Monthly Archives: September 2019

À la Carte

Another haul of wise and/or funny sayings. Bon appetit!


It is the love of God that draws out the inherent goodness of humanity, not the goodness of humanity the draws out the love of God.
– Jeff Turner

I don’t work for Jesus. He act through me. That’s the whole difference
– Frank Tværåli-myren

The problem is, many of the people in need of saving are in churches. And at least part of what they need saving from is the idea that God sees the world in the same way that they do
– Barbara Brown Taylor

If anyone calls you a heretic, chances are that they haven’t taken the time to think about whether or not what you say is true
– Stephen Morris

There can be no salvation from something if the thing we need saving from causes the only qualified Savior to squeamishly tuck tail and run away. If sin had the power to separate man from God, God would lack the power to separate man from sin. Therefore, the only possibility for salvation is that God must be able to salvifically sit right there with us in fellowship, even in our darkest moments and biggest messes.
– Jeff Turner

Imagine there is no eternal hell awaiting anyone after death.
And now imagine you have to make a case for why Jesus is worth following.
If you have nothing left to say without the threat of unending punishment, you have missed something important.
– Zach Christensen

I have always believed that people who claim to be Christian but put me down for what I feel and believe are doing nothing but trying their damnedest to be the Holy Spirit in my life. I’m not supposed to be Her in my own life let alone someone else’s
– Kenn Burroughs

“…pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One “settles down” into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man “falls” into a brown study; he reaches up at a blue sky. Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.”
– G.K. Chesterton

Don’t bore your friends with your troubles. Tell them to your enemies who will be delighted to hear about them.
– Fortune cookie

But at the centre of my walk is Jesus; He never changes, and He’s constant. My understanding of Him, however, is not constant, else how can I ever learn more about Him?
– Me

“Unless you have the power to harness the wind and direct where it blows, don’t assume you get to determine where and among whom the Holy Spirit is at work. If your theology sets limits on the Spirit, it’s not theology, it’s ideology
– Tom Fuerst

We come to God as we can, not as we can’t
– Joy Welford

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The Bottomless Pit

There are people, and this is especially common amongst controlling types, (who actually depend on this mechanism for their control), who ration their approval towards their victims.

People who look up to them try anxiously to please them, to appease them and to win their approval. But the problem is that this resource of commitment, devotion and being anxious to please is wasted on these people because they do not value it except only as a means of measuring how much those unfortunate people are trying to suck up to them. It’s like throwing your attentions into a bottomless pit. I know people like this and they use these tools deliberately as a means of control – the tacit or overt withholding or dispensing of approval – in order to make others do their bidding. Being Aspergic, of course, this sort of manipulation goes straight over my head, and it’s only by examining a situation really carefully and logically that it becomes clear to me. But it’s true nonetheless; there really are people who behave like this. No doubt you too will know someone like that.

I had been thinking along these lines for some time when, true to form, I found something where another believer echoes similar thoughts. In this case, it was the brilliant Jeff Turner, whose thoughts on this complement mine nicely – partially because they’re not identical! – recently shared a short piece which clicked with me immediately. Here it is:

“I dare say that there are thousands reading this who live for the opinions of people whose approval they will never get. When it comes to fundamentalist types, as wonderful of people as they might be, some of them just aren’t budging. They’re fearful, terrified, and have convinced themselves of the rightness of their beliefs, though they were blindly received, and remain both untested and unexamined. Maybe you’ve become a pariah to them; a heretic, unsaved, or some other epithet they render powerless through endless repetition. They may be parents, children, old friends, former pastors or leaders, or something else entirely, but whatever the case, you living your life seeking their approval, and refusing to move on until you get it, is a fruitless endeavor. Some people will never approve of you because some people refuse to think and move forward themselves. I’m not saying cut these people out of your life, but, please, for your own wellbeing, cut yourself free of them. They know that they hold you in bondage by withholding approval. Do not let such ones be in control of a life you fought very hard to have”.

This is excellent advice on all counts. I love how Jeff can so concisely express these things and yet be so easily readable. I do tend to ramble, myself 😉

It also occurred to me that people who ration their approval, like those we have talked about above, are usually those who also believe that God is impossible to please in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reasons. They believe (although they would not describe it in so mamy words) that god holds them too on the whim of his own approval. And they project that on to their congregations and that’s how they control them. As Jeff says in his book, Saints in the arms of a Happy God, “…In our Western traditions God is often presented as being cold, austere, distant and judgmental. We imagine Him surrounded by dark clouds, with a scowl sprawled across his angry mug…He’s very eager to be pleased, but, unfortunately, extremely difficult to please….the God that a large percentage of us imagine and pay homage to is disgruntled, disappointed, and disapproving”. And this is spot on. Many, many believers have been taught that this is the normal way of things, and that this is the way God is.

But He’s really not. The Kingdom of God is supposed to reflect the character of its King, and if the Kingdom of God is supposed to be ‘righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 14:17), then it follows that these will be at least some of the attributes of God’s character too. If that’s the case, then those who lead by the underhand techniques we have been talking about here are not really displaying many of those attributes, if we’re honest! And as I have said before, these people do not represent God, nor do they carry His authority.

No, God is full of joy, laughter and goodness, whereas Religion is full of grey people who think everything has to be really serious all the time. They think you can’t have any fun in case you fall into ‘sin’.

Maybe it’s like in Job 1:5, where the old guy makes a sacrifice for his children after they have been partying, ‘just in case’ they have ‘sinned’:

“When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom”.

But God isn’t all serious like this. God Himself laughs for the sheer joy of all He has created, and all He has planned, and is supremely happy and joyful. He loves to delight and surprise us, and He rejoices with us when we too are delighted. God likes you, just as you are.

And therefore I believe in a happy God. Do you?

 

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Why We Need To Stop Demonizing Those Who Leave The Church

Following directly on from yesterday’s post by Phil Drysdale that I shared, here’s his blog article fleshing out the ideas in some more pratcical terms. This is, I feel, so important to see in these days of increasing nastiness towards those – even ‘former brothers and sisters’ – that ‘fall away’. Over to Phil:


 

“They’ve backslidden.”

“They fell away from the Lord.”

“They fell from grace.”

“They are no longer walking with God.”

“They’ve turned their back on Jesus.”

These are the sorts of phrases I would have frequently used in the past to describe someone who had stopped going to church.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve heard some of these phrases too, you might even, like me maybe, have used them too.

But over the years, doing what I do, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to those outside the church than to those in it.

One of the aspects of having an online ministry is that those who contact me have a degree of anonymity. This in turn means people open up to me in a way they don’t with their pastors, church friends and sadly even their spouses at times.

I get a unique window into the lives of those who reach out to me. Which is many. When I travelled more often a few years back it was when talking to people around services (therefore mostly people in church meetings). Now I focus on online resources and social media I get hundreds of messages of people reaching out to me every week. More often than not these people don’t go to a local church.

Why leave the church?

The reasons are many. Maybe they were abused by the church leadership. Maybe they came out as gay and weren’t welcome any more. Maybe they were disillusioned by the affair the pastor had. Maybe they started to doubt some of the key teachings and were encouraged to stop asking questions or to find another place to worship. The list could go on for a long, long time. Believe me when I say I’ve heard thousands of stories over the years and while there are many similarities no two stories are identical.

Suffice to say, the fact I love the Church and I still very much believe in the Church is somewhat surprising given the horror stories I hear every day.

I think it’s because when I was in church meetings every day throughout the year all over the world the conversations were largely positive. So I hold onto that and remind myself that just as I was in a pro-church bubble then I now find myself in a very anti-church bubble today. Both are biased experiences that do not tell the whole story for everyone.

The thing that surprised me was not however the terrible experiences people had in church. I’ve had a handful myself so it stands to reason when you cast your net to the entire population of the planet online you’ll find some people that have been hurt or given up on the church.

The big surprise…

What surprised me is that most people I encountered hadn’t given up on God, on their faith, they desired to continue on a spiritual path of some sort.

They still loved Jesus.

As I started to do research on this I was shocked.

Did you know that 30 years ago a study was done in the UK that found around 48% of people who left church maintained some level of spirituality.[1]

More surprising when the same study was done in 2000 just 13yrs later the number had risen to about 78%.[2]

A national survey again in the UK in 2000 found that 38% of people who left the church felt the daily personal presence of God. 37% said that God frequently assisted them by answering prayers.[3]

I could go on with interesting statistics all day, but I have been told by my wife that not everyone finds statistics as interesting as I do.

The point being that it’s safe to say that when people leave church they aren’t always leaving God.

When they say “I’m done with Christianity” they often don’t mean, “I’m done with Christ.”

And this has certainly been my experience as well. Daily I speak with dozens who have found their church experience to no longer facilitate their spiritual growth.

In fact, for many it is because they are spiritually growing with Jesus that they find themselves leaving their local church! That’s right, they feel Jesus is calling them away from their local church so they can continue to grow!

Why do I say all this?

Because I think it’s high time we stop seeing the church and church attendance as the defining line of in and out. I’m personally not a fan of ins and outs anyway to be honest.

But talking about people who are not in church as unsaved, backslidden, unbelievers etc. only serves to push them further away from us as a community.

Instead we need to be asking, what does it look like to accept this group of brothers and sisters in the world without requiring that what they do on a Sunday morning looks like us?

I myself here in the UK go along to my local church on Sunday afternoons. But every Sunday morning I meet with others on spiritual journeys mostly outside of churches. We go climbing at an indoor bouldering wall and have brunch that usually lasts well into the afternoon as we have great chat about everything and anything.

To be honest, most weeks I find the mornings more spiritual and more nourishing than the afternoon! Maybe I’m a closet backslider too. Or maybe, just maybe God can be found outside four walls. Maybe we are writing off a whole group of people and intentionally isolating them because they don’t fit in our box?

Let’s remember this – church originally was just the gathering of followers of Jesus.

So let’s not limit what church can be by requiring attendance in a building for it to apply.

There is a desperate need in the body of Christ

For me over the years my ministry has shifted away from people in the church. People inside churches have huge quantities of people to help them. There is no limit to people in the church you can talk to, your pastor, leaders, peers etc. plus most ministries out there are for those in church (or for getting those outside church into church.)

But there aren’t many people looking to help those coming out of churches… for good or bad reasons it’s almost always a lonely and scary time. It’s a time where many may well give up on Jesus and spirituality all together if they don’t see another way to do it. If they are not taught that their local church and Jesus are not synonymous.

I personally see it as a great privilege to come alongside such people.

Many will (and do) see me as the one who leads people astray. That is a shame, but they seem to care a lot less when it’s their son or daughter who is the one leaving church and they come to me to find spiritual guidance and a safe space to process.

I don’t really mind what people call me. At the end of the day I’m in good company if people think I’m backslidden or a sinner! That’s the sort of things people called Jesus because of the company He kept.

What I care about is that there is a safe person out there who isn’t crying out “heretic” or “backslider” as people are going on a legitimate spiritual journey.

My prayer is that those people might find in me someone who is saying, “hey, this is a pretty scary and lonely journey, want some company?”

And my greater prayer is that there might be more people rising up who equally desire to fill that role.

So I’ll leave you with a challenge, will you be a safe place that celebrates people going on a journey and helps them go on that path? Or will you demonize their path because it doesn’t look like yours?

Will you be a part of the problem or a part of the solution?

[1] Hay & Heald, 1987

[2] Hay & Hunt, 2000

[3] Hay & Hunt, 2000

Link to the original article

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Are you persecuting the largest growing group of Christians?

I get a weekly email newsletter from Phil Drysdale, a man for whom I have the greatest respect, and who is a real Christian thinker. In the past, I have likened to C. S. Lewis other thinkers like  the superb Jeff Turner, and I would say that Phil is in the same league.

Today, I would like to share with you a piece taken directly from his latest newsletter. Don’t be put off by the title!


Are you persecuting the largest growing group of Christians?

I’m fascinated by how the Christian landscape is changing in the West.

It’s something most Christians are aware of. But just in case you aren’t I want to share some stats with you…

Did you know that in the USA, the most conservative numbers suggest ~3500 people leave the church every day. This equates to dozens of churches closing their doors every week!

The fastest growing Christian group is Evangelical Christianity, which grows at a rate of ~1,000 a day. Which is pretty impressive, until you realize that most of those people come from other churches. It’s not really a net gain for Christianity as a whole.

Some statistics suggest that while the Evangelical church grew by 2 million between 2007-14, the amount of people leaving church entirely in that period was 19 million (that’s 10,000+ a day!).

That’s 10 times as many people leaving Christianity as those who are joining the only growing Christian group in America.

This is where most Christians tend to shut down. It’s easy to look at these numbers and find ourselves in despair. To feel pretty hopeless.

But there is another way to look at these numbers.

You see there is another statistic that turns these kind of numbers on their heads. I’ve mentioned it before in my newsletters and online in various places.

That’s the statistic that approximately 78% of those who leave church still claim to follow Jesus in some way or another.

Stop and think about that.

That means of the 3600 (we’ll stick with the smaller number for the sake of our poor hearts) people leaving church today, with no intention of returning, as much as 2700 are still in love with Jesus and trying to follow Him as best they can.

I’d like to propose to you that while institutional church is facing a crisis, The Church isn’t.

Every day I talk with dozens of people who are going through this process. Most have not left their church because they have a lack of faith, but because they are growing in their faith and their church simply doesn’t have room for them to do so.

There is an astonishing awakening in the world today. And much of the church which is crying out for a move of God in their midst is missing it!

Not only are many of us missing this move of God… we are actively persecuting it!

We cry “heresy” and label people as “backsliders.” Because we have a framework that can’t celebrate people actively growing in their faith if it doesn’t involve church or God as we understand it/Him.

It has been famously said by many a leader of revival that “those in the new movement of God are almost always rejected by the past move of God.” But I genuinely believe this is exactly what we are doing right now.

Instead of writing off the millions who are leaving the church we should be engaging with them. Not with a view to make sure they stay in the church. Or even to try and change them. But rather to understand them and have relationship with them as part of our family.

Because trust me… for every person I know who left the church for bad reasons there are dozens who have left it for very good reasons. In fact, the average person sitting in a pew each week could probably grow tremendously by listening to them.

It’s easy to get discouraged for those of us who are in the church and believe in the church when people stop attending one (especially in such huge numbers!)

But with a perspective change it’s easy to see that these people never left The Church. They are still a part of the Body of Christ. They still gather with other believers. The only difference is in how we choose to see them.

So the question is, will we embrace them as part of our family, working out their faith in a fresh and new way as they feel God calling them? Or will we reject what is very possibly the next move of God?

 – Phil Drysdale, shared with his kind permission

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We Will Magnify

On this, the 39th anniversary of my ‘birthday’*, I’m sharing this as a memory of yet another of the supernatural events that happened to me when I was a young believer.

One morning in 1982, I awoke with a song on my heart. It was a bit odd because I couldn’t remember where I’d heard it, but eventually I worked out that it’d been playing a couple of days before, on a tape I’d got; a compilation tape from the Christian youth gossip magazine ‘Buzz’ (they’d never have admitted it, but that’s what it was). The song was ‘We Will Magnify’, by Phil Lawson Johnston.

I played the tape track once, then picked up my guitar and played the song perfectly, along with the tape, and had it learned after only twice through, such is my gifting.

Since I was Director of Music at our new church at the time, I was in a position to introduce the song the very next Sunday, and so I did, and it went an absolute bomb (for those who don’t know the colloquialism, that means it was very popular 😀 ). The song as heard on the original track is a majestic declaration of the glory of God, set in a rich orchestration of sound and performed with beautiful dynamics (that is, it’s done with different emphases, created with different volume levels and breadth of instrumentation) and in heartfelt worship. What a glorious song! And we managed to do it very well on that Sunday.

But unbeknownst to me, it seemed that God had also inspired other worship leaders with that song at more or less the same time, because it became a real hit in Charismatic circles. (No-one ever said (at least, not on my blog) that Evangelical Christians can’t hear the voice of God every now and then 😉 )

And I have loved the song ever since. Not for me the ‘flash in the pan’ style of popularity of worship songs, here one minute and gone the next. No, when these songs build into me the things of God, they become a part of me; a part of what made me the person I am. And so they will always carry meaning for me. This is a song from my formative years as a believer, and it played a great part in demonstrating to me the prophetic nature of my calling as a worship leader. Despite my having moved on, so to speak, from those times and the beliefs I held (actually it’s probably more accurate to say I matured), still those times were what made me who I am today. The foundations of those times are still very much a part of me.

So, as you can imagine, great was my rejoicing when I managed to get hold of a copy of the vinyl record that We Will Magnify was on: the album ‘Hallowed Ground’, recorded by ‘Cloud’, who I think were the worship group at Holy Trinity, Brompton. Here, then, is the track itself, complete with vinyl pops and crackles!

Enjoy!

 

Oh Lord our God, how majestic is Your Name!
The Earth is filled with Your glory
Oh Lord our God, You are robed in majesty
You’ve set Your glory above the heavens

Chorus
We will magnify, we will magnify the Lord enthroned in Zion
We will magnify, we will magnify the Lord enthroned in Zion

Oh Lord our God, You have established a throne
You reign in righteousness and splendour
Oh Lord our God, the skies are ringing with Your praise
Soon those on Earth will come to worship

Chorus

Oh Lord our God, the world was made at Your command
In You all things now hold together
Now to Him Who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
Be praise and glory and power forever

Chorus ad nauseam and fade


Here’s the album artwork too:

Interestingly, the Amazon graphics (the song is still for sale on Amazon!) describe these tracks as ‘[songs that] shaped a generation’.

And I was part of that generation.


*The day when my life changed forever as I ‘asked Jesus into my heart‘. For real.

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Sin Stuck, or Sin Freed?

Firstly, I must apologise that I haven’t really been sharing much of my own thinking recently on my blog. I think my last post of my own personal work was my exposition on Matthew 7, back in July.

As you know, I ‘do what I see Father doing’, and while I have been having lots of ideas and beginning essays on these ideas, I have also found that others have been posting stuff that is definitely worth sharing, and is also ‘what I see Father doing’, and so I have shared that. I know I don’t have to apologise for what I write here, but I thought I’d just give a bit of an explanation for my regular readers.

Anyway, I saw an excellent piece yesterday by Ralph Harris, which I found was echoing exactly the sort of things I have been preaching over the last couple of years about believers being personally a New Creation. Wow. In his header for the piece, Ralph also encouraged people to share it, so I have done so without asking specific permission*. The Easter theme he mentions is because he published the piece at around Easter time, but of course the ideas behind it are timeless!

Here we go:


Not long ago I was involved in a Facebook thread in which people were discussing sin. One person became increasingly indignant with me—she was pretty much yelling via text—and insisted that, as a Christian, she would always be an “incurable sinner,” whose best hope was “sin in remission. Don’t you know that?!” she demanded.

Well, I answered, only if you think of yourself as the unchanged, old creation, the former creation, and as what you do rather than who you truly are in Christ, a new creation. Then you can you say that you are “a sinner.” You will be wrong, but you can say it. Essentially, you will be in error concerning what Jesus did for you and to you through the cross and resurrection. This error hurts you because, not knowing the cure of Christ, you will misdiagnose yourself and treat yourself as though you are sick. This will become a twisted and sickly caricature of Christianity; while perfectly cured, you will deny your health. You will frustrate yourself by looking for health—freedom from sin—based upon what you do, rather than upon what Jesus did. That won’t work. It never has. What He did is your cure and health, not what you do.

To the error-prone Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote: “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7).

So the big question is: “Did God’s cure work for you?” Through Jesus’ crucifixion, was your old self crucified with Him? Was your body of sin “done away with” so that you would no longer be a slave to sin? Since, in God’s thinking, you died with Christ, are you freed from sin? Is what He did your cure, or do you have another diagnosis and prescription? Who is the better Physician—you or God?

If you continue to believe that you are an unchanged, old creation and an old sinner-self, and that salvation “only” rescued you from sins and guaranteed you for heaven, your diagnosis will be wrong, because you will not believe the gospel and enjoy the perfect health benefits of the cross and the resurrection for you. One was for your sins, and the other was for your new life. Those in Christ are no longer “sinners” by nature, since through the crucifixion and being included in that, they’ve had a change of nature in Christ and now share in the Father’s. They are saints by nature, holy sons in fact, and already citizens of heaven—free from sin, as is everyone in heaven.

You cannot have dual citizenship. You are either born of this world and are of it, or you are born of heaven and are of it—alien to this world and representative of heaven. Which one are you?

I love my citizenship and how I got there through the cross and resurrection with Jesus. I’ve never felt more clear about sin than after I knew the truth about those two events and my being included with Christ. In Christ, I have died already, and sin has no power over me. In Christ, I have been healed and raised, and my nature is righteous—through and through. How about yours?

Happy Easter!


*Here is the link to Ralph’s post on Facebook

And here is the video – it’s only five minutes, and it can change your life if you haven’t heard this news before:

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