All posts by Tony

Your Repentance Will Not Save You

Here is a great artice by Australian writer Russell Croft, which I am privileged to be able to share with his kind permission. Don’t let the title put you off; he explains really well in the article what he means by it. 🙂

Your Repentance Will Not Save You

“You must repent and believe!”, cries many a preacher; from pulpits, street corners and social media. The implicit, and even explicit inference is, “If you don’t, you will go to Hell”. It is a method that has been terribly powerful for some generations now, but it seems that the effectiveness of such a mantra is wearing thin. The common disregard for such preaching now should register to those preaching it as an indication that there is a problem with this particular message. But for some reason it doesn’t. This apparent disregard has been seen as a signal to preach the exact same message with even greater fervour. But where it once could bring millions of people into the Church at one time, now it is turning millions away.

The message relies so heavily on guilt and fear that people have had enough. It has been preached at them for so long that they have switched off, and for good reason. Many of them at one time or another bought into this fear and guilt and committed their lives to escaping it through the authorised means of repentance. But it has not worked. They have grown tired of the cycle of sin, guilt, shame, repentance – sin, guilt, shame, repentance. Tired because the effort and striving to live a holy life never actually amounted to any real betterment of their lives or yielded any true alleviation of the struggle. It only served to feed the cycle until it became completely overwhelming.

How is this so?

Guilt and fear do not, and cannot, ever bring about a truly transformational repentance. They only inspire a fear of one’s own eternal destination. Whether we are repenting to avoid going to Hell, or we are repenting to remain close to God (and hold on to your ticket to Heaven), we are still repenting for selfish motives and living out of a worldview completely antithetical to the Kingdom of God’s selflessness and humility. Is this something God will be proud of? Repentance is supposed to be about letting go of selfish desires isn’t it? Dying to one’s self in order to live for the Kingdom? Are we really living a life of self-sacrifice and humility if our ultimate goal and motivation is our own glorious, eternal destination?

The motives for this understanding of repenting and believing are largely selfish and sinful. And it leaves so many of us worn down, confused, doubtful and afraid of whether we are are truly saved because it is so heavily focused on our own efforts, no matter how much we dress it up in holy, selfless language.

How long does salvation that comes from this repentance last? For eternity? Or just until the next time you sin? How long can you hold out before you sin again? How often do you feel sorry and repent for your sins? Are you sure that’s enough? Jesus is almost completely forgotten in this approach, until it comes to judgment. Yes, he died for our forgiveness, but the focus is on what we must do to appropriate it. Without our repentance, Jesus is beyond worthless to us; and worse, he will actively work against us to punish our unbelief.

Repentance that works

There is a better way of repentance however, and it has a completely different starting point. True repentance is turning away from our false ways of seeing ourselves and instead adopting God’s vision of who we are. God is Love. Unconditional Love. This is the heart of the good news of who and what God is. We are all loved, forgiven and accepted – unconditionally. True repentance is turning away from the belief that we are unlovable (with all the sinfully depraved actions that come along with that) and turning towards the belief that we are loved, totally and graciously, and that nothing we can do will ever change that.

Unconditional Love is the only thing that can convict us in a healthy and positive way. When we look at our failings and shortcomings and see how much we are still loved despite the ugliness we see in ourselves, we are convicted of the sin of seeing ourselves as unworthy. We might feel bad about letting ourselves down, letting others down and even letting God down but God still offers nothing but love for us. There is no striving to do better, to be better in order to earn it. There is however a deep conviction that we are loved despite our failings, and a desire to simply be present in the presence of God’s Love.

When we turn away from a selfish repentance towards a real acceptance that we are loved despite our failings, not only can we let go of our burdens and sin to find peace and rest, we can begin to allow that same Love to bubble up through us and out into the world around us. We can begin to live by the Higher Law and the New Commandment through no effort of our own, but by the Spirit of Love that has made us whole.

“You are giving people a licence to sin!”, some might say. Not at all. God is patient. God is kind. God will continue to love people in their sin as long as it takes for them to see that they are loved despite their sin, just as God does for you. God knows that when you finally see your true value, despite your own feelings of unworthiness, you will eventually learn to trust such an amazing grace. And when you do, all of Heaven rejoices!

We can only trust Love once we have experienced it. And we can’t truly experience such grace if it we believe we have to earn it. Is biblical repentance something we do to earn love? Or is biblical repentance a response to unconditional love? The transformation may require more patience, selflessness and humility than we would otherwise desire, but Unconditional Love and Grace is an infinitely more authentic, substantial, legitimate and undeniable basis for repentance than a system that requires anything from us before it can become a reality.

– Russell Croft

The link to the original article is here

01

A Bag of Chips

My regular readers will be familiar with the idea of these ‘quotation’ articles being likened to the concept of small, foody snacks. This one is no different. Note for non-UK readers: Over here in Britain, what some people around the world refer to as ‘Fries’, or ‘French Fries’, we call ‘chips’. * And these are big, fat and tasty, not long and thin like what we would call American-style fries. You get a lot of flavour and a lot of satisfaction from a proper bag of chips, I can tell you, and I trust that these snippets of others’ wisdom will also be tasty in the same way 🙂


“A Flat Earther’s idea of ‘research’ is just to watch other Flat Earthers’ videos” – Sci Man Dan

“And I know that Grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside” – Wm. Paul Young

“Whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father. Therefore if it doesn’t look like Jesus, it’s not a correct image of the Father. There is no God other than the one seen in the human face of Christ”. – Jacob M. Wright

“Inclusion also ‘includes’ those who are opposed to the Inclusion message. This is something the Lord has been explaining to me over the last week or so, and He’s been showing me His great love for those who are trapped in the kind of hate-filled religion (but marketed as ‘loving’) that causes exclusion in the first place.

“No doubt this [short response] will get kickback from people who, for whatever reason, are not into including others…and to those people, I think the Lord would say again that He loves you more than you can possibly imagine. No strings attached”. – Me

“If Luther and Calvin were right in declaring that forgiveness precedes confession and repentance, then it would mean that forgiveness also precedes belief” – Wm. Paul Young

“It’s not about our free will. You’re not going to hell, and it’s for the same reason you’re never going to buy a unicorn” – David Neal

“…it is a recognised phenomenon, in the study of spiritual growth, that those who move forwards in their faith are seen by those who have not [yet, if ever] moved forwards, as ‘backsliders’. I often wonder if those who claim that we are supposed to be ‘growing into Christ’ have ever actually thought what that’s going to look like”. – Me

“If you don’t use the Bible to endorse slavery or promote women as inferior to men, then don’t use it to condemn queer folk either, otherwise you’re the cherry picker, not those who are fully affirming” – Nathan Jennings

“Every religion on the planet requires ‘separation’ [separation from God] as one of its core doctrines, because then we can tell you how to get un-separated – those of us who are the professionals – and we can charge you for it. We’ll call it something benign, and in fact we’ll make you feel really guilty about it if you don’t (and it’s on the gross, not on the net, just so you know!)” – Wm. Paul Young

“I have nothing to prove to you.” – Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel

[In response to someone asking a question about painful post-death judgement] “I don’t think there is any pain in judgement, save perhaps for a slight embarrassment as I see what I dick I was in certain scenarios. I believe that judgement will be one of restoration and reconciliation, rather than retribution and revenge. God’s wrath is against the damage caused, not against those causing it, and that damage will somehow be put right. And for those who hated me, we will lean on each other and laugh about it, because it’s all sorted out. That way, we are all winners. That’s what divine judgement looks like.” – Me

“If the idea that the Biblical authors sometimes mistakenly misrepresented God upsets you more than the idea that God actually commanded genocide does, then your ethical priorities are in the wrong place.” – Daniel Skillman 

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes” – Anon

“…a simple look at the Scriptural narrative will put on display the sure reality that God always shows up in ways that the religious never expect and almost always detest”. – Chris Kratzer

“Praising God is acknowledging His attributes. I try to be aware when I pray that God is the ever-present, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving heavenly Father. I don’t praise Him because He needs me to tell Him who He is. He knows who He is. I am the one who needs to keep His divine attributes constantly in my mind. I try to keep the knowledge of God’s presence foremost in my thoughts. No matter where I go, He is with me”. – Neil Anderson

“Nowhere does Jesus mention that anyone should try to save others from Hell. You’d have thought if it was that important He’d have told us? You’d also have thought He’d have told us how important it was that we pluck the souls from the brink especially in the context of those parts of His teaching where the meaning is traditionally ascribed to being about Hell.

“Furthermore, if the hell-fire doctrine is true, and if Evangelical Christians claim that a loving God still lets people go to Hell ‘because He is so loving that He will not override their free will’, then it follows that they have to change the definition of Love so that it bears no resemblance to that found in 1Cor 13.” – Me

“It is quite possible to think too much, but those who accuse others of doing it are rarely guilty [of it] themselves”. – Jeff Turner


*And what they call ‘chips’, we refer to as ‘crisps’. And so it goes on 😉

10

‘In Company With…’

“Exeter Radar, good morning; Golf Charlie Delta Delta Golf for basic service”

“Golf Charlie Delta Delta Golf , Exeter Radar, good morning; pass your message”

“Golf Charlie Delta Delta Golf, PA-28 out of Dunkeswell, in company with Golf Charlie Delta Echo Oscar, two thousand five hundred feet on one-zero-two-four, VFR navex and, er, basic service please”

“Golf Delta Golf, basic service, squawk five-zero-seven-one, Exeter QNH one-zero-two-three; will you be returning to Exeter?”

“Golf Delta Golf, squawking five-zero-seven-one, basic service, one-zero-two-three, and affirm returning to Exeter”

So yes, I had bogged up my ‘pass your message’ response, which should have been a concise and accurate summary of my flying intentions.

What I should have said was, “Golf Charlie Delta Delta Golf, PA-28 out of Dunkeswell in company with Golf Charlie Delta Echo Oscar, returning to Exeter after navex, heading one-eight-zero degrees at two thousand five hundred feet on one-zero-two-four, planned turning points at Sidmouth and Tavistock, VFR and requesting basic service”. * Quite a mouthful, but getting it right is important to me. And sadly I never get that bit right.

You’d have thought after over 20 years of flying, I’d have known better, wouldn’t you? But this time I had an excuse, or at least a reason 🙂

You see, the phrase, ‘In company with’ meant that on that day, a couple of weeks ago, I was flying with another aeroplane, this one being flown by my son David, who is a much better pilot than I am. His aeroplane, a PA-28 Archer, a variant of the PA-28 Warrior II I am flying but slightly more powerful, is based at Perranporth Airfield in Cornwall, not far from where he lives, whereas ‘my’ aeroplane is based at Exeter. ‘In company with…’ also lets the operator know that we are aware of each other’s proximity and he doesn’t need to warn us about each other.

And this flying ‘in company’ was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire flying career.

I will explain why it was so hard later. But the reason my radio message was somewhat patchy was due to the intense mental and physical workload involved in flying in fairly close proximity to another aeroplane. Our priority is this: “Aviate – Navigate – Communicate” and the ‘Aviate’ part was occupying my whole attention, with hardly any mental space for ‘Navigate’ and ‘Communicate’ was coming in a very poor third.

I mean it’s not as if it’s even anywhere near proper formation flying, like within a few yards of the other aeroplane. We stayed at least a hundred yards away, usually more like two hundred plus. But remember that a huge part of Pilot training is about the avoidance of other aircraft, and the idea of staying as far away from other users of the sky as possible. So to deliberately fly within a couple of hundred yards of another aeroplane is really, really counterintuitive for us. And remember that it’s the first occasion on which we have really done anything like this, at least for an extended length of time. And such concentration leaves very little mental capacity for other tasks.

Anyway, less of the words. Let’s have some pictures. Most of these shots, the flying ones at least, were taken by just pointing a crappy camera in the general direction of the target, and hoping for the best. The light was too bright (it was a really sunny day) to be able to see the cameras’ screens properly. But still they came out pretty well, I think.

Beginning with some of David’s photos, then, here’s the view from his Archer as he flies past Camelford in Cornwall, en route to Dunkeswell where we’d arranged to meet up.

On this particular day, there was a ‘ridge’ of high pressure over the southern part of the UK, bringing with it a little bit of murkiness under the cloud, and also a broken cloud layer consisting of huge towers of cumulus. To use David’s words, “…some of [the cloud] can be flown over…”

…and other bits that you just have to go around!”

Meanwhile, on the ground at Dunkeswell, I have already landed after my short flight from Exeter, and I am chatting with a young man who’s about to do his first sky-dive. Trying to encourage him, you know 😉 So here’s Delta-Golf on the grass at Dunkeswell. I’d hoped to get a photo of the two aircraft together, but David was asked to park in a place about fifty yards away from my aeroplane, so I didn’t get chance.

I had my airband receiver with me, so I heard David arrive on the Exeter Radar frequency, then followed him as he switched to Dunkeswell’s air-to-ground radio frequency. A greaser of a landing later (yes, that’s a good thing!), he taxied over to the parking area and we met up. Over a picnic lunch, we planned our upcoming sortie in great detail. Positions we would fly in, radio frequency plans including loss-of-contact planning, procedures for changing ‘formation’, who would lead, who would trail, how we would do our taxying, power checks and takeoffs, the works. No stone was left unturned; planning is vitally important when considering a venture like we were going to do. Given that neither of us had previously really flown in any kind of proximity to another aeroplane for any appreciable length of time**, this was all new to us and therefore we had to thrash it all out on the ground, before setting off. Plan was this: David had the lead, sequential trailing takeoffs, fly out to Sidmouth, then turn for Tavistock on the other side of Dartmoor. Stick with Exeter Radar until we get to Bovey Tracey, then switch to SAFETYCOM frequency on 135.475 so that we can talk plane-to-plane.

So we started up and taxied across the airfield using the taxiways…

…moving slightly across to let another aircraft with a rude pilot come past (he’s off-camera to the right)…

…and then it was time to stop and conduct our power checks and pre-takeoff vital actions:

The strange, downwards-curved wingtips on Echo-Oscar are a modification kit that improves the efficiency of the wings and gives a better fuel economy – of the order of an impressive ten percent. It looks weird, but she flies well.

Since Dunkeswell is not a commercial aerodrome, where only one aeroplane would be allowed on the runway at a time, we lined up on the runway together and David set off first. The very second he lifted off, I opened my throttle and commenced my takeoff roll. Lifting into the air very quickly and not too far behind him, I managed to keep David’s aircraft in sight, although with a white aeroplane against a white/grey background, it was extremely difficult and I lost sight of him a couple of times.

Given that we were climbing, we were both at full power, and it was difficult for me to keep up; I finally caught up with him about ten miles out when we were nearly at Sidmouth. The first photo opportunity came when we had turned over Sidmouth and were over Exmouth; this gorgeous photo shows David over Exmouth with the mouth of the Exe estuary in the background, showing Dawlish Warren to good effect.

Although David knew I was ‘around’, he wasn’t sure whether or not I was actually in visual contact with him as we couldn’t talk to each other – we were on Exeter Radar’s frequency where we can only really talk to the radar operator. But he carried on with the navigation plan as we’d arranged, and just had to assume I was there. The position I am in in the above photo, in David’s five o’clock high, is a near-blind spot where he would not have been able to see me unless he knew where to look.

At this point, I began to overtake David to his right, so he’d be able to see me if he looked in the right place. Which he did, and happened to take what is probably the best photo in this entire set. I’d drawn alongside to the right but was slightly high, and as he passed under my left wing I realised I couldn’t see him, and so began a gentle, climbing turn away:

…and continued the turn for good separation, before I felt comfortable enough to turn back parallel to him again:

Job done. Note that if you can’t see the pilot’s face (or even the window), then he can’t see you. So because you can’t see my cockpit window in the above photo, it means that David’s aeroplane was invisible to me at that point. And at only a couple of hundred yards away, that’s pretty scary.

You see, it’s all very well when the aircraft are pootling along in the same direction, with little relative motion. Everything is moving in the same direction at the same speed, so it all looks like everything is standing still. But the moment you take any other heading apart from dead parallel, your velocity difference becomes immediately and frighteningly apparent. Because you’re doing about 100kt, which is about 114mph, you’re actually going very fast indeed. So convergence or divergence of your headings can happen very quickly. And if you were to turn at 90 degrees across the other aeroplane’s track, that would mean that your relative velocities would be in excess of that 100kt; you turn 90 degrees behind him and then it is immediately obvious that his aeroplane is moving away from you at high speed. Or, if you should cross in front at that speed and angle, that is going to be very dangerous indeed. At those sorts of speeds, things happen blindingly fast; faster even than my really lightning-fast reactions can cope with. So it’s important to use slight heading changes rather than drastic ones, hence my gentle turns in the photos above. This flight was in fact a safe if salutary lesson in how fast things can ‘develop’ (read: go pear-shaped) up there in the sky.

So, we got as far as Bovey Tracey, terminated the radar service and switched to SAFETYCOM. Now, we were able to talk ship-to-ship and that made things much, much easier. No need to second guess each other’s intentions; now we could just tell each other straight.

Somewhere over south Dartmoor, David took this photo of me formated on him in echelon port, about 200 yards away. Although this doesn’t look or sound all that close, in real life the other aeroplane looks frighteningly large, and you are painfully aware of your mutual proximity. The aircraft looks a lot bigger at this distance, in real life, than the photos suggest. You may even have some personal experience of this yourself; you’ll probably have taken photos of aircraft at airshows; when you took the photo the aeroplane was like right there and looking really big, but when you look at the photo later, the aeroplane is like a small dot. That’s what this is like.

And here’s a similar shot, but just not as zoomed in. That’s me in that tiny dot in the distance. Again, it looks miles away but in reality it wasn’t:

So, why is flying ‘in company’ so hard? Well, I’ve already talked about how things can change really quickly when flying this close to another aeroplane. At the kinds of ranges we are looking at here, just a couple of seconds’ inattention can result in a velocity change (speed or, more likely, direction) that can result either in getting too close or in losing visual contact with the other aircraft altogether, which is worse in some ways because he might be right there and you don’t know about it. Therefore, as well as having briefed preflight on breakaway procedures, as the trailing aircraft you’ve also got to keep your gaze more or less locked on the other aircraft – we call it being ‘padlocked’ – and there’s no time really to do much else. That’s mainly applicable for the trailing aircraft because the lead aircraft is simply flying straight and level and on course. Things like checks of fuel pressure, changing fuel tanks, oil temperature/pressure, compass synchronisation, carburettor icing checks and all the other routine chores involved in flying a plane; all these things become subservient to the overarching concerns of a) not hitting the other plane, and b) not losing him either. I have read anecdotes from fighter pilots where they say that in one moment the sky is full of planes; in the very next second there’s not a plane to be seen. I can see how that is possible. Think about it like this: from directly astern (behind), the cabin and fuselage cross-section of a PA-28 is something of the order of a five-foot square. Out of this five-foot square poke two wings which are almost invisible from astern at any kind of distance, because they are not much thicker than about eight inches or so. Added to that, the plane is painted mainly white and it’s glossy, all of which means it’s very difficult to see against a cloud backdrop, in haze, or against a hazy underlay. So unless you keep your eyes fixed on him all the time, it’s just so easy to lose sight even when you know exactly where to look. That’s the main thing that makes it so hard. I have absolutely no doubt that it becomes easier with practice and training, but for us, on that day, it being our first time, it was unbelievably difficult. But huge respect to people like the Red Arrows and The Blades, who routinely fly with only feet separating them from their neighbours. And that’s with more than just two aircraft in the formation, too. I would imagine that greater aircraft numbers will really complicate things way beyond what it’s like with a two-ship formation. Formation flying is hard enough with two aeroplanes straight and level. With four, or nine, aircraft and doing aerobatics too (which are also difficult), it’s just insane. Seriously, respect to these guys…it’s only when mere mortals like us do what we have done so tentatively, that we can really appreciate what these guys do. Amazing.

Now we were in radio contact, David also got a chance to formate on my aeroplane, as I took the lead for a spell:

And then, at 5,000ft and coming up on Tavistock, our scheduled separation point, I got this lovely shot of Echo-Oscar:

The Devon town of Tavistock is visible below the cloud there, and nearly a mile of vertical distance below us, and I think this shot captures as well as any other the glaringly obvious point that there is nothing holding us up. Just the wings, using the marvellous natural effect that happens when you change airflow over a curved surface and generate lift. It really is quite remarkable that literally thin air can lift (in the case of a PA-28) the best part of a ton of metal, fuel and flesh up into the sky, where it really has no business being. And of course that’s just a light aircraft; there are of course many, much bigger, aeroplanes, all of which fly because of the same principle. I find that amazing.

But eventually we had to part and go our separate ways. From just west of Tavistock, David continued on course for Perranporth, and I turned for my return flight to Exeter. Here’s David’s Echo-Golf just before I broke away:

Even then, things were complicated slightly in that my intention was to break away high and left, and perform a 180-degree turn onto heading for Exeter. But directly to my left was a towering cumulus cloud that stretched a good couple of thousand feet above my level and there wasn’t space to get round without going into cloud. So I had to make an on-the-spot decision – such a common occurrence in flying that I am well used to it – but basically I turned away only some 30 degrees in a climbing turn to the left, towards the cloud but not all the way towards it, and then reversed my turn and turned right and away from the cloud, still climbing, and crossed David’s wake about half a mile behind him and three hundred feet higher. We’d said our farewells before I began the turn, maybe we should have waited to do that until we were heading away from each other. Well, we’ll know for next time.

My flight back to Exeter was uneventful; David took a couple of photos, though, including his first ever airborne selfie:

(see how he’s got the same kind of headset as mine; we got him it for his 30th birthday 🙂 )

…but he also got some spectacular views like the claypits (china clay quarries) at Indian Queens near Newquay:

So, there we go. An awesome flight where we learned so much***, and had so much fun. Things to learn from this flight, just off the top of my head: I would probably have wanted direct radio contact much earlier in the flight to maintain situational awareness and mutual location; better briefing on how to find each other; maybe do more aeroplane checks but again in radio contact, so we can warn the lead aircraft to keep it straight, maybe setting a slightly divergent heading while doing the checks. Also, carry a photographer rather than doing it myself 😉

But all in all a great experience. Still buzzing from it, over a week later!

Peace and Grace 🙂


*English translation:

‘Golf Charlie Delta Delta Golf’ is my aircraft callsign; it’s the phonetic alphabet rendition of the registration letters on the side of the aircraft. It’s usually shortened to ‘Golf-Delta-Golf’ by controllers, or just ‘Delta-Golf’ by flying school staff and pilots. ‘Which plane are you taking today?’ ‘Delta-Golf’.

‘PA-28 out of Dunkeswell in company with Golf Charlie Delta Echo Oscar’ – Aircraft type is a PA-28, and we’d taken off from Dunkeswell, an airfield near Exeter Airport, where it’s cheaper for David to land. And I fancied a landaway anyway.

‘Returning to Exeter after navex’ – that’s my destination airfield, and a ‘navex’is a ‘navigation exercise’.

‘Heading one-eight-zero degrees at two thousand five hundred feet on one-zero-two-four’ – refers to the direction in which my aircraft is pointing, so the radar operator can see which aircraft I am. One-zero-two-four refers to the pressure setting  – the ‘QNH’ – on my aircraft’s altimeter, so the operator knows what pressure setting I am working from in order to determine my altitude. This needs to be the same for all the aircraft he is working with, so that all their altitudes are reported from the same reference point.

‘Planned turning points at Sidmouth and Tavistock, VFR and requesting basic service’ – tells him our intentions, that we are flying under ‘Visual Flight Rules‘, that is, decent weather flying where we can see where we’re going, and that we just want him to help us look out for other aircraft on his radar screen. Giving us an extra pair of eyes, as it were.


**The only previous time when we had done anything like this was once over Cornwall in 2013, where we had met up in the air by chance – we knew each other was up and around, but not exactly where – and David came up about fifty yards off my port wingtip. An awesome sight, but we each had our flights to do (he was doing a navex and I was training my daughter for an upcoming charity flight), so we didn’t stay like that for long.


***In addition to the lessons learned, there was something else too. David and I are both military historians. This flight gave us both a really strong appreciation of what it must have been like in air combat in World War II – or indeed any war – but especially WWII because of the ubiquitous use of air-to-air gunnery. Imagine a swirling sky filled with fast, small aeroplanes that are going at speeds in excess of 350mph and in a small volume of space, trying to keep formation with your wingman, trying to avoid collisions with aircraft friend or foe, and most of all trying to shoot down other aeroplanes. Given that the most effective range for using guns against other aircraft was of the order of no more than about 100 yards, and often much closer, we got a really good appreciation of how huge an enemy aircraft would appear when it is in firing range. Because of that, it’s also no surprise that many pilots opened fire at ineffectual ranges, like say 400-500 yards because, although the range was too great for effective fire, still the aircraft would look like a great big barn door target and therefore would look close enough. You had to get really, stupidly close in order to score any hits. Added to that things like deflection shooting (where you aim ahead of the target so that it flies into your bullet stream, like in clay pigeon shooting), bullet drop and other advanced ballistics, and that you had to actually point your aeroplane into a collision course with the target in order to shoot it – I mean it’s just insane! Pointing your aeroplane at another aeroplane at very high relative speeds, getting really close, and somehow not colliding with him…. it’s incredible to imagine how they did that, given the things we experienced on our ‘in company’ sortie. These were brave people indeed.

10

‘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 🙂

 

10

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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