Category Archives: Others’ stuff

With Eyes For Only You

This entry is part 14 of 15 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

1
0

This is Our God

God loves to surprise His children with wonderful things.

Quite out of the blue, He will pop up something that, for us, is totally unexpected and brings us great blessings. An example from my own life, from two and a half years ago, is here. This sort of thing has happened to me so many times recently that I just can’t remember most of the events. But each time the surprise and delight is real. Some would put it down to coincidence and ‘confirmation bias’, which of course it could be. But these things are so personal, so targeted, that I really doubt that it’s coincidence.

But it’s not just me that it happens to, either. A few weeks ago, I was writing on Facebook about one of my favourite worship songs, and one of my friends came up with this lovely anecdote. I have ‘sanitised’ it of the song and personal details to avoid embarrassment, but have left it unchanged apart from that. Here is the story, just how it was told:

“I know the guy who wrote that song. I was a DJ in a small southern gospel radio station in the south, and I’d sneak in a worship song here and there. One day, I found that song on an album and put it on. A few minutes after I started it, a man came back to my booth, he was a new hire that had just started that day working in the office. He had tears STREAMING down his face, and asked me why I played that particular song. I told him because I’d just found it and previewed it and it brought me deep joy… he was sobbing. 🙂 Come to find out, he’d been struggling with so many things and had been really discouraged. He told me about how he and his wife WROTE that song and how it was just a sign to him that God had not forgotten him… so then of course I was in tears, too! lol, I had to put on a really long cut from the Kingsmen (10 minute song! lol) just to recover. 🙂 “

Wow. What a lovely story, and all because of a song that is one of my all-time favourite worship songs. I have several 😉 … But anyway, here’s the response I wrote to my friend:

Now that is a lovely story. Wow. It’s one of my favourite worship songs and always has been since first I heard it. I have used that song to bless countless people in congregations large and small, singing it with great anointing and reality. Because for me it’s true. Maybe you could encourage him some more with that. I am going to bed now with my heart rejoicing because of your story”.

I wish I could tell you which song it is, but I want to protect that man’s privacy. Sorry. But really, you could pick any one of the many worship songs I have posted on my blog over the time I’ve been running it, and you can bet there will be similar stories surrounding many of them.

And it’s simply because God is like that. He’s brilliant; He loves His children with a fiery, jealous passion that pales even the strongest natural mother instinct. If He made us to have that sort of love for our own children, how much more is He like that, given that we are made in His image?

This is what He’s like. This is our God.

0
0

Bullying in the Church

Bullying in the Church. You’d have thought, wouldn’t you, that a place meant to be known for healing, love and acceptance is also known for intolerance, bigotry and bullying. Sadly, extreme churches showing this kind of behaviour are generally the only ones who make the news – for example, the infamous ‘Westboro Baptist Church’; those who just quietly do the work of Jesus are never mentioned. Well, we can’t have Good News on the news media, now can we? 😉

Therefore, I must say first up that bullying does not go on in every church. My church, for example, is known for its acceptance of people from every walk of life from lawyers right up to the homeless 😉 And especially the homeless. We see every homeless person coming through those doors as Jesus wanting a hand. When I was naked, you clothed Me, and all that (Mt 25:36). And there are many, many churches out there which are similar; they simply show the love of Christ without partiality to all who would come.

But unfortunately some churches are still known for their insularity, exclusivism, dogmatism, and their intolerance for anyone who even slightly ‘strays’ from the ‘path’. Awkward questions are discouraged. Invariably, the leadership’s authority is unquestioned. Everything is tight as a drum with no wiggle-room, and the Bible is to be believed absolutely as inerrant, inspired and infallible, and ineligible for discussion. The belief systems are laid down in stone and woe betide anyone who tries to change that. The idea of believers being ‘…transformed from one degree of glory to another…’ (2Cor3:18) is fine as long as that transformation occurs in accordance with the approval of the group. Instead of a real, fluid, living Relationship with Jesus Christ, members are confined entirely to the straitjacket of rigid belief held by the leadership. I could go on, but that’s enough negative for now.

What does all this have to do with bullying? Well, these types of churches predictably use bullying tactics to keep their members – whom, don’t forget, Jesus died to set free – in line. And I recently read an article on Paul Ellis’s ‘Escape to Reality’ blog which, along with its discussions, has become for me the ‘go-to’ article about church bullying. It describes what church bullying looks like, and how it is used to control those in the group. So, if there’s any potentially dodgy behaviour going on in your church, simply look at this list – it is not fully comprehensive, but helpful commentors have added other items – and see what you think. Some of this stuff I didn’t even realise was bullying, but when you look at it, it really is. One day, I might compile this list myself with all the additions. But, for now, take a look at Paul’s article. It’s quite the eye-opener!

Click the graphic below to go to the article:

0
0

My Burden Is Light…

Here’s a great post from one of my Facebook friends, a chap who comes out with a whole lot of wisdom:

Friend,

If you’re thinking a relationship with God through Jesus adds the burden of meeting his requirements onto your already difficult life, rather than lifting that burden from you, giving you unspeakable joy and making your heavy load feel light, then perhaps it’s time you reconsider why God sent his son to die and rise.

Lifting pressure and making your heavy load feel light, not adding pressure by placing requirements on you, is precisely what Christ died and rose to accomplish and what Gods good news does each time it’s believed.

That’s why it’s called “good news!”

And still, so many hold tenaciously to a message that says until they meet certain requirements, they cannot enjoy God’s pleasure and “lightness” this side of heaven…so they never do.

So not true!

Christ died and rose so you wouldn’t need to wait another minute.

If this describes you, God can go from the taskmaster he isn’t to the savior and friend he is, all with a flick of a switch God calls faith.

Why not reconsider the good news.

Take a second look at the gospel.

Take another look at Jesus.

0
0

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?!

0
0

To Christian Parents of LGBTQI Children

Not that this has happened to me, but imagine you are a Christian parent (or parents) and one of your children tells you that they are of an ‘alternative’ sexuality. That is, they are gay, Lesbian, bisexual, transexual, queer/questioning or Intersex.

For some Christian parents, this would be a non-issue. For me, that would indeed be the case. But for others, whose deeply-held beliefs tell them that this is simply wrong, wrong, wrong, what do they do? I really feel for these people. On the one hand, their parental instinct is telling them to simply love and accept their child; on the other, their beliefs, church or maybe friends/family are, well, at least making it difficult for them to come around to their new knowledge.

In this beautifully-written piece, Susan Cottrell, herself the mother of five children, two of whom are part of the LGBTQI ‘community’, gives her perspective on this important matter. If you are in this kind of ‘situation’, it is well worth reading. Susan has ‘walked the walk’; in my book, that gives her more than the right to ‘talk the talk’. Click the image below to go to the article:

2
0

Lee O’Hare Talks On Hell

My regular readers will most likely know my stance on the eternal conscious torment model of Hell. That is the model that everyone who doesn’t decide to believe in Jesus in this life will spend eternity in agonising torment. And also, according to certain Christians, so will those people like me who claim that there is no such place 😉

Well, I don’t believe in that model at all. While my Hell Resource Page describes my beliefs as they were at the time of writing, I have developed my Hell ideas since then and have become even more convinced that Hell as portrayed by the Christian church does not exist. And key to this transformation of ideas has been the input from various groups I am a member of on Facebook; people who are free to discuss ideas and bat concepts back and forth between them.

One major contributor in these groups is Lee O’Hare, an American gentleman who leads a church in a coffee shop on Sundays. Here, then, is Lee speaking to his group on the subject of Hell, and why he thinks it is a flawed concept.

One thing that’s is so great about this talk, as well as it being a superb exposition anyway, is that so many people are discovering the same things at the same time. Lee and I both think that Hell is a besmirching of our Father’s name; that anyone could believe, much less propagate, the idea that the loving Father God, who is just like Jesus (Heb 1:3) is ok with torturing the majority of humanity in a roaring furnace for ever and ever and ever. No, just no. So, here’s Lee talking on that subject.

The talk is 52 minutes long, but it’s well worth listening to if you have the time. Listen with an open mind and feel your spirit lift 🙂

0
0

Where Else Would We Go?

Here’s a beautiful piece by Nathan Smith; rather than give it a long introduction, I’ll just hand over to Nathan and the introduction he gave it in our Facebook group:

” “It’s no longer simply a question of “why would we go back,” more like “how would we even go back?” How would we trade a paradigm of mercy and grace for a black and white world of “us and them?” How would we darken our eyes to the fiery beauty of creation?”

I call this one “Where Else Would We Go?” It’s a reflection for the wanderers and misfits.

Love to you all, it is journeying with you all that inspired this piece.”

Out here so far from home, the fire of Pentecostal fervor and the build-and-crash of revival music I wonder, would I ever go back? Would I ever return to what Jonathan Martin calls the “Christ haunted landscape” of my upbringing? When so much has shifted mentally and theologically, I wonder if I would still find a place of comfort in the religion of my past.

The path I think a lot of us wanderers and misfits have taken is not a breakaway from one set of theological precepts to another. It’s not like we just simply traded conservative theology for progressive theology. What I mean to say is, it’s not a shift that happens solely in the mind.

There’s this moment, and I think a lot of my fellow wanderers will know what I’m talking about, this moment where it’s like you wake up to the beauty of the world and see God in everyone. The blinders come off and you no longer see sinner and saint, believer and unbeliever. Instead you see the real suffering and struggle and the inherent beauty of all creation. That’s more than just a change in beliefs, that’s a paradigm shift.

I think it’s the difficulty so many of us have in setting foot in church again. Before we would have felt right at home and at comfort in our well-worn pews. Now, we approach church with a sense of hopeful caution. We know what we want to find inside those doors but we’re not taking any chances either. And can you blame us? When the whole world has turned to fire in front of our eyes, when mercy has lit this thing ablaze, how do we sit in pews and talk about the dreaded “them?” Not to say that many of us won’t darken the doors of a church again, we will. And we’ll muster every ounce of hope to do so.

It’s no longer simply a question of “why would we go back,” more like “how would we even go back?” How would we trade a paradigm of mercy and grace for a black and white world of “us and them?” How would we darken our eyes to the fiery beauty of creation? There’s no change in beliefs sufficient to do the task. What has happened has happened in our hearts, in the core of who we are.

I’m reminded of the words of Peter to Jesus, “Lord, where else would we go? You have the words of life.” Once you’ve tasted of the “words of life” I think it’s near impossible to go back. The words of life aren’t doctrinal precepts or rigid beliefs. Rather it’s a melting of heart-walls, a return to the childlike state which views all the world as beautiful and all her inhabitants as sacred.

And the words of life aren’t found in doctrinal confessions or in lofty tomes;

They are eaten in times of desperation.

They are seen in mountain top experiences of joy.

They are touched in the humble moments of friendship.

The words of life are found when and where it matters most: when life gets shitty, and when life gets intimate — that is, when life gets sacred. There’s no doctrine sufficient to express the pain in a loss loved one, or in the birth of a long-awaited child. Doctrine just won’t do. But beauty will. Mercy will.

The words of life allow us to see all the world as sacred, all moments as consecrated. All food as blessed, all people as loved. And the words of life teach us to bless all things. We can’t get to this place by simply shifting beliefs around or doctrine-delving in the latest theological fad. We must wander with Jesus awhile, allow him to change us, to teach us, to transfigure us.

Where else would we go?

Jesus has the words of life.

Abba has the words of life.

Amen.


Here’s the link to the original piece. Click here or on the image below.

1
0

The Penitent Thief

Jesus doesn’t give us many clues about how to become a Christian.

He only says what happens when we believe in Him – ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; – Jn 3:36. How does this happen?

And that is the point at which I will hand over to Harvey, the writer of the blog ‘The Evangelical Liberal‘, with his article ‘The Penitent Thief – a Good Friday Reflection’:


The Penitent Thief – a Good Friday reflection

A friend recently asked me who is the one person other than Jesus who we know to be in heaven, if we believe the gospel record. There may be other possible answers, but perhaps the clearest is the Penitent thief, or the Thief on the Cross – the one to whom Jesus says ‘today you will be with me in Paradise’.

This story is one of the only obvious moments of light, hope and redemption within the unremitting horrors and darkness of the Good Friday narrative.

Eleventh-hour conversion

The Penitent thief is only featured in one gospel account (Luke’s). In Matthew’s and Mark’s versions both criminals crucified alongside Jesus hurl insults at him. Make of that what you will, but it’s still I think a very important vignette.

It’s surely the most dramatic (and perhaps the only) story of 11th-hour conversion in the pages of Scripture; very much a ‘deathbed’ repentance. Not the ideal way we might want someone to come to faith, perhaps, nor the ideal setting, but one that can give hope and encouragement to pretty much anyone. Few of us can be in a worse place than that crucified thief, yet he is given the cast-iron guarantee of salvation that few others can boast.

Tradition calls him the ‘penitent’ thief, but we do not actually see him repenting in the way that most Christians would understand the term. There is a form of confession but no apology, no ‘sinner’s prayer’. All he does is acknowledge that he has committed a crime and therefore deserves the punishment he’s receiving; and he then asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his Kingdom. That’s all – and it appears to be enough.

Radically simple

It’s wonderful how simple and uncomplicated it all is. The man does not do anything, nor need to do anything, except simply recognise Jesus at least partly for who he is – the true King, of the true Kingdom – and ask Jesus simply to ‘remember’ him. (Not ‘save’ him, but simply keep him in mind, be aware of him, not forget about him.) There’s no begging or bargaining; it’s just a very simple and humble request.

If we take this story seriously, it radically simplifies the requirements of Christianity – at least the entry requirements. We don’t have to be baptised to be saved. We don’t have to go to church, understand difficult theological doctrines, memorise scripture, speak in tongues or go on mission trips to be able to call ourselves Christians. We just need to turn to Jesus. All these others can be good and helpful things, and if we lead long Christian lives we may well end up doing many of them. But they are not required in order for us to be part of the Kingdom, for us to be remembered by Jesus and be with him in Paradise.

(Here’s the link to the original article)


Thanks, Harvey 🙂

So, Jesus doesn’t say you need to believe in the Bible. (There weren’t any Bibles at the time of the early church anyway (like in the Acts of the Apostles, one of the books of the Bible) because the Bible hadn’t been written yet. And in any case most people couldn’t read…and yet there were thousands of believers.)

He doesn’t say you need to believe in Hell

He doesn’t say you have to not be gay

He doesn’t say you have to Repent!! to believe in Him.

He doesn’t say you have to believe in sin, in judgement, in Communion, in the Pope, in anything like that.

He doesn’t even say you need to believe in God.

All of these things, with the possible exception of the last one (and only then because a belief in Jesus implies a belief in the One Who sent Him – God) are things that you can consider, you can think about, you can adopt as doctrine if you really must. but they are not essential, according to the story we have looked at.

Amongst believers, there is a phrase ‘coming to Christ’. You simply come to Him, just as you are, without having to worry about fear of rejection (Jn 6:37 ESV). Just as the Penitent Thief came to Christ and just simply asked Him to ‘Remember me when you come into your Kingdom’, that’s all there is to it. All you need to do is to come to Him. Even if you don’t yet feel that you ‘believe’, don’t worry; that can follow later. The first step is simply to come to Him.

Jesus will meet you exactly where you’re ‘at’. It’s different for everyone because everyone’s point of need is different, and everyone’s experience is different. You don’t have to pray a set, special prayer. You don’t have to follow a formula. There is no set list of things you have to do or say or be. You can do any of these things if you want to*, but either way the most important thing is simply to come to Jesus.

You might feel that nothing has happened. That was how I felt. Or you might get a huge flood of joy, tears, relief, love, whatever. You will receive exactly what you need. Don’t be afraid of it being a ‘counterfeit experience’. You have come to Jesus. You might have asked Him to make Himself real to you. You might have asked Him to come into your life. Whatever approach you have used, don’t let anyone convince you that it’s not real – not even your own feelings. You will begin to see and feel in your own time. As Jesus says in Luke 11:11-13, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” So, if you have come to Jesus, He will do what He promised. He will give you everything you need to live for Him, all the resources of Heaven, and He will come and live in your life by His Holy Spirit.

Wow!


*Personally, I remember the day I prayed and asked Jesus to come in to my life, and for me, that prayer ws important as it marked a definite time where I had made the decision to follow Him. But you don’t have to do that.

1
0