Monthly Archives: July 2019

‘Execute Order 66’

I don’t expect people who are not Star Wars fans to get this – but when the sales assistant at the chip shop shouts out ‘Order 66!’ then it’s time for Jedi everywhere to be worried… 😉

For the benefit of the uninitiated, Order 66 was the order given by Emperor Palpatine in the movie ‘Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith‘. The order meant that the Emperor’s soldiers were to wipe out the Jedi – the warrior/monk class that had been the guardians of peace and justice in the Galaxy for thousands of years.

Here’s the moment when Palpatine issues the order:

So there it is.

You can imagine, then, how it makes a Star Wars diehard like me feel when someone calls out ‘Order 66!’

Life is full of laughs. Take ’em when you can 🙂

 

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Something To Chew On

More bite-sized thoughts and ideas for you to enjoy, to get the brain working and the spirit singing. Here is wisdom* from many people all around the Internet, and indeed all around the world:


“When we come to the realization that we don’t have the power or responsibility to change anyone, our burden becomes a little lighter. We can encourage, we can pray, we can be an example, we can love unconditionally…but ultimately, it’s the Father who molds, potters and reconciles the heart. My prayer for others has gone from begging God to change them to simply this:

“Father, let them see what they look like through Your eyes.”

“Because once that happens, everything changes.” – Chris Martin

“The enemy of the Truth does his best work through the religious folks. He keeps them sin conscious while convincing them that they are Christ conscious. They are the first to throw stones, point out specks and elevate the Bible to the level of an idol. But thanks be unto God that He will bring them too into a realization of Himself through Christ in due course of time. For now ya just gotta love them. They can’t help their blindness.” – C Andrew May

“This is why I refuse to be labelled. As soon as someone has a label for you, they categorise you into a box. So I would rather people heard what I believe, and saw the sort of person I am, and only then can they realise that no box will fit.” – Me

“This is a statement that is true and worthy of full acceptance. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe – The First Letter of Paul to Timothy, chapter 4, verse 10

“When your identity is built on your devotion to God, when your devotion fails then who are you? But when it’s built on Gods devotion to you, that devotion is never going to falter or fail and your identity is secure and you’re set.” – Lecrae

[On religious discussions online] “Maybe people should more often than not just [accept what the Bible says] and shake the dust off and leave when their message is not being received? According to the Bible, saying nothing is actually a good thing and shows maturity and wisdom. But alas… They probably won’t, because such is the religious spirit. It always has to be right and always has to get the last word, or it will eat them up inside. Their comments will never seem to be about correcting for love’s sake, but will more than likely seem to be about correcting because nobody is as right as they are.” – Tim

“For me, it’s all those people who take someone who’s full of awestruck wonder at the Person of Jesus that they have just met, and then little by little, straw by straw, they layer over their victim’s pure Jesus experience with subtle layers of rules, laws, ‘if-then’ and ‘ah, but’ qualifications, do’s and don’ts, nasty-god doctrines, tacit expectations and tacit disapprovals, until the new life is smothered, suffocated, and subjected to the evils of legalism. It’s utterly diabolical to take the new believer and do that to them. “- Me

“The roots of judgment are firmly twisted around a bedrock of fear that is buried deeply within the souls of these people.” – Sharon

“I’m not sure who it was but someone said they define a cult by how they let you leave it.”
– Monica

“If your picture of God is
starting to feel too good to be true,
you’re starting to move in the right direction.” – Greg Boyd

“The awkward moment when the people that prophesied you would break religious mindsets are now angry you’re breaking religious mindsets.” – Matthew Challenor

“If you never hear another word I ever say, hear this and remember it. God is Love, If it doesn’t look like love, then it’s not God, it’s a religious lie…..even if it is found in the Bible.” – Anonymous Baptist Pastor

“Grace doesn’t point out the problem, because it’s the solution.” – Jim


*If you are uncomfortable with the idea that humans can generate wisdom, because all wisdom comes from God or other such objection, please can I respectfully refer you to this article where this is discussed in depth, and hopefully your fears will be assuaged 🙂

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Small Universe…

This is a card from the boardgame ‘Terraforming Mars‘. It enables the player to set up ‘Mars University’ and score some points.

I don’t know if the game designer knew (he probably did), but the picture on the card is in fact a building in a real-life University; it shows the Roger Stevens Building at the University of Leeds.

Fiona and I used to meet here for lunch in the mid-80’s, when Fe was a student at the University and I was working there. Holds some very pleasant memories for me. Plus I used to fall asleep in lectures in that building when I was an undergraduate student at Leeds in 1980-1983

Small universe, eh? 

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Happy Birthday to Me!

Thirty-nine years ago today was my last day at school – July 12th, 1980.

On the evening of that day, I went to the Good News Crusade in Horsforth, the town of my birth. In that big tent, in the middle of Horsforth’s Hall Park, I began to follow the One Who has never let me go. For thirty-nine years, I have followed Jesus Christ of Nazareth, beginning at that precise moment in time. I was sitting between two of my erstwhile school friends, and it was as if God just hoicked me to my feet and propelled me into my response to His love, and it was at exactly the right time. It was as if I had experienced a completely new birth (no coincidence that it was also in the town in which I was born!), an introduction into a completely different life from the one I had been used to.

Sure, I didn’t really say the ‘sinner’s prayer’ until 9th September, 1980. But the 12th July was the defining moment; that was when I decided to follow Jesus. And that was 39 years ago today.

Thirty-nine years ago. And what a life it’s been. 😀

Some of it I have described in this blog. Some of it is too amazing and/or too deep to share. But I walk around with the constant sense of the Presence of God in my heart. Somehow it feels like it’s always been like that. Sometimes I haven’t felt that Presence as strongly, on some occasions I haven’t felt it at all. But those times when His presence is there, solid and assuring; this times carry me through in the knowledge that God is real, He loves me and indeed He’s extremely fond of me.

And I will continue this walk. For me, there is simply no other way to live.

Praise God!


Header picture shows Horsforth Hall Park, West Yorkshire, where the big tent was set up for the crusade where my life-defining event happened. A real place, and a real encounter with Jesus Christ. Wow!

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Lest Ye Be Judged

I’m sad to say that if there’s one thing that Christianity in general is notorious for in this time – and probably throughout most of Church history – it’s its Judgementalism. The attitude that feels that a person or organisation has some sort of right to judge someone else.

Many people in the world make value judgements about other people on a daily basis, sometimes even hourly, and they do so verbally, mentally, in gossip and rumour, backbiting and slander, as partially described in Gal 5:19-21 as being fruits of the flesh. And it seems that, instead of being different from all that worldly behaviour, many Christians not only judge others just as harshly as do the world, but they do so with a sickening self-righteousness that comes from a perceived divine mandate to judge others.

Jesus said that people would know us by our love for one another, and I strongly agree that this does indeed happen, where Jesus is allowed to express Himself through the hearts of people who listen to His voice (Jn 10:4). It’s awesome to see. But sadly, it is also painfully true that Christianity makes more noise by judging others than they do about loving others. Granted, they will claim that they are exercising ‘tough love’; ‘pointing out people’s sin’ in order to ‘save’ them, and that by this they are being ‘loving’*. But nobody likes people pointing the finger of judgement at them, and that’s certainly not the way to ‘win converts’. This is not Good News; all it is is bad news that Christianity has sunk so far.

Jesus said many times not to judge others. In response to this, though, Religious hardliners will both twist Scriptures that say it’s not good to judge others so that those passages support their judgementalism, and will also point out other places where Jesus purportedly said about it being ‘allowed’ to judge others. But given the context of such passages, and given the larger overarching context of the nature of Jesus and the Father Whom He perfectly portrayed, those passages must be read with the Good News in mind rather than the Bad. So, rather than saying ‘It’s ok to judge others’, we should instead not judge others at all, and, instead look at those other passages in their correct contexts and not simply accept them as ‘plain reading’ excuses/proof-texts to allow us to judge others. My position on judging others has always been clear: Don’t. Just don’t. I won’t proof-text this; I know that the Scripture is an excellent tool for the Rabbinic-style debate of putting together two polar-opposite propositions and arguing it down to a mid-point position, and gleaning truth in the process. That is good and healthy, but not all Scripture is suitable for that. The Scriptures on judging others are among those not really suitable for that kind of debate; suffice it to say that I simply believe that judging others is so harmful on so many levels, both to the one judging and to the one being judged, that it is unhealthy to do it.

I also think that if we judge others, we are putting ourselves on a pedestal and thinking of ourselves as being somehow better than those others. Disguise it or excuse it all you like, but that’s the reality behind it. In judging others, we are saying that we are somehow better than they are. And for those who hold the Bible as a Rulebook, I would say that they are conveniently ignoring one of their Rules: St. Paul’s injunction to ‘…not think of yourselves more highly than you ought…’ (Rom 12:3).

What do we do, then, when there is a judgemental prat on a forum – and we’ve all seen them – who is doing the judging? He’s sitting there traversing his guns left and right and shooting at all those who come along telling him to chill out  a bit. We’ve all seen him; he’s just like a cornered animal. He has to tackle all comers. Every question and assertion has to be answered. Every point has to be addressed and (usually) refuted. Every bit of Good News shown him has to be countered with some Bad News from another Scripture verse. It’s a sign of the religious spirit that it always has to have the last word, and he does indeed do that. And yet there is a sense of defensive – but – still – aggressive desperation in his posts that suggests a deep insecurity in his relationship with God; that he seems to think that if he doesn’t counter every argument successfully, not only are his victims going to Hell, but he is probably going there with them (likely in a handbasket), for not ‘saving them from the fire’.

That’s no way to live.

I often despair over people like this. They come uninvited into others’ discussions and lash out with their flailing comments, and then suddenly they’ve moved on and they’ve forgotten all about it, but left a trail of damaged people in their wake. This indeed is an example of those who would ‘steal, kill and destroy’ (Jn 10:10) and is the exact opposite of the gentle Christ Who does not break bruised reeds nor snuff out smouldering flax (Is 42:3, Mt 12:20).

So, what do we do about them?

Well, I was involved in a great discussion about this sort of thing some weeks ago. One thing in particular that spoke to me was this little nugget from a lady called Sharon:

The roots of judgment are firmly twisted around a bedrock of fear that is buried deeply within the souls of these people. I ache with a dichotomy of anger and desperate painful sorrow that battles inside me when I ponder this stuff .
“My belief in the truth of that statement is the main reason I am able to survive being surrounded daily by those who are trapped in that bondage; allowing me to function with love and prayers for their freedom instead of getting angry and frustrated to the point of despair, or lashing out and compromising my own commitment to peace while losing any position to influence change that I currently have”

Now that is profound. “The roots of judgement are firmly twisted around a bedrock of fear that is buried deeply within the souls of these people”. Maybe it looks something like this,

…but you get the idea. And I think Sharon is right when she says that these people need prayer for their freedom. Of course, such prayer would best be done secretly and without telling the person. Firstly, there is nothing quite so condescending as the offer of ‘I will pray for you’ when that offer is made to someone with whom you disagree. It makes it sound as if you want God to bring them round to your point of view, and actually hardens them to the freedom they so desperately need. Secondly, it is such a lovely thing to see when someone emerges into freedom without them even knowing you were praying for them 😀

So, not all Christians are judgemental. Those of us who do enter into ‘discussion’ with the desperately Religious do so not to judge or argue, but instead with a desire to bring freedom, but with no real expectation that such freedom will happen for those with whom we are discussing things, save for the direct intervention of Father, Who, let’s not forget, loves those people just as much as He loves us. What our real expectation is, however, is actually this: we remember that there are many, many silent readers who read our stuff, in addition to the judgemental person in his corner. Our hope is that that those others will see that there are gentle Christians who are not judgemental, and are accepting, affirming and inclusive. And that is one of the main reasons why we have to keep our conversations ‘full of Grace and seasoned with salt‘, otherwise, as Sharon hints, we lose our influence towards change. Don’t get me wrong; I am never out to ‘convert’ people. I gave that up a long time ago. But I am all for releasing words of freedom ‘into the wild’ so that people know how much God loves them, just as they are, with none of the conditions that Religion would place on our acceptablility before God. Each of us has to come to God in our own way, and this is why there is no pre-set ‘formula’ described in the Bible to enable us to do so. When preconditions exist for our acceptability before God, this inevitably leads to a whole entangling web of legalism and bondage which will only need to be left behind at some point in the future when we realise our true freedom. And that can be painful for us and others around us. I sometimes wonder if some of our ‘cornered animal’ friends are people on the cusp of realising how much bondage they are in, and are expressing the last of their deperation with their current belief system before they finally throw off their chains and walk free. Kind of like birth pains. I sincerely hope so.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Do a Google search under ‘Judge Not’. You will certainly find many references where Christians are justifying judging others, as you might expect. But you will also find other Christians who believe that judging others is harmful and should therefore be refrained from. Not as a Law or Rule, you understand, but simply because it makes you look like a complete pillock.

Be prepared to believe that not all Christians are judgemental people like our ‘cornered animal’ friend described above. Note also that the weight of the hits you get on Google will be more about those who consider it ok to judge others. This is because it is, as we have seen, the predominant view in Christianity: judge away; it’ll be fine. As always, those who are listening to the Spirit of Grace will be in the minority – but those are the ones you need to listen to.

What I find funniest – and most annoying at the same time – is that when people tell the cornered animal that they are coming across as judgemental, they usually play the “Ah, but now you’re judging me too!” card.

Well, dear Judgemental Cornered Animal, I’m sorry, but if you are going to come into others’ conversations and judge people left, right and centre, then you don’t get to play the ‘You’re judging me!’ card. You started it, mate. And I would also add that Jesus warned you about this sort of behaviour. He wasn’t laying this down as a Rule, but as wisdom, and when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Mt 7:1-2), just before He gave His plank-and-speck parable in v.3. So this is entirely about judgement. You see, Mr. Judgemental, what is happening to you is exactly what Jesus warned you about in His clearest statement about not judging others**. If you do this, then people will judge you back again, and then some. They are judging you back in full measure, pressed down and shaken together (in other words, fair measure) – giving you back just exactly what you deserve, which is exactly what you have given out in the first place, just like He said would happen. So it jolly well serves you right.

And you can’t say He didn’t warn you!


*But if what someone thinks of as ‘love’ does not match up with 1 Corinthians 13, then it’s not love.

**Of course, all judgemental Christians justify their ignoring of this wisdom of Jesus by making an exception for themselves, saying He didn’t mean not to point out sin, saying whatever they like, in fact, to allow themselves to judge others. And in some ways that’s fair enough, because they can interpret the Scripture just however they like. But it still doesn’t mean that they are exempt from being judged back again. That’s going to happen anyway!

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Three Short Essays on the Bible

I suppose that, given the sort of things I read about Biblical inerrancy, infallibility and whatnot, it had to happen at some point.

Today, I read the third of three pieces in the space of two days about the relevance of the Bible and why it should not be the foundation of our faith, but Jesus. Three great writers: Don Francisco; Nathan Jennings; and Phil Drysdale (only two of whom I have actually met; Don and Phil), say very similar things in their three short pieces.

Maybe God is saying something?

I will put all three of them on here for you to read.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying in this time.

First up, Don Francisco:

How should we, as believers, use the Bible? Most Western Christians read the Bible like they read other books, starting here to finish there– a rather shallow method, at best.

I usually use several translations and a Greek dictionary/grammar or two, checking anything that seems odd until I feel like I have a sense of what the writer meant to convey; I’ll generally concentrate on a few verses unless they’re part of a longer narrative. All of that must be preceded, however, by learning when, where, and in what language that particular book/letter was written, by and to whom, and the religious and cultural milieu of both author and recipient(s)– ignorance here can result in some very strange conclusions. It takes a lot of study. I’m still learning…

Understanding Scripture is a far more complex matter today than it was when the reader’s first language was the same as the writer’s. In the roughly eighteen hundred years since the books now called the New Testament were written, the world has changed radically: Whole cultures have disappeared or suffered violent repression; portions of Biblical text have been added, lost, and removed; entire books/letters have been sidelined or discarded by segments of the Church, while others– even though written by people of uncertain identity– have been included as essential. Vital, life-impacting meanings have changed over time, calcifying as religious dogma; countless translators have struggled to rise above religious control, political and cultural biases, and their own ignorance– spiritual and otherwise: It’s not an easy thing to peer through the fog of centuries to understand what a deep and serious writer originally meant in a dead and ancient language.

The Letter to the Hebrews says, “The Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, between joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The writer obviously wasn’t referring to printed text, but the living Word of God that surrounds and fills us all. When you hear God speak to you that way, the result is something deeper and far more substantial than any text, which, after all, is only paper and ink. The written words of Scripture point your attention to reality; the voice of God gives revelation, truth and understanding. Listen well.

– Don Francisco

Next, Nathan Jennings:

Why I still read the Bible

It seems many people, in my circles at least, are often conflicted by and even turned off from the Bible and it’s many narratives because it sometimes depicts God, to our modern sensibilities, as a self absorbed genocidal tribal deity that is more concerned with his (because God is mostly depicted as a guy) “glory” and reputation than his creation. I get it, because I’ve been there and still wrestle with it and I’m sure I always will.

As I currently see it, the problem happens mostly because of a flat literalism that ignores the literary genre’s of the text. This wasn’t such a big deal, say, 1000 or even 500 years ago. However due to modern thought, scholarship, and the information age that we live in, we should be able to read the Bible and realize that in antiquity, the writers and it’s interpreters weren’t even asking the same questions we ask now.

For instance, when we read the Canaanite conquest and the great flood story, we now know that tribes wrote these stories of God destroying entire civilizations because that’s just how people in antiquity wrote stories back then.

There were literally tons of flood stories circulating by the time the Israelites recorded theirs. Of course they put their own twist on it, depicting their God different than those around them. The fact that God “drowned the entire earth”, to them, was just a small aspect and really just what gods did. It wasn’t even the point of the story. The God of the Hebrew bible flood story was extremely subversive compared to the other tribes flood stories though. Click here for more of my thoughts on the flood story.

The Canaanite conquest is regarded by most modern scholars as polemic against rival tribes and part of a larger origin story, not a historical event. In their view, if a war happened, it’s because god or the gods commanded it. That’s just how people thought thousands of years ago. The conquest story, in my opinion, is less about God destroying an entire civilization and more about God being on the side of the oppressed and with those that have nowhere to lay their head. It’s a story for those that have nothing that says “God is on our side and is for us and provides for us.

All I’m trying to say is that I know a lot of people hate the Bible, and for good reason with the way many have been taught to read it. A lot of people think the old testament specifically has nothing to offer, and depicts a God that isn’t worthy of worship or following or believing in. I get it. I just want to suggest that it isn’t what it seems.

There are so many resources out there besides the bland big box store brand readings and interpretations of the text. From the modern liberation and feminist/womanist readings, to Jewish commentary, to the most recent historical criticism. There is so much available now days that don’t choke the Bibles many narratives down to some fundamentalist doctrinal agreements.

The stories are timeless and full of wisdom. If only we realize it isn’t a history book or a literal treatise of what was. It’s a theological text that used the ancient literary tools, devices and genre’s of its time (a span of at least a thousand years) from a specific tribe to record their story, with differing voices and opinions and we are all invited into that story to participate and interpret and interact with it to help bring justice and hope for a better tomorrow. Personally, I wouldn’t even read the Bible anymore if I didn’t view it this way.

– Nathan Jennings

The link to the original blog post is here.

And now, Phil Drysdale:

The other day I was chatting with someone about the Bible and I mentioned that I didn’t see the Bible as an inerrant text.

Their face said everything… they were aghast.

They replied, “Bu.. Bu… But… if you get rid of the very foundation of your faith what do you have left?”

We talked a bit and I think I put their mind at ease (slightly).

But I’m glad this person managed to put so perfectly the issue in many people’s faith.

They have the wrong foundation!

Now don’t hear me wrong! I love the Bible, anyone who has followed my ministry for any amount of time will know I use it extensively and love it to bits. It truly is a gift from God to humanity.

However, it’s not my foundation.

Jesus is!

You know; THE Word of God.

This is a hugely significant because Jesus, the Word of God, is unchanging and unshakable.

But many people have a different foundation. Their foundation is the Bible, or their church’s doctrines, or something else entirely.

But when you have a foundation other than Jesus you are setting yourself up for a very bad time.

Build your faith upon a charismatic leader – you aren’t going to have a good time if you find out they aren’t perfect.

Build your faith upon a denomination – you aren’t going to have a good time if you find out that every area of their doctrine isn’t correct.

Build your faith upon the Bible – you aren’t going to have a good time if you find out that it’s not inerrant.

This is really just the story of the wise man building his house upon the rock if you think about it.

Faith changes over the years, that’s just a part of life. We grow and evolve in our understanding of this infinite God.

When our foundation is this infinite God we are in good stead. But when our foundation is something else… well… just one simple change in your faith can bring the whole thing down.

We see this in teenagers from churches that teach “the Bible is the foundation of our faith.” Having been taught dogmatically their whole lives that the Bible says the world is X thousand years old, what often happens is they go away to a college and find out there is overwhelming evidence that it’s older than what “the Bible says.” They often walk away from their faith to one degree or another. Because if the Bible is wrong in one area and the Bible is what their whole faith is built on then the faith is not true.

What a terrible shame, it really does break my heart to see.

Regardless of what you believe about the age of the earth (it was just an example, you can exchange it for countless others if that one didn’t work for you), can you see this is a problem?

A teenager who has been taught that Jesus is our foundation is far less likely to walk away from Jesus because an interpretation of the Bible is challenged.

In fact, interpretations of the Bible are far more welcome when you put the Bible in its rightful place, at the feet of Jesus as a signpost pointing to Jesus. Not as the ultimate and final Word of God.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that any foundation other than Jesus is basically an idol.

Yes, even the Bible can be an idol when we let it take the foundational place of Jesus.

So that’s my challenge to you today, to evaluate what the foundation of your faith is? Hopefully at the end you can say Jesus.

– Phil Drysdale


Thanks, guys, for those wise words!

 

 

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