Monthly Archives: November 2017

How I Want to Live My Life

Here is another excellent and thoughtful blog from Mike Douglas, who writes one of my favurite blogs, ‘Getting Back to my Future‘.

In this article, Mike writes of three principles that he wants to have in his life from now on: Wonder, Perpetual Discovery and Passion.

As a scientist and also as a man of faith, I can really identify with that. I have never lost my sense of wonder as a scientist. As a practical, professional laboratory chemist, I still think it’s awesome when I add this to that and it turns from blue to red. And I think it’s even more awesome if it explodes, catches fire or evolves clouds of dense smoke while it does it (in the extractor hood, of course!) 😀 I have an insatiable appetite for invention, discovery and the application of knowledge. I worked in medical research for twelve years before I began working in the pharmaceutical industry, so I have made my fair share of discoveries. I am a problem-solver who loves to take on seemingly intractable problems and work out simple, practical solutions for them. I am an ideas man and a fixer. And I approach life, work, play, worship and my faith in Jesus with a burning passion, intent on living life to the full no matter what I am doing at the time. And Mike’s blog post reflects those attitudes brilliantly; no wonder I identified with it so much. Without more ado, I will pass you over to Mike. Here we go:


I’m sixty-two. I’ve had it with ‘keeping up to the Jones’, material success and striving. I’ve had it with trying to be liked and accepted by people, so I can feel better. I’ve had it with worry, stress and ‘what might have been’. I’m tired of existing, settling for ‘what you see is all there is’. In short, I’m tired of small living. 

This is how I want to live the rest of my life. I want to live with wonder, discovery and passion. 

Wonder 

won·der

  1. a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. “The wonders of nature”

  2. desire or be curious to know something. Synonyms: ponder, think about, meditate on, reflect on, muse on, puzzle over, speculate about, conjecture; be curious about

  3. feel admiration and amazement; marvel. “People stood by and wondered at such bravery”

Isn’t there something inside you that wishes you could go back to the time of imagination and wonder?A place where all the worry, all the responsibilities and all the adult like appropriateness went out the door for a little while? It’s a place that doesn’t make rational sense, but each of us longs for it. 

Deep down, we all know there’s something magical and wondrous about life with Jesus – a God who loves us and His Son who died for us – but if we’re honest, many of us get over that early in life, or we push it away from our day-to-day mindsets. 

Sure, we have moments that remind us why we believe. But how often are we moved to a sense of wonder and curiosity about who God is and what He has done? Somewhere along the way, a sense of wonder became a relic of our pasts, tucked away in childhood memories. 

But recovering this wonder is a necessity in looking towards our hope for the future. 

Before you move on from reading this, pause for a moment and wonder, consider with awe, who God is, why He sent Jesus, that Jesus was willing to come and why. Be awed by the truth of mercy and grace and forgiveness and second chances and empowerment and healing and acceptance and being reconciled and eternity with Jesus and a new heaven and earth and… 

Perpetual Discovery 

per·pet·u·al

  1. never ending or changing. Synonyms: eternal, long-lasting, abiding, enduring, constant, permanent, uninterrupted, continuous, persistent, unbroken

  2. occurring repeatedly; so frequent as to seem endless and uninterrupted.

It’s when we discover who we are in God that we discover our purpose and find meaning. When we lose sight of our identities, we lose understanding of our purpose and meaning. And it’s this latter loss that happens to most of us. 

Embracing our identity in God is never done. Neither is finding out more of what He is like and how He sees us. 

Without a doubt or hesitation, the thing I want for you more than anything else is for you to discover your identity in Christ. And I want to continue to discover mine. It’s not hard. It’s all throughout the Bible. Scads of books have been written on the topic. While it’s not hard, the discovery will and should last a lifetime. It will transform you! 

Passion 

pas·sion

  1.  strong and barely controllable emotion.

  2. intense love. “Their all-consuming passion for each other”

  3. an intense desire or enthusiasm for something. Synonyms: enthusiasm, eagerness, zeal, fire, fascination, obsession, appetite

Passion is that thing that leads us into being part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s a unique word that is usually thought of as an emotion, but it describes something relational, something seen in us and in other people. But, passion cannot be rescued until we’re deeply connected to other passionate people. 

I want to fuel passion for our Lord for out of that comes meaning, acceptance and purpose. 

I no longer care if you or someone else looks on my passion for Jesus as flaky, immature or ‘a little over the top’. Deal with it! What I do care about is living in that passion perpetually and for you to find that same passion. I am praying to that end. 

Whatever our struggles, they all go back to three issues: a wonder for God that is lost, an identity that isn’t discovered, and a passion that has faded. While these three concepts were created by God, they can be filled by all types of substitutes, and they often are. don’t settle for the ‘knock offs’. 

Wonder, discovery and passion can no longer be distant childhood memories for me.


Here is the link to the original article

 

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Asperger’s Syndrome is a Gift

I am an Aspie.

I have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which simply means that my mind is ‘wired’ differently from the minds of non-ASD people – people for whom Aspies have a non-derogatory term of ‘neurotypicals’ or ‘NT’. Rather than rehash the whole thing, I will simply refer you to my previous piece on the subject, and it’s here.

My own personal take on it – I was only diagnosed in 2013 – is that I see it as a gift, not as a hindrance. The reduced capabilities in some areas of life are, to my mind, more than compensated for by the tremendous benefits it brings. I have never thought of my ‘condition’ as a ‘disorder’, an illness, or a defect of any kind; to me, this is my ‘normal’. I have even rejected offers from people wanting to pray for me to be ‘healed’ from it (from hopefully well-meaning) people who simply lacked knowledge*. No, the term ‘disorder’ is not a helpful one. In fact, in many ways, my mind is more ‘ordered’ than that of a NT.

And I used to jokingly say that I thought that Asperger’s is the next stage in human evolution, and of course I received severe teasing for that from Fiona and my family whenever I did something silly. ‘Oh. look what the next stage in human evolution has done this time!’

But then I found a YouTube video about Asperger’s featuring a gentleman whom I consider to be the leading world authority on Asperger’s Syndrome. And he too sees it as a gift, and at the end of the video his last line is “…is Asperger’s the next stage in human evolution?” Clearly, he’s been thinking ‘outside the box’ too! (Or, as Aspies would say, ‘What box?!’)

I also noticed several things in the video that really clicked with me. But I won’t spoil the fun…this video is about 26 minutes long, but if you either have Asperger’s Syndrome yourself, or you know someone who has it and you want to understand them a little better, then this will be 26 minutes well spent.

Here’s the video. Enjoy!


*Although one was a raving (literally) Fundie who was having a go at me!

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Old Testament/New Testament

One of the big conundrums in the study of the Bible is that the god of the Old Testament (OT) is often portrayed as a vengeful, capricious and vicious deity – although also often loving and compassionate –  whereas the Father God of the New Testament (NT) is seen as far more gentle and ‘nice’. In the past, I’ve called this the ‘nice God/angry god’ problem and I have written on it before.

The way I see it at the moment is that the OT reflects humanity’s, or at least, Israel’s, concept of God as it evolved from the primitive human-sacrifice gods ‘worshipped’ in Ur of Chaldea that Abram walked away from (in Genesis 12). Back then, all good and bad things were ascribed to supernatural causes, so, things like famines, volcanic eruptions and storms were seen as the result of the ‘anger of the gods’ who of course had to be placated. And the history of religion – sacrifices, Laws, prohibitions, rituals, high places of worship and all the rest – is the history we see in the OT.

In the NT, however, Jesus came to show us what God is really like. He came to correct our misconceptions of the ‘angry god’ of prehistoric civilisations, and demonstrate the love, power, beauty. compassion and above all love of the real God, whose image humanity had been so mistaken about all down the ages.

So, yes, the Bible does contradict itself, in its description of God’s character and nature, because fallible humans, just like you and I, wrote down their insights – and some of them got it wrong, again just like you and I!

In the following excellent piece, Jacob M. Wright expands on these ideas and explains how to reconcile the apparent difference between the Nice God and the Angry god.

“The most defining difference between the Old and New Testament is that Jesus refines our understanding of the character of God. God is not the one who comes to steal, kill, or destroy, that’s the enemy; God comes to bring life (John 10:10). God does not accuse and condemn, that’s the enemy; God comes to heal and save (John 3:17). God does not demand the stoning of sinners, that’s the enemy; God enables them to live free of sin (John 8:11). God does not command the wholesale slaughter of enemies including their wives, children, and pets; he commands to love and forgive them, for in so doing we are like our Father. And if we don’t, Jesus says, we are no better than the pagans (Luke 6:27-36). God dies for his enemies and doesn’t count their sin against them and by doing so, reconciles them (2 Cor. 5:19).

“God is not a God of retributive justice, but a God of restorative justice (Matt. 12:15-21). God freely forgives (Luke 5:20, 7:48; Matt. 9:5) and desires mercy instead of demanding sacrifice (Matt. 9:13, 12:7), and he offers himself as a sacrifice to prove it. God does not demand blood to make peace with him, he gives his own blood to make peace with us. God is not the destroyer, nor does he hold the power of death over us, that is the enemy; God comes to destroy death, and to destroy the destroyer who holds the power of death (Heb. 2:14).

“God does not send evil spirits to torment and deceive people (1 Samuel 16:14, 1 Kings 22:22), rather God casts evil spirits out (Matt., Mark, Luke, and John). God does not render the lepers and the sick as unclean and command for them to be abandoned to die outside the camp (Num. 5:2), but embraces the lepers unto healing (Matt., Mark, Luke, John). God does not want us to live in fear, but reveals a perfect love that casts out fear (1 John 4:18). God is not wrathfully destructive towards us, but is in hot pursuit of us to bring us out of our own self-destructive waywardness and back into his fold (Luke 15:1-7). God is not an angry abusive father prowling the city streets looking for his rebellious son to beat him senseless in his white-hot wrath, but a kind Father watching the road longing for one sign of his sons return so that he can run to him and embrace him and bring him back to the safety of his home (Luke 15:11-32).

“God’s intent is to free the oppressed, bring good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, heal the sick, and set the captive free (Luke 4:18). God is Abba, the Father of Lights, from whom all good things come, and there is no shadow of turning from this (James 1:17). God is light, and does not have a dark side (1 John 1:5). God comes to heal us of our sin disease (Matt. 9:12, Mark 2:17), and raise us up to the dignity of sons and daughters (1 John 3:1). God cries out our forgiveness while we murder him (Luke 23:34). God is Christlike, and in him there is no un-Chrislikeness at all. This and this alone can change our hearts of stone back into beating, throbbing hearts of love that manifest the image of the divine.

“The writer of Hebrews said that all before Christ was a mere shadow of the reality (Hebrews 10:1). It’s kind of hard to decipher the true form of something by looking at its shadow. You can get some stuff wrong. John makes the audacious claim that “No one has ever seen God”, even though Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, and Ezekial had all claimed to have seen God. But regardless of the dreams, visions, revelations, epiphanies, theophanies of these men in scripture that claimed to have seen God, John says that no one has ever seen God until they’ve seen Jesus. Jesus says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus appeared and was the image of the invisible God, the exact representation of God’s being, the radiance of the Father’s glory, the Word made flesh, the fullness of God in bodily form.

“So, if what is written by those who only saw a vague shadow contradicts the actual flesh and bones incarnation of God, then go with the latter. This is demonstrated in certain strands of the shadowy Old Testament. Whereas it was common for people in the Old Testament to slay enemies and say that God commanded them to do it, Jesus tells us that we are no better than the pagans if we do that, and reveals that if we love our enemies, then we are like our Father.

“When the Pharisees wanted to carry out what was written in their law of Moses to stone an adulteress, Jesus called them of their father the devil who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). When his disciples wanted to follow in Elijah’s footsteps and call down fire on Christ-rejectors, Jesus rebuked them and said, “You know not what spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:55) When Peter rebukes Jesus concerning going to the cross because Peter believes the Messiah will establish his kingdom through violent subjugation, Jesus says, “Get behind me satan!” (Matt. 16:23)

“Jesus expressly names all which steals, kills, or destroys as not of his Abba, but only that which comes to give life. It is never okay to quote the Old Testament to endorse something that Jesus clearly forbids.”

So then, it seems to me that if the OT and the NT say two different things, then the NT takes precedence because it was written after Jesus came, and was therefore better informed because of God’s nature having been revealed through Jesus. To me, the take-home message is this: if something doesn’t look/act/talk like Jesus, it’s not God. It is simply incorrect to interpret the OT as if the NT never happened. The NT trumps the OT every time; in fact, Jesus trumps Scripture every time. Bear that in mind and live in the Spirit, and you won’t go far wrong.

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Jeff Turner on Faith

Jeff Turner is one of my favourite modern Christian thinkers and writers, and I’ve said before that he’s a person whom I consider to be a modern-day C.S. Lewis. His logic, perceptiveness and clarity of thought are like a breath of fresh air in today’s climate of unlearned people making glib, trite comments. I share one of his quotes below.

To put his quote in context, let me explain that many people in the Church think (if that’s the correct word to use for it, anyway) that if reality contradicts what ‘God’s Word’ (in their eyes, the Bible) says, then it’s reality that’s wrong and the Bible is right. I know this is the case because I used to believe that too, much to my later embarrassment!*

Jeff has more thoughts along these lines which I reproduce for you below:

“Faith is not refusing to acknowledge reality, and it certainly isn’t to deny reality. The way it’s commonly spoken of, you would think faith meant to white-knuckle your way through clear-as-day evidence to contrary, or to lock on to an idea with the strength of a bear trap, and refuse to let go, even when it becomes inarguably evident that you were wrong.

“Quite to the contrary, faith is to let go. It is to release all of the beliefs and ideas we hold in our tightly clenched fists, so that something of real value might find its way into our open hand. It is letting go of the stumps and branches we are fighting to hold onto, and simply allowing the current of the river to take us where it wishes. Faith is knowing that if we let go, we will arrive at a much better place than the one we are determine to remain in”.

– Jeff Turner


*Now, I know that if God says something to me, then that is definitely true. But if the Bible says it? It’s only true for me at that particular instant if God Himself actually makes that Bible passage actually alive for me there and then. In other words, just because the Bible appears to say something it doesn’t make it right for your circumstances unless God speaks it directly.

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