Category Archives: Music

Dwelling Places

This entry is part 18 of 18 in the series Fiona

The heart of worship is to draw near to God; to see more of Him; to desire strongly His Presence, to kneel (literally or figuratively) before Him and tell Him how much we love Him.

It’s eleven months since we lost my lovely wife Fiona. And Fiona’s heart was always that of a worshipper. Worship was our way of life, staying close to God and singing His praises whenever the opportunity presented itself 🙂 As I said here, basically if there was any excuse for us to break into song, we’d be singing and making music in our hearts to Jesus.

As I have already shared in that article above, Fiona gave me this lovely Scripture from her favourite Bible translation, The Message – because she said it reminded her of me!:

“Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.” (Eph 5:18-20 (Message))

And I love that – ‘Any excuse for a song….’ and that’s just what we were like together.

Fiona is, of course, now in that place where she can worship with the full, yet still increasing, knowledge of what God is really like. She is in His Dwelling Place – the place where He is – and likely worshipping her heart out. It’s what she did, and I have no doubt that it’s what she does. Worship is not only what keeps me going, but it’s what I believe Fiona has gone to. Have you any idea what a tremendous comfort that is to me in my bereavement?

And so, once again, the brilliant Terry MacAlmon comes to my aid. As I listen to this beautiful worship song, Dwelling Places, once again I am transported into God’s Presence. How lovely indeed is His Dwelling, because that’s where He is. So in a very real sense, as my heart rises up in worship with this song, I am worshipping with the angels and with Fiona in the Throne Room of Heaven. And there’s no place I’d rather be. Sitting at Jesus’s feet and basking in His Presence.

So, here’s the lovely song ‘Dwelling Places’, by Miriam Webster, sung by Terry MacAlmon, Shauna Chanda and Ruth Ann Johnson. Be blessed:

Lovely are Your dwelling places
Thirsty I come after You
Jesus, my joy, my reward
Your love’s restoring my soul
Now I’m Yours and You are mine
And from my heart a song will rise

I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
And my heart will follow wholly after You

Jesus, there is none beside You
Righteous, ruler of the earth
Nations will come and bow down
Name over all names
I sing You praises
And all that I can say to You is

I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You
I love You, I love You, I love You

And my heart will follow wholly after You

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Paul’s Effervescence!

St. Paul is one of my favourite Bible people. Like me, he was a recovering Pharisee; freed from the shackles of burdensome religion and released to fly in the huge, vast realm of the freedom of the Spirit.

While I was trying to find a decent portrait of Paul for the header image for this piece, I found that, without exception, he has been depicted as a serious, even miserable-looking, old gronk. Not a single smile anywhere! Well, I tell you what, I don’t believe he was like that at all, at least not once he had met Jesus. It seems then that for many centuries (given the age of some of those pictures I found!) that people have thought of Paul as being a stuffy fuddy-duddy theologian who sat alone in a dark room, scribing dull, dusty letters full of law and restrictions. But nothing could be further from the truth! Remember, Paul was freed from his former life of slavery to the Law, and in Philippians 3:8 he says that he has lost all the former things – all the ‘religious’ things he tried to do to please God – and indeed considers them as dung (the Greek word ‘Copros’ is correctly translated as such in the KJV). Indeed, Paul was the Apostle of Grace; so far removed from legalism that, to him, he considered himself dead to the old ‘Law of sin and death’, and also declared to other believers that this was the case for them too (Rom 6:2; Rom 6:11)

So, then, I think that Paul’s writings have been read from the wrong point of view for so long. If people are going to read this stuff with the mindset of dour, dry religion, then of course they are going to come out with the dull, miserable conclusion. But I think that actually Paul was writing from the angle of overwhelming joy and fizzing, bubbling, effervescent Life; indeed Life in all its fulness! Here’s why I think so.

Firstly, may I suggest you try reading the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians? Here’s a link to it if you need it (it opens in a new tab). Paul’s exuberance in that passage is immense; he throws around huge dollops of it in his proclamation – maybe even his shouting (if he’d written it on a computer it most likely would have been on CAPS LOCK!) of the Good News; his heart is simpy bursting with it and it seems like he can’t contain himself. In fact, he can’t! His description of Christ’s blessings and God’s generosity flows unchecked, and you can almost hear him laughing with the sheer joy of it as he writes (or maybe dictates) the letter. What a breath of fresh air! He’s simply fizzing with it – hence my use of the term ‘effervescence’ in my title; the word simply means ‘fizzing’.

His letter to the Romans is a great example of a case in point. In the midst of his chain of logic in that letter, there is an underlying current of great joy and liberty as he tells his beloved brethren in Rome just how huge, how great and how wide is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think that Paul’s letters are best read with the assumption that there is huge joy just beneath the surface of his writing. Perhaps if you assume he’s nearly laughing with every stroke of his pen, you will get a flavour of what he is feeling and where he’s coming from as he writes!

His effervescent joy in his letter to the Romans peaks in chapter 8. Beginning with the incredible good news,

‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of Life has set us free from the Law of sin and death…’ (Rom 8:1,2, he goes on with some more incredible, glorious truth:

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Rom 8:11);

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children…” (Rom 8:16);

“For the creation was subjected to frustration…in hope [eager expectation] that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious  freedom of the children of God” (Rom 8:20,21) [clarification mine];

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28);

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom 8:31-34) [emphases mine]

Of course, many Christians look at phrases like, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Rom 8:12,13) and try to make up Rules about things. In other words, to try to live up to their calling by ‘doing’; keeping Rules, in order to be acceptable to God. But a) in its context and b) in terms of Paul’s ex-Pharisee background, this is not what it means at all. I mean, Paul has already established that the Law and the flesh work together to procude death. In this context, living by the flesh means that people try to be righteous through their own efforts, in other words, by trying to keep the Law. As if, in the middle of an exuberant chapter on freedom and lack of condemnation, Paul, the archetypical ex-legalist, is going to suddenly drop in a bunch of Rules? By no means! He’s already dealt with the Rules earlier in his letter. We have already established that the Law leads only to frustration and death; death meaning a complete lack of the Life that Jesus calls us to; the Life in the Spirit. That Life automatically enables us to put away the things of the flesh precisely because we are living by the Spirit.

And, for me, the culmination of the whole chapter is in vv. 35-39:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:35-39)

This is to me the ultimate in security. I have written before on the subject of ‘Once saved, always saved‘. But to me this is the icing on the cake, and I can’t emphasise this enough:

Nothing can separate us from the Love of Christ!

Nothing, nothing, nothing. Nothing you do or don’t do; nothing you say, nothing you believe, not death, not life, not arguments, not sin, not good nor evil, not anything in the past, present or future. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. You are eternally, completely saved, for ever, in life and in death and everything in between. The writer of the book of Hebrews puts it like this:

Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, seeing that he lives forever to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25 (KJV) )

‘Save to the uttermost’, I feel, expresses it somewhat more emphatically than the NIV’s ‘Save completely’. ‘To the uttermost’ means that there is no degree more to which we can be saved!

Saved from what? Saved from a pointless existence, saved from the fruitless toil of life, saved from a life of sin, saved from all judgement (Jn 5:24), saved for Heaven, saved and made whole (that is the meaning of the Greek word ‘sōzō’, the word we most commonly translate as ‘salvation’), saved for Jesus to live His life through us by His Spirit. I tell you, this is all good news! There is no bad news at all in the Gospel. Can God make something containing darkness? No! In Him there is no darkness at all! (1Jn1:5) No, the Gospel is 100% Good News. There’s so much more to this than what I can write here, but you can begin for yourself by reading, maybe again and again until it becomes a part of you, Romans Chapter 8.

Wow! You just need to take a deep breath after reading this, don’t you? No wonder Paul was so exuberant! This is Life, and Life in all its fulness! (Jn 10:10)

So, your take-home message is this:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:35, 38-39)

Amen!


Tell you what. In order better to help you to get that Scripture into your head, I’ll treat you to a lovely, but catchy, rendition of that Scripture. It’s ‘Who Shall Separate Us‘, from the Harvestime tape ‘Worthy is the Lamb

Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?
Who shall separate us from the Love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress,
Shall persecution, or famine or nakedness?
Or peril or sword
From the Love of our Lord?


 

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Praise Him!

I make no apology for including yet another Terry MacAlmon song on my blog, nor indeed for it being another number in which Shauna Chanda doubles the brilliance of the piece by leading with her amazing voice and obvious love for Jesus.

This one’s called ‘Praise Him‘, by Lynn DeShazo. As usual, let the song lift you as you agree with the singers (Terry MacAlmon, Shauna Chanda and Ruth Ann Johnson) and, indeed, praise Jesus for all His goodness towards you.

Praise Him, Praise Him
Praise Him, Praise Him

We have assembled to praise the One we love
We join the chorus of the angels up above, oh yes…
They sing hosannas and praises to our King
So we lift our voices all together now and sing

Praise You, Praise You
Praise You, Praise You

We are Your children, we’re here just to seek Your face
Lord we come boldly before Your throne of Grace
To love and worship You, and listen to Your voice
You are our Father, and how our hearts rejoice

Praise You, Praise You
Praise You, Praise You

We love You, We love You
We love You, We love You

I love seeing the worship responses of the different people in the congregation. Some are actively singing with their hands lifted up. Some just standing and not singing, but just receiving. Some just sitting quietly listening, one couple sitting close together and just soaking in the worship. No self-consciousness at all, in fact; they are just concentrating on Jesus, each in their own way worshipping their Lord. This is simply beautiful, and it’s at times like that that I realise how much of an honour it is to have the privilege of leading precious people like these in their worship. This is beautiful worship, with beautiful music, to our beautiful Saviour.

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Rest In Your Love

This entry is part 16 of 18 in the series Fiona

This post marks the ninth month since we lost my gorgeous wife Fiona. Once again, like last time, it’s another musical post, to celebrate Fiona’s tremendous musical talent and at the same time to take a look at more of the tremendous Love of God that has kept me afloat for three-quarters of a year.

Fe and I used to sing a lot of songs together, sometimes with both of us singing, sometimes with me just backing her on the piano or guitar. One of our favourite songs was one that ranked in our ‘personal memories’ scale nearly as highly as ‘our’ song ‘Where you go, I will go‘, and it was called ‘Rest in Your Love’, by Phil McHugh, and recorded by Mo James, a gifted Leeds-based singer whose talent was sadly never really recognised nor developed as far as it could have been. The song is from her only album. More Love, released in 1982*.

I must testify that, for all our lives, we have rested in God’s Love. I have especially rested in that Love since Fiona died, for ‘underneath are the Everlasting Arms’ (Dt 33:27). That’s why I chose the top picture for this post: firstly to illustrate Fiona’s stunning, radiant beauty, and secondly to show little Lucy, our grand-daughter, ‘resting’ in Fiona’s love as she feeds her. This picture is such a good illustration of what this song is about – resting in God’s immense, illimitable parental Love. Fiona and I loved singing this song, and, in so doing, giving the testimony of the words that meant so much to us and which were so real in our lives.

This is why I have shared it in this post.

Here we are, then; Rest in Your Love, sung by Mo James.

It appears that the tempter never sleeps
It seems my best is always just out of reach
But I take comfort from the promise of Your unending care
I will rest when I reach out and find You’re there

And I can rest in Your Love, I’ll rest in Your Love
It brings such a healing,
When life’s got me reeling
There’s no sweeter feeling than to rest in Your Love

It’s not easy to be human, You know that first hand
The flesh and the Spirit both make their demands
But here I am on this road of life, I’ve got to walk it through
And the best way is to walk it right beside You

Well I can rest in Your Love, I’ll rest in Your Love
It brings such a healing,
When life’s got me reeling
There’s no sweeter feeling than to rest in Your Love

I’ll always need You, I’ll always need You

Rest in Your Love, I’ll rest in Your Love
It brings such a healing,
When life’s got me reeling
There’s no sweeter feeling than to rest in Your Love

 


*Tragically, Mo died of a brain haemhorrage in 1999

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Holy, Holy, Holy!

Just like how there’s nothing like a full orchestra for scoring cinema/movie music, there really is no instrument like the piano for leading worship. Of course, being a pianist, I would say that, but really it’s so expressive and versatile. You just can’t beat it.

And one of the best worship pianists around is Terry MacAlmon. Some months ago, I majored on the worship themes of Heaven, using a lot of his music, and this post goes on from that.

So, here’s the classic hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy!, written by Reginald Heber and with the tune Nicea by John B. Dykes, but played by Terry in his inimitable style. This song also is themed on the worship of Heaven; let it lift you up, along with Terry’s enthusiasm, tremendous playing, and obvious anointing 🙂

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

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El-Shaddai

This entry is part 15 of 18 in the series Fiona

Fiona and I always shared an irreverent sense of humour. And, despite having lost her, my sense of humour is still just as wacky 🙂 Our outlook on life has always been free and flippant! Because we were (and are) both completely secure in our relationship with Father, we felt free to make jokes about our faith, sometimes to the consternation of other churchy types who were nearby – although to be fair, we didn’t usually use that type of humour in the presence of those who would not understand, because it would have made them uncomfortable. I sometimes think that people are afraid of God, despite 1 John 4:18, which speaks about perfect love driving out fear… sadly, then, there are many Christians – and people from other faiths too – who declare that ‘God has a sense of humour’, but whose ensuing fake laughter usually belies that belief. Lolz.

But not Fiona and I. We were wacky all the way, in ways I won’t share here because, well, I suppose you had to be there…

Now, here’s another worship song from our youth – El Shaddai, sung by the legendary Christian artist Amy Grant. And, for us, this song has a wacky story behind it. We first saw this song in the Dales Bible Week songbook for the 1985 Dales Week, entitled ‘Enthroned on High‘. But we didn’t actually hear the song at that time.

The ‘foreign’ words in the song are just some of the Hebrew names for God, and because of the sense of humour Fiona and I shared, and in the way that we always made irreverent jokes about absolutely everything, we decided for definite that the song was put in that Dales songbook in order to enable people who didn’t ‘speak in tongues’ to sing something that sounded foreign enough to pass as ‘tongues’. Some won’t find that funny. We thought it was bloody hilarious. And this is the first time I have made that public knowledge 😉

And then we heard the song a couple of years later on a worship tape, if I recall correctly, and we loved it immediately.

I’ve put it in Fiona’s series on my blog, because it reminds me so much of the time we had together, the worship we shared, Fiona’s wacky sense of humour that complemented mine so well, and the great times we had singing it together, with me on piano and Fiona’s tremendous vocals. She was a lady of great talent and, over the months, I have sorely missed her pure, wonderful singing voice, and her gentle spirit coming through in her music.

And the song is indeed beautiful, and is well worth hearing. Released in 1982 on Amy Grant’s breakthrough album ‘Age to Age‘, this song was one of the numbers that made her famous. Here it is, with its lovely arrangement, great dynamics and excellent chord emphases along with Amy’s brilliant talent.

Enjoy!

El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonia,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
We will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.
 
Through Your love and through the ram,
You saved the son of Abraham;
Through the power of your hand,
Turned the sea into dry land
To the outcast on her knees,
You were the God Who really sees,
And by Your might,
You set Your children free
 
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonia,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
We will praise and lift You high,
El Shaddai.
 
Through the years You made it clear,
That the time of Christ was near,
Though the people couldn’t see
What Messiah ought to be
Though Your word contained the plan,
They just could not understand
Your most awesome work was done
Through the frailty of Your Son
 
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonai,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
I will praise You ’til I die,
El Shaddai
 
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
El-Elyon na Adonai,
Age to age You’re still the same,
By the power of the Name
El Shaddai, El Shaddai,
Erkhamkha na Adonai,
I will praise You ’til I die
El Shaddai.

– Michael Card/John W. Thompson

I’ll also relate another humorous story about this song. Fiona and I were once in our Church in Leeds when there was a guest lady who’d come in to perform an expressive dance, and she did it to El Shaddai. And she did it really well; it was very moving and expressive and spiritual and all that. Right up to the point where she slipped and did a spectacular comedy-accident fall, through the drum kit if I remember correctly, to the accompaniment of crashing cymbals et al. She was ok, but boy was it funny, and Fiona’s irreverent sense of humour came to the fore and I’m convinced she only narrowly avoided serious internal injury due to her attempts to suppress her laughter. I know it sounds bad to laugh at that sort of thing, but the young dancer was fine, as was the drum kit, and it was even funnier because of all the knights in shining armour who gallantly leapt to the young lady’s rescue, almost causing a further accident in their haste to render assistance.

And to the lady’s complete credit, she got straight back up again and carried on with the dance, bless her 🙂

Anyway, there we go. A lovely song with lots of happy and funny memories for me. Fiona loved it 🙂

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With Eyes For Only You

This entry is part 14 of 18 in the series Fiona

The other day I heard, for the first time, a song that has utterly blown me away: My God and King written by Shauna Chanda and sung beautifully by her on Terry MacAlmon’s worship album, The Sound of Heaven.

At the moment, I can’t listen to this song without my heart bursting with worship, and often even weeping with the sheer weight of glory that falls upon me. Only three or four times in my life so far has a song had this effect on me, (the main one I can remember being When I Look into Your Holiness in 1983) and this song, My God and King, is one of those songs. It’s been a long time since a song has had such a profound impact in me; I can feel the Spirit reaching in to the deep places of my heart as I sing or listen to it, and I feel Him minister His deep healing of the wounds I have received over the last three and a half years of Fiona’s illness and her passing. This song stirs up the deep spirit of worship within me like no other I have ever heard, and in that worship is my healing in God’s Presence.

Fiona at our son’s wedding, September 2009

I love how the song describes that, for the worshipper, to see God face to face and to be with Him would be their dream come true. And this is partly why I have included this in Fiona’s series – because indeed her dream has come true and she now sees God face to face, and worships Him there. Her heart longed to be with Him. She never heard this song on this earth, but I bet she’s singing it right now! I can imagine her lovely soprano voice singing it; she would have loved this song, it’s exactly the kind of song she loved best. A beautiful love song of worship where I declare, and live out, that I have eyes for only my Jesus, my God and King – even, and especially, through the storms of life.

So, with this in mind, here’s the brilliant Shauna Chanda singing her song, with the inimitable Terry MacAlmon on piano. It is my prayer as I write this that this song will bring healing to you too, in whatever area you need it:

 

My God and King
To You alone I sing
You’re the face I seek
For all eternity

My God and King
To You alone I sing
You’re the face I seek
For all eternity

You’d be my dream come true
Just to be with You
How I’d see brand new
With eyes for only You

My God and King
Through the storm I sing
Covered by Your wing
This song of love I bring

You’d be my dream come true
Just to be with You
How I’d see brand new
With eyes for only You

You’d be my dream come true
Just to be with You
How I’d see brand new
With eyes for only You

You are my dream come true
Just to be with You
Now I see brand new
With eyes for only You

With eyes for only You

With eyes for only You

I have eyes for only You

– Shauna Chanda

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Lucy’s Song

This entry is part 13 of 18 in the series Fiona

Here’s another spontaneous post about Fiona, my lovely wife who tragically passed away from cancer last October.

What makes this post really special is that I am featuring a song in which Fiona is actually singing. Fiona recorded very few songs, I don’t really know why we didn’t really record much music together; I guess we were both always completely spontaneous 🙂

So, this is a lovely little number called ‘Lucy’s Song‘, by Heather Pope, and we discovered the song on an obscure little tape called ‘Celebration – Things of Beauty’, (recorded in the 70’s) while Fiona was at University in 1982. The track I am presenting here is Fiona’s cover of that song recorded in July 1985. What’s especially wonderfully prophetic with this cover of Lucy’s Song is that it’s as if Fiona recorded it, half a lifetime ago, for our grand-daughter Lucy, who’s now 7. Lucy loved her Nanny Fe and was heartbroken when she died. This song is Fiona’s legacy to Lucy, telling her that despite life’s storms, and despite her Nanny Fe not being there for her, still her loving Heavenly Father holds her closely in His hands.

I think this is a song that Lucy will treasure.

I apologise that the backing track is a little out of tune; this is because this was one of my dad’s early forays into four-track portable studio recordings, as I said, in 1985, which back then was all done by adjusting the tape speed to retune the tracks, and it appears he got it a little wrong. But the vocals are the focal point here; Fiona’s voice is the higher, purer soprano while the lower, more smoky and husky voice is her best friend, Cath. Their voices always went so well together and it always amazed me that I should be so privileged to be able to make music with these two superb vocalists. Here we go then: Lucy’s Song, vocals by Fiona and Cath, backing instrumentals by Johnny Douglas (my dad’s stage name):

Lucy, when the sky is cloudy, smile
Lucy, when your mind is racing, rest awhile
For there is time for all you long for, time for so much more
And every day’s a new beginning for you

As the springtime turns to summer, so you’re changing day by day
And the rain has come to water all the land
And the drops of life fall heavy, sometimes they’re hard to understand
But your Loving Heavenly Father holds you closely in His Hand

Lucy, when you don’t know what you’re thinking
Lucy, when you feel that life’s too hard
Remember to give your cares and worries to the One Who loves you so
For every day He’s walking close to you

As the springtime turns to summer, so you’re changing day by day
And the rain has come to water all the land
And the drops of life fall heavy, sometimes they’re hard to understand
But your Loving Heavenly Father holds you closely in His Hand

Yes, your Loving Heavenly Father loves you and understands!

Lovely!

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The Heavenly Perspective

This entry is part 12 of 18 in the series Fiona

To be honest, I was at a loss for what to write for my regular 25th-of-the-month article about Fiona. Over the three weeks or so before writing this piece, (which was actually written about ten days before it was published), I have been quite fed up; I’ve certainly not been my usual buoyant, optimistic self! It’s mainly because a number of occurrences and circumstances have together reminded me especially of the permanence – at least for this life – of my loss of that amazing lady. We were very close and we shared everything. And so, I am missing her so much, and there is this huge gap that she left in every area of my life. And of course there are the huge gaps in the lives of all the people who loved her. We lost a real treasure on that day, seven months ago today.

And yet, as I have shared previously, I know she is in the presence of her Lord Jesus. She is in an amazing place where she has her animals, she can worship the Lord face to face – and she is most likely part of that great crowd of people in Heaven that I mentioned in my previous post*.

Let’s look at them again:

“And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:3-4)

Those are people who can see that God’s purposes in History were all part of His Great Plan, on a level and of a complexity that we cannot even begin to fathom. As I’ve said before, we can only gain an inkling in this life of how that all works, what the answers are to Life’s Big Questions. But these guys have what you might call the Heavenly Perspective – they can see what’s really been going on all this time, and, like I said before, they worship God in response to what they have seen!

Now, think of it like this: I too – and you – are also in that great multitude. And so,  you see, it means that we too can live today from within that Heavenly Perspective that our ‘future selves’ will know. Part of bringing the Kingdom into today, part of our eternal life in the here-and-now, is surely to bring that Heavenly Perspective into our lives, and the lives of others we meet, today. Jesus said that “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mt 3:2). This meant that wherever Jesus was, so there the Kingdom was. He was bringing forward, into the lives of the people around Him, the glories and benefits of the Kingdom of Heaven. And because Jesus lives in us by His Spirit, that same Kingdom is here with us right now, in our everyday lives. All we really need to do is to realise this!

Now, we know that one day we will be singing with that great crowd, in the full knowledge of God’s huge creative and redemptive genius throughout history, where we will see that even those things that bother us now were but a part of that huge tapestry of interconnected events that all worked out in the end. We will in fact have that Heavenly Perspective. We too will see how it all worked; how that great Plan happened and how it all came together.

And so, because we will see that perspective then, why not pre-empt that and live in that knowledge now? We know even now that, one day, we will know in completeness what everything was all about (1Cor 13:12) like those in that great crowd, why not today join with our ‘future selves’ in their knowledge that it’s all great, and actually just fine and dandy. You can imagine our ‘future selves’ thinking wryly (because there will be no regret in Heaven!) “Oh if only I’d had that perspective back then!” But we can indeed have that perspective right now!

I hope this makes sense; it is a bit metaphysical, and I know as well as the next guy that it’s hard to maintain a ‘Heavenly Perspective’ when life is burning us and we are still in the flames of whatever troubles we are going through. Believe me, I have been through the fire these past three years; I have walked the walk, and the talk I am talking is based on what I have learned over that time.

But, you know, the Scripture speaks of ‘Treasure in jars of clay’ (2 Cor 4:7) – something immeasurably valuable in ordinary human bodies. It speaks of us having the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, a downpayment if you like, to guarantee the things that are to come (2Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14). This is what powers the Life in the Spirit.

What does this life look like? Well, I have written a piece on this here, but I will summarise by saying that there is joy, there is healing, there is power, there is love, there is freedom from bondage, freedom from religious Rules, freedom from the power of sin, freedom from addiciton, freedom from the fear of death; there is the overriding sense of God’s Presence that gives this immense ‘peace that passes understanding’ (Phil 4:7) – a peace that is beyond understanding because it cannot be explained in terms of worldly circumstances. And beyond all that, there is this:

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” ” (John 11:25-26)

Sounds as if Jesus is contradicting Himself, doesn’t it? But He’s not. He’s using the old Hebrew poetry device where two concepts are matched together to reveal a deeper truth. What He meant was that when we die, we will still live. He’s talking about the ‘afterlife’, if you like. And He reinforces this by saying that when a living person like you or I believes in Him, we will not die, since He has already explained that we will still live even after death. So, in a totally real way (not just ‘in a sense’, as I was going to write), this means that once you believe in Him, your life will be one amazing, long walk with Him through this life and, without pause, into the next. Jesus says it quite plainly, in fact, in John 5:24, where He says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”. Did you see that? A believer has already crossed over from death to Life! It happens now. This is the assurance that Christians have. This is the assurance that Fiona had, and now knows in full measure. This is the Gospel, or at least a huge part of it. Passing through the veil of death at the end of a believer’s life here on earth is merely the moving on into the fuller, complete life we have been just starting to get used to, during our lives here. This is simply amazing stuff; it’s the sort of thing you can build your entire life on (Matthew 7:24).

This is the inheritance of the Saints (that’s you and me and Fiona) – eternal life beginning now, and continuing for ever. How’s that for Good News! Of course, the thing with an inheritance, remember, is that it’s something you get in this life because of Someone who has died. Go figure!

So, as the old hymn goes:

“Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine and ten thousand besides!”

Wow!

And so, in the light of my opening lines here about being fed up, even just writing this piece has buoyed my spirit again. It has reminded me once again of all the mighty promises in God that are mine – and yours – to hold and to use. I needed to regain that perspective. And I have.

Even now, for the things I have already seen in my life and in the lives of others, I can still worship God for what He’s done already, very much like those people in Heaven.(Psalm 145:4).

So, I am asking God to increase my awareness of the Heavenly Perspective, like the one that Fiona and our ‘future selves’ have. It’s very much a foretaste of what is to come!

And for such great things as these, what better response than worship? Let me leave you, then,  with a great song based on the words those saints are singing – The Song of Moses:

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb
Saying Great, great and marvellous are Your works, Lord God Almighty
Just and true are Your ways Lord, O King of the Saints
Who shall not fear You O Lord

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb
Saying Great, great and marvellous are Your works, Lord God Almighty
Just and true are Your ways Lord, O King of the Saints
Who shall not fear You O Lord

Hallelujah, O Hallelujah!

Be blessed!


Header picture shows Fiona on the South-West Coast Path overlooking St. Mary’s Bay, Brixham, on a glorious Devon spring day. We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the country, and Fiona always loved this walk. If Heaven is anything like Devon – and I believe that everything beautiful on this earth is a pale reflection of the glory and reality of Heaven – then it will be glorious indeed.


*I know that the Book of Revelation is not intended to be taken entirely literally. But there are still passages in that book that nevertheless show a glimpse of things indescribable to the human mind, through the use of metaphysical imagery. Basically it’s the best that John (the writer of Revelation) could do given the limited descriptive powers at his disposal – the same limits that you or I would come up against even today, were we to try to describe the inexpressible things he saw in his vision. And so, I have no problem in setting aside some of the more weird imagery in that book until such a time as Holy Spirit makes its meaning clear to me, while at the same time getting to grips with those parts – like the passages in this piece – for which I feel I have sufficient revelation (no pun intended; I hate puns!) to make a decent case for my insight in this piece.


[Edit: Not long after I wrote this post, there was a terrible terrorist suicide bomb attack on a crowded arena in Manchester. It was at an Ariane Grande concert; 22 people at least lost their lives and many more were injured, many of them young people and children. I don’t know why these things happen. But it is my sincere wish that people from such bereaved families find this post and take comfort from it. It’s easy to say this now, but, believe me, one day it will all make sense. I say that not from a callous heart but from one that has been through the same kind of fire. Jesus loves you. God loves you. Rest in the knowledge that your loved one(s) are being held gently in God’s arms. If you want to contact me about this, please do so and you’ll find the contact link in the menus at the top of the page. Or post a reply below.]

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All The World He Made Is Good

Here’s a lovely song by my favourite Gospel singer, the brilliant Don Francisco. No prizes for guessing what it’s about 😉

In beginning was the Word
And He spoke and made the world
Then He filled the sky with light
And He saw that it was good

Land and sea then living things
Teemed and swarmed and multiplied
And all of life lived as it should
And God said that it was good

Yes He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

Man and woman stood serene
Walked with God in gardens green
God blessed all His hands had made
And called it beautiful and good

Yes He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

(Instrumental)

Sit very still and look around
See the colors, hear the sounds
Let all His love come shining through
‘Cause your Father made it all for you

And He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

And He said that it was good
Bird and beast and rock and wood
Let this truth be understood
All the world He made is good

(Extended instrumental outro)


So much of Christian theology explains the state of the world – the disasters, the poverty, the cruelty of man and nature – as being because the world is somehow ‘bad’. And that the ‘badness’ is explained because of humanity’s ‘Fall’ in the Garden of Eden. The thing is, for me, the Eden story is part of the Jewish creation myth that was never intended to be read as actual history – and I don’t believe that the world is bad like that theology asserts. Yes, that’s going to annoy the Biblical literalists, but that’s not my problem. The part I do believe is that, because God is good (and in Him there is no darkness [evil]) (1Jn1:5), then I believe He created the world as good as well – in Genesis 1:31 it says that ‘God saw all that He had made, and it was very good’. And I believe it is still very good.

Without going into detail about why bad things happen (I do examine these ideas a little in this article about ‘Life’s Big Questions’), I also think that the first and the last books of the Bible contain two symmetrical ideas.

Let me explain. In Genesis 1:31,  we saw that ‘God saw…that…it was very good’. In Revelation 15, there is a great crowd in Heaven who can all see the great things God has done, and how He has worked things out according to His purposes. All things have come to their conclusion, and the huge and mighty wisdom of God, through the ages of history, has been revealed. Here’s what they sing:

“And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Rev 15:3-4)

As I have previously written in this article, they can see all of History in its vast sweep and scale, with all its hatred and horror, with all its triumph and joy, and still they sing that song. They see how everything has worked out for good for those who love God and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) – and that His righteous acts have been revealed.

So, bringing these two symmetrical threads together – Yes, the World is Good, and Yes, somehow God works His purposes out despite – and through – all the bad things that happen. The world was good in the beginning, and somehow, because God is working His purposes out, the world is good now as well.

Ok, this might all seem a bit nebulous in the light of international bad things that happen like tsunamis, famines, ISIS and Donald Trump’s presidency. And it is indeed a kind of Rabbinic teaching concept, where opposite views are held in tension in order to find the truth somewhere in between. But taking the two arguments from Genesis and Revelation together, we can see that actually things are good, God is (somehow) working His purposes out, and it will all fall into place – and make sense – in the end. What a day that will be!

Right, I have thrown a pile of ideas at you, none of which probably makes any coherent sense – but that means it’s now time to go and meditate on it. Think about it, let the Spirit guide you into all truth (Jn 16:13). If what I’ve written helps, great; if not, just discard it and enjoy the music 🙂


I chose the header image because it is a combination of a cloud-covered Earth, an eclipsed Sun with the ‘diamond ring’ phenomenon and with the Moon’s shadow projected onto the cloudscape, and the backdrop of our own Milky Way galaxy behind. Even the huge scale of the objects represented here is miniscule compared with the beyond-incomprehensible size of the Cosmos. All the world indeed is good. And God is bigger than all that and yet He – the Creator of the Universe – chooses to live in us. How awesome is that?!

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