Monthly Archives: April 2016

Let Your Glory Fall

A lovely song by David Ruis, just as timeless now as it was in 1996 when I first heard it.

Enjoy!

Father of creation, unfold your sovereign plan
Raise up a chosen generation
That will march through the land
All of creation is longing
For your unveiling of power
Would you release your anointing
O God let this be the hour

Let Your glory fall in this room
Let it go forth from here to the nations
Let Your fragrance rest in this place
As we gather to seek Your face

Ruler of the nations the world has yet to see
The full release of Your promise
The church in victory
Turn to us Lord and touch us
Make us strong in Your might
Overcome our weakness
That we could stand up and fight

Let Your glory fall in this room
Let it go forth from here to the nations
Let Your fragrance rest in this place
As we gather to seek Your face

Let Your kingdom come
Let Your will be done
Let us see on earth
The glory of Your Son

Let Your glory fall in this room
Let it go forth from here to the nations
Let Your fragrance rest in this place
As we gather to seek Your face

We are gathered to seek Your face

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Saints in the Arms of a Happy God

I’ve been reading this book on and off for the last few months, dipping in here and there to read a little more of this revolutionary stuff.

In the book, which is ideally suited for mention on my blog – since I half-jokingly call it my ‘Heresy Blog‘ – its author, Jeff Turner, examines in detail the theology behind many of the presuppositions of (particularly) Evangelical and Calvinist theological ideas. He dares to ask questions, and challenge the status quo; something that many theologians – myself included – are doing in these days. We are asking the questions ‘why?’, ‘why do we believe that?’ and ‘are you sure about that?’ Questions that many Christian streams have ignored, brushed under the carpet or, worse, treated as forbidden questions – usually because they challenge the assumptions and power of those in charge. And this is exactly what Jesus did….

Using the security of relationship with Jesus as a solid basis, it is actually perfectly safe to ask awkward questions. Those who dare not ask them are actually, sadly, those with a weaker faith because they feel that their faith may be threatened by new knowledge, or that they may be rejected by their fellows because they might have to concede that they actually believe something different. But surely that’s the nature of the walk of faith; you never really arrive at the end because you are constantly learning new things about God, and some of those things may contradict what you were so sure you believed earlier.

The title is a parody of the title of a famous hellfire-and-damnation sermon called ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’, by one Jonathan Edwards, an eighteenth-century American Revivalist preacher.

I’m sure that Mr. Edwards believed most sincerely in what he was preaching – he was indeed a humble, Godly and thoughtful man – but the ideas he espoused (along with those of a similar persuasion; we can’t blame it all on Mr. Edwards!) have caused significant shifts in humanity’s perception of the Godhead, His relationship to us (and ours with Him) and in the subsequent credibility of the Church and its major doctrines. In this book, Jeff Turner challenges many of the the deeply-held doctrines of modern Christianity which are supposed to be Scripture-based, but, Turner says, are in fact incorrect. The modern-day image of an angry God as presented by Edwards et al is nothing at all like the God Whom the writers of the New Testament knew. This book is a well-reasoned treatise on how God has been misrepresented down the years as an angry, implacable Dictator – and this is one reason why I write so much on just how good God is. I’m just so fed up with Him being dissed in this way. In fact I’ve quoted from ‘Saints’ before on this blog, in a similar context.

Anyway, I would like to let you have a look at a review of the book by my friend David Matthew; far better for a scholarly man like him to give such a good book a decent review. For what it’s worth, I concur with just about every point that David makes in his review.

Click the book cover image below to go to David’s review. There are also links on that page to Amazon (UK) where you can buy the book; at the time of writing, the Kindle version is only a couple of pounds.

saints in the arms of a happy god small

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Three Beauties

This entry is part 12 of 22 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

It’s been a while since my last post in the series ‘Beautiful Destroyers’. But here the series is back on track again with some lovely pictures of three beautiful aircraft participating in the joint Royal Air Force/Indian Air Force exercise ‘Indra Dhanush 07’, which took place in, you’ve guessed it, 2007.

In these pictures, we see the RAF’s latest fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon, flying in formation with the RAF’s other main front-line fighter, the Panavia Tornado F3, and the Russian-designed Sukhoi SU-30MKI, which still carries the NATO reporting codename ‘Flanker’, which is currently in the inventory of the Indian Air Force. For identification purposes, in the header picture for this post and in the shot below, the aircraft nearest the camera is the Tornado, then the Typhoon, and the one furthest away is the Su-30.

typhoon_tornado_flanker_1

Clever stuff, all that formation flying; amazing what you can do with being able to keep an aeroplane straight and level. I’ve done formation flying myself only once, and I was too busy avoiding collisions to take any photos. But it’s an amazing feeling, seeing an aeroplane only a few metres away (in this case piloted by my son) and seeing it just like floating there. A photo doesn’t really do it justice; it’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen. There’s this plane just hanging there in the clear air, and you can see there’s nothing really holding it up. Remarkable.

Anyway back to the pictures:

typhoon_tornado_flanker_2

In the picture above, you can see the Su-30 in more detail. An extremely powerful, agile and well-armed aeroplane, the Su-30 (which is a derivative of the original Su-27) is a very capable combat aircraft, in fact probably one of the best in the world. She weighs 22 tons but her pilots throw her around the sky like she’s a Spitfire….

And finally, another photo like the main header photo above, but taken from a slightly different angle. And it’s bigger….

typhoon_tornado_flanker_4

So there we go. Sorry to have kept my aviation-fanatic readers so starved over the last couple of months. I know of one guy at least who only reads my blog for the aviation stuff; Captain ‘Pyet’, this one’s for you mate 🙂

 

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More on ‘Recording God’

You may remember in one of my previous posts how I described the awesome phenomenon of what seemed like ‘recording God’. Almost as if you could get the Holy Spirit on tape…

Remember how I said that worship music stirs up the spirit of worship in the worshipper’s heart; how the reality of God’s Presence comes into focus as your heart turns towards Him?

Well, I’m writing this on the train to London, and I had some old classic Vineyard music playing (over my headphones, I might add!). Trouble is with that sort of thing is that when the spirit of worship arises in your heart, it’s very difficult to contain it. But I did my best; no more than a surreptitious raising of hands under my laptop….but for me the Presence of God was right there. I was almost in tears.

As a worship leader, I lead people into God’s Presence. It’s what I do. And I do that whether it’s in person or, like in this blog, by proxy. God is the same right there with you right now, as He is on this train with me.

So I thought I’d share this with you right now, so you too can join in. Fresh worship from an old song; fresh because the Creator God is right there in your heart, just as new and bright as He was on the Day of Creation and yet just as ancient as the universe, and even more so. The song is ‘Alleluia’, also known as ‘Jesus I love You’. Listen to it, join in, experience the Presence of God for yourself as you focus on Him.

Jesus I love You
I bow down before You
Praises and worship
To our King

Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Allelu

Oh, bless His holy Name. Glory to God!

 

 

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A Tale of Two Trees

I’d like to recommend this excellent piece by Susan Cottrell of Freedhearts. Although the essay is primarily about the gay/christian debate, it’s also a decent and easy-to-read light theological discussion on the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life.

Click the graphic below to go to the article.

Have a look. It’ll be well worth it.

freedhearts

 

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Deeds and Starfish

I’m embarrassed to say that there are many believers who think that any good deed performed by an ‘unbeliever’ is, in eternal terms, worthless. Maybe they’re thinking of Jesus’s words in John 15:5 where He said, ‘Apart from Me, you can do nothing’.

Clearly Jesus did not mean for His words to be taken literally. Without Him, all around the world, people carry on breathing. I wouldn’t call that ‘nothing’, would you? So of course the Fundamentalists and religious conservatives claim that He meant that you can do nothing of lasting value without Him. Maybe it’s that, I don’t know. And maybe that’s why the Fundies claim that nothing an unbeliever does has any eternal value. And therefore that God does not count those things as ‘good deeds’, whatever that might mean. Sorry this is all a bit nebulous, but, as with so many of the more silly ‘Christian’ religious ideas, it’s not all that well explained nor well-explored. People just accept this sort of twaddle without really thinking things through.

Whatever the reasoning behind it, though, this idea of their deeds having no value is really complete rubbish.

For a start, Jesus said that “anyone who gives you a cup of water because you are My disciple shall certainly not lose his reward” (Mt 10:42) So for the Scripture-proved believer, that settles it, doesn’t it? Jesus didn’t say that it had to be a believer who gave the cup of water…..

But let’s also look at a modern-day parable, usually used to illustrate that small acts of kindness have value. It’s called ‘The Starfish Story’

The Starfish Story: You Can Make a Difference

While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.

He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”

The moral is obvious: so much needs to be done to change the world, so we must start one ‘starfish’ at a time, and change the world in small measures. Each little good thing we do makes a difference. It’s to encourage people to make a small difference, all of which add up.

And, of course, for each starfish – figuratively, this is of course people whom you help along the way – it does indeed make a difference. And Jesus did this; He healed people and gave them new life, one person at a time, and He made a difference. He didn’t do it to show off, nor really to get glory (except perhaps as a by-product for His Father); no, He did those things because a) that is what the Kingdom of God is like and b) because those things needed doing. Those people needed to be healed, fed, given wine, whatever – there and then, in the real world. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom in to the real world and sort things out because they needed sorting out.

His motivation was not necessarily relevant to those He helped; all they were bothered about was that their problem had miraculously gone away. And not all of those people upped and followed him as a result of His ministry either; in fact quite the contrary: many of the people shouting ‘Crucify Him!’ on the first Good Friday will have been people whom Jesus healed.

But as usual I digress. Like any good parable, there is another moral to the starfish story, and it’s this:

None of the starfish saved by the young man in that story could care less who it was that threw them back into the ocean!

It doesn’t matter to them that it was a boy or girl; young or old, believer or unbeliever that rescued each starfish. The point is that they were thrown back into the ocean and rescued. The deed has value.

In other words, all good deeds matter to those to whom they are done. Believer or unbeliever – that’s irrelevant. And when you really quiz these people who believe my initial proposition of godless deeds being worthless – actually they don’t really have any coherent argument about it. And certainly they have no argument against actually helping people no matter who you are.

Because, in the end, it does not matter who you are, so long as those helped get the aid they need.

And in doing that, maybe those ‘unbelievers’, whose deeds are dismissed so readily by certain religious people, are unwittingly following in the footsteps of Jesus. In fact, I believe they are. And their acts will not go unrewarded!

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Holiness Unto the Lord

Another classic Vineyard worship song – Holiness Unto the Lord by Danny Daniels. Majestic and powerful this song is, yes, hmm.

Enjoy!


Holiness unto the Lord, unto the King
Holiness unto Your Name I will sing

Holiness unto Jesus
Holiness unto You Lord
Holiness unto Jesus
Holiness unto You Lord

I love You, I love Your Name, I love Your ways
I love You, and all my days I’ll proclaim

Holiness unto Jesus
Holiness unto You Lord
Holiness unto Jesus
Holiness unto You Lord

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I Am With You and For You

Here’s a most encouraging quote from ‘Jesus Calling’, given here for your upbuilding:

I am with you and for you. You face nothing alone—nothing! When you feel anxious, know that you are focusing on the visible world and leaving Me out of the picture. The remedy is simple: Fix your eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. Verbalize your trust in Me, the Living One who sees you always. I will get you safely through this day and all your days. But you can find Me only in the present. Each day is a precious gift from My Father. How ridiculous to grasp for future gifts when today’s is set before you! Receive today’s gift gratefully, unwrapping it tenderly and delving into its depths. As you savour this gift, you find Me.”

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Broken Hallelujah

Sometimes, you can be at absolute rock bottom. Everything is mounting up against you  and one thing piles on top of another. Trouble after trouble, affliction after affliction, and there seems to be no end to it in sight.

You’ve likely been told at some point in your Christian walk that the way to drag yourself up by your bootlaces, as it were, is to ‘praise the Lord’ and everything will be OK. You’ll feel better soon.

But of course this isn’t what happens, because the circumstances are still there. You’ve declared your victory over the problems in Jesus’s Name, but still the problems are there. You pray for the Kingdom power that you have been granted; you pray for it to apply in your situation and bring the breakthrough that is so sorely needed. And still the troubles keep piling up and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, not even an oncoming express train.

Can I say this with all sensitivity – because I too am in that dark tunnel as I write this – the ‘valley of the shadow of death’, as the Psalmist describes it – but actually praising God and declaring your trust in Him really is the way forward. You might not feel any different, but you are still consciously bringing Him into the equation. You are making the conscious decision to declare Him as Lord, no matter how you feel.

And, for some reason, this type of praise is so precious to God. He is right there with you in your suffering, and He delights in hearing your trust being expressed. Years ago, one Saturday morning, Fiona and I had to make the heartbreaking trip to the vet’s to have our precious German Shepherd dog, Jasper, put to sleep. The next morning, I was due to lead the main worship meeting at Church, from the front, and everyone would be looking to me for the lead. I decided that I would go for it. That worship time, from the midst of my grief, was one of the most precious I have ever led. God’s Presence was right there, for us and for our congregation.

I don’t know how that worked. I don’t know why that worked. And I don’t know why these horrible things happen to people despite God being Good, all the time.

But let’s just acknowledge this: In the raw suffering, where every step is pain, God is there. He knows what it feels like. He can empathise with you, because He’s been there before. He will continue to be your Rock, even when it seems like your feet are sinking in the waters of the oceans of despair.

Here’s a beautiful song by Mandisa, called ‘Broken Hallelujah’ which expresses this perfectly. If you’re in a dark place today, join with me and Mandisa in expressing your trust by letting Him have your ‘Hallelujah’ – the Hebrew word for ‘Praise the Lord’ – no matter how broken it might be.

And, somehow, this brings God’s power into your situation. I don’t know how He does it, but He does. You might not feel any different. But the power of praise is not to be underestimated, and at the very least it will take your eyes off the circumstances and lift them to Him, even for a short while, and give you maybe a better perspective on how He’s still in charge – because, make no mistake – He is still in charge. And, in the past, He’s always come up with the best possible solutions at the best possible time – and He’s not going to change now.

And I’m going to continue to give Him my broken hallelujahs. Because they are the best I’ve got.

With my love and my sadness
I come before You Lord
My heart’s in a thousand pieces
Maybe even more
Yet I trust in this moment You’re with me somehow
And You’ve always been faithful so Lord even now

When all that I can sing is a broken Hallelujah
When my only offering is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration will rise up from these ruins
And I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise is a broken Hallelujah

Oh Father, You have given
much more than I deserve
And I have felt Your hand of blessing
on me at every turn
How could I doubt Your goodness,
Your wisdom, Your grace
Oh Lord hear my heart in this painful place

When all that I can sing is a broken Hallelujah
When my only offering is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration will rise up from these ruins
And I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise is a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

I lift my voice
Your spirit moves
I raise my hands
I reach for You

‘Cause all that I can sing is a broken Hallelujah
And my only offering is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration will rise up from these ruins
And I will worship You and give You thanks
Even when my only praise is a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah

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The Throne of Grace

I subscribe to the Bible notes from the UCB (United Christian Broadcasters), based in the UK. It’s a booklet of daily devotions that they will send as a free regular subscription to anyone who asks. Or you can visit their website and read the devotional yourself on a daily basis.

Generally, there are some good bits and some not so good bits, as with any daily devotional, which is partly why they are no substitute for a decent prayer life and certainly no substitute for walking with Jesus Himself. And I appreciate the amount of effort it must take for its authors to generate inspirational reading day after day. It’s a mammoth task which I can only dimly appreciate, despite writing a (fairly) regular spiritual blog myself.

I appreciate that some of my readers may already read the Word for Today. For that reason, I wanted, reluctantly, to take issue with something I read in a recent devotional, namely the one for the 31st of March.* I am writing this only to re-encourage fellow believers who may have been discouraged by something that was written in that piece, and even than I may have taken it wrongly. If so, I apologise.

The piece is entitled ‘Grace’, and, as you know, I am a strong proponent of the nature of God’s infinite Grace extended towards all of humanity. However, there is not much in there about Grace as I understand it, as being the underserved favour of God. There’s a lot about ambulances, but nothing about the extravagant, generous, limitless, wild and free favour of our awesome God! But the passage that I really want to take issue with is this, near the end:

“…. He transported us from where we were to a place that has all the grace we’ll ever need until we go home with Him. One day God will sit on a throne of judgement where there’ll be no more grace, but until that day He’s seated on a throne of grace

What?! There’ll be no more Grace? Clearly this is definitely not Grace as I understand it. Grace is part of Who God is; it’s part of His personality, it’s not just one of the ways He works. Grace is a part of God; it’s not something He does, it’s something He is. It is part of His Character. God doesn’t change, and, just like God, Grace will go on forever.

I will say that again: Grace will go on forever.

To claim that ‘there will be no more Grace’ is not only completely wrong, it is also potentially the source of much hurt, confusion and doubt, especially for new believers. It’s a very dangerous statement to say that Grace will someday end!

If there is indeed a Judgement like the one the writers hint at – one of those judgements like a courtroom where people are found ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’ – then it too will be shot through with Grace. Grace will be fully in action at the Judgement Seat! But I personally do not believe that the Final Judgement will be like that. This is our loving God Who sent His Son to die for all mankind. I’ve written before about what I believe happens after death to those who do not yet believe in Him. We are so conditioned in our time to have this awful image of an angry, judgemental God that we can think of no other kind of Last Judgement than the courtroom style of judgement. But when the Bible was written, courtrooms were not as they are now; sure, there was public justice, but I am sure it was very different from our current ‘adversarial’ judicial system. In fact, it would have been different from one town to another; from one society to another. For us to assume that the Final Judgement will be anything like an episode of ‘Crown Court‘ is simply fallacious thinking.

But I digress. Jesus said that, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life“. (John 5:24, NIV) Did you see that? “He…..will not be judged”. Why? because Grace extends even –  and especially! – to the Judgement Seat – despite what our devotional writer friends might think. Grace is God’s chance to show His amazing generosity first shown to us now as Grace, but then it will also be shown also as Grace and Mercy. Grace and Mercy are both attributes of God’s Character and they go hand in hand. Nothing personal, guys, if ever you read this, but those new in Christ need to be assured of the security of their salvation, not placed in any sort of fear of the Final Judgement. Because Jesus also said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3, NIV)

So, let’s not for one moment believe that Grace will ever end. There will indeed be Grace at the Judgement – because God is the God of Grace. No matter what we’ve done, no matter how far we think we’ve fallen, those whom Jesus has called will never – ever – lose all that He’s called them to.

Grace lasts for ever!!


*The piece is reproduced here for your reference, in case the original link ever doesn’t work, with the contended passage in bold type:

“Grace

The Bible says: ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (vv. 15-16 NIVUK 1984 Edition). Dr Tony Evans says that God’s grace is like an ambulance coming to treat you when you’ve a medical emergency. First, it dispenses immediate grace to your most serious symptoms. Then they slide you into the ambulance, which is equipped with more grace – more medical facilities to deal with your problem. Then the ambulance races to the hospital where even more grace awaits. And once you’re admitted, the hospital keeps dispensing grace until your need has been addressed and you can go home again. In the words of John Newton’s beloved hymn: ‘‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home’. One day Jesus heard our emergency call: ‘Lord, be merciful to me a sinner’. He came to earth, found us dying in sin, and reached down to save us. And as our High Priest, He transported us from where we were to a place that has all the grace we’ll ever need until we go home with Him. One day God will sit on a throne of judgement where there’ll be no more grace, but until that day He’s seated on a throne of grace. So anytime you fail or falter, you can ‘approach the throne of grace with confidence’ and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.”

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