Category Archives: Others’ stuff

In the Presence of Jehovah

Here’s another magnificent song from Terry MacAlmon, In the Presence of Jehovah, by Becky and Geron Davis.

Terry is just so talented on the piano, and this piece showcases this skill to excellent effect. And this song speaks of the healing that is to be found in the Presence of God. As you listen to this lovely music, just let your heart be lifted up by the Holy Spirit, and let Her minister healing to your innermost being.


While much of the recording is instrumental, I have also included the lyrics for the verses too.

In and out of situations,
That tug-of-war at me
All day long I struggle
For answers that I need
But then I come into Your presence,
And all my questions become clear
And for this sacred moment,
No doubts can interfere

In the presence of Jehovah,
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended,
In the presence of The King

Through His love the Lord provided,
A place for us to rest
A place to find the answers,
In the hour of distress
Now there’s never any reason,
For you to give up in despair
Just slip away and breathe His name,
For He will surely meet you there

In the presence of Jehovah,
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Troubles vanish, hearts are mended,
In the presence of The King

Let your heart be lifted and your spirit refreshed. Feel the Presence of God right there with you.

Be blessed 🙂

10

The Adventure of Freedom

(Thoughts by Chris Martin)

Two things I rarely, if ever, think about. Sin or the devil.

I actually believe sin was dealt with over 2,000 years ago on the Cross. I have reckoned myself dead to it. I no longer have to beg God to forgive me for anything, because He already did. Completely.

I don’t go through my day trying not to sin. I wake up as a son of my Papa. So washed clean that I squeak when I walk. Lol. I used to live in guilt, condemnation and shame, because I focused solely on everything I did wrong. What a hellish way to go through life.

I was lost, but now I’m found.
I was blind, but now I see.
I was dead, but now I’m alive.
I WAS a sinner, but now I’m a saint.

And the devil? Pfffft. He is a cut off, withering branch that can’t amount to anything. He’s not omnipresent, so I can’t blame all the bad things that happen in life on him. Stuff happens. It’s really that simple. Car battery dies…I don’t start “putting on the armour” and prepare for battle. I go to the auto parts store and get a new battery. Problem solved.

I have submitted to God. That in itself resists the devil. I don’t even think about him.

It’s amazing the growth I’ve experienced in my relationship with Father since I began to focus on who I am. Who I was created to be. Why I’m on this planet.

And it all began when the revelation of His unconditional love for me, and all of humanity, became much more than head knowledge. It became a heart reality.

What an adventure this has been.


For more on this sort of topic, check out my own article in a similar vein:

This is My Freedom

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Guarding Your Freedom

In this excellent piece, my online friend Dave Carringer paraphrases part of what I call the ‘letter of Freedom’; St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:


Don’t be deceived; you’ll have to guard the liberty Christ gave you. Remember, it was for freedom alone He made you free! The ‘law’ isn’t restricted to just 10 rules on a rock. Any stipulation or requirement you strive to live for will keep you from bearing the natural fruit living from Him will produce in your life! Oh, they won’t bombard you at first; but will subtly slide your neck in the yoke one rule at a time.

It may start like “just add this in the spirit”… or “just cut this off in the flesh”… but once you agree to just one of their rules, they won’t stop until they have you straining to keep their whole list! And you’ll be cutting something off all right… YOURSELF… from the Life giving flow of Grace and Truth already within you! Trying to ‘do’ a certain thing or ‘stop doing’ other things to please God… will profit you absolutely nothing. He’s already pleased with you because of Christ IN you, who came with all the faith you need which flows beautifully unrestricted through His Love. You’re not under any form of ancient ‘agreements’ made with any other people groups… but are simply free to Live & Love as sons and daughters of God.

Understanding this alone will produce more lasting fruit in your life than you’ll know what to do with! Of His fullness you have received… and you are complete IN Him; so do yourself a favor and cut yourself off once and for all from anyone or anything that says you need something else! (Galatians 5:1-6 dcv*)


*’Dave Carringer Version’ – i.e. his own personal paraphrase 🙂

10

Christianity vs. Biblicism

Here’s a superb piece by the renowned Christian thinker and pastor, Brian Zahnd.

During my ‘Dark Night of the Soul‘, one of the things that Father God set me free from – in this case, quite forcefully – was the idea that the Bible is the be-all and end-all of the Christian faith, and that its ‘authority’ trumps even that of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the fruits of ‘Biblicism’, which Brian describes in his piece below.

Here’s the piece, which I think is well-written, balanced, gentle and informative.


Christianity vs. Biblicism
Brian Zahnd

(This is my foreword to Keith Giles’ excellent new book, Jesus Unbound.)

As modern Christians we are children of a broken home. Five centuries ago the Western church went through a bitter divorce that divided European Christians and their heirs into estranged Catholic and Protestant families. The reality that the Renaissance church was in desperate need of reformation doesn’t change the fact that along with a reformation there also came an ugly split that divided the church’s children between a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. In the divorce settlement (to push the metaphor a bit further) Catholic Mom got a long history, a rich tradition, and a unified church, but all Protestant Dad got was the Bible. Without history, tradition, or a magisterium, the Bible had to be everything for Protestant Dad — and Protestants have made the most of it. For five hundred years Protestant scholars and theologians have led the way in biblical translation, scholarship, and interpretation, giving the Christian world such notables as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jacob Arminius, John Wesley, Karl Barth, C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, T.F. Torrance, Walter Brueggemann, Stanley Hauerwas, Fleming Rutledge, Richard Hayes, N.T. Wright, to name a few.

But with Sola Scriptura as a defiant battle cry there always lurked the temptation to place more weight on the Bible than it could bear, or worse yet, a temptation to deify the Bible and make an idol out of it. This has become increasingly true among the more fundamentalist clergy and congregations who are suspicious of higher education and unwilling to read their Bibles with the help of biblical scholars the caliber of Brueggemann, Hayes, and Wright. So while pretending to “take the Bible as it is,” the fundamentalist reads the Bible through thick lenses of cultural, linguistic, political, and theological assumptions — interpretive lenses they are unaware of wearing.

This has led to the thoroughly modern and peculiarly Protestant problem of Biblicism. Biblicism is an interpretative method that reads the Bible as a “flat text” where every verse is itself “the word of God” and carries the same authority as any other verse. Biblicism, in effect, attempts to make the Bible the head of the church. Where Catholics err in seeking to give ultimate authority to the Pope, Protestant Biblicists err in seeking to give ultimate authority to the Bible. What Christians are supposed to confess is that Christ alone is the head of the church. The risen Christ said to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto me.” With his wry British wit, N.T. Wright reminds us that Jesus did not say, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given unto a book you chaps are going to write.” The irony of Biblicism is that for all its claims about giving final authority to the Bible, in reality Biblicism enables the individual reader to remain their own private authority. So if you don’t like Jesus’ explicit call to an ethic of nonviolence, you can always appeal to the wars of Joshua and David to countermand the Sermon on the Mount. This is how you use Joshua to trump Jesus. Perhaps the most clever way to ignore the commands of Christ is to cite an opposing chapter and verse. By reading the Bible as a flat text and selecting the corroborative proof-text, you can gain a biblical endorsement for nearly anything — including wars of conquest, genocide, women held as property, and the institution of slavery. This abuse of the Bible has a long and well documented history.

One of the chief problems of Biblicism is that it fails to make the vital distinction between the Bible and Christianity. Christian faith is a living tree rooted in the soil of Scripture. We cannot remove the tree from the soil in which it is rooted and expect it to survive; but neither are we to think that the tree and the soil are the same thing! They are not. Put simply, the Bible and Christianity are not synonymous. Yes, they are connected, but they remain distinct. Scripture is the soil; Christian faith is the living tree. They are connected, but they are not the same thing. So if the Bible assumes that slavery is both a tolerable and inevitable institution (see Ephesians 6:5), even explicitly stating that slaves are slaveowners’ property (see Exodus 21:21), that doesn’t mean this is the Christian ethical position on slavery. Christianity is not a slave to the Bible — Christianity is a slave to Christ! Out of the soil of Scripture grows a mature Christian faith that is not only able, but required to oppose all forms of slavery in the name of Jesus. Rooted in the soil of Scripture, Christianity is capable of growing an ethical bough of justice called abolition.

Since the canon of Scripture is closed, the soil of Christian faith is unchanging. But that doesn’t prevent the living Christian faith itself from growing, changing, developing, and maturing over time. Of course, how it grows and changes will often be a matter of fervent debate within the church; and the deeply fractured nature of the church compounds the complexity of this problem. Nevertheless, to understand Christianity as a living tree rooted in the soil of Scripture enables the church to grow in new and redemptive ways within God’s moral universe. To say that Christian faith is forever rooted in Scripture, yet distinct from Scripture, is both conservative and progressive. Conservative in that it recognizes the inviolability of Scripture. Progressive in that it makes a vital distinction between the living faith and the historic text. But to claim that Christian faith is one and the same with the Bible is a fundamentalist mistake that is ultimately untenable. For example, I’ve seen Biblicists backed into a corner trying to defend the Bible by saying, “sometimes slavery is a good thing.” This is Biblicism at its worst.

The ancient orthodox alternative to modern heterodox Biblicism is to say what the church has always said: Jesus Christ is the true Word of God. The Bible is the word of God, only in a penultimate sense. The Bible is the inspired, canonized witness to the Word of God who is Jesus Christ — the Word made flesh. Only Jesus Christ is the inerrant and infallible, perfect and divine Word of God. We come to accept the Bible as authoritative in the ongoing conversation about Christ that is Christian theology through the witness of Christ and the church — not the other way around. Without first appealing to Christ and then secondly to the church, we can’t even account for how the Christian Bible came into being. The risen Christ commissioned the church to bear witness to the gospel throughout the world. In the course of obeying Christ’s commission the church composed, collected, and canonized certain writings that became the New Testament. But we don’t start with the Bible; we start with Jesus and the church. Why? Because Jesus is Lord, not the Bible. Christians worship Jesus, not the Bible. Jesus is the head of the church, not the Bible.

In reading Jesus Unbound: How The Bible Keeps Us From Hearing the Word of God, some readers will regard Keith Giles as controversial. I insist this is not so. Giles’ approach to the Bible is not novel or modern — it’s the orthodox way the Church Fathers read the Bible in the formative centuries of Christianity. It’s modern fundamentalist Biblicism that should be regarded as controversial and ultimately rejected as heterodox. But I also understand that a Biblicist approach to the Bible is the default position inherited by most American evangelicals, which is precisely why Giles’ book is so helpful, so timely, and so important. So as you begin your reading of Jesus Unbound, be assured that you are on solid ground — and keep your Bible close at hand, because as a lover of Scripture, Giles will refer to it over and over again. Both Keith Giles and Jesus Unbound are firmly rooted in the Bible.

BZ

(The artwork is the 6th century Christ Pantokrator mosaic in Hagia Sophia.)


Click here for the link to the original article


Since this is based on an American article, the links to the book in the article go to Amazon.com. For the book on the UK Amazon site, click this link.

20

…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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Universalizing Faith

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series The Stages of Spiritual Growth

I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post in this series, The Stages of Spiritual Growth. To be honest, I have been thinking very hard about this subject and trying to come up with something meaningful.

You see, the thing is that I personally have no experience of this Stage of Spiritual Growth, if indeed it exists, and thus I would be writing from what is essentially a position of ignorance. But there are three things. First of all, just so long as my readers understand that I am writing this piece from that standpoint, and that I don’t really know much about this subject, then I’m not deceiving anyone – and I will write down my thoughts on it as I see them at the moment. Secondly, I am making the assumption that Stage 6 exists even though I personally believe that in some ways it’s just a natural progression to increased maturity in Stage 5. But then, as I said, I really don’t know. I must be honest and say that I have read Fowler’s chapter on this Stage and I can’t make head nor tail of it. Nothing has ‘clicked’ with me at all; it is all completely outside my experience. And finally, I can always draw on others’ perspectives and examples, which I do later in this piece.

So let’s begin our exploration of this Stage by looking at the summaries for Stage 6 (Fowler) and Stage IV (Peck) in that familiar tabular form (you can click on it to enlarge it):

Note that Peck combines Fowler’s Stages 5 and 6 into his single Stage IV. I think this is fair enough as this differentiation of Stage 6 is somewhat of a grey area, as I have already described, and in any case this whole thing about the ‘Stages of Spiritual Growth’ is very much a generalisation. Most people, being on a spiritual journey, are not necessarily ‘in’ a Stage at all; it is mainly useful as a tool to see how the structure of people’s faith changes as they too change personally. Or not; not everyone matures in this way – some stay where thay are and are perfectly happy, while others sometimes ‘jump’ straight into one ‘Stage’ or another without having any previous background in matters of faith. This is especially common with people who jump straight in at Stage 5, without going through Stages 3 and/or 4 first. I know quite a few people like this, in fact.

Let’s look at Fowler’s formal definition of Stage 6:

“Stage 6 is exceedingly rare. The persons best described by it have generated faith compositions in which their felt sense of an ultimate environment is inclusive of all being. They have become incarnators and actualizers of the spirit of an inclusive and fulfilled human community. They are “contagious” in the sense that they create zones of liberation from the social, political, economic and ideological shackles we place and endure on human futurity. Living with felt participation in a power that unifies and transforms the world, Universalizers are often experienced as subversive of the structures (including religious structures) by which we sustain our individual and corporate survival, security and significance. Many persons in this stage die at the hands of those whom they hope to change. Universalizers are often more honored and revered after death than during their lives. The rare persons who may be described by this stage have a special grace that makes them seem more lucid, more simple, and yet somehow more fully human than the rest of us. Their community is universal in extent. Particularities are cherished because they are vessels of the universal, and thereby valuable apart from any utilitarian considerations. Life is both loved and held to loosely. Such persons are ready for fellowship with persons at any of the other stages and from any other faith tradition.”

Where Fowler refers to part of Stage 5 as, ‘…without being stuck in a spiritual box’, I think that part of that is an increased understanding of the perceptions of those who have a differing point of view on the spiritual life. Which, when you think about it, is virtually everyone, since I don’t really think that anyone believes exactly the same things as anyone else; we all believe slightly differently. Even for people as close as Fiona and I were, we still believed slightly different things. In fact, one of Fiona’s things that she didn’t agree with me on was this very subject – the Stages of Spiritual Growth 🙂 Anyway, I feel that this illustrates my earlier point that Stage 6 is perhaps more of a natural progression, a deepening if you like, of attitudes and modes of belief and thinking from Stage 5. In this example, then, someone in Stage 5, realising that their views have changed, become more fluid, or if they have undergone a major deconstruction of their previous belief systems, then they might also realise that they don’t have everything right, and in fact are unlikely ever to do so. This makes it far more likely that they will have sympathy with those of other viewpoints – or even different faiths – simply because they realise that they didn’t have it all correct when previously they were so certain that they did, so what’s to say the other guy is wrong and we’re right? Of course this takes a bit of clear thinking and a lot of humility – as we shall see – but the Spirit does ‘soften’ people to the point where they can make this transition.

It’s especially important to remember that God moves us each through the Stages, if indeed He does so move us – as we have already seen, not everyone necessarily moves through Stages’ like we are describing here – all in His own good time. When and if God is ready to move us further into maturity, He will see that the right circumstances come into being at the right time and so on. In fact, the moving on is a gradual process anyway; as we spend each day walking in the Spirit, we will naturally mature. The transformation of the believer ‘…from one degree of glory to another’ (2Cor 3:18) strongly suggests that it was St. Paul’s experience that transformation occurs in degrees, gradually, one piece at a time. And we can expect this. So there’s no need to be all hung up about ‘progressing’; all we need to do is to rest in Jesus and He will perform the good work in us (Phil 1:6).

Having rambled on for a while from the perspective of my own, nonexistent, experience of anything beyond Stage 5, let’s also do the healthy thing and listen to others’ takes on the subject.

 

Here’s Margaret Placentra Johnston:

Apparently people in this stage are able to overcome the action/inaction paradox of Stage 5 and are able to sacrifice their own well-being to that of their cause. NOT in the sense of a soldier going off to war. This is very different! Fowler uses the word “subversive” to refer to these people because their contributions are so radically different from the views of the rest of society. Such people commit their total being to their identification with persons and circumstances where the futurity of being is being crushed, blocked or exploited. (They risk their own safety in order to help the helpless in unexpected ways.) ” [1]

 

Bill Huxley:

Stage VI – The Saint (Universalizing)

This Stage is the most difficult to understand. It is also very rare. It involves two major transitions:

1. “Decentralization from self, in which the self is removed from the centre of the locus of the individual’s life. It is a move beyond the usual human obsessions with survival, security and significance, coupled with a continued widening of the circle of “those who count”.

2. A shift to the complete acceptance of the ultimate authority of God in all aspects of life.

Fowler found only 1.6% of the population that operated at this Stage. Of those over 61 years of age, examples might be Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King.” [2]

 

Plus, most contemporary individuals who have received this type of anointing [Stage 6 – Ed] would likely shun becoming part of a research project. Very strong guess on my part – but based on pretty firm evidence that humility is such a strong part of Stage 6 that these people have so divested themselves of “ego” and taken on the mind of Christ – or whatever tradition they belong to – so that their “stage” would be part of a hidden mystery” [3]

 

“It is a rare person who reaches this stage of faith.

James Fowler describes people at this stage as having “a special grace that makes them seem more lucid, more simple, and yet somehow more fully human than the rest of us.”

People at this stage can become important religious teachers because they have the ability to relate to anyone at any stage and from any faith. They are able to relate without condescension but at the same time are able to challenge the assumptions that those of other stages might have.

People at this stage cherish life but also do not hold on to life too tightly. They put their faith in action, challenging the status quo and working to create justice in the world”. [4]

 

At all the previous stages, the person is more of a student of his faith. At this stage, the person tends to be seen as an exemplar of his faith. Regardless of the particular faith tradition that might be represented, this stage is characterized by a certainty of one’s own beliefs, a generous openness to the journey others are on, a sincere compassion for one’s fellow man, kindness, and the ability to be genuinely present, that is, to make the people they are with feel a sense of significance and sacredness just by keeping company with them.

Regarding this last quality, I think of the stories I have heard from people who were in Pope St. John Paul the Great’s presence who said that even if there were 100,000 people around them, for the moment they were with him, they felt like they were the only person in the world who mattered. Obviously, achieving this stage of faith is very rare but it is observable. If you think of the handful of people who you might consider to be truly holy, who are known for both their strength of faith and their genuine openness of heart, you will have a good sense of what I mean.” [5]


I think it’s fair to say that I would be completely remiss if I failed to point out two obvious people from the Bible whom you could categorise as Stage 6 people, if I can presume to describe God Incarnate in this way – one of these people, Who is of course Jesus Christ. If you read through Fowler’s definition above, most if not all of it applies to Jesus. He brought change and liberation wherever He went; He kicked out against the established religious and also, sort of, the political system – although this was not quite so overt. He was martyred for the trouble He caused. And so on. In every way, Jesus sets the example we can aspire to, as He always does, and He’s also the One Who does the inspiration and the changing. And His teaching continues to be the strongest individual influence on modern-day morality and legislation, far more than that of any other person in history.

Although I would also point out St. Paul as my second example, you could also pick out other Biblical writers, particularly those who wrote the New Testament (NT). Because of the lives they lived in the service of their King, their writings and influence have been immortalised – no matter how controversially – in the pages of the NT. But I like to single out Paul because not only was he the most prolific of the NT writers, but his history is also pretty well-known from an historical point of view. Paul was very much someone who fits Fowler’s definition of a Stage 6 person too, although obviously not to as great an extent as Jesus. Paul in particular used his many talents, but especially his intelligence; his skills and training in debate and logic; and his extensive knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures that we now call the Old Testament (OT) in the service of Jesus. While Jesus’s declared focus was on the Kingdom of God, Paul’s focus was in Jesus Himself as the manifest Kingdom of God. In so doing, he advanced not only the Kingdom but also the knowledge of Jesus, which amounts to the same thing. “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him” – 2Cor 2:14

I think it also extremely important that this Stage must not be used as any kind of measuring yardstick for real people; more than any other, this Stage the is one where, unless we know something about it, any comment or criticism can only be made from a position of ignorance. And in any case, we shouldn’t be judging others anyway. Despite this, the Pharisees of Jesus’s day nevertheless criticised Him and eventually killed Him, partly because people at a ‘lower’ level* of the Stages of Faith cannot possibly conceive of someone who is ‘further along’ than they are; they assume they are heretics – or at least a threat to their power base – and they kill them, either literally or figuratively. We have no right to diss that which we know nothing about.

Another point worth considering is that to attempt to ‘define’ this Stage is effectively to limit it. We all have our own sets of limits and boundaries within which we categorise our ideas, concepts and perceptions. While Fowler refers to a certain outwardly visible form of ‘holiness’, ‘selflessness’ and ‘saintliness’ (my words, not his), I am absolutely certain that there are many unknown people walking among us this very day whom we, if we could take off the lid and peer inside their spirituality, would find are excellent examples of Stage 6 people. Maybe these people are not as rare as Fowler tended to think! You see, to me, it seems that one of the defining characteristics of such people – if indeed ‘definition’ is possible – is that they don’t tend to advertise what they are doing ‘for God’ or ‘for’ His Kingdom. They just get on with it quietly. I know of at least one person like that; in fact I’d think that you do too. It doesn’t need to be a publicly visible or apparent faith, or a visible life of sacrifice, nor does the person have to be a thorn in the flesh of the religious elite. They can just get on with being Jesus to everyone they meet, in a completely self-giving and self-sacrificial way. And, in those cases, I do sometimes wonder if we can even consider Stage 6 people to even be part of a Stage of any kind. They are so far beyond – in a good way – the criticism and judgement of others as to make such criticism or judgement irrelevant. At the same time, such criticism or judgement is still hurtful to them, because they would never want to think that they are ‘letting Jesus down’ in any way. Of course, here I am talking about Christian people in this Stage, but there will of course be Stage 6 people within any faith tradition. Like in Christianity, they will be rare, but they will indeed exist. This is what is called being ‘humble’, or ‘humility’.

In fact, my literary hero, C. S. Lewis, once described a ‘humble’ person like this. And I have no problem with equating this sort of ‘humility’ with Stage 6:

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” [5]

I think that’s pretty good, don’t you?

And I find it pretty hard to believe that anyone who has spent his or her life humbly walking with Jesus and listening to His Voice will not be drawn at least some way into this Stage.

They won’t be able to help it.

Anyway, hopefully this article has shed some light on this apparently most elusive of the Stages of Spiritual Growth. It’s been interesting to try to write a piece on something I know little about; hopefully I have done the subject justice!

In my next (and it will probably be my final) piece in this series, we will be looking at how these Stages apply in everyday life, and how we can use our knowledge of them to best effect.


*Although, as I have already said, to describe one Stage as being ‘higher’ or ‘beyond’ another is a misperception of what the Stages are all about. For more on this, take a look at what I wrote towards the end of this article.


  1. Margaret Placentra Johnston, link on her website to her PDF summary of Fowler’s Stages.
  2. Bill Huxley, “Fowler’s Stages of Faith
  3. Comment on a blog post on the Stages of Faith
  4. Handout on ‘Stages of Faith’ from this website
  5. Dr. Gregory Popcak, Patheos article entitled What Stage is Your Faith?, which is also a decent article on the Stages as a whole.
  6. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Header picture shows a part of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, a picture showing some of the most distant galaxies ever observed. This is what the distant reaches of the Universe look like from our position within it.

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The Hoax of Hell

Here’s a great little piece by the brilliant Lee O’Hare, on the concept of Hell.


If the traditional church teaching about hell is true and the vast majority of the human race really are going to spend all of eternity being tormented by fire, then why did not Paul, who wrote 1/3 of the New Testament, who was THE apostle to the Gentiles who told the Ephesians elders that he did not hold back declaring the “whole counsel of God” — why did he not one single time EVER mention hell or eternal conscious torment of those who fail to accept Christ in their lifetime?

And why is there not a single mention of hell or eternal punishment in any of the 19 sermons and sermon fragments in the Book of Acts which gives us an actual first hand eye-witness account of what the original apostles of Jesus actually said while they were proclaiming the good news of the Gospel in Jerusalem, Samaria Judea and throughout the rest of the known world that time? If it really is true that God is actually planning to perpetually roast billions of people in a torture chamber called hell don’t you think it would have been at least reasonable for at least one mention of that fact in the preaching of the original Apostles in proclaiming the gospel to the world?

If the destiny of the great majority of humanity is to spend eternity in an everlasting torture chamber unless they accept Christ and pray the “sinner’s prayer” before they die don’t you think it would have been fair of God to have actually made that so absolutely clear that there could be no doubt about it? Shouldn’t that have been the very obviously primary focus of the early church’s preaching as recorded in the book of Acts and of the Apostle Paul’s writing in all of his letters to the churches and the church leaders?

And don’t you think that somewhere in the Old Testament there would have been at least one mention of the impending punishment of the majority of the human race in the everlasting torment and flames of hell if that were in fact the destiny of all those who fail to accept Christ in this life? Do you think that maybe God just simply forgot to tell Adam and Eve what the actual consequences would be of eating that forbidden fruit if eternal torment in hell really was their destiny?

Is it possible that the omission of any mention of Hell or eternal torment might be evidence of the fact that it never was true and that the religious powers have perpetrated an incredible hoax and deception upon the masses of people in order to control and manipulate them through the fear of something that has its roots, not in true apostolic Christianity, but rather in Egyptian and Greek pagan mythology that was transferred into the church during its dark days of mixture and pollution with the secular and pagan Roman Empire which eventually became the Church of Rome that plunged the world into centuries of “The Dark Ages”?


Superb. For more on what I believe about Hell, along with links to others’ ideas, please visit ‘my Hell Resource Page

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American Pastors Rethink Homosexuality

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Coming Out

Previously, I have posted a video about American Christian parents who had rethought their stance on homosexuality and LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning and others) sexualities. And today I am posting a video by American pastors who also have learned God’s heart for LGBTQ+ people.

Why am I posting things by Americans, when I am British? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the persecution of LGBTQ+ people in the United States appears to have become somewhat ‘legalised’ – not that many Christians would care whether it’s legal or not anyway – since Mr. Trump’s Presidency has declared what appear, to the outsider, to be several pogroms against minorities. Anyone who is ‘different’ is made to suffer, it seems. I’d have no chance with my Asperger’s Syndrome! 😉

Secondly, it is usual in British Evangelical churches to parrot/mirror, in a somewhat dilute and more tacit way, the things that American churches take the lead on. And so, the ‘yeast’ of some American churches’ anti-LGBTQ+ attitude comes over here stealthily and infiltrates itself almost unnoticed into out attitudes, particularly among those who are unable/unwilling to think for themselves.

But this can have its advantages too. If some American pastors/church leaders and parents are taking the lead on changing their attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people, and changing the way they respond to the peer pressure of condemnatory naysayers, then this will begin to happen over here too.

Maybe one day you will be able to say ‘I saw it here first!’ (here on my blog!)

Anyway, here’s the video. It’s only 3 1/2 minutes long and is well worth watching:

I reckon in twenty years’ time, LGBTQ+ people will be accepted into churches, relationships and ministries in the same way as are heterosexual people. There will of course be bastions of self-righteous people who are still anti-LGBTQ+, but most people will ignore them just like they ignore ranting Christians already. Change takes time in religious circles, and religious people can be some of the most intractable and intolerant people on the planet. That’s not going to change. But as the Spirit works on people’s hearts, those who have ears to hear, people like me, will gradually come around to His way of thinking and include all of God’s children in their perception of God’s family.

And, make no mistake: I still believe very strongly that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (and other) folks are key to God’s plans in this time. I believe there will be amazing miracles, healings, reconciliations and social changes brought about by Christian LGBTQ+ people. Like other persecuted minorities, these people have a special place in God’s Heart, and it will become apparent soon enough.

I personally am looking forward to seeing that coming to fruition.

Grace and Peace to you.

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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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Chasing Eden – the New Reality

Here is a magnificently inspiring piece from one of my favourite bloggers, Christy Wood. Read this, soak in it, and let it produce its good fruit in your life!


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Something isn’t right. We know it in the very core of our being. We see it every day in the news, in our relationships, and in the creation around us. We are surrounded by death.

Beauty and brokenness. Hope and disappointment. The contradictions surround us.

Life is a struggle. Relationships hurt. We sense the wrongness.

death-2998446_1920 (1)There is an emptiness within us that we cannot fill…not with money or possessions, not with job promotions or titles, not with exercise or food, not with sex, alcohol, or our drug of choice. We dim the ache by staying busy and avoiding silence. We appease the longing with social media and various forms of entertainment. We try.

Our longing isn’t just spiritual or metaphorical. We can tangibly and physically feel the ache for something that we can’t exactly explain.

It seems like religion should make a difference, believing and doing the right things, but even that falls short of satisfying our emptiness. This is shameful to admit…because people say that God is the answer. We hear Christianese phrases like “there is a god-shaped hole in our hearts” and we wonder what’s wrong with us. If this is true, then why isn’t religion filling our hole?

Once upon a time, there was a garden…Eden.

In that garden, for however briefly it lasted, God walked with the people He had created in His own image. They knew what His footsteps sounded like. The people lived in perfect intimacy with God and with each other…with nothing between them and without any shame. But they lost it, and humanity has been chasing Eden ever since.

Do you believe that? Or is Eden just a pretty myth?

We do ourselves a disservice by dismissing Eden. That garden explains everything to me.

I was created to live in Eden…created for an intimate relationship with my Father God and with the people around me. Created to live in a perfect world where everything works according to it’s design. In the depths of my broken soul, that is what I long for…that is why I am never satisfied. I was made for more. You were too.

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We are magnificent creations trapped in broken bodies in a corrupted creation. Everything and everyone has been affected by sin and death. Destruction is a part of life.

No amount of religious activity, or busyness, or social media, or money, or status, or anything else will ever satisfy our ache for Eden. We will live with that ache until we die. But there is hope!

Too often salvation gets presented as a list of behaviors.

  • We do bad things (sin).
  • Those bad things need punishment.
  • Jesus died on the cross to save us.
  • Pray this prayer.
  • Now go do good things to show that you really love Jesus.

Wow! That’s not even close.

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Salvation is about restoration.

Yes, sin entered the world when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. But before they behaved badly, they were already doubting God and listening to lies. Their perfect relationship with Him was already breaking. It wasn’t a surprise to God…He knew this was going to happen and He made them anyway. Why? I haven’t a clue!! God is way too intense and crazy for me to figure out. 😀

Salvation isn’t about our behavior. It’s about God’s unending grace, love, and forgiveness.

Jesus came and showed us WHO God IS…face to face. Shocking the religious people, amazing the crowds, and touching the broken, Jesus reached into our hearts and began to restore. He started by restoring our concept of God. God is not who our doubts and fears tell us He is…He is only better, bigger, and more good.

Jesus then grabbed sin and death around the neck and annihilated them. He effortlessly destroyed them once and for all. Jesus set us free.

But even better than seeing God face to face and having Him be nothing like we feared He was, and even better than being set free from the power of sin and death, Jesus put Eden into our hearts.

The Holy Spirit, that mysterious third member of the Trinity, comes to dwell within everyone who chooses to put their faith in Jesus. God within His creation. The possibility of oneness with our Maker. And the restoration continues. The Holy Spirit never leaves us…no matter what it feels like. He empowers us, teaches us, and begins to remake us into the amazing creation we were intended to be. 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.

What does experiencing Eden in our hearts look like? I don’t know. I think it’s different for everyone. God is not limited to one cookie cutter experience. There isn’t a right Sunday School answer. This isn’t about religion. 🙂

For me, it means embracing the discontent and reminding myself that this is my pull towards eternity. It means recognizing that there is more to life than the physical things around me. It means accepting the reality of a mysterious Spirit and learning to know Him. It means giving value to the people I run into every day.

In these truths my heart can find hope, peace, and satisfaction. ❤ What does Eden mean to you?

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Here is the link to the original article

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