Your love
That a gift cannot be earned, only given
Teach me, O Lord, that Your love will never fade
That I can never drive away Your great mercy

I am Yours, because You have chosen me
I’m Your child, because You’ve called my name
And Your steadfast love will never change
I will always be Your precious child

So, there we are. Precious Child. A precious song sharing a precious truth. I hope it blesses you and leads you too into that truth.

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“It’s true. All of it.”

I love how Christians can learn so much from Star Wars mythology. In the trailer for the new movie, The Force Awakens, there is the following exchange:

Rey: “Those stories about what happened….”

Han Solo: “It’s true. All of it. The Dark Side; the Jedi. It’s all true”

What was it that turned the cynical, hard-bitten smuggler, Han Solo, who originally said that in all his travels, he’d never seen anything like this ‘all-powerful, invisible Force, controlling everything’, into a man who came to believe in all the ‘mumbo-jumbo’ of that same mythical ‘Force’? Well, the thing was, he’d seen it in action, used by his friend Luke Skywalker. There was no longer any doubt in his mind.

And so, thirty years after the events in ‘Return of the Jedi’, Han Solo can tell these two young adventurers, Rey and Finn, about the Force – the “… energy field created by all living things; it surrounds us, penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together” – with some authority, even though they’ve never really heard anything about it. He can tell them it’s true, because he knows it is.

And for Christians, this of course reflects on the reality of Jesus.

Sometimes because of our circumstances, sometimes because of the pressures of life, we become cynical; we become discouraged. We wonder if God really does have His Hand on us. And so it’s time to look back at the things God has done for us in the past – at the times when His Hand was certainly on us; at the times when we’ve seen Him in action. At the times when He provided just what we needed, at just exactly the right time. Or maybe we should listen to the testimonies of our Christian brothers and sisters who have also found God’s provision to be just what they needed, when they needed it.

Then, when we look at the promises of God, we can also expect them to be true for us in our lives. And even the vast apocalyptic prophecies, like at the end of Revelation and in parts of Daniel (e.g. late in Chapter 7), where it speaks of a heavenly city, and the people of God shining like the stars of heaven – It’s true. All of it. These things, one day, will happen, and will become historical fact. And – and I find this the most exciting thought of all – we will be there! And we will see it, and take part in it. Now isn’t that something mind-blowing?

Because we can say, along with Han Solo, “It’s true. All of it.”


The header photo is of the legendary actor Harrison Ford, reprising his role as ‘Han Solo’ in the new Star Wars movie, “Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens”

The full speech is found in this Episode VII third trailer, at time point 1:08 and then at 1:29 in the YouTube clip below:

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Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean

“Grace and Love, like mighty rivers
Poured incessant from above”

Yes, this is another hymn. An old song, yes….but the interesting thing to remember is that even over a hundred years ago, when this song was written, people were still being blessed, healed, saved and sanctified by the same God we worship today. He hasn’t changed; maybe the way we perceive His message has shifted emphasis somewhat, but God still longs to bless us with His presence and His power just as he did ‘back then’, in the mighty revivals of old.

The version of the hymn below is sung in both English and Welsh, which is fitting as the hymn was the favourite song during the 1904 Welsh Revival which began at the Moriah Chapel in Loughor, South Wales.

Let the truths in this beautiful hymn soak into your spirit and bring you great blessing!

Enjoy!

 

1. Here is love, vast as the ocean,
Lovingkindness as the flood,
When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,
Shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten,
Throughout Heav’n’s eternal days.

2. On the mount of crucifixion,
Fountains opened deep and wide;
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers,
Poured incessant from above,
And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love.

There are also two further verses which are not sung quite as often….

3. Let me all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see.
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.

4. In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and power on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.

And here’s the sheet music for it too:

here is love

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True Christian Leadership

Here is an excellent article, from the ‘Done with Religion” blog, on how Christian leadership should ideally function. The article is not completely comprehensive of course, but it clearly highlights the faults with the top-heavy authority structure leadership style employed in all too many churches, and explains what true Christian servant-based leadership should look like. I have to emphasise that my Church’s leadership is not of that faulty type; I would not be a part of a Church with that sort of leadership!*

Click the logo below to go to the article:

done_with_religion

Something else that is relevant in this context: you may remember that a few months ago I did a piece called ‘Vision of the Valley’, where I described how I feel God is looking for truly humble leadership in His Church in this day. The piece featured the song of the same name – Vision of the Valley – by gospel singer Don Francisco. Don did another song – on the same album as ‘Vision’ – called ‘Foolish Shepherd’, where once again he highlights poor and abusive leadership in churches, and how God feels about this. Here it is; have a listen:

I particularly love that line, “He gave His Word for freedom; you use it to enslave”. People who use the Bible to tell others how to live their lives, which is what it boils down to. The straitjacket of legalism instead of the free flying of Grace!

Christian leader, you would do well to read the article, listen to the song, and listen to Jesus’s Voice in your heart. If He’s not prodding you about anything, fine. But if He does speak, take care to listen and not harden your heart! Be blessed!

 


*I do think, though, that for specialist churches like mine, where it’s an inner-city CofE Church that works with the homeless, addicts and those involved with all kinds of vice, we need a strong leader who has set guidelines – and I hate Rules, as my regular readers will know! – but this is for the good of the addicts we get in. Our Vicar always points people to Jesus, but there are certain types of people in our environment who have to know who is ‘in charge’ on a human level.

Believe me, I don’t follow leaders lightly. But in this instance, I feel it’s important to have a strong leader. I don’t always agree with him on everything, but that’s ok, in both directions. However, if a leader does insist on full compliance with Church doctrine, that, to me, is a danger sign.

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