Category Archives: Others’ stuff

Arctic Intercept!

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

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

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

“An MoD spokesman had this to say:

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

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

“More on this as it develops.”

Here’s the link to the original article.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, back to old Rudolf:

 

 

 

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

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


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

 

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The Party We’ll Have in Hell…

My regular readers will know that I don’t believe that God torments people who don’t believe in Jesus,  forever, in a terrible place called Hell. Here’s a brilliant post about the incongruity of the idea of Hell by one of my favourite Christian bloggers, John Pavlovitz.

Click the graphic below to go there (to the article, of course, not to Hell! 😉 ):

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What is God’s Justice?

Nathan Jennings is another of the people I know online who has brilliant things to share when it comes to the love of God and how brilliant He is.

In previous articles, I have described how I believe that God’s Justice is one of redemption, restoration and reconciliation rather than vengefulness, wrath and retribution.

Nathan fleshes out this concept rather nicely in this piece, I think. Over to you, Nathan:


WHAT IS THE JUSTICE OF GOD?

First, what it is not, is the legal Western term most think of when they think of ‘justice’. Divine Justice is not justice in a judicial sense. God is not an angry Judge looking to convict someone for a crime.

Divine Justice does mean to make things right through healing and restoration. God is better likened to a doctor that heals a disease and His justice is always restorative, never punitive.

How does the Bible define justice, then?

“Learn to do good. SEEK JUSTICE BY HELPING the OPPRESSED, DEFENDING the cause of ORPHANS, and FIGHTING FOR the RIGHTS of widows”
Isaiah 1:17

“ADMINISTER JUSTICE every morning BY RESCUING THE VICTIM of robbery from the hand of his oppressor”
Jeremiah 21:12

“ADMINISTER REAL JUSTICE, AND BE COMPASSIONATE and KIND to each other”
Zachariah 7:9

“the Lord is waiting to SHOW you MERCY, and is rising up to SHOW you COMPASSION, because the LORD is a just God”
Isaiah 30:18

“HE WILL NOT CRUSH THE WEAKEST reed OR PUT OUT A flickering CANDLE. By doing this he will cause justice to be victorious.”
Matthew 12:18

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to PREACH GOOD NEWS TO the POOR. He has sent Me to PROCLAIM DELIVERANCE TO the CAPTIVES and RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO the BLIND, to RELEASE THE the OPPRESSED,”
Luke 4:18

Justice isn’t what God uses to punish, and certainly doesn’t act contrary to his love, but is used to restore that which needed restoration. To heal that which was sick. Divine justice is about rescue. It’s about compassion. It’s about defending the defenseless (forgive them, Father). It is about giving sight to the blind. It restores. Always. If it doesn’t restore it isn’t God’s justice.


Excellent stuff, eh?

Many people live in fear of ‘Judgement Day’. I don’t. In fact, I look forward to it with eager anticipation! Because that is the day when everything that was ever wrong will be put right. That’s the day when all injustice will be rectified, and death itself, and all its wrongness, will be destroyed forever. Yes!

 

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Affirmation and Freedom

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Coming Out

In this article by Rob Cottrell, he describes how it was the choice between maintaining his relationship with his Lesbian daughter, and following his existing faith beliefs to the letter that brought him into huge freedom in his faith. Truly, for each of us, God uses different means to bring us into that freedom.

This might sound like a bit of a no-brainer to most parents, but sadly, there are those who would rather follow ‘men’s’ interpretation of a book (Mt 15:9) than do something that is perceived by those ‘men’ as being ‘sinful‘. And of course pandering to the demands of those people always leads to more slavery to rules and regulations; they are never satisfied.

So, here’s Rob’s article, just click the graphic below to go to it. Enjoy!


Yeah, I know that my series on ‘Coming Out’ was supposed to have concluded with the previous piece in the series, ‘Conforming to the Pattern of This World‘. But I wanted to make this present article part of the series because of its relevance.

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If Hell Doesn’t Exist Then Why the Cross?

I’ve been asked by friends, ‘If you don’t believe in Hell, then why did Jesus have to die?’ And while that’s a good point, there is of course far more to Jesus’s death than His simply ‘purchasing our salvation’. There is so much more to the Cross (by that, I mean Jesus’s death on the Cross) than sin, than wrath, than most of the other attributes and meanings we ascribe to it. The deepest meaning, though, is of course the Love of God for us. St. Paul captures it well in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

But the question of Hell, now, that’s another thing entirely. I personally do not believe that God torments unrepentant people forever in a fiery furnace. I’ve written lots before on this subject. But even if Hell does indeed exist, as Evangelical doctrine would have us believe, to see the purpose of Christ’s death as only being that of ‘saving’ us from that Hell, now that, to me, narrows down the immense breadth and scope of Christ’s death to just the one item – saving us from Hell – to the exclusion of everything else.

And then there’s the somewhat scary idea that some Christians come up with: if there’s no threat of Hell, can’t we just do as we like? If sin is forgiven, isn’t that just a licence to go and sin as much as we like? Well, to be honest, the Cross would not affect that; if we wanted to sin because sin is forgiven, then the threat of Hell is clearly not working. No, to me, this indicates a serious misunderstanding of Jesus’s finished work on the Cross, the effect of the knowledge of God’s Grace in our lives, and the whole idea that if not for this idea of God holding the threat of Hell over us, we would simply sin, sin, sin. But that doesn’t make any sense to me.

Anyway, I read an excellent article on this subject recently by a friend of mine, Mark Darling of Queensland, Australia. Mark is a very smart man whose background is in psychology and applied neuroscience. He puts these arguments forward so much better than I could; why would I want to ‘reinvent the wheel’ when Mark has already written such an excellent piece? I will pass you over to Mark’s article now. Click the link below to go to the article:

If Hell Doesn’t Exist Then Why the Cross?

This essay is a breath of fresh air – definitely go and read it!

Grace and Peace to you.

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Exodus

I’ve always said that there’s no instrument quite like the piano. And it’s by far my favourite instrument to play.

And perhaps the most colossally brilliant pianist on the Christian scene at the moment is the amazing Terry MacAlmon. I love his style, I love his heart for worship, and I love his anointing and skill.

In this excellent demonstration of Terry’s ability, he plays the epic theme from the 1960 movie ‘Exodus’, original score by Ernest Gold. Note how he is offering what some would call a ‘secular’ score as an act of worship; some people wouldn’t be able to cope with that, but I personally have played secular pieces in worship; indeed I consider John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song‘ to be one of the finest worship songs ever written. Segueing then into his own song, ‘You Deserve the Glory‘, which I have shared on my blog before.

Let your spirit be lifted by this magnificent music – ‘secular’ or not – and enter into the worship that Terry takes you into so easily. I’ve put the lyrics to ‘You Deserve the Glory‘ below the video so you  can join in if you want to.

Enjoy!

You deserve the glory
And the honour
Lord, we lift our hands in worship
As we lift your Holy name

You deserve the glory
And the honour
Lord, we lift our hands in worship
As we lift your Holy name

For You are great
You do miracles so great
There is no one else like You
There is no one else like You

For You are great
You do miracles so great
There is no one else like You
There is no one else like You

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More of Darren’s Wisdom

On my blog, I’ve shared a fair bit of the wisdom of my friend Darren. He’s a man of great integrity and it is my heartfelt honour to share more of his thoughts. Enjoy, and be blessed 🙂


If, during your declaration of ‘truth’, you end up deeply hurting another soul, perhaps you need to re-examine that ‘truth’ in light of the true gospel!…

“Love casts out all fear”
“Love never fails”
“It was for love that He gave Himself up”
“If I have not love, I am but a clashing cymbal”
“Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves”
“Love is patient, love is kind”
“The truth shall set you free”
“Do to others as you would have them do to you”
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back”
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil”
“Love does no harm to a neighbor”
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”
“let us love one another, for love comes from God”
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs”
“Whoever does not love does not know God”

Love is no different to salt – it flavours. It draws out and enhances. It also kills bacteria (evil). It melts the heart like snow and ice on a footpath. If what we do or say makes someone even harder in their heart, we must examine if it is really love or not. There’s a difference between preaching love and preaching opinion. Our testimony is about love – how He loves us. So it becomes the Living word, preaching a living example of His love for us. A living testimony preached through action – “I love you because He loves me and has changed me”. This is preaching Jesus. Make me as salt Lord – to add flavour to other people’s lives.

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More Quotes…

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” – Anne Lamott

“Listen up fellow Christians. If your path to your understanding of Heaven requires you to provide a little Hell on earth for other humans, you are probably doing it wrong.” – Anon

“The only person more self-righteousness than a fundamentalist Christian is a liberal Christian who believes they have ascended above the petty self-righteousness of the fundamentalist to the glorious self-righteousness of actually being right!” – Jeff Martin

Where is the retribution in the Parable of the Prodigal Son? – Lee O’Hare

Just because everyone believes in a particular doctrine, does not mean that that doctrine is correct. Acceptance of the majority opinion does not make a doctrine true; it is simply more likely that nobody has questioned it! – Me

“Religion has made spirituality so terribly serious. Its a rather eye opening experience that when you launch out into the infinite realm of being with nothing but an open heart, a fierce commitment to truth and a steady hold on a loving awareness for whatever arises, what is actually discovered is a playful mystery seeking nothing from you, but giving to you a love that includes you in its own perfections.

“We’ve called our life “accomplishing a mission”, ” finding a purpose”, “fulfilling a vision”, “discharging a calling”, etc. Its all so gravely serious, sombre, rigorous….

“What if the purpose of your life IS your life? All of it. And what if all this internal and external landscape is nothing more than one infinite playground for your soul to discover its own participation in the delight of its own auspicious grandeur.” – Ron Wright

The only wrath in the Parable of the Prodigal Son is that of the eldest son. – Brian Zahnd

“The Bible is not inerrant, Jesus is. But don’t worry, that should only affect you if you’re a biblican (follower of the Bible), not a Christian (follower of Christ).” – Nathan Jennings

“Your questions aren’t dangerous. The people telling you not to ask them are”. – Jeff Turner

“The more you understand Grace, the more you become empowered to “be” who you already are. You’ll find yourself living more righteous by accident than you ever have on purpose.” – David Jones

‘There is no payment in forgiveness – Lee O’Hare

Religion takes away our greatest power of decision; religion tells you what to do, instead of allowing you to choose……Religion creates a slave, Love sets the captive free! – Jeff Walsh

Restoration to relationship is what the Father considers Justice. And so justice is satisfied – Brian Zahnd

I’d rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned. – Jeff Turner

 

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How I Want to Live My Life

Here is another excellent and thoughtful blog from Mike Douglas, who writes one of my favurite blogs, ‘Getting Back to my Future‘.

In this article, Mike writes of three principles that he wants to have in his life from now on: Wonder, Perpetual Discovery and Passion.

As a scientist and also as a man of faith, I can really identify with that. I have never lost my sense of wonder as a scientist. As a practical, professional laboratory chemist, I still think it’s awesome when I add this to that and it turns from blue to red. And I think it’s even more awesome if it explodes, catches fire or evolves clouds of dense smoke while it does it (in the extractor hood, of course!) 😀 I have an insatiable appetite for invention, discovery and the application of knowledge. I worked in medical research for twelve years before I began working in the pharmaceutical industry, so I have made my fair share of discoveries. I am a problem-solver who loves to take on seemingly intractable problems and work out simple, practical solutions for them. I am an ideas man and a fixer. And I approach life, work, play, worship and my faith in Jesus with a burning passion, intent on living life to the full no matter what I am doing at the time. And Mike’s blog post reflects those attitudes brilliantly; no wonder I identified with it so much. Without more ado, I will pass you over to Mike. Here we go:


I’m sixty-two. I’ve had it with ‘keeping up to the Jones’, material success and striving. I’ve had it with trying to be liked and accepted by people, so I can feel better. I’ve had it with worry, stress and ‘what might have been’. I’m tired of existing, settling for ‘what you see is all there is’. In short, I’m tired of small living. 

This is how I want to live the rest of my life. I want to live with wonder, discovery and passion. 

Wonder 

won·der

  1. a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. “The wonders of nature”

  2. desire or be curious to know something. Synonyms: ponder, think about, meditate on, reflect on, muse on, puzzle over, speculate about, conjecture; be curious about

  3. feel admiration and amazement; marvel. “People stood by and wondered at such bravery”

Isn’t there something inside you that wishes you could go back to the time of imagination and wonder?A place where all the worry, all the responsibilities and all the adult like appropriateness went out the door for a little while? It’s a place that doesn’t make rational sense, but each of us longs for it. 

Deep down, we all know there’s something magical and wondrous about life with Jesus – a God who loves us and His Son who died for us – but if we’re honest, many of us get over that early in life, or we push it away from our day-to-day mindsets. 

Sure, we have moments that remind us why we believe. But how often are we moved to a sense of wonder and curiosity about who God is and what He has done? Somewhere along the way, a sense of wonder became a relic of our pasts, tucked away in childhood memories. 

But recovering this wonder is a necessity in looking towards our hope for the future. 

Before you move on from reading this, pause for a moment and wonder, consider with awe, who God is, why He sent Jesus, that Jesus was willing to come and why. Be awed by the truth of mercy and grace and forgiveness and second chances and empowerment and healing and acceptance and being reconciled and eternity with Jesus and a new heaven and earth and… 

Perpetual Discovery 

per·pet·u·al

  1. never ending or changing. Synonyms: eternal, long-lasting, abiding, enduring, constant, permanent, uninterrupted, continuous, persistent, unbroken

  2. occurring repeatedly; so frequent as to seem endless and uninterrupted.

It’s when we discover who we are in God that we discover our purpose and find meaning. When we lose sight of our identities, we lose understanding of our purpose and meaning. And it’s this latter loss that happens to most of us. 

Embracing our identity in God is never done. Neither is finding out more of what He is like and how He sees us. 

Without a doubt or hesitation, the thing I want for you more than anything else is for you to discover your identity in Christ. And I want to continue to discover mine. It’s not hard. It’s all throughout the Bible. Scads of books have been written on the topic. While it’s not hard, the discovery will and should last a lifetime. It will transform you! 

Passion 

pas·sion

  1.  strong and barely controllable emotion.

  2. intense love. “Their all-consuming passion for each other”

  3. an intense desire or enthusiasm for something. Synonyms: enthusiasm, eagerness, zeal, fire, fascination, obsession, appetite

Passion is that thing that leads us into being part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s a unique word that is usually thought of as an emotion, but it describes something relational, something seen in us and in other people. But, passion cannot be rescued until we’re deeply connected to other passionate people. 

I want to fuel passion for our Lord for out of that comes meaning, acceptance and purpose. 

I no longer care if you or someone else looks on my passion for Jesus as flaky, immature or ‘a little over the top’. Deal with it! What I do care about is living in that passion perpetually and for you to find that same passion. I am praying to that end. 

Whatever our struggles, they all go back to three issues: a wonder for God that is lost, an identity that isn’t discovered, and a passion that has faded. While these three concepts were created by God, they can be filled by all types of substitutes, and they often are. don’t settle for the ‘knock offs’. 

Wonder, discovery and passion can no longer be distant childhood memories for me.


Here is the link to the original article

 

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