Category Archives: Humour

The Sermon You Will Never Hear!

Today I am going to let you into the Church’s big secret on tithing.

I’m going to share with you a Scripture that you will never hear preached on from any pulpit you can think of.

But first, a bit of background.

Like quite a few other doctrines*, the doctrine of ‘Tithing’ is a contentious one. It refers to the practice of giving to the Church, or whatever religious organisation a person is part of, a certain proportion of (or sometimes a set amount of) one’s income. Usually, this proportion is one tenth of one’s income.

It’s not only contentious within a group; it’s usually contentious outside the group as well, in that one of the big turn-offs for non-churchgoers is the idea that giving money to some random (and usually non-accountable) organisation is not something that sane people would do. They just can’t believe that anyone would want to do that, and they want no part of it. And I don’t blame them. I can still remember one time before I became a Christian, hearing that the Jehovah’s Witnesses** give a tenth of their income to their Organisation. My response was something like, “They do what??!!” And that sentiment is shared by many, both inside and outside the church.

Of course, there are many varied practices involved in this giving model, in fact probably about as many as there are churches. I have shared before on this subject, and it is probably worth reading at least this article before you read this present article, for a bit of background, and my lead-in for this other article for more. However the later part of that last article does go into some pretty heavy Biblical study and is probably best left alone for the time being.

Suffice it to say that many Christian denominations and organisations have of course abused the ideas around tithing and made it a legalistic practice instead of a Grace-filled one. Drawing on predictable bullying, carrot-and-stick, and straightforward prosperity-doctrine tactics, they have set up a whole mythology around tithing, usually promising good returns on one’s tithe by emphasising certain Scriptures and, of course, ripping them brutally out of their proper context to serve their own ends, and ignoring completely Jesus’s teaching on giving being a secret practice between God and Man, and not done for the approval of humans (Mt 6:1-3). I won’t even begin to go in to the convoluted arguments and justifications that money-grabbing religious organisations use to extort money and other things from their people. It’s sickening, though.

You have probably gathered by now what I think about this 😉

But let’s look at the two main Scriptures abused used by some Christian groups to ‘encourage’ (a euphemism, folks!) people to give the whole tithe (meaning the whole ten per cent, although I have never once heard a church moan about anyone giving more).

The first is, naturally, an Old Testament (OT) text; the OT of course being the number-one destination for preachers wanting to find a choice verse to introduce yet another Rule to weigh down their people with. You want Rules? Begin with the OT. This is simply because few people know much about the OT, its background, and the cultural references in there, and in any case it all sounds (and reads) very stern and forbidding, and the god of the OT is a right misery who is pretty pissed at most people for most of the time anyway.

Here’s the main verse used in this way. I’ll leave it in the KJV language to make it sound more authoritative and threatening. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the number one tithing text: Malachi 3 verses 8-12!

(Mal 3:8-12 (KJV))

There is so much wrong with using this Scripture in the typical combination manner it is usually used: the carrot-and-stick approach to tithing – the carrot being the ‘promise’ of blessings, and the stick being the promise of a ‘curse’. I’m afraid I’m not going to give an exegesis of this passage right now, because I’m trying to get to my point!

The second Scripture normally thrown at believers about tithing is in 2Cor 9:6-15, of which I will present just verses 6-11.

Note how the latter part of the preceding verse, verse 5, (2Cor 9:5) is always missed out (so they begin the reading at verse 6), verse 5 being the bit about not giving grudgingly (and this omission is excused because in the most popular translation, the NIV (New International Version) it comes before the ‘heading’ (inserted by the translators) of ‘Generosity Encouraged’).

When hearing this Scripture read out in public, you will also hear verse 7 (about ‘reluctantly or under compulsion’) being skipped over without emphasis, maybe even read in a quieter voice, or maybe faster so you don’t hear it. Or a combination of these tricks. (Yes, these deceptive practices do indeed go on! And it makes outsiders sick and repelled by the whole business). And this is how the context of this verse is destroyed. But again it’s the carrot approach – although this time no stick – but even then some people would in fact take the ‘grudgingly/reluctantly/compulsion’ bit and make it condemnatory: that it is the giver’s fault that they feel like that. But I have ranted enough. And you can believe that you will never, ever, hear or read me preaching on the subject of giving in this manner.

Now at last I want to share with you the Scripture you will never hear read publicly, at least not from someone who is after your money. Nor will you hear anyone preaching a sermon from it.

This is why I have called this post The Sermon You Will Never Hear’.

I’m not going to do any exposition on the passage; I will let you and Holy Spirit together form your own conclusions and applications for it. My purpose here is just to blow the secret wide open! 😀

It’s Deuteronomy 14, verses 22-27:

(Deut 14:22-27)

What do you make of that, then? 😉

Unsurprisingly, I have never ONCE heard anyone preach on that passage (not even the final sentence, because that would mean revealing the entire passage!), which I discovered more than two decades ago – when I was still a legalistic Christian! And a wise elder a couple of years later told me, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that he was sure I never would hear such preaching, either! And remember that many, many Christians do not read their Bibles (especially the Old Testament, of which this passage is a part); they only read the parts that their leaders tell them to, so how would they ever discover this for themselves?

But I had indeed discovered it, the cat was out of the bag, so to speak, and I decided to apply the Deut 14 teaching in my own life. This was my first step towards freedom from the onerous doctrine of tithing, and also my first step out from under legalism itself. That it also coincided with a complete loss of confidence in church leadership was simply the icing on the cake. Nobody ever told us that, despite our being a young couple living on the breadline, maybe we didn’t have to give as much as everyone else.

This kind of thing can only go on for so long. Twenty-five years ago, our ‘stewardship’ shifted from trusting others with God’s money, to deciding for ourselves where we wanted to place the money. We stopped ‘tithing’, and started setting aside money ‘for God’s Work’. Bottom line: I didn’t trust my church leadership to manage my giving for me. And I have never looked back. Good stewardship, then, means cutting out the middle man. And it also means being generous!

That’s not to say we didn’t continue to give; of course we did. It’s also not to say that I don’t give nowadays; I do. Naturally I’m not going to go into details except to say that my giving nowadays is done in the way it was always supposed to be done, as described in that 2Cor9 passage. It’s done liberally (that is, with total freedom); cheerfully; it’s done to bless others; it’s honouring to God; it’s done secretly (which I have always done; the idea of having to declare to the church how much we were giving ‘for budgeting purposes’ has always rankled with me!) and it’s done with great joy and motivated by the desire to bless people with the abundance God has given me, and continues to give me. And it’s not just in terms of money either. Work it out for yourself; I don’t want to be a model for anyone else’s giving, except in my attitudes.

And so I am sharing this secret with you today! The cat really is out of the bag, so to speak; ask your leadership about it and don’t let them wriggle off the hook until they have given you a satisfactory response!

Who knows; you may be the first person ever to preach on that Scripture!

Don’t get me wrong: it is far from my intention to use the Bible to set up any Rules for or against tithing or giving. I am neither a Biblical literalist nor a Biblical lawyer; I do not tell people what to do based on a document composed of books some of which are 4,000 years old. I don’t tell people what to do at all, in fact! Especially using Deuteronomy. As always in my blog, though, I am using the Bible as a tool to show that even where there are people who take the Bible literally and consider it inerrant, still there are passages that they use inconsistently and legalistically, and in some cases (like this one) they ignore them altogether.

Giving from a position of freedom is simply so liberating, I cannot imagine it ever being intended to be done in any other way.

Rejoice and be blessed, for the freedom of God’s children (Rom 8:21) is yours to use as you will. Never let anyone take it away from you!


*A ‘doctrine’ is a particular position or idea held to be true (and usually ‘essential belief’) by a religious – or in fact any, not just religious – group. And it’s usually restrictive rather than liberating!

**Not that I am singling out the JWs for special ‘naming and shaming’; just that they were the first organisation I had heard of that practised tithing 🙂

10

The Travesty Gospel

Most people recognise that the version of Christianity espoused in much of the Western world is a horrendous travesty of the message of peace, joy, love, healing, life and fellowship with God that Jesus actually brought.

On the surface, many Christians would claim to follow the teachings of Christ, while their daily lives fail to display the fruits of those teachings.

Nowhere else is this more apparent than in the way in which mainstream Conservative American Evangelical Christianity, which appears to be strongly associated with the GOP (Grand Old Party) Republican party. As a Brit, it seems to me that the two – Republicanism and Conservative Evangelicalism – have been mixed and intertwined such that their ideas are indistinguishable from each other. It is difficult to see where one begins and the other ends.

I have my own ideas as to how this fits in to Biblical ideas and eschatology (the study of the End Times), which I will not share here. But at the very least, it does appear that, as I said above, the ideals espoused by this religious/political stream are a far cry from Jesus’s original message.

Here then is a great video that lampoons that sort of Christianity (and deservedly so) by showing how so many of its attitudes directly contradict Jesus.

Enjoy!

10

The Sound Boys’ Yo-Yo

Most of my readers will know that I used to be a worship leader in a Charismatic-style church; we’d have ‘open worship’ with, as well as the singing, things like tongues, prophecy and other spiritual gifts. There’d be singing ‘in the Spirit’ too, and it was all most uplifting.

My particular setup was that I had an electronic keyboard/piano: a Roland JV-30, which at the time, and despite having only five octaves (thus limiting my pitch range capability), was pretty much state of the art.

The JV-30 does not have its own internal loudspeakers; it requires external amplification. In this case, and since we were using a public hall for our meetings, the keyboard’s output was piped over to a sound desk at the back, manned by a couple of teenage non-musician lads that we nicknamed (unsurprisingly) the ‘Sound Boys’.

We also had other musicians: three vocalists – myself, Fiona and Cathy; Steve, our bass player; and sometimes an acoustic guitarist. I won’t give any names for the guitarists because there were quite a few of them and we never really knew who we were going to get from one week to the next. And in addition to the keyboard, each of these ‘inputs’ – the microphones for the vocalists, Steve’s bass guitar, and my keyboard, plus any guitarist(s) we had (playing into an electronic pickup clipped to the guitar’s sound hole), also went into the sound desk, each input with its own dedicated channel, to be dominated controlled by the Sound Boys.

The relationship between the musicians and the Sound Boys was somewhat complex, and often pretty fraught*. I usually felt that the Sound Boys had the volume of the piano turned way too far down; this was long before we had any ‘foldback’ (a loudspeaker set up facing the instrumentalist so that they can hear what they are playing) so not only could I not really hear myself playing, but I also had to trust the Sound Boys that the congregation was able to hear what we were playing. They assured us that they could, but I was never fully convinced!

Sometimes they even used to mute my output channel completely, such as during the sermon, or if there were some prayers going on; or if for whatever reason they ‘thought’ (and that’s being generous) that the piano was not needed at that time. It was almost as if they didn’t trust me to handle my instrument correctly, and to not do a huge bloody great big ‘dead body in the bath’ chord in the middle of the notices.

And so it seemed that, despite our best efforts, all that we did as a band was subject to the power-crazed whims of the Sound Boys and their all-powerful sound desk. Whenever you lead public singing, you need to have quite a bit of, well, let’s call it ‘authority’, but I don’t mean it in a domineering kind of way; more a practical way. When you are leading 300-400 people in singing, you need to be heard, so that they can follow your lead. For example, sometimes the congregation’s timing goes a little off so you need to lead them back into time again. To do this, you’d boost your volume to emphasise the timing and allow people to hear what you are doing and to re-synchronise. Or maybe they have drifted off pitch (out of tune), but this is actually quite rare. The problem comes when you can’t lead the music properly because your sound volume is turned wayoooh-doooowwwwn and you don’t have the oomph; thanks a bunch, Sound Boys.

And so, I had to develop a little trick to let me lead properly and thwart the best efforts of the Sound Boys. I called it the ‘Sound Boys’ Yo-Yo’.

Here’s what you do.

Set the keyboard’s volume control to about 30-35%, and do all your sound checks from there. Begin the worship with the same volume setting; the Sound Boys will have set you at a moderate volume for the opening song, and hopefully they will boost you once the congregation join in and the general volume in the hall increases. So far, so good.

But let’s say that after a couple of verses, you realise that the congregation’s timing is drifting (possibly because of the low lead instrument volume – who’d ‘a thunk it?!), so it’s time to ‘assert your authority’ as lead musician and bring it all back together again for them. Your piano isn’t yet loud enough to re-establish the rhythm, so you’re going to need more volume; trouble is that the Sound Boys don’t realise this is what you need to do, and if you gently nudge your volume up, they will correspondingly gently nudge your channel volume down in response, and to show you who’s boss of course. So there’s no net effect on the volume and things get worse for the song being sung.

So, you don’t do it that gentle way. What you do is to whack your volume control slider up into afterburner – say about 90-100% setting…

Afterburners on a Typhoon fighter

…and this allows you to use that increased volume to stabilise the song’s rhythm or whatever it is that’s drifted. Before long, of course, the Sound Boys will have rumbled what you’re up to, and will have reacted to your gross misbehaviour by drastically racking your channel volume fader right back down again. By that time, though, they’re way too late and they’ve proper missed their boat; you have brought things back into line again, in musical terms, like you wanted to do. And that was easy. Just doing my job.

However, at this point, of course, the Sound Boys have solidly put you in your place; your channel volume is a long way down and your keyboard volume is maxed out, although nobody can tell because the net effect on your piano volume as heard by the congregation is unaffected, and no-one’s any the wiser apart from yourself and the Sound Boys, of course. So now you need somehow to recover that reserve power so that you can use it again, possibly soon. And this is the clever bit, and the part that gives the Yo-Yo its name.

While playing, and in a reverse of the actions that the Sound Boys would perform if you boosted your volume gradually, you reduce your keyboard volume equally gradually, say by about 10% per minute. Maybe you could do this after each verse of the song you are playing, especially if you’re varying your song’s dynamics, which disguises what you are doing very nicely. One hopes that the Sound Boys will notice that your volume is getting a bit low, so they will (ideally!) advance your channel volume bit by bit until they can hear you better.

You continue doing this until your keyboard volume slider is back at around 30-35% and then you can use your afterburner again as required. You have now restored your ‘volume reserve’ and it’s available for use once more. Lather, rinse and repeat.

And that’s the the Sound Boys’ Yo-Yo, so called because you move your volume slider up and down like a yo-yo.

Granted, if you are an instrumentalist in a similar position and you’re thinking about using this trick, remember that  your Sound Boys might have read this too, and therefore they will be wise to what you’re up to, but there’s nothing they can really do about it if they want the congregation to hear the piano at all.

Or maybe you’re extremely lucky and have Sound Boys that actually listen to you and provide the service you need. In which case, I envy you.

But it’s still a useful trick to have in your repertoire!


*Sound Boys, if you should read this, don’t worry, I forgave you a long time ago, and this is just humour, ok? 😉

 

00

Moses the Prat

Why, in the light of Jesus, we no longer need to follow the ways of Moses

Some might be offended by this, but from very early on in my Christian walk, I have considered Moses to be a complete and total prat.

In fact, I once voiced that opinion (in fact, my words were “…actually, I think Moses was a bit of a wally”), and was told that I would, one day, have to answer for that. Hmm, yeah, right 😉

Well, here I am doing it again, and on a world-wide platform, no less.

I mean, he was a volatile man with a terrible temper; a murderer; a religious cult leader (he had absolute power and authority, that he claimed were ‘God-given’); and he was the equivalent of an organised crime leader in that he had a bunch of killers at his beck and call. Consider the episode of the Golden Calf. If you haven’t read the story, it’s in Exodus 32. Moses comes down off that mountain and finds the people worshipping an idol – a golden calf – and, despite pleading with God for the people with some compassion, Moses ends up in a total radge and gets a bunch of thugs to go through the camp killing people indiscriminately. Not the kind of bloke you’d want to go down the pub with for a pint.  And this is Moses the ‘Servant of God’ (Rev 15:3, Heb 3:5, Num 12:7 et al)  we are talking about here, remember.

Then, on another occasion (Numbers 15:30-36), Moses decides that ‘God told him’ to kill (or at least, to get his thugs to kill) some random bloke who may even have been an innocent foreigner who just happened to break some Sabbath law that he maybe didn’t even know about. And then the very next verses in that Numbers passage go on about some pretty little tassles with coloured thread that you can look at and feel good about. I mean talk about dysfunctional religion… I really don’t like some parts of the Bible, and Numbers is the pits, it really is. There are some nuggets and gems in there, but you have to dig pretty deep – and survive all the other tripe in there – in order to find them.

And supposedly Moses wrote that book, although I understand that most scholars nowadays do not hold this to be correct. But if Moses had written it, it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s right up his street. If you were going to give the Bible an enema, Numbers is where the tube would go. Or maybe Deuteronomy. Anyway, I could go on for ages quoting examples of how Moses justified himself by effectively saying ‘God told me to do it’ and essentially displayed all of the characteristics of an abusive church leader of one of today’s way-off-beam churches, but at a time in history that was at least three thousand years ago. It seems that, in some quarters at least, little has changed. In some ways, it’s quite worrying: I have actually heard and read many purported men of God put forward the idea that Moses is a ‘model’ leader. Actually, it’s Jesus Who models the ideals of leadership qualities, not Moses. If you are ‘under’ a leader who claims Moses as his model, get out of there fast! Run as far as you can, as fast as you can! It’s especially scary that the words of Moses and violent stories from the Old Testament (especially the story of David and Goliath) are used far more to indoctrinate educate children in Sunday School than are the words of Jesus. But I digress.

Suffice it to say that I see Moses, and the religious views of the Old Testament (OT) inspired by his teachings, to be the archetypal example of how not to pursue faith in God. Essentially, Moses tried Law and it didn’t work (Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16). And in fact the huge take-home message of the OT is this: Religion based on rules and regulations does not work. Sure, the main thing that the OT does is to lead us to Jesus, but one of the primary ways in which it does this is to show us the futility of Law-based religion.

And, while I have learned valuable lessons from Moses, especially on the how-not-to-do something level, I have recently come to a further conclusion which sheds a lot of useful light on how we interpret the older parts of the Bible today, and try to apply its ‘teachings’ as principles in our modern era.

You see, I realised that it is completely unfair for me to judge Moses by today’s standards; that was just the way people were back then, even (and especially?) the ‘pious’ ones. Moses was on a different part of his spiritual walk, in an entirely different time, world and culture from ours, in an utterly different and indeed completely alien era, when their belief systems were very, very different from those of anyone today. Or so I would hope, at any rate. Those people were only just beginning to adapt to the idea of the One True God being different from the gods of other nations, and not simply being just another tribal deity. So, Moses was a man of his time. True, I still think he was a prat, but he was a prat of his time. Let’s give him the benefit of that.

In fact, the Hebrew people of that time too were also a product of their times and circumstances. Everyone else – all the other nations: the Philistines, Hittites, Jebusites, Midianites, Edomites, Amalekites, Moabites, Egyptians, Amorites, Canaanites, Babylonians, Assyrians – had vicious gods; the Hebrews thought theirs wasn’t much different, at least at first, until His continued revelations to them gradually showed them more of what He is really like. And so they said things like ‘God told us to [perform an atrocity]’ whereas actually it was just the way they did things back then.

Anyway, from the Old Testament, we now jump forward to the New Testament (NT). On the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36), Jesus’s disciples observed Him in the company of the previous ‘greats’ of the Jewish faith – Moses and Elijah. It is widely agreed in this context that Moses represents the Law, while Elijah represents the Prophets. And so when Peter says, “Let me make three tents for you all”, Moses and Elijah disappear and the voice of God says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The timing of this announcement is important. Whereas Peter wants to give Jesus equal standing with Moses and Elijah – which in his eyes, would have been an honour indeed –  by making three equal tents for them, the simultaneity of the three events of Peter’s offer of the tents, the disappearance of the ancient guys and the words of the Voice of God are effectively saying, ‘No! These guys, and what they represent, are not important anymore; from now on you need to listen to My Son, Who is not equal to Moses and Elijah, but is in fact much, much greater‘. As of that day, the Law and the Prophets have been superseded, and they are no longer the way in which God relates to people. And while Moses and Elijah generally got their way through religious bullying and genocide, the way of Jesus was diametrically opposed to those kinds of methods.

In this pivotal event in the Jesus story, God was saying, “Look, from now on we’re doing things differently. We’re no longer doing things using the crude and often barbaric methods of mere humans, no matter how much they are in My favour; no, now we are doing things My Son’s way”. Not only this, but also that Jesus was – and is – the perfect revelation of God to humanity. ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (Jn 14:9). In fact, one of the major, if more subtle, of the story arcs of the Scripture is that of humanity’s changing view of God, right from being just like all the other vicious tribal gods of the region, right up to, eventually, Jesus showing us what the Creator is really like. And there is no need to assume that this arc does not continue to this day; God is continually revealing His nature to humanity in ever-increasing measure, and still this is through Jesus Christ.

 So, yes. Moses , in addition to being an utter prat, was also a mass-murderer, a thug and a cult leader. I accept this and I accept why he was like this.

But what we are saying here is that, since the coming of Jesus the Anointed One (which is what ‘Christ’ means), Moses has been superseded.
In fact, he has been completely superseded.
The mature, revealed and fully-developed view of how we relate to God is now through Jesus, and no longer through Law.

This is the testimony of the entire New Testament; indeed, this is why the Testament is known as ‘New’. John begins his Gospel with it: “For the Law was given through Moses; Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17); the Transfiguration account states it, as we have already seen; and St. Paul continues the claim with his assertions that we are no longer under Law, but under Grace, in Rom 6:14 and several other similar passages. Moses is no longer relevant, except in certain circumstances where believers preaching the Gospel need to relate to people who are still ‘in’ the old system of Law in order to save them from those systems (see 1Cor 9:19-23 for examples of this tactic).

So, what this means in practice is that yes, we can allow that Moses was a product of his time, and excuse his behaviour that way. But it also means that we neither can, nor should we, try to import the cultural attitudes and laws of Moses’ times into our present day faith and religious structures; it just doesn’t work, and most of it would be illegal nowadays anyway. Especially all that crap about killing the donkeys…  We just shouldn’t be trying to imitate the way they were back then, a) because Jesus has superseded it all with His way of Love, and b) because it is no longer relevant and is indeed a step in the wrong direction, and c) who wants to be like Moses, for goodness’ sake? A good read of the book of Hebrews will reveal that the Old Covenant has, in Christ, already been superseded by the New Covenant, and a major part of this succession is that the Law of Moses, and all the superstition, savagery and religious manipulation that Moses represents, is gone forever and is no longer relevant to the believer.*

In fact, the entire burden of fulfilling the Law has been borne by Jesus, however that works. Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose” (Mt 5:17 NLT). And, once their purpose had been accomplished, they are no longer necessary, except in the vestigial sense I mentioned above. When we live a life in the Spirit, all the burden of the Law is taken care of and is not only fulfilled by Jesus and Him living His Life through us by His Spirit, but is actually made obsolete (Heb 8:13). This is what makes it a New Covenant; it’s no longer a dead covenant but in fact a ‘new and living Way’ (Heb 10:19-23). It’s also the primary reason why we need to read the Scriptures – all of them – through the lens of Christ, Who embodies and demonstrates Grace and Truth, rather than the lens of Moses, who represents the Law. If we deny this, then we deny our liberty from the Law and are essentially no longer aware of the benefits of that liberty; indeed we have ‘fallen from Grace’ (Gal 5:4)

No, the whole burden of our having to keep the Law is now indeed obsolete. This is because it is now Life in the Spirit that makes us free to follow Jesus and live His Life. In my article, Licence to Sin, I explain how the life in the Spirit means that we can live sin-free and walk freely with God.

Wouldn’t you like to be in that position? Wouldn’t you like to be free of the influence of others’ judgement on your life and actions, pretending to be in the name of God? “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (1Jn 2:6) This is not a test of true faith, nor is it a command. This is a simple statement that those who live in Him must walk as Jesus did because that is their natural tendency. That’s just the way things are, it’s saying. “As He is, so are we in this world” (1Jn 4:17). This is the nature of the New Creation. This is a statement of fact.

And it’s a statement of fact about You. Yes, you reading this. This is who you are. You are in Christ. Not in Moses, nor indeed in ‘Adam’, but in Christ.

And there is no going back. Once we have been included in Christ, the life we live is not any longer our old life, but is the New Life in Christ! (Gal 2:20)

Oh, hallelujah! Why be all tied up in Moses any longer? Step into Christ, into His liberating death and His Life-giving Resurrection, and His joy-giving Spirit. And live, live, live!

Yes, Moses may well have been a prat. But you are not in Moses; you are in Christ, and He is the One Who is in you.

Rejoice!


*I make the distinction between believer and unbeliever here, because Paul says that ‘through the Law, we become conscious of sin’ (Rom 3:20b). Once a person believes in Jesus, that person no longer needs to be ‘conscious of’ or indeed worry about sin at all, ever again, because it has all been dealt with at the Cross, and the believer has appropriated that for themselves. This is part of what it means to be a New Creation in Christ. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new is come! (2Cor 5:17)


Top picture in this article is an obvious photoshop of legendary actor Charlton Heston as Moses in the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments. My apologies to the late Mr. Heston for my shredding of the character he played 😉

00

…But only out of Curiosity

My favourite aspect, of the multifaceted modern phenomenon we call the Internet, is the humour.

Some of it is so clever, so witty, so perceptive and just so funny, that I never fail to be amused by something new every day. I believe God gave us humour as one vehicle with which to express the joy that is in our hearts; ironically, though, one of the first things to ‘go’ under the chronically religious mindset is the sense of humour; the sense of fun. So today I am going to share some classic military humour – the Officer Fitness Reports. These have been around for a while, but I wanted to get them up on my blog where they can be enjoyed by all.

In these reports, senior military officers are writing comments in routine progress reports on their charges; junior officers assigned to serve under them and be developed by the senior officer. These reports are – shall we say – less than complimentary, and are, in my view, just hilarious.

Maybe you can think of a few people yourself who fit these descriptions… 😉


  • His men would follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity.
  • I would not breed from this officer.
  • This officer is really not so much of a has-been,
    but more of a definitely won’t-be.
  • When she opens her mouth, it seems that this is only to change
    whichever foot was previously in there.
  • He has carried out each and every one of his duties to his entire
    satisfaction.
  • He would be out of his depth in a car park puddle.
  • Technically sound, but socially impossible.
  • This officer reminds me very much of a gyroscope – always spinning around
    at a frantic pace, but not really going anywhere.
  • This young lady has delusions of adequacy.
  • When he joined my ship, this officer was something of a granny; since then
    he has aged considerably.
  • This Medical Officer has used my ship to carry his genitals from port to
    port, and my officers to carry him from bar to bar.
  • Since my last report he has reached rock bottom, and has started to dig.
  • She sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve
    them.
  • He has the wisdom of youth, and the energy of old age.
  • This officer should go far – and the sooner he starts, the better.
  • In my opinion this pilot should not be authorized to fly below 250 feet.
  • The only ship I would recommend this man for is citizenship.
  • Works well when under constant supervision and cornered like a rat in a
    trap
  • This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.
  • Only occasionally wets himself under pressure.
  • This man is destined to go through life pushing doors marked ‘pull’.
  • This officer was Head Boy at Eton. The school reported that he could pursue any career path he wanted. Unfortunately he chose the Army. His map reading skills are illusory. His upper body strength might be described if he exhibited any. The only way he could pass A levels is if he ate someone else’s certificate.

 

Well, there we are. Sheer genius 😀 Hope you enjoyed them.


Header image shows actor Rowan Atkinson as Captain Blackadder, in the classsic TV sitcom, ‘Blackadder Goes Forth

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Say It Like It Is!

I’m a Yorkshireman. Call it a stereotype if you like, but it’s true for me: we Yorkshire folk like to say it how it is. We don’t pull our punches. We call a spade a spade, not a ‘long-handled digging implement’.

And so, I have named this little piece ‘Say it like it Is’, partly at the suggestion of one of my readers (in the comments for this post) and partly to continue in my Yorkshire heritage 😉 These quotations are from people saying it exactly how they see it – as are all my ‘quotations – style’ posts – and there’s a lot of truth here without all the dogma.

Read and enjoy!


“Jesus is how God has defined himself. Contrary to what many say, this is not a limiting, but a liberating definition, as it locates God within the human experience, not without it.

“Every emotional up and down, experience of bliss or its opposite, becomes a sacred space God inhabits and can be experienced by those whose recognition that Jesus is Lord opens them up to this reality”

– Jeff Turner

 

“If we are looking for a ‘creation narrative’, the best place to start is John chapter 1 and Colossians chapter 1, not Genesis chapter 1!

“Why? Because those [passages] came after the full revelation of God in Christ. Jesus said no one had seen the Father or knew the Father except the Son. So that means neither Adam and Eve or Moses had seen or knew the Father fully and accurately”

– Martin Fell

 

“You could say it’s part of human nature to want to be secure in our answers, where actually little such security exists outside the Relationship with God, where our security is in Him and our questions and answers will not disrupt that security in any way”

– Me

 

“Adam (אָדָם) is humankind imagining a monster god and being afraid.

“Jesus is God saying to humankind, don’t be afraid.”

– Brian Zahnd

 

“…Jesus did not speak in terms of theology—God, sin, heaven, hell, the end times—so we should not be looking for clues to detailed theology in the gospels; Jesus spoke in broader terms of love, positive behavior, relationships, and the expanding kingdom of God on earth”.

– Tim Chastain

 

“Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the way”

– Atle Peersen Bakken

 

“I find it completely risible that people who do believe in Hell threaten with Hell those who do not believe in Hell. Some threat, eh?”

– Me

 

“We get to dwell with God NOW and for eternity. That’s salvation! It’s more than religion, more than behavior; more than belief. It’s a new reality.”

– Christy Wood

 

“You do not create faith. Faith is created in you. Faith does not create. Faith trusts That which creates, and receives that which has been created.

“Stop trying to control the world, and simply trust. You will lose what needs to be lost, and gain what needs to be gained. Take the other route, though, and you will lose all that needs to be gained and gain all the needs to be lost, all while pursuing what cannot be gained in the first place.”

“Stop. Rest. Trust”.

– Jeff Turner


Finally, here’s a bunch of Yorkshire lads performing the ‘Yorkshire Haka’, a tribute to the All Blacks’ Hakas that they perform before rugby matches, but with a uniquely Yorkshire flavour. It incorporates four stereotypical Yorkshire phrases: ‘Eeh bah gum!’, ‘Where’s me whippet?’; ‘ ‘Ow much?’ and ‘Ah’ll sithee!’. *

As you have already seen, I have featured these sterling blokes in my header picture.

Say it like it is!


*Translations:

‘Eeh bah gum!’ is a mild expletive meaning ‘omg!’ or something similar

‘Where’s me whippet?’ is a reference to the idea that the stereotypical Yorkshireman always has a whippet dog

‘  ‘Ow much?’ – It costs how much?!! Yorkshire people are legendarily thrifty with their money and object to paying more for something than they have to, although actually they are equal to the Scots in generosity. Yorkshire and Scottish folk are (despite their reputations of being tight-fisted) the most hospitable people ever.

‘Ah’ll sithee!’ – I’ll be seeing you – like ‘cheerio’ or ‘goodbye’. As used by the late legendary Yorkshire cricketer Fred Trueman in his 1970s TV series ‘Indoor League‘.

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A Vewwy Gweat Fwiend in Wome…

You’ve probably gathered by now that I have a rather silly sense of humour. Very silly indeed.

And much of it is inspired by the revolutionary humour of the Monty Python team: Eric Idle, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Carol Cleveland (who was often known as the ‘Seventh Python’)

Not only was the Python humour genre completely different from other types of humour that had been seen before – especially on the prim-and-proper BBC (all kudos to them for taking the risk in the first place!) – but it was also written and performed by people who, in my opinion, rank among the greatest comic geniuses of all time.

I think that one of the best pieces they ever did was the movie ‘Life of Brian‘, its title lampooning the title of the movie ‘Life of Christ’, and which of course offended many stick-in-the-mud Christians when it first appeared. Even as a fundamentalist at the time, however, I saw it as being absolutely hilarious. Like all the best comedy, it lampoons, exposes and ridicules the silly little sacred cows we all have, and makes us laugh at ourselves. If we have a sense of humour, that is. Unless you can laugh at yourself, you shouldn’t really laugh at others. Conversely, though, if you can (and do) laugh at yourself, then that, in my view, gives you the right to laugh at anyone and anything, because you don’t take yourself so seriously that you can ever mean such laughter in a bad way.

Anyhow, here is the classic scene from Life of Brian where Pontius Pilate, played by Michael Palin, gets annoyed when the soldiers find his friend’s name – ‘Biggus Dickus’ – to be funny. This is probably the greatest comedy sequence of all time, in my book. Added to the brilliant comic timing and the expressions on the actors’ faces is the wonderful choice of words in the script that take maximum advantage of the lisp that the character Pilate has in this movie. If you haven’t seen this before, this will explain the strange nature of my title for this piece.

Right, over to the Pythons. You may need a box of tissues on hand because this might well reduce you to tears of laughter.

“I will not have my fwiends widiculed by the common soldiewy!”

Classic. Laughter is definitely one of the best things that God invented, along with the joy that feeds it. Laugh out loud, and love it, and live!

Peace and Gwace to you!


Header picture shows Python team member, the late Graham Chapman, in his role as ‘Biggus Dickus’, Pilate’s vewwy gweat fwiend in Wome, from later in the movie. Chapman also played the lead character, ‘Brian’. Or, should I say, ‘Bwian’? 😉 hehe

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Arctic Intercept!

My friend Toby pointed me in the direction of this article, from the website UK Defence Journal:

“The Royal Air Force will reportedly be on high alert in the coming weeks in order to track cargo flights from the Arctic region.

“The move has been prompted by an incident around a year ago in which Typhoon aircraft escorted a Lapland registered aircraft (flying from the Arctic region) over the UK’s major cities, the pilot of the craft was said to be under the influence of alcohol and very “festive”, this is especially dangerous due to the sheer volume of cargo the aircraft was carrying. This is expected to happen again.

“An MoD spokesman had this to say:

‘ “Interception is part of what the QRA* force do. We have to identify and confirm who or what is flying through our airspace or approaching our airspace and since the craft appears at the same time each year, we have a fairly good idea who will be flying but we don’t take any chances.” ‘

“The Ministry of Defence used satellites with infra-red sensors to track the aircraft last time this happened, it is understood that the heat from an animals red nose was clearly visible and it was at this point RAF aircraft began escorting the bright red aircraft over every British city, town and village.

“More on this as it develops.”

Here’s the link to the original article.

 

 

 

In case you haven’t got it yet, it’s a joke. I won’t spoil it for you; go and read it again if you didn’t ‘get’ it.

 

 

 

Of course, it’s about Santa Claus. Father Christmas. Yep.

 

I do think it’s sad that at this time of year, so many religious people moan and protest about Santa and about the emphasis on him, rather than on the ‘Reason for the Season’: Jesus Christ. They trot out ‘Put the Christ back into Christmas’; ‘did you know that ‘Santa’ is an anagram of ‘Satan’ ‘, and other such tired phrases. What happened to the joy of celebrating that God gave us the ‘Gift’ of His Son, to show us how much He loves us? And then there’s the classic religious conundrum: How does a Christian family approach the unavoidable problem of the Santa story? Do we ‘lie’ to our kids and tell them he exists? Will they feel betrayed when they find out the ‘truth’? What about their friends who believe in Santa; do they tell them the ‘truth’ as well? Well, let me tell you our story first.

Y’see, I can really identify with that RAF story I led with, spoof though it is 🙂 Because I must confess that when my eldest son, David, was a toddler, at the beginning of 1991, we jokingly told him that Santa had been shot down over Iraq…  😉 As the story went, he had been clobbered by a heat-seeking surface-to-air missile homing on Rudolf’s nose…

But it wasn’t as bad as it sounds! David already knew it was a joke. You see, our view as a young family in those days with regard to the Santa stuff – and don’t forget I was really ‘religious’ back then – was that we never told our David and his brother Richard (born in 1987 and 1989 respectively) that Santa exists, but we however did tell them that other kids believed in him, so it was our secret that he was not real – and that they were not to tell their friends. In this way, the boys had a secret that they knew they had to keep, so we involved them in the Santa myth in a passive sort of way. The point that it was a secret meant that they kept it to themselves with great joy – the ‘we know something you don’t know’ principle! And so they already knew that Santa had not perished by enemy action; that was how they knew it was a joke – or at least David did. Rich was only 19 months old at that point…

For my daughter Ellie, though, born nine years after Richard, we had matured somewhat, and we decided to ‘let’ her believe in Santa right up to the point where she asked us if Santa was really ‘you two’. She was about ten years old when she rumbled us. And we ‘fessed up, of course. She wasnt fazed by it at all; she had really outgrown it by the time she worked it out. And she never suffered any psychological damage; the Santa myth was useful for her childhood.

How? Well, you see we ‘adults’ look at this question with the black-and-white ‘logic’ of, at least for some of us, ex-Evangelicals. We see it as being either lies or truth. But kids’ minds don’t work that way. Kids routinely enact fantasies that they know full well are untrue, but the fantasy thing is simply a game to them. It’s probably even more than that too; at that age they are developing the ability to think and develop ideas of their own, and fantasies are all part of the way that they test reality. For that reason, amongst others, I would say that a belief in Santa is actually healthy…even if as they grow up, they realise all the incongruencies and inconsistencies – how does Santa manage to deliver toys to over a billion kids in eight hours without waking up all the kids (even the good ones!) with a sonic boom – all this does is to help them differentiate between fantasy and reality; fact and fiction. Comic books and superheroes do the same thing. They know it’s not true, but it doesn’t matter; it’s fun – and that’s the main thing.

But also that knowledge and ability to distinguish fantasy and reality mean that we can still indulge, as adults, in fantasy, even just for a little escapism. I know full well that what Spiderman can do is impossible – but that doesn’t stop me enjoying a Spiderman film *precisely because* I know it’s all made up.

And then, to bring it full circle, I also think that an ease with fantasy actually helps us cope with the ‘fantastic’ – in the sense of it looks like fantasy – truth of our real Superhero, Jesus. He is the One of Whom all these other guys with ‘magical powers’ – Santa, Superman, the Hulk – are but a reflection. An ease with such earthly fantasy therefore makes it easier to grasp the real supernatural world, much of which we can indeed only access by imagination, and not entirely through empirical experience. I have previously written on this idea here, using the Star Wars universe as my model.

Of course, the decision of how to approach the Santa story is entirely up to parents. And, partly because of the reasons I have put forward here, amongst others (especially that it’s none of anyone else’s business), there are as many different outcomes to this as there are families. Each family needs to decide these things on an individual basis, based on their own views, beliefs, philosophies, personalities, relationships and needs, and without recourse to others’ opinions. Especially where those opinions involve guilt-tripping and condemnation. While, for some reason, this is the sort of subject on which feelings can run pretty high, yet people also need to respect each other’s stances on these often sensitive decisions.

For a most interesting piece on this subject, I’d also like to recommend a post by my friend Tim, author of the blog ‘Jesus Without Baggage‘, which served as a primary inspiration for this present piece, along with the discussion afterwards, in which I took part. You will no doubt recognise most of my ideas in this piece in that discussion.

Click the graphic below to go to the article, where Tim talks about five different ways that people approach the Santa story:

And while on that subject, here’s a tip for any fellow bloggers reading this: I have had some of the best inspirations, for my blog articles, from discussions resulting from others’ blog posts. This is mainly because it gets you to think about things that you might not normally think about, you form new opinions, and you see things from different angles, including the viewpoints of others. This is a great way to build wisdom and maturity! Try it!

Finally, back to old Rudolf:

 

 

 

I think that’s brilliant. Of course, there was an explanation for it. It’s just a bunch of guys setting up a Christmas display in a shopping mall in Hull, Yorkshire, UK. Here’s what it looked like when it was finished:

So you see he didn’t really kill them. It was all just a fantasy 😉


*QRA stands for ‘Quick Reaction Alert’; an originally Cold War term referring to interceptor fighters ready to scramble (launch) against an incoming threat – like a Soviet bomber or reconnaisance aircraft. There are pictures of QRA fighters intercepting Russian ‘Bear’ reconnaisance bombers on this page.

 

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