American Pastors Rethink Homosexuality

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.

20

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‘.

00

Proud to be a Christian?

For a time, I refused to refer to myself as a ‘Christian’. This was because the name had become associated with, and tarnished by, all sorts of horrific and ridiculous practices; not just down through history, like the Crusades and what have you, but also today in so many ways. Need I make a list? I’m sure my readers know of examples of such behaviour.

And yet, the label ‘Christian’ also carries much that is good. It carries love, compassion, healing, acceptance, social advancement, justice and so many other good things.

And I refuse to let nasty people, who call themselves ‘Christian’, hijack the rich inheritance of the term, especially where it applies to things I believe a Christian can be. If you like, ‘Christian’ is MY name, and I am not going to let a set of pirates hijack it.

In any case, whether I call myself ‘Christian’, ‘Jesus-follower’, ‘disciple of Jesus’ or whatever, sooner or later, some oik is going to come along and hijack that term as well, just as they do so often with the things of God; replacing what is golden and genuine with a fake idol which is powerless. So yes, I am ‘proud’ to be a Christian – as I understand the term – and I am not ashamed to own it.

But I can fully understand why some might not want to be tarred with that brush.

And there are others who feel that way. Here is an excellent piece by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir, writing on the blog ‘Feminism and Religion‘ , and I will leave it up to you to read it and form your own conclusions. The comments section is also interesting and gives a few excellent perspectives. Here is the link to the original article.


I’m not proud to be Christian – and no one else should be, either

I hear a lot of people talking lately about how they are no longer proud to be Christian. They point to the vocal conservative churches and leaders who support Trump, condemn and exclude LGBTQ people, oppress female bodies and sexuality, exhibit breathtaking racism, classism, sexism, nationalism, and ecocide… and they struggle to call themselves “Christian” anymore, in light of these shameful behaviors by modern American “Christianity.”

I completely understand. The most visible examples of self-identified Christian organizations and leaders in the US today make me cringe— or pale in horror. How could any ethically responsible moderate or progressive Christian want to be associated with such bigotry, violence, and dysfunction?

This cringing horror—this is not new for me. My entire life as a Christian living in the (relatively) secular, progressive northeast has involved frequent damage control. When I worked with young people, I had a tough job to undo and heal their damaging, toxic “Christian” ideas: No, you are not going to hell if you have sex before marriage. No, you are not an abomination. No, you are not inherently inferior because you are female. Yikes!

Adults, too: No, the divine is not a monster who killed your wife with cancer. No, your child did not die because you did not pray hard enough. No, your depression is not a symptom of your failure to have enough faith.

And of course, scandals have rocked churches since churches first formed. Clergy abuse. Indulgences. Telling women to shut up and let men oppress them (1 Timothy). Giving the best seats to rich people and telling poor people to go sit on the floor. (I guess James 2:3 had his hands full). Pretty disgusting, those Christians… who would possibly feel proud to be associated with that crap?

There’s this thing in social psychology called “Social Identity Theory,” developed by Henri Tajfel.  The gist is: we all want to feel good about ourselves, so we try really hard believe our identity groups are superior to other identity groups. We want to feel proud of our “ingroups” – racial/ethnic, religious, national, language, regional, even sports teams, music, hobbies, and our sex. Unfortunately, we tend to exaggerate differences between our ingroups and our outgroups (“those people”), and we try to ignore or minimize differences within our ingroups. We stereotype. We show positive bias toward people from our ingroups, and negative prejudice against people from our outgroups.

We also make excuses for people from our ingroups, when they do awful things. When an ingroup member hurts people, we minimize the damage done, justify it, or blame the victims. We must defend these awful ingroup leaders, or else our own self-esteem suffers, and we feel badly about ourselves by association.

The more a person gets her/his sense of self-worth from ingroup belonging, the more s/he will defend bad behavior by other ingroup members.

Of course, it’s always easiest to fall into this trap when one’s ingroups are privileged or dominant.

Here’s how it plays out:

—If I get a lot of my self-worth from being American, then I will justify the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the economic exploitation of poorer countries

—If I get a lot of my self-worth from being white, then I will deny that racism is a problem, justify police violence, and blame black victims of police violence— “AllLives Matter”

—If I get a lot of my self-worth from being male, then I will react defensively to #metoo, and I respond, “What about the men?” or “Not all men!”, consider feminists “man-haters,” and dismiss the overwhelming patterns of male violence.

Sometimes, even for the most well meaning people, who try really hard to avoid stereotypes, and combat prejudices… we can still fall into this trap of ingroup-based self-worth. Then, when members of our ingroups do awful things, in our shame, we try to dissociate from those groups.:

—If Trump gets elected, move to Canada.

—Unfriend that racist person instead of trying to change h/er views.

—Males who condemn toxic masculinity may try to reject masculine gender norms, or even maleness itself, and self-identify as not really male (even though they do not identify as transgender).

It would be so easy, wouldn’t it, if we could find the perfect ingroup? If we could find the perfect community, clan, religion, nation, ethnicity, etc… we could feel awesome self-worth, bask in how great we are because we are on the Right Team! Rest, relax, not have to worry about taking responsibility for the horrible crap done by “our people,” just sail along on a happy breeze of smug superiority.

Except, it doesn’t exist. There is not, and there has never been, a perfect human community. Humans are fallible, messy, flawed, imperfect creatures. Our communities are destined to make mistakes. That’s all the Bible is: a record of human communities trying desperately hard to figure out what matters most, how to have healthy community, and failing. And getting it right, and really, horribly wrong, learning from those mistakes, and trying again. That’s all we are doing now, every community on Earth: trying, failing, and trying again. Every religious community, atheist community, yoga club, environmental group, charity, political organization, and justice team.

There has never been reason to be “proud to be Christian.”

Christianity, like every major religion and secular ideology, has always consisted of humans with great ideas, terrible ideas, beautiful intentions, horrible intentions, wise insights, and horrendous mistakes. If a person gets h/er self-worth from being on the right team, s/he is doomed to failure. Whatever your religion or secular philosophy, don’t let it be a source of pride. Let it be a source of guidance, strength, comfort, community, and hope. Let it be a vehicle for advocacy, ethical outreach, making the world a better place. Let it be a place to make mistakes, to fail, and to find the courage to keep trying. You are worthy of love and respect, just as you are. You don’t need to point to your groups. You deserve love, healing, and wholeness. You can be a vessel of love, healing, and wholeness for others, wherever and whoever and whatever you are. You are enough. You are enough.


Excellent. Hope you enjoyed that. Once again, here is the link to the original piece.

20

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!


tree-2487889_1920

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.

agriculture-1807581_1920

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.

ireland-1971997_1920 (1)

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?

Name

 

 

 


Here is the link to the original article

10

Did Jesus speak more about Hell than about Heaven?

It is commonly held by many Evangelical Christians that Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven, and I have in fact written before on this subject; here is the link to my former piece.

Recently, I read an excellent article on the ‘Unfundamentalist’ blog which reached the same conclusion I did: Jesus did not speak more about Hell than He did about Heaven!

Personally, I consider that the whole idea of this inaccurate ‘word count’ is some sort of Christian urban legend, passed on unquestioningly and unchallenged, from one person to another.

But, anyway, here is that aforementioned article, by the brilliant Dan Wilkinson, giving his take on the subject:


According to some well-known pastors, Jesus’ teachings are primarily about fire and brimstone. For example:

“… he [Jesus] himself speaks twice as often of hell as of heaven.”
— D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World

“He [Jesus] spoke more often about hell than he did about heaven. We cannot get around this fact.”
— Leon Morris, “The Dreadful Harvest,” Christianity Today, May 27, 1991

“Jesus talked more about hell than He did about heaven in order to warn men of its reality.”
— John MacArthur, “The Ultimate Religious Decision

“Jesus said more about Hell than Heaven.”
— Jerry Falwell, “Heaven and Hell

“Obviously I do believe in hell. Jesus spoke more about hell than heaven.”
— Rick Warren, interview with John Piper

“Jesus said more about hell than about any other topic. Amazingly, 13 percent of his sayings are about hell and judgment …”
— Mark Driscoll, “6 Questions on Hell

“Of the 1,850 verses in the New Testament that record Jesus’ words, 13 percent of them deal with the subject of eternal judgment and hell. In fact, Jesus spoke more frequently about hell than He did about heaven.”
— Robert Jeffress, How Can I Know?

Those are some very bold and very specific quantitative assessments of Jesus’ message. But are they true?

By my count [1] (with the help of some BibleWorks magic), there are 1,944 verses in the four gospels that contain Jesus’ words.

Surprisingly, only about 60 of those verses–or an unwhopping three percent of them—might be construed as either directly or indirectly referring to hell.

On the other hand, there are more than three times as many verses in the gospels in which Jesus references heaven, eternal life, or his coming kingdom: 192 verses in all, or almost 10%.

So Jesus did not, in fact, speak more about hell than heaven. But many people who should know better still seem hell-bent on insisting that He did.

How do they arrive at a conclusion so contrary to the facts? By reading hell into any and every possible passage in the Bible.

D.A. Carson, for example, who is one of the first purveyors of the “Jesus talked more about hell than heaven” myth, finds hell in the story of the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7:24-27). In the words “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell — and great was its fall!” Carson somehow construes a clear depiction of eternal damnation:

The sermon ends with what has been implicit throughout it—the demand for radical submission to the exclusive lordship of Jesus, who fulfills the Law and the Prophets and warns the disobedient that the alternative to total obedience, true righteousness, and life in the kingdom is rebellion, self-centeredness, and eternal damnation.
— D.A. Carson, Matthew, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary

Given that interpretation, it’s no wonder that Carson thinks Jesus spoke of hell twice as much as heaven!

Yes, throughout the gospels Jesus did speak about judgement, and yes, he also spoke a handful of times about places such as Gehenna and Hades, words often translated as “hell.” But those instances do not stand as justification for the promulgation of the myth that Jesus spoke more about hell than he did about heaven. Continuing the promote that falsehood severely undermines Christ’s true message—which is the love of God and neighbor that Jesus himself called The Greatest Commandment.

Turning Jesus’ gospel of love into a “gospel” of fear, damnation and punishment is either alarmingly ignorant or intentionally manipulative. Either way, it’s very bad news indeed, and needs to stop.

 

[1] By request, here is a list of verses I used for my numbers: jesus-heaven-hell.pdf


Here is the link to the original article

10

Assurance

This is a very personal account that describes something of what I observed in Fiona, my beautiful late wife, during the time leading up to her loss.

When I lost Fiona to cancer, twenty months ago today, I knew that she had no qualms about dying; about going to be with her Jesus.

This is because she had assurance.

She had complete confidence in Jesus – was ‘assured’, if you like – that He would come through for her and would deliver her into her promised rest. She had no doubts whatsoever about what awaited her on the other side of the veil of death.

And I too rejoice in my salvation. I belong to God; I know it more certainly than I know anything else, and no-one and nothing can take that salvation away from me*.

Jesus’s message was simple: God loves you. Just as you are. He loves you and He cares for you. Jesus amply demonstrated this in His life, His teachings, His miracles, His death and His Resurrection. And His Grace. The unearned, undeserved favour of God. On that basis alone, nothing we can do, or not do, is either a qualification or disqualification for being ‘allowed’ into God’s Presence. Salvation is freely given, and it is complete and perfect, rooted in the historical death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. This is so simple; why do we complicate it? And yet, maybe it’s just part of human nature, but we do so complicate it indeed!

But not everyone believes like that. Not everyone has that assurance. As I’ve said before, so many people in the Christian faith, particularly those of a legalistic leaning, are actually not sure what would happen if they died tonight. They are not sure because they think that somehow their behaviour might disqualify them at the last second.

My faith isn’t like that. Being fully convinced that we are forever safe in Christ is what’s known as assurance, and knowing for a fact that Jesus has you forever in His arms is simply nothing short of revolutionary. Once we believe that, and know it in our hearts, then every single insecurity we might have concerning our ‘eternal destiny’ just melts away in the burning light of His love. But, because of the ideas expressed below, sadly, many believers who actually have this assured inheritance simply do not know it.

And so I am going to look at our assurance today, from the perspective of one who has seen someone die in perfect assurance of where she was going.

You see, part of the problem, for some people, is that idea that we need to ‘confess’ (i.e. own up to) every. single. ‘sin’. in order to be ‘forgiven’. If we die with just one ‘unconfessed ‘sin’, they claim, then we are toast. I could present many, many Scripturally-based  arguments to refute this idea, but instead let me testify to what my Fiona was like in the last weeks of her earthly life.

Fiona had a complete assurance of where she was going. She had an unshakeable certainty that, once she passed through the veil of death, she was not only going to be with Jesus, but she was going to her reward, her inheritance, to an amazing life full of beauty, light, joy, fun, and the Presence of God. Not long before she passed away, Fiona shared with me that she had received a vision of what Jesus had waiting for her there with Him. Fiona’s visions were always very vivid and real, like an IMAX experience, only better. Personally, I know what it’s like to receive a revelation from God, but Fiona’s ‘style’, if you like, was much more vivid. And this vision was such a comfort, indeed an encouragement, to her. She already knew what she was going to; she knew she was dying, she knew she wasn’t going to make it with that cancer eating away at her, and yet in that dark tunnel of what could have been despair, instead she was filled with the light, glory and hope of Jesus. She was actually looking forward to going to her inheritance. The phrase, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ applied to her for certain, and I am absolutely sure that she heard those words from Jesus the moment she arrived there.

And you just can’t argue with that. When you have seen the shining holiness of one of God’s Saints about to pass through the veil, you just know it. You know where they are going, and so do they. And that is such a tremendous boost to one’s own faith.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His Saints – Ps 116:15

Non-existent is any lack of assurance; the tired and worn-out ideas that one last-second slip-up could condemn one’s soul to torment for all eternity**. The worry of one ‘unconfessed sin’. When seen in the light of the death of a saint like Fiona, those arguments become just shadows. The harsh, unbending and assurance-breaking doctrines of the religious legalists and gatekeepers are seen as simply two-dimensional, flat concepts when compared with the real, solid and altogether complete certainty of where we go after death. How can I put this more emphatically?

It’s funny, but Christians sing the hymn, ‘Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine’, and yet some of them do not really recognise that assurance. If you are one of those people today, please let me encourage you to raise your head from the mire of – yes, let’s call it what it is: self-righteousness – and of ‘doing things’ in order to try and please God, and instead to rest complete in the salvation that Jesus has bought for you. This is real, it is complete, and it is already accomplished. And I have seen it. All the arguments, theology and doctrine of men melt into nothing in the face of the death of a saint like Fiona; when you have seen this happen, nothing can ever be the same again, and the dry, dusty and indeed crumbly doctrines of we mere humans become as naught in the face of the utter assurance of salvation seen in a dying saint.

I’ve always believed in ‘once saved, always saved‘. I have never believed that anything I can do could either lose or indeed ‘boost’ my inheritance. I am utterly sure of my station in Christ and my status as one of God’s children, because these things have been revealed to me personally by my Heavenly Father. I have dates and times for these events, they were that real. And you can argue with me all you like about doctrines and whatnot, but the thing is that I have seen it. And I have seen the final assurance, first-hand, of someone who is about to pass into the direct Presence of her Lord. There is no fear; there is no sense of ‘what if?’; there is no sense of ‘resignation’. There is only an eager assurance, a peace, indeed an anticipation, of what is to come. There is sadness, yes; we will miss her, and she knew that we would miss her, and she also knew that we would have to carry on without the guidance and wisdom that she brought into our lives in such full measure. And I miss that wisdom every day. But there is also a quiet and yet exuberant joy, that ‘soon and very soon, we are going to see the King!’ And it’s awesome to behold.

Jesus’s Resurrection was, and is, the guarantee for us that there is life after death. Jesus’s presence in our lives, by the tangible presence of His Spirit, is the guarantee, the downpayment if you like, of that assurance. That death is not the end is the single most important truth that we can get hold of in this life, after the fact that it’s God’s love that provides that truth for us. Once you see that; once you grasp that, your life will never be the same again. In fact I would even say that, unless you really believe that you know ‘…where you would go if you died tonight’, then you have absolutely no right to try to sell people the salvation that Jesus offers as if it is indeed a complete, cast-iron assurance, when the reality is that you yourself don’t really believe it is as secure as you claim. Because that sort of gospel, that so many peddle these days, is really no gospel – not good news – at all.

So, for the question, “Is it ‘once saved, always saved’? “, I actually rather think we are looking in the wrong direction. That’s looking backwards, at things we have done; it is a backwards perspective because we are always focused on looking back to see if we have done something that’s somehow going to drop us out of God’s favour, and that we need to ‘confess’ it and get it out of the way. But it’s not like that at all. If you walk in the Spirit, then you will not gratify the desires of the ‘sinful nature’. You just get on with it, free from the encumbrance of worrying about ‘sin’ all the time. Our salvation enables us to walk forwards in life with Jesus. When Jesus said that “whoever sets his hand to the plough, and then looks back, is not worthy to be My disciple” (Lk 9:62), He meant that by looking back all the time, you just can’t see where you’re going. You need to look forward and just walk with Jesus. The only way to keep that plough straight is to look forward, not backwards. Landing an aeroplane is similar; you look forward to the far end of the runway, not down at the runway below you, otherwise you can’t judge the landing properly. Thank you Lord for your wisdom.

And so let’s round this out by saying that, when it comes to the crunch, and death is just around the corner, it is possible – indeed it is your right, as a Child of God – to face that event with love, confidence, hope and indeed a joyful anticipation. Because precious indeed in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints – and you are one of them. There is no fear in Love, because perfect Love casts out all fear (1Jn14:18). And there is no fear in death, because Jesus has gone there before us – and He has come out the other side for our assurance.

Be assured.

Be at peace.

God’s love for you is greater than you can possibly imagine.

And there is no need for fear.

 

Grace and peace to you.


*I’m not going to define ‘salvation’ right now; I do have a set of developing ideas on the subject but I wouldn’t do them justice if I write about them just yet, because the ideas are not fully formed. In this context, suffice it to say that I believe that Fiona’s firm conviction that she was going to be with Jesus is what I am talking about here.


**Not that I believe in that anyway.

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Deceived by God’s Word?

I think it’s fair to say that many Christians today believe that the Bible is a set-in-stone, non-negotiable document that is open only to the narrowest of interpretations and even then only by people who are ‘qualified’ to do so. Although, in practice, this is not actually the case – there are likely almost as many interpretations of Bible passages as there are individual Christians – still there are those who insist on their own interpretation being the only correct one.

Personally, I believe that if there is only ‘one correct doctrine’ (about anything) then God would have made it a lot clearer in the Bible than He did. By its very nature – many voices speaking of their own experiences of God – it can never present a unified voice on any matter, really.

Jesus had the same problem in His discussions with the ‘religious elite’ of His day. Even in a society where ‘robust’ (i.e. argumentative) theological discussion was actively encouraged, indeed taught, He came up against entrenched opinion and interpretation. Which, I suppose, is fair enough, given that most people like to have answers to Life’s Big Questions, where actually those Questions take a whole lifetime to glean even a sliver of understanding of their answers. 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.

Anyhow, here’s a great piece by Russell Croft, expressing a lot of this sort of thing:


“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” — Colossians 2:8

There is a lot of fear in various Christian circles today that people are being deceived by false gospels that are not grounded in God’s word. It is a very heartfelt sentiment, one that is genuinely concerned for the fate of fellow believers and non-believers alike.

From this perspective, the answer is to stand on the word of God, to hold it sacredly, to believe that it is the ultimate God-breathed truth, useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. We should not waver from the truth revealed within its pages and should always consider the whole counsel of scripture whenever preaching or debating the gospel. God’s word is God’s word, from beginning to end, the literal, infallible revelation of God to man. Anyone who abandons any part of the holy, inspired scriptures has been deceived and has believed a false gospel that threatens to lead others astray. One cannot argue with any part of the scriptures or consider alternative understandings of what they literally say without falling into heresy.

Revolution of Belief

Perhaps this is why the leaders of ancient Israel wanted to keep Jesus quiet. He would often take the scriptural understanding of the day and turn it on its head. In a culture that promoted robust discussion and even allowed for disagreement on scriptural interpretation, Jesus still ruffled too many feathers and rocked too many theological boats.

Jesus abandoned many of the well held positions among the religious people of his day. Instead of paying back the scriptural eye for an eye, Jesus told his listeners to love their enemies and forgive their debts. He admonished people for their methods of tithing, praying, and worship. He walked among the outcasts, the lepers, the prostitutes and sinners, telling them they were entering the kingdom of heaven before the others who had excluded them. He taught that God accepted and loved everyone, not just the upright Jew, but the unclean Gentile and the evil Samaritan. His was a message of Grace that had no room for religious striving or elitism under the law. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

So what was Jesus doing? A disregarded sacrificial system of spiritual duty lies wasted on the road to Calvary. His mercy is freely given to those who sacrifice him to their god of control, ending the old covenant based on human responses to God and ushering in a new covenant, where Jesus took on our responsibility and showcased God’s mercy, fulfilling both the human and divine sides of the ledger once and for all. Salvation or spiritual wholeness in this new covenant is based solely on what Jesus did, not on any attempt on our part to enter the kingdom of heaven.

A Conflict of Covenants

Here’s the problem: a literal, unmoving interpretation of scripture combines and confuses the old and new covenants, presenting a belief system that allows Jesus to do the initial work of salvation, but that must be continued by our ability or desire to maintain wholeness–or holiness–through repentance, prayer, tithing, worship, and belief. The old covenant is elevated to a position of equal importance to the new covenant, and appears to still supersede it in many ways. Scriptures declaring God’s goodness, love, and forgiveness of all humanity are accepted, yet overridden by passages portraying him as full of wrath for those who don’t accept his love.

But what if there was a way to hold the entirety of scripture in tension? To find the ways in which Jesus and the new covenant don’t necessarily abolish the old covenant, but fulfill it for us so that it is no longer a requirement? What if there was a way of rest, of faith and of trust in God to bless us, not because of what we do or believe, but because of what Jesus believed about us and did on our behalf? What if we really did have the fullness of Christ dwelling in us because of the reconciling work of the cross, which we just need to trust in, in order to see? A holiness that wasn’t dependent on ritual or repentance, but an already given, unbreakable union with Christ, which once recognized, leads to all kinds of love and selfless action that the old covenant could only hope to inspire.

Relying on Christ

Of course, we can still hold on to human traditions masquerading as old covenant practices. We can try to pull God down to earth or open heaven for some new blessing or spiritual breakthrough rather than relying on Christ, thus denying the fullness that has already been given through God’s grace. We can still hold to beliefs that we are only OK once we’ve said the magic words and dedicated our lives to denying certain aspects of human life. We don’t even need to call ourselves “Christian” to do so.

Or we can rest in the new covenant and allow Christ in us to provide the outworking of our faith. A faith that is really his faith, since it is Christ in us that provides the gift of faith in the first place. A faith in love. A faith that knows, even in the midst of doubt or suffering, that we are OK, because we have a God who loves all his children and a high priest in Jesus interceding for us, even if we are unable or unwilling to pray for ourselves. A faith that places the old covenant in its right place, as something that was fulfilled by Jesus on the cross and as something we need not fulfill ourselves today in order to remain within God’s blessing.


An excellent piece, I reckon. I hope it blessed you and maybe gave you some food for thought 🙂


Here is the link to the original article

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Vought F-8 Crusader

It’s been a while since I have done a post on the Beautiful Destroyers – the ironic observation that some of the most beautiful aircraft ever built were made with the express purpose of breaking things belonging to other people.

Today, I would like to introduce you to the Vought F-8 Crusader.

The Crusader was a carrier-based air-superiority fighter designed in the mid-1950s, and used by the US Navy, the US Marine Corps, the French Navy and the Philippine Air Force. A real ‘hot ship’, she was the US Navy’s first real supersonic fighter; previous fighters could go supersonic in certain circumstances (usually a powered dive) but the Crusader could do it in level flight. The Crusader was also known as the ‘Last Gunfighter’ because she was fitted from the outset with four 20mm Colt cannon, in an era where fighter jet designers were moving away from gun-armed fighters and majoring on missile-armed interceptors.

In the Vietnam War, however (1965-1972) the ‘missile-only’ tactical doctrine was revealed as essentially flawed, as North Vietnamese MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21 fighters, which were (in the case if the MiG-17s and MiG-19s) much older than the American fighters and indeed almost obsolete, were able to get ‘in close’ and use their guns, where the Americans couldn’t fire back. This was because not only were missiles quite unreliable in those days, but also they were not really designed to be launched from hard-manoeuvring aircraft at small, agile targets. They also had a ‘minimum range’ limitation and could not be launched if the target was too close – because they took time to arm themselves after launch.

For the Crusader, however, this was not a problem, because she already had her guns built-in. Indeed, so successful was the Crusader against the MiGs that the North Vietnamese pilots reportedly had far more respect for the Crusaders than any other American fighter.

It is also worth mentioning that, because of the lessons learned in Vietnam, the majority of today’s ultra-modern fighter aircraft, produced by all nations, now carry at least one internal gun.

So, what is it with the Crusader? Why do I find her so beautiful? Well, there’s the clean, sleek lines, the lovely wing shape, the huge air intake under the nose which suggests a belligerent, aggressive attitude, and to be honest she invokes in me a visceral ‘oomph’ sort of feeling whenever I see a picture one of these lovely aircraft.

And – she just ‘looks’ right! And as the old pilots’ adage goes, if an aeroplane looks right, she will fly right 🙂

She also has some interesting design features, particularly the ‘variable-incidence’ wing. The entire wing can be tilted ‘upwards’ so as to increase the lift capacity of the wing for slow-speed work, particularly when landing on aircraft carriers, which is what this plane is primarily designed for. In addition, since she’s a carrier-based aircraft, she has to be made tough and rugged; landing on an aircraft carrier is an entirely different concept from landing on a runway. I’ve described this in some detail in this article, but suffice it to say that an aeroplane rarely arrives on an aircraft carrier in a gentle manner 😉 The variable-incidence wing is visible in the ‘up’ position in this photo of an F-8 about to snag the arrester cables on its carrier’s landing deck*:

…and here’s a photo of a Crusader just about to undergo a steam catapult launch from its carrier:

The version above is the reconnaisance version of the Crusader, the RF-8; the difference is visible in the absence of the cannon muzzles and the addition of the side-facing camera apertures (the black rectangles on the fuselage of the aeroplane).

Earlier in this series, I posted an article on the Russian Tu-95 ‘Bear’ bomber, and pictures of various Western interceptors escorting them. The Crusader, of course, also routinely intercepted Bears, often performing reconnaisance over (or near) the aircraft carrier group. Here’s a US Navy F-8 shadowing a Bear:

…and then a lovely shot of a Bear flying right over the USS Oriskany, with its F-8 Crusader escort in attendance:

This sort of mission (for the Bears) would be primarily ELINT – Electronic Intelligence – the gathering of data on the other side’s electronic emissions, such as radar and communications. In those days, if you decided to fly near an American carrier group, you could guarantee that there would be a lot of radars looking at you, a fair bit of radio chatter, and you’d get some close-up photos of the aircraft that they sent up to take a look at you. And this sort of information would be priceless, should you ever need to fight a war against those people whose technology you are checking out. But the ‘defenders’ still need to send up interceptors, just to make sure that the visitors stay out of mischief 🙂

Here’s another shot of an RF-8 reconnaissance Crusader, showing off that lovely wing shape:

And finally, a monochrome shot of the prototype XF8U-1 Crusader, in 1955:

So there she is, the F-8 Crusader. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful of all the Beautiful Destroyers.


Header Picture Credit: Gaetan Marie


*Observant readers will notice that the Crusader in the carrier landing photo does not have its arrester hook extended. This means that the aeroplane will not stop on the deck; rather she will ‘bolter’, US Navy slang for doing a ‘touch-and-go’. The pilot will touch down on the deck, but will not snag a wire; instead, he will pile on the power and take off again. This sort of thing is done in order to practise approaches and landings, but without actually stopping, and it’s a very common practice also in land-based flight training at any level.


For more information on this beautiful aircraft, take a look here.

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On Repentance

In many of my blog posts, I mention the idea that ‘repentance’ is not what many churches have taught over the years.

It actually means changing your mind.

Most of the time it is described by Christians as a ‘turning around; a U-turn if you like, and usually in terms of repentance from sin, or a turning away from sin, as seen by the person demanding the repentance. And, for some, it can indeed be that, but it’s not always that. I’m going to pass you over once again to the brilliant Mike Douglas, of the blog ‘Getting Back to My Future‘. Here, Mike describes what he feels repentance really is:


Repent, in our dictionaries, is defined as a verb meaning ‘to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin; to feel remorse, regret, be sorry, rue, reproach oneself, be ashamed, feel contrite; view or think of (an action or omission) with deep regret or remorse’.

While this is accurate, it is not how the Bible talks of repentance. The Bible has a different definition for repentance. The New Testament was originally written in Greek and the word typically translated as ‘repent’ is the Greek word “metanoia”.

It consists of two parts, first ‘meta’ which means ‘to change’. We get our word metamorphosis from this word. Like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon.

The second part, ‘noia’ means to think or to know. Think ‘knowledge’.

Combined, it means ‘to change how we think or what we know’. I think that is interesting! It’s not about not sinning or even being sorry when we do wrong. It’s about thinking differently.

But think differently about what? 

It means “to change your mind; reconsider; or, to think differently.” Granted, if a person changes his mind (repents) toward certain behaviours in his life, he may become very sorrowful and may even stop committing those sins, but this would be a result of repenting, not repentance itself. So it’s not about thinking differently about wrongdoing in our lives.

Many understand the term repentance to mean “turning from sin.” This is not the biblical definition of repentance. Many of us were taught that repenting means to stop doing something. But, if that was true we’d all have to stop sinning before we could ask Jesus to save us. Since we can’t stop sinning, none of us would ever be saved.

When God tells an unsaved man to repent, He means for that man to change his mind about how to reach God. The person must change his mind from any idea of saving himself through religion or good works, and trust Jesus’s death as payment for everything he has done wrong. That’s it!

Repent means to change your mind. ABOUT JESUS. 

If you already know you need of a savior, you don’t need to repent to be saved, you just need to ask Jesus to save you. After we’re saved then Jesus sends His Holy Spirit to dwell in us and help us change our behavior, but that happens AFTER, not before, and even then, we never get it completely right. That’s why we are saved by grace, not by being or doing good.

To repent is to change your mind regarding Jesus. In Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), he concludes with a call for the people to repent. Repent from what? Peter is calling the people who rejected Jesus to change their minds about Him, to recognize that He is who He said He was. Peter is calling the people to change their minds from rejection of Christ as the Messiah to faith in Him.

Repentance and Faith 

Repentance and faith can be understood as “two sides of the same coin.” It is impossible to place your faith [think trust] in Jesus Christ as your Savior without first changing your mind about who He is and what He has done. Whether it is repentance from willful rejection or repentance from disinterest, it is a change of mind. Biblical repentance is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to believing in Christ.

It is important that we understand repentance is not something we do to earn salvation. The Bible tells us that repentance is something God gives—it is only possible because of His grace.

No one can repent unless God grants repentance. All of salvation, including repentance and faith, is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. Put another way, He reveals Jesus to us for who He is and then invites us to change our thinking about Him.

How cool is that!


I think that’s brilliant, and he sums it up really well.

Sadly, the idea of ‘repentance’ has been misused and twisted in order to pull people into legalism – making oneself right with God by things we do or don’t do. As with so many of the simple things of faith, it’s been made more complex than it needs to be. For example, I’ve seen repentance described as the more complex idea of ‘a change of mind, leading to a change of heart, leading to a change in actions’. So in that idea they’ve taken the real, simple meaning of ‘changing your mind’, and made it far more complex, and just wrong as well. All we need to do in order to repent is to change our minds. Change our minds from the idea of getting ‘right with God’ through our own strength, thoughts, actions and deeds (which is pointless anyway (Rom 3:20, Gal 2:16, Gal 3:11 ) and instead relying entirely on Jesus and what He has already done for us.

This means that if you change your mind – repent – about your attitudes to finding your own way to God, and trusting instead in the finished work of Christ, then you will be saved. Saved from a life of drudgery and endless tail-chasing, into the life of the glorious freedom of the Children of God (Rom 8:21).

Be free!


Here is the link to the original piece

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The FIFO Church

I used to go to a church where everyone had to fit in.

Everyone had to believe the same things.

If they didn’t, they were treated with suspicion and kept at arms’ length – and they certainly wouldn’t be allowed to be ‘in ministry’; that is, serving in a public role such as teaching, housegroup leading or worship leading. Only those who were fully kosher in terms of their beliefs were fully trusted. This was not done overtly, but I believe it was almost subconscious on the part of the leadership. And I imagine people knew what was going on (although as an Aspie (undiagnosed at the time) I didn’t really have a clue).

My friend at that church referred to that sort of thing as the ‘FIFO’ church – Fit In or Go Away. Yes, that’s a euphemism; deal with it 😀 * (And it has nothing to do with ‘First In, First Out’!)

And at the time, I was so blinkered that I didn’t realise it, or, if I did, I was one of those who approved of the attitude – because I did fit in, or at least I thought I did (cynically, I now believe that my ‘differences’ were tolerated because of my worship leading and musical gifts). I thought that this was the norm. In fact, I didn’t think about it much at all.

But just lately, I have got to thinking in more depth on this subject. There’s no way God made all these different people, just for them to be all the same. We are all going to have different attitudes, different beliefs, different backgrounds, talents, hang-ups, habits, situations, circumstances and what have you.

Now, if we can’t accept people who are voluntarily and regularly in the congregation – people who profess and enact belief in Jesus Christ – who show ‘differences’, then how are we ever going to bring others into the Church? People with far, far more jarring, offensive and sometimes downright disturbing tendencies? We simply will not be able to cope, and people will not come because they (either tacitly or overtly) won’t be welcome, plain and simple. This is not rocket science!

I know that all faiths and people in general have a natural tendency to gravitate towards people of like beliefs/interests/whatever, and to distance themselves from those who are different. I appreciate that. But the Church – the Body of Christ – as Jesus’s representatives here on earth, we should be different. Jesus said that people would be able to tell who are His disciples because of the love we have for one another (Jn 13:35). And I also believe that He meant, not just people in the Church (even the ‘tax collectors’ do that! (Mt 5:46; Lk 6:32)), but also those outside it.

And this is one reason why I like my church so much. It’s an inner-city church where we get all sorts of real people in. People who smoke, people who are addicts, people who are recovering, people who have never had a problem like that, the homeless and those who live in modest accommodation, right up to those who live in dead posh places. Everyone is different and nobody is expected to conform at all. I mean, sure, there’s the odd Fundie there who finds it hard to keep his trap shut, but again, it takes all sorts. We dwell together in harmony, regardless of differences, and there the Lord commands the blessing (Ps 133:1,3 KJV).

I’m not saying everyone has to minister to the homeless and the poor. What I am saying is that we should at least learn to minister to those who are in our own congregations, despite their differences – whether differences in sexuality, belief, status, age, or whatever.

Interestingly, the whole idea of ‘equal opportunities’ for everyone, as depicted in UK law, comes from the basic human need to be treated fairly and not discriminated against. Now, granted, it’s not perfect, but it’s a step on the path. If the world can do this, then how much more so the Church, in which there is supposed to be “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ” (Gal 3:28)? What the Life of Jesus does in this case is to remove the barriers between people and help them relate to one another as Family. In some places, yes, this is a dysfunctional family – but with a little effort and application, it’s possible to turn this around. How? As always, start with yourself. Determine to treat others with respect and love; do not judge or condemn others for what they do, say, what they are or what they eat.

Do this not as a set of Rules, but let it flow naturally from your life in the Spirit. Determine to be Jesus to those around you. Make everyone properly welcome, not as ‘evangelistic targets’, but merely and simply as people. Imagine how you would feel if (whatever), and run with that. As an Aspergic person, this is something I have had to train myself in; for those to whom it comes naturally, go ahead and use your abilities in the Spirit!

And it will happen. And the church will no longer be ‘FIFO’

Yes!


*If you are offended by ‘cuss words’, then please let me apologise for the offence but also may I suggest you get a sense of perspective. In any event, I needed to include the euphemisms because they are part of the impact of the piece.

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