Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Power of Nothing!

I’ve written before about how when someone first comes to Christ, sometimes they get given (or they pick up) loads of rules and things that they have to do. But that’s not the way it should be. When you believe in Jesus, there is literally nothing more you need to do in order to ‘become acceptable to God’. Jesus has done it all!

Here’s an article by Jeremy Myers, of RedeemingGod.com, on this very subject. Click the logo below to go to the article.

Enjoy!

Redeeming God logo

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Can You Have Hell and a Loving God?

“How can a loving God consign someone to Hell for eternal torment?” is a question/statement made by people like me, who can’t believe it could ever be true. It’s usually countered by the (usually ill-thought-through) cold, heartless statement that “Ah, but God is a God of justice!”

The conundrum is age-old, and my Hell resource page might go some way towards helping you with it.

I’m not alone in this; it is a feature of the Spirit’s work in this day to remove the slurs on the Father’s character that have been put there by layer upon layer of false doctrine and harmful teaching, no matter how well intentioned (or not!) the original authors of those doctrines were. Many men of God, myself included, are hearing the Spirit’s Voice on this subject, and are being empowered to study and discern the real truth about this stuff.

And so I present here an excellent article by the brilliant John Pavlovitz, a man who is both a superb thinker and communicator, and at the same time a down-to-earth practical Christian.

Click the image below to go to the article:

john pavlovitz stuff that needs to be said

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:29, Mt 11:15, Mk 4:9)

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Hypergrace – is it ‘Biblical’?

Personally I don’t set much store by the word ‘Biblical’, although I confess to using it occasionally. Now, if something is said to be ‘Biblical’, it usually means it (whatever it is) fits with someone’s interpretation of Scripture – and that ‘someone’ may be an individual, a group, or an entire denomination. And so one person’s definition of ‘Biblical’ is always going to be different, however slightly, from someone else’s.

The problem comes when rifts are caused by the different interpretations. These rifts can be such that people actually part ways over them; in my opinion, I would much rather take the mature view that actually people are entitled to believe what they like and I’ll just let them get on with it. But sadly many people can’t just let it go; rather than talk about horses or football, they’d rather bottom out their differences before any meaningful relationship can be allowed. This is simply dysfunctional and is rooted in the desire to always be right at the expense of everything else, relationships included.

The idea of ‘hypergrace*’ is one of these things that causes division, in the same way that Jesus said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34). It’s going to strongly divide opinion! Now, many believers, myself included, believe that hyper-grace was the Gospel all along, and that much other stuff has been added in later – such as all the Yeast of the Pharisees stuff like legalism and all that. And I just can’t keep a lid on hypergrace; I find it thrilling: exciting, energising, revolutionary and yet ancient, solid and reliable.

diminishing_gods_grace

I wouldn’t dream, though, of pushing my beliefs on others. Wait, what? You write a blog about your beliefs, and you go on forums to push your beliefs!

Well, yes, this is how it will appear on the surface. But I write about hyper-grace because I want others to know that there is freedom out here, outside the walls of religion. I discovered (or, more accurately, I was shown) that freedom, and I want others to know it’s there. But some people, comfortable with their beliefs, are not happy about venturing out here – and that’s all fine. But the problem comes when those people of ‘faith’ do indeed start pushing their beliefs on others, in a sort of compulsory manner (usually backed by threats of Hell) and that’s when the trouble starts. I simply let people decide for themselves and do not demand a response. As for the forums, I publish what I believe so that people reading the forums can see that not all Christians are horrible and judgemental – as so many of them sadly seem to be on the forums – and that it is possible to be a believer without having to be like that and to believe everything that they too believe. It is a fact that there are many shades to the Christian faith, and I like to showcase this.

Anyhow, that’s just background. I wanted to let you see this article by Paul Ellis; if you are in any doubt at all about the truth of the hyper-grace Gospel, take a look. Click the logo below to go there:

escape_to_reality


*What is ‘hyper-grace’? It’s simply the way that St. Paul describes God’s Grace in his letters. The words we translate like ‘exceedingly’ and ‘abundantly’ are actually much more emphatic in the original Greek, and more and more believers today are catching sight of what God’s Grace really means. But of course it generates controversy – Grace always does – and many mainline Church leaders are afraid of it. I will let you judge for yourself why this is….and I also recommend Paul Ellis’s book, ‘The Hyper-Grace Gospel’. The link to it on Amazon is here or click the picture below:

hyper-grace-gospel

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Boeing B-17 ‘Fortress’

This entry is part 15 of 16 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

….and the 8th Air Force Legacy

Today’s Beautiful Destroyers post is just a little bit different, because not only do I showcase the legendary Boeing B-17 ‘Flying Fortress’, but I also present a little game you might like to try.b-17e

The B-17 ‘Fortress’ was the mainstay (along with the B-24 ‘Liberator’) of the United States 8th Air Force, flying from bases in the UK during World War II. This aeroplane has long been one of my favourite American aircraft from WWII.

Here’s the mighty B-17G Fortress ‘Sally-B’, one of the (happily) many airworthy examples flying today. She’s dressed up as the legendary B-17F* ‘Memphis Belle’, which was the first Fortress to complete the required 25 missions to enable her crew to return home to the United States.

sally-b

The doctrine which inspired the design and construction of the B-17 was that ‘The Bomber Will Always Get Through’; an inter-war concept whereby bombers would be designed that were so fast and high-flying that fighters (which when the doctrine was formulated, had similar performance to the bombers) would not be able to intercept them. However, by the time the early B-17’s were designed, they knew that the fighters would most likely be able to catch the bombers. And so the Fortress was designed, basically with guns providing all-around firepower protection; defences covering every possible approach angle so that enemy fighters would have to run the gauntlet of heavy defensive fire no matter where they attacked from – hence the nickname ‘Flying Fortress’. And so, with the benefit of this all-round armament, the Fortress was supposed to have been able to make it all the way to the target (The bomber will always get through!), without fighter escort, and defend itself (and its squadron mates, with which it flew in a defensive ‘box’ formation to maximise mutual supporting firepower) all the way to the target and back.

B-17Gs flying in Combat Box formation
B-17Gs flying in Combat Box formation

Of course, however, as with all such combat doctrines, the reality did not match up with the theory. Although at first, the B-17s could indeed get through to the target without serious losses, and deliver their bombs reasonably accurately, this did not last long. On the first daylight bombing mission, on 17th August, 1942, only two bombers suffered minor damage. However, the German fighter leaders of course developed tactics which they used successfully against the Fortress formations. This is what professional soldiers do well; if there is a tactic that works (in this case, massed formations of machine-gun toting bombers), you develop a counter-tactic, and so on. One of the primary such tactics was to attack the bomber formations head-on, where a) the bombers had weaker defensive weaponry (at some angles, just a single machine gun), and b) the closing speed was so high (of the order of 600mph) that accurate fire was difficult. But still the Fortresses had to go in in daylight – the whole idea was that they could actually see the target they were dropping their bombs on, unlike the RAF night raids where the bombers relied on a combination of good navigation and luck in order to hit their targets – if indeed they did hit their targets.

And so they found that the Fortress benefited from a fighter escort almost as well as did the Germans in the Battle of Britain. Both sides had learned that unescorted bombers iin daylight are vulnerable – but still the B-17 was far more capable of defending itself than were the much more lightly-armed German Heinkels and Dorniers they used in the Battle of Britain. In fact it wasn’t until early 1944 that the Fortress got a fighter escort all the way to the target; on the notorious raids on Schweinfurt and Regensburg in August 1943, the Fortresses lost nearly ten percent of their strike force, being escorted only about 25% of the way there and for the last 25% of the flight back. In October 1943, the second Schweinfurt mission resulted in such catastrophic losses (about 20%) that these missions in fact foretold the failure of the concept of deep-penetration unescorted daylight raids over Germany, in spite of the Fortress’s heavy defensive armament, and while raids continued unabated for the rest of the War, unescorted deep-penetration raids did not. Not until late 1943 were long-range escort fighters sufficiently long-legged to make it all the way to targets deep in Germany and back.

silver

In fact, eventually, the US long-range escort fighters performed so well that some B-17 crews flew two 25-mission tours without ever seeing an enemy fighter.

The Fortress was held in high regard by its crews, because even though the bombers were regularly clobbered good and proper by both enemy fighters and flak (anti-aircraft fire), they had a reputation for being unbelievably tough.

“There were occasions where, any other airplane, took hits the way it took….wouldn’t’a brought us back…”

“God love ’em. They’d bring you home when you didn’t think you had a prayer, and, … they’d never let you down….”

“When you see what the B-17 went through, in combat, and still make it back home … it was a miracle to me”

Some Forts were indeed able to make it back home with some of the most incredible battle damage; damage that would easily have felled any other combat aircraft in the War. Some examples are given here. This Fortress, for example, was damaged in a collision with a German fighter which tracked its wingtip down across the rear fuselage and took off the left tailplane (horizontal stabiliser) too.

damaged

Or this Fort, where a Flak shell had exploded directly in front of the nose of the aircraft:

b17damaged

…and they incredibly managed to fly that aeroplane home! This, while extreme, is typical of the kinds of damage these areoplanes used to absorb and still survive.

In this picture, you can see the contrails (the white vapour trails) of escorting Allied fighters above the B-17 formation:

contrails

Here’s a lovely picture of a B-17G on its bomb run. Note the spiral contrails induced by the spiral propeller wash.

b17above

And another incredibly atmospheric shot, this time a backlit picture of the propeller tips forming their own slipstream vortices:

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And another beautiful picture of a B-17 formation and its contrails – beautiful but deadly. These contrails made it impossible for the defending German fighters to not see the American formations approaching.

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So, the B-17 Fortress – another Beautiful Destroyer. Loved by its crews, but suffering heavy losses until the advent of 100% fighter escort.


And now for the little game, which I appreciate will only be of interest to WWII geeks 😉 I call this little exercise the ‘8th Air Force Legacy’.

During World War II, several tens of airbases were constructed during 1942-1943, in East Anglia – roughly the area east of Cambridge/Peterborough – in the United Kingdom. These bases were to be home to the tens of thousands of American servicemen whose mission it was to launch daylight air raids into Occupied Europe in order to cripple Nazi Germany’s war machine industry.

Whereas the RAF conducted its bombing campaign at night – largely a fairly indiscriminate ‘terror campaign’ waged against Germany’s civilian population (although many raids were also sent against German industrial targets in areas like the Ruhr Valley) – the US Army Air Force doctrine called for daylight precision bombing – attacks so accurate that the targets would be hit and hit hard.

The bases were placed in East Anglia so that they would be at the nearest practical ‘jumping-off point’ for raids into Europe. Raids began in August 1942 when twelve B-17s of the 97th Bombardment Group attacked the railway marshalling yards at Rouen. Within months, it became common for the skies above East Anglia to be filled with the reverberating snarl of aircraft engines as hundreds of bombers assembled their formations before commencing their long, freezing flights out over Nazi Germany and back again. Visions of the ground crews waiting anxiously for the first sound of approaching B-17s, returning from storms of flak and rivers of bullets. The culmination of the campaign against the Nazi war machine was in August 1943, where two raids were conducted against the ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt, and the Messerschmitt factory at Regensburg, both deep in Germany, as already mentioned.

These air bases were absolute hives of activity. Thousands of personnel, hundreds of aircraft, thousands of vehicles, tons of ammunition, bombs, fuel, spare parts; busy hangars and repair shops, briefing and canteen facilities, chapels, stores, barracks – each airfield was a small town and was more-or-less self contained.

b-17-over-wartime-control-tower-sm

Many of these bases were closed at the end of the War, some were kept going, but now, over seventy years after the end of the War, there is in some cases little left of these once bustling places. Like navvy shanty-towns, they served their purpose, and were then left to fall into decay. Places full of memory, full of history, are now once again reverted to being farmers’ fields or other uses. Polebrook, Kimbolton, Snetterton Heath, Bassingbourn, Thorpe Abbots. Names that evoke visions of B-17s running up their engines, long grass waving behind in the prop wash, the thunder of engines as the heavily-laden B-17s rumble down the runways and lurch into the air, men playing baseball until the returning bombers could be heard, red flares on final approach to signify that the bomber had wounded aboard, wheels-up landings on one engine….

skippercomeshome

Now, here’s the game. Use Google Maps/Google Earth (satellite view) to search for the place names given below, and see if you can see the bases, or what’s left of them, nearby. Or even just if you can see where they were. As an aid, you can type in the names of the bases into Wikipedia, and get an idea of what the shapes of the airfields were like. In Wikipedia, add RAF in front  – RAF Polebrook, for example. Clue: Most of the airfields had three intersecting runways arranged in a rough overlapping triangle pattern. And take a look at what some of them are used for now – Snetterton Heath is a good example. Also, where possible, try the Google Street View on them – at Rattlesden you can even look along one of the runways that used to be used for B-17s (it’s now a gliding airfield). Would you believe that a very few of these are still active airfields in one form or another!

Here are the names you’re looking for:

Alconbury (an easy one to begin with)
Snetterton Heath
Rattlesden
Knettishall
Bassingbourn
Polebrook
Thorpe Abbotts
Framlingham
Grafton Underwood
Molesworth
Deenethorpe
Glatton
Podington (I think this is a drag-racing track!)
Chelveston (a very hard one!)
Thurleigh
Kimbolton
Ridgewell
Nuthampstead

Each of these bases was near(ish) to the village from which it took its name. Thorpe Abbotts is a bit further away, but that’s part of the fun. Look at the Google Maps from different heights and try to to spot the patterns in the ground. Polebrook is a particularly difficult one, as are Knettishall and Kimbolton. Give it a go and see how you get on. And, as always, comments are welcome 🙂

Good luck!

And finally, I found on the Internet a very moving picture of an unidentified young lady (whose face I have pixellated) walking on a disused runway at one of these old airfields.

Look carefully above her head….

ghost-b-17


*The B-17F didn’t have the chin turret that the ‘G’ had (the twin-gun turret under the nose). The ‘Sally-B’ is a B-17G model.

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Father, Hear Me Calling

Sometimes there’s nothing like simply taking the time out to just go and sit in God’s Presence. Maybe in your spare bedroom; maybe just in your head while travelling to work on the bus. But however you do it, know that He delights in your being there and He delights to spend time with you.

Here’s a lovely song by Don Francisco, expressing the tenderness and love that is found in God’s Presence: Father Hear Me Calling

Deep within the silence, Father hear me calling
Open to your son and lift me to Your Throne above
Lord I need to hear You, feel Your Spirit near me

Feel Your arms around me, rest inside your Love

There’s nothing on this earth can fill this thirst and longing
No-one else can satisfy the need within my soul
Come and fill my heart again with all the love that’s in You
Let me see Your Glory; let it cleanse and make me whole

There beside the river let my spirit wander
With my Friend and Saviour, to hear the Voice I love
Drinking sweet still waters
Lying in green pastures
While Your gentle Spirit rests upon me like a dove

There’s nothing on this earth can fill this thirst and longing
No-one else can satisfy the need within my soul
Come and fill my heart again with all the love that’s in You
Let me see Your Glory; let it cleanse and make me whole

(Instrumental)

There beside the river let my spirit wander
With my Friend and Saviour, to hear the Voice I love
Drinking sweet still waters
Lying in green pastures
While Your gentle Spirit rests upon me like a dove

Deep within the silence, Father hear me calling
Open to your child and lift me to Your Throne above
Lord I need to hear You, feel Your Spirit near me
Feel Your arms around me, rest inside your Love

Let me feel Your arms around me, rest inside your Love

 

(Music and lyrics by Don Francisco, used here with his permission)

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The Wonder of Flight

I have realised once again just how incredibly privileged my son and I are to be able to do the things we do (I should add at this point that he’s a Pilot too…). We go to a little grass field in the middle of nowhere, and from there we rise up into the sky and dance among the clouds. What an amazing thing to be able to do! Sometimes I simply can’t believe it, even having been a Pilot for twenty years!

For one and a half million years, all our ancestors could do was to look up and dream of flight. Only for a little over a century has it been possible to do this in a controlled manner. We are so honoured to be a part of that.

I can’t put it better than how it’s said in this uncredited quote:

“The ultimate responsibility of the pilot is to fulfill the dreams of the countless millions of earthbound ancestors who could only stare skyward and wish”


Header picture is of me taking off in Cessna 152 G-BNSM (the same blue aeroplane as in my site’s banner image) from Bodmin Airfield (the field in the middle of nowhere),  on the evening of 21st September, 2014.

Since I wrote this piece, I have begun flying from Exeter International Airport; hardly a field in the middle of nowhere! It’s much nearer to where I live than is Bodmin….

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More Precious than Silver…

In 1982, not long after we’d met, Fiona and I visited the Dales Bible Week in Harrogate, for a good few nights of worship. I remember the time clearly, and we learned a good number of new songs, many of which we had at our wedding in early 1984.

One of our favourites was this one: Lord You are more precious than silver.

When indeed nothing you desire compares with Him, it’s the perfect song to sing.

Here it is, from the Dales tape ‘Praise God in His Sanctuary’, as found on my website ‘Vintage Worship Tapes‘, where you can in fact download the entire preserved tape as mp3 files. Enjoy!

Lord You are more precious than silver
Lord You are more costly than gold
Lord You are more beautiful than diamonds
And nothing I desire compares with You

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Twin Lightsabers!

After some of my more serious posts recently, I felt I just had to inject a bit of light relief into my blog posts.

The Bible says to “…take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Now, whether that refers to Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, or the Bible (possibly not, as it didn’t exist when Ephesians was written! And I don’t do bibliolatry*) but in any case, having the Scripture memorised is indeed a powerful weapon in spiritual warfare; the enemy doesn’t like to hear an appropriate Scripture quoted at him!** So let’s call the Bible the word of God for now. And it’s the Sword of the Spirit. I like to think of it as my spiritual lightsaber***.

Now, as you may know, I am a huge Star Wars geek. Not just a fan, but a total geek. And in Star Wars lore, there is a lightsaber combat style known as Jar’Kai, which is the method of using two lightsabers together in combat.

Well-known (to Star Wars geeks anyway) practitioners of Jar’Kai are Jedi Padawan Ahsoka Tano, who wields two lightsabers of different lengths, and (usually) one of them in a forehand grip, one in a backhand grip:

ahsokalightsabers

ahsoka1

…and there’s also Sith apprentice/Nightsister Asajj Ventress:

ventress1

Here’s Ventress using her two lightsabers while fighting against the Jedi Knight, Anakin Skywalker:

anakinventressduel-kamino

Now, here’s the funny bit. At home, and also when I go to my church’s life group (our housegroup), I take two Bibles. In effect, I’m carrying two swords. Or, as I’d prefer to think, my twin lightsabersHere’s the Star Wars equivalent: effectively, I use my Bibles Jar’Kai style. I take my 1978 NIV and my King James Version. I find that sometimes, one version puts a passage in a better, more easily understandable light. An example of the King James carrying a better turn of phrase is in Matthew 18:3 (KJV), as explained in this article. And the other side of the coin is that the Bible I use most is the 1978 NIV, and quite often I use that translation to obtain the modern English meanings of the KJV archaic speech. I find the result to be most illuminating! Each translation has its own strengths and weaknesses. Each Bible covers points the other misses.

Similarly, the Jar’Kai lightsaber style allows the user to cover his/her weakpoints with one saber while attacking with the other, or to get better use out of each saber. Think like the effect of having two lightsabers is greater than the sum of the two sabers.

And, for me, so it is with my Bibles. Some have called me things like ‘Two-Gun Tex’. I’d prefer the Jar’Kai label but nobody knows about it except us geeks 😉 Here’s Anakin Skywalker again (played by Haydn Christensen) improvising Jar’Kai against Sith Lord Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus (played by the late legendary actor Christopher Lee) in Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones:

anakin_dual_wielding

There are more parallels, too. Use of the lightsaber relies very heavily on the Force, which is the Star Wars universe’s equivalent of God. Similarly, the Bible has to be used as inspired by the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit brings to life a passage of Scripture, then that is the point at which the Bible becomes the Word of God – living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12). Although as I have said above, Jesus is the Word of God, the Bible when activated by the Spirit is still a powerful weapon. And we don’t need to be ultra-precise about these things anyway; this is supposed to be a light-hearted piece.

kenobi_faces_grievous

The picture above shows Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) facing Separatist General Grievous with his four lightsabers****. Now that’s just cheating. Not even sure that counts as Jar’Kai….

And carrying four Bibles would mean you’d have a really heavy bag.

Anyway, yes, it might sound pretentious and maybe even super-spiritual to carry two Bibles to housegroup – but I really do find it useful and educational to do so.

And I know all this sounds completely nuts. But I find it funny, and maybe that’s just a quirky Aspergic sort of thing. But I thought I’d share it because it might get a few chuckles….something we could all do with now and again!


*Bibliolatry is where people are almost thinking of the Bible as God, and anything said against the Bible is seen as blasphemy. No, really. But of course those guilty of bibliolatry can’t see that they are doing it. Now that’s worth a chuckle or two, or would be if it didn’t cause so much misery!

**Please don’t be under the impression that I take my Bibles to housegroup in order to start Scripture-bombing fights with people. I don’t 😀

***If you don’t know what a lightsaber is, be advised that it’s a famous weapon from the Star Wars movie franchise. It’s like a laser beam formed into a sword and it can be used for both attack and defence. And it’s deadly in the right hands; deadly in a different way in the wrong hands (you’d end up chopping off bits of yourself and your friends 😉 ). Another parallel about the use/misuse of Scripture!

****In Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

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Lovely Worship Medley

cloudscape over devon

This small but powerful worship medley is absolutely gorgeous. Fiona and I used to sing the first song, ‘You Alone are Holy’, as a duet. ‘We Exalt You’, however, although one of my favourite ‘uplifting’ songs, never quite caught on as well as I’d have liked – but I share it with you today in the hope that you too will find it uplifting.


You Alone are Holy

Can you hear Creation yearning
Longing to worship His Name?
Together in all adoration
I join them to proclaim

Can you hear the angels singing
In the Presence of the King
My heart cries out to be with them
As I fall on my knees and sing

For You alone are holy
You are worthy to be praised
You alone are holy
I offer up myself to You
For it’s the least that I can do for You

To live my life in Your Presence
To hide in the wings of Your grace
To drink from Your fountain of mercy
I hunger and seek Your Face

For You alone are holy
You are worthy to be praised
You alone are holy
I offer up myself to You
For it’s the least that I can do

For You alone are holy
You are worthy to be praised
You alone are holy
I offer up myself to You
I offer up myself to You
I offer up myself to You
For it’s the least that I can do for You

You Alone

You are the Peace that guards my heart
My Help in time of need
You are the Hope that leads me on
And brings me to my knees

For there I find You waiting
And there I find release
So with all my heart I’ll worship
And unto You I’ll sing

For You alone deserve all glory
For You alone deserve all praise
Father we worship and adore You
Father we long to see Your Face

For You alone deserve all glory
For You alone deserve all praise
Father, we love You
And we worship You this day

We Exalt You

We exalt You, we exalt You
We exalt You, Exalted King on high
We exalt You, we exalt You
We exalt You, Exalted King on high

We are called of You
Gathered from all nations
Called as priests to You
To demonstrate Your praise

We exalt You, we exalt You
We exalt You, Exalted King on high
We exalt You, we exalt You
We exalt You, Exalted King on high

We are living stones
Formed by Your own righteous Hand
Joined in unity
To celebrate Your Love

We exalt You, we exalt You
We exalt You, Exalted King on high
We exalt You, we exalt You
We exalt You, Exalted King on high

We exalt You, we exalt You
We exalt You, Exalted King on high


Header Image: Cloudscape over Devon; a view above the clouds at about 7,000ft on a crystal-clear day.  Seeing a view like this evokes real worship of the sheer magnificence of God as seen in His Creation.

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