Giving up the Bible Debates

Recently, I have found, when reading my Bible, that instead of hearing the gentle voice of the Spirit, I have instead been feeling the dry, grating, harsh legalism from those harsh people with whom I have engaged in Bible debates. I have found that I can’t read the Bible without its passages being contaminated with the nastiness and horror of some people’s worldviews that, while purporting to be Christian, still are not reflections of the loving Christ that I know so well.

It’s time for me to step back for a while from all the Bible debates on the forums, and to let myself bask in the closeness of the Holy Spirit once again. Time for worship; time for just rejoicing in His goodness.

Even after my recent post expressing why I do these debates (for the upbuilding of the invisible, silent listeners), still I need to recharge every so often. I still need to learn to pace myself and to give myself space.

Just a few short hours after I made the decision to do this, the following post appeared on the Unfundamentalist Christians channel on Patheos. And it was like an RAF air strike: right on time and right on target. Thank You, Lord!

This article is so perceptive and penetrating; it’s one of those pieces that you can immediately see is really outstanding. It describes things really well, so, why not take a look for yourself and be encouraged.

These are wise words, from a wise man.

If this is your burden, be released and be free.

Click here to go to the article, or click the graphic below:

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Holy, Holy, Holy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeff Turner on Finding Jesus

I love the writings of Jeff Turner. Here’s a great piece that he wrote a couple of weeks ago:


I’ve had my faith tested on a number of issues over the years, and have watched various doctrines fall, one by one, into the pit of irrelevancy and untenableness. At several points along the way, I’ve even been tempted to hit the eject button on theism altogether, and seek refuge in the “greener pastures” of atheism I’d observed from “above.” It was not fancy apologetics (which often left me either cringing or chuckling), abstract notions of deity, fear of hell or nihilism, or even the loss of relationships that kept me coming back to Christianity, but rather its Christ. Even when I had difficulties knowing how to understand the role and work of Jesus, it was him and him alone, and not the trappings of religion, or even the warmth of community, that continually drew me back to Christianity.

There is something radical and revolutionary about this figure named Jesus, whom both religionists and atheists alike have been awed and inspired by. When I disbelieved, he disbelieved with me. When I believed only in love and humanity, he did the same. And when I came again to believe in God, albeit in a more beautiful way, it was he that I came to believe in again.

Sometimes when we lose everything in regards to our beliefs, it can feel like a chaotic, death-is-certain free fall. If you lose everything, you…well, lose everything. You don’t know where to turn, where to go, or what you can trust in any longer. In these times we must have a “constant,” or something that grounds us in reality. For me, my “constant,” my grounding, was always the figure of Jesus. Though I knew and understood him differently in different seasons, it was what he revealed to be true of God and humanity that kept me from slipping into an existential abyss, from which I may never have escaped.

I want to encourage you, wherever you are on your journey of faith and spirituality, you can find a traveling partner in the person of Jesus. Whatever you are, he’ll become. Wherever you are, he’ll join you. Even if you need to not believe, he’ll become an unbeliever with you. There is no trench in the human experience he has not dived to the depths of. Wherever you are, you’ll find him.

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The Parable of God’s Repentance

There’s a young Christian writer I know who comes out with some really good stuff. He’s called Jacob Wright, and I’ve featured his writing before on my blog.

In this powerful parable that I read recently on his page, Jacob cleverly exposes the flawed concept that God the Father could ever be different in character from Jesus Who is His perfect representation (Heb 1:3).

Over to Jacob:

“God repents of Old Testament days, asks Jesus into his heart”

It’s reported that God, who has been known to go by Jehovah, has recently decided to follow Jesus. God recently released a statement that sending his Son into the world made him rethink some of the old ways he used to deal with people. “Perhaps wrathfully raining down fire on cities and drowning millions of people wasn’t the best or most Christlike way to go about things,” God reportedly said. God especially felt bad about commanding his people to commit wholesale genocide against the Canaanites and the Amalekites, including their women, children, and babies. “I’d rather not talk about that stuff. It’s in my past. I was still new at this whole human race thing. As God, I’ve decided to give a Christlike example for humanity to look up to. Jesus has taught me a lot.”

After hearing Jesus teach against wrath and hate, and commanding people to love their enemies and be peacemakers because this is what their Heavenly Father is like, God said that Jesus’ words really had an impact on him and made him think. “I really liked the way Jesus portrayed me. I think I can live up to that,” said God. “When my Son even forgave his own murderers, that kind of sealed the deal for me. It’s really had a powerful effect on people’s lives too. I want to be more like Jesus.”

God said that since becoming a disciple of Jesus, he no longer plans to torture the majority of mankind forever in fire, and is taking a new course of direction. “A different approach to this whole thing is really needed,” God said. God promises that his change of heart is real, and that he promises to practice the fruits of the Spirit in the future.”

Wow. Ponder on that…


I’ll also add a couple of the comments from some of Jacob’s readers:

Reading a parody, great! (at least I hope so). God is, of course, unchanging. What Jesus revealed was that ancient man had gotten most everything wrong from the beginning. Then, when religion kicked in, we went right back to the misguided OT level of theology that Jesus had just corrected. Speak to any Christian today, you’ll get a flood of scripture quotes, with virtually no inner awareness of the truth of their being. Jesus had the same problem, trying to compete with religion.” – Frank

I think humans have a natural penchant to swing and/or return to Religion and legalism. This is why the truth Jesus brought is so counterintuitive.” – Anthony


I think this piece is definitely thought-provoking. Certainly it’s incisive….

Hope you enjoyed it 🙂

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The Invisible Listeners

This post is written to those believers who write on the Internet about Grace. People who write to encourage others, to build them up, not tear them down.

I am a member of several Facebook groups where people of the Spirit voice things from God, things new and old. Old widsom, and new wisdom. Things for the building up of the Saints (Eph 4:12). Jesus Himself said that there was so much more He wanted to tell us (Jn 16:12), and this kind of publishing is part of that. Much of this stuff is the prophetic Word of God for today. You can tell by the fruits manifested in their readers that these words are bringing life to those that read them.

But there is also huge discouragement, and often even despair, for those who write. If you are one of these writers, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. On public posts, you are torn to shreds by (sometimes well-meaning) Religious people who don’t like what they read. The Scripture says that people would be offended by the message of Jesus, and this is for several reasons. Mostly, though, the offence is found in the simplicity of the Gospel message, where St. Paul simply preached Christ crucified. Jesus has accomplished all that is necessary for the way to be open to God, and He invites us into His Presence. And this is counterintuitive. We humans naturally feel that surely there must be something we have to do, some sacrifice we have to make, something we can feel, think, do or say that somehow will make God more pleased with us.

But, actually, no, there isn’t. He’s already more pleased with you than you can possibly imagine! And that’s what is so offensive to people: that nothing they can do – or not do – will make them any more or less acceptable to God.

And so, I would like to encourage all my readers here today who write for Jesus.

People like me, who share regular blog posts containing what we believe to be the truth about God and how much He loves us, and how especially fond He is of us. People who write occasional pieces just expressing how they are feeling and how God is meeting them right where they are at. Or people who just build up others by sharing simple, gentle encouragement, whether in forum replies such as on the Patheos website (my favourite channel being ‘Unfundamentalist Christians‘), or even just in gentle Facebook replies.

To all such people I would say this:

Listen: your posts are encouraging far more people than you realise!

You are blessing hundreds and thousands of people simply by writing your gentle words of Grace!

When I post on the Patheos forums, and my posts are torn to shreds by the Religious gatekeepers; the Pharisees, or maybe just those who are secretly uncertain of their faith and feel that my words shake their foundations – and reply with violence because they feel threatened – I don’t worry about it.

Because I know that my posts have been read by my intended audience – not the Pharisees, but those who are broken, hurting, feeling rejected by the prim-and-proper religious elite. Those of ‘different’ sexualities. Those who have received abuse at the hands of those who should have been healing them: corrupt church leaders; antagonistic judgemental people pointing out their ‘sin’; ‘Sin-police’; those who deem themselves ‘fruit inspectors’. I take these people on, not to try to turn them or convince them – God will do that for them in His own time; indeed, only He can do it anyway – but to let those thousands of ‘invisible listeners’ and ‘lurkers’ know that not all Christians are like those people who cause harm. There are indeed Christians who gently manifest the presence of Jesus in their writings, and, to those bloggers like me who want to be that gentle, I would say, “Keep it up!” You are touching many more people with God’s love than you can possibly realise!

I leave you with a comment that was sent me by a man in New Zealand, to encourage me about my other website, ‘VintageWorshipTapes‘. On that site, I restore and make available electronic recordings of old worship tapes from the seventies, eighties and nineties. The comment still moves me to tears even now. Here’s what he said:

“One day, when we are in His Presence, you will find out just how many people were encouraged by what you are doing”

Wow! And I think that’s today’s take-home message 🙂

 

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Piper Warrior Conversion

Well, when I first began the Beautiful Destroyers series here on my blog, I did say that I would not always be featuring military aircraft.

If you remember, the most beautiful aeroplanes are often the ones that are designed to break things belonging to other people, hence the title ‘Beautiful Destroyers’, and I said I would also feature civilian aircraft from time to time. I’ve already featured one of my favourite civilian aeroplanes last time – the Cessna 152 – and today I am going to feature another of my favourite aeroplanes to fly – the Piper PA-28 Cherokee, also known as the ‘Warrior’. And, although she’s not a ‘Destroyer’ (although actually there are some military versions), she’s still beautiful.

The Warrior exists in various versions, and the one in the title picture, G-CIZO (‘Zulu-Oscar’), is actually a PA-28-161 ‘Cadet’, incorrectly listed in Wikipedia as being a two-seat variant. It’s not; there are definitely four seats in Zulu-Oscar! And four sets of seatbelts and four sets of headphone jacks.

And this is the aeroplane that I flew a couple of weeks ago, in order to convert back on to the Warrior after nearly sixteen years away from the type.

But that aside, the Warrior is, in my opinion, the prettiest of the light aeroplanes that I have flown. I love the double-taper wing shape; here is a lovely photo of Zulu-Oscar showing off her beautiful lines really nicely:

Zulu-Oscar on final approach (note position of flaps just behind the main undercarriage)

In the past, when I have flown a Cessna 152, it always felt as if I was putting on my second skin, so familiar am I with the aeroplane type. The aircraft very smoothly becomes an extension of me, my senses, my body, you get the picture.

And I am thrilled to have been reminded that it’s the same with the Warrior. Even after sixteen years of not flying the type, I have to say that I took to it immediately. Having completed my hour and a half conversion flight with an Instructor, five days later I took the same aeroplane up solo for a skills consolidation flight and it was just like I had never been away from the type, so delightful is this aeroplane to fly. It was like putting a glove on; she instantly becomes a part of you. She’s smooth, steady and stable, responsive and light to the touch. A real pilot’s aeroplane.

The Warrior I have flown most in the past, at Plymouth (where I learned to fly) is G-BTSJ ‘Sierra Juliet’.

Sierra-Juliet on the grass at Exeter

Since Plymouth Airport closed a few years ago, Sierra-Juliet has lived at Newquay (where Plymouth Flying School relocated to) and I had seen her occasionally at Bodmin (where I flew after Pymouth closed) when she was there for maintenance. Now, however, she has been bought by my flying school at Exeter and I am looking forward to taking this dignified old lady up into the skies once again. She’s the aeroplane I was flying when we had the humorous ‘Forced Landing’ incident I related previously.

So, as I said, a couple of weeks ago, I flew in Zulu-Oscar, with veteran flying instructor Mike, for my type refresher conversion. Why? Well, unless you have flown it recently, you can’t really just jump into a new (to you) aircraft type and fly it, at least not safely; you need to know where all the switches are, how to handle emergencies, and especially what speeds to fly for climbing, gliding, cruise, final approach, all that sort of thing. These are what’s known as the ‘V Speeds‘. My instructor Mike is a great bloke whom I have known for most of my flying career; he was an Instructor at Plymouth just after I finished my PPL and he’s patient, unflappable and great to work with. So off we toddled up towards Cullompton and Wellington, two towns to the north of Exeter, for General Handling practice including steep turns, stalls and a PFL. Then across the moor to the busy local General Aviation (GA) aerodrome at Dunkeswell for circuits and touch-and-go landing practice. Because Dunkeswell were using their shorter Runway 17, I had to relearn very quickly about the Warrior’s acceleration/deceleration characteristics. The PA-28 is a very slippery aeroplane and, while she accelerates readily, slowing down is really not that easy. And so I had to fly four circuits of precision flying, controlling height, heading and speed accurately as well as communicating with the ground radio people, keeping a lookout and maintaining high situational awareness because of the busy circuit traffic at Dunkeswell that day. My first landing was admittedly more of a controlled crash; after raising the nose for the flare (just before landing), my airspeed fell off a little too quickly and I came down like it was on an aircraft carrier. Boomps-a-daisy. And to cap it all, on our last final approach, they decided to chuck a load of parachutists out over the airfield and they were coming down all over the place. But they kept to their area of the airfield and away from the active runway, so all was well, although Mike did double-check with the ground people to make sure they were happy with us continuing our approach (they were). So, a quick full-stop landing for refuelling, then it’s off to Exeter again, land there, get my logbook signed to say I’d requalified on the Warrior and the job’s a good ‘un.

Here’s a profile view of Zulu-Oscar:

Look at those lovely, clean lines and the beautiful curves on the tailfin. Also worthy of note is the ‘slab tailplane’. The entire tailplane – that’s the small wing-like structure at the back end – is what’s known as an ‘all-flying tailplane’, ‘stabilator‘, or ‘slab tailplane’. What this means is that, instead of the tailplane being fixed but with separate moving surfaces (known as ‘elevators’) as the part of the tailplane that controls the ‘attitude’ or ‘pitch’ (nose-up/nose-down) of the aeroplane, instead, with a slab tailplane, the entire tailplane moves as a single piece to provide this control. Because the slab tailplane has such a large area when compared to normal elevators, this means that this sort of tailplane confers excellent ‘pitch authority’, in that the aeroplane responds decisively and enthusiastically to pitch control inputs. This gives a very ‘positive’, yet also very light, feel to the controls when flying this type. In addition, unlike the Piper PA-38 ‘Tomahawk’ that I also fly, which has a high ‘T’-tailplane, the lower tailplane on the Warrior sits in the propeller slipstream – the ‘wash’ of high-speed air blown backwards along the aeroplane by the propeller – and this gives it even more pitch authority. Because of this, it’s virtually impossible for the tailplane to enter a dangerous ‘deep stall‘ condition, which makes for a much safer aeroplane.

So, there we go, that’s the Piper Warrior. I’ve not given much detail on performance or stuff like that, but instead a proper ‘pilot’s-eye’ view of a lovely aeroplane which flies as nicely as it looks. Here’s a final shot of Zulu-Oscar, taken just after my consolidation flight last week:

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The Prodigal Allegory

Here’s a great article by my friend Ken Nichols, a man who is prophetic in hearing the new things the Spirit is saying to the churches in this time. Listen to what God says as you read it:


The following is a retelling of the Prodigal Son story [Edit: Luke 15:11–32], using the popular “penal substitutionary atonement” (PSA) model as a guide. (Note: like most allegories, this won’t ‘fit’ perfectly, but is done to make a point.) (Note 2: If you don’t know what “penal substitutionary atonement IS, a quick Google search will give you all you need to know.) (Note 3: This retelling uses The Message version as the original “base” for the story, so I wouldn’t have to make my part sound all “spiritual”.)

“There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me.’

So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

That brought him to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.”

And when he arrived home, he found the front door locked. He knocked at the door and heard his father’s voice say, “Who is it?” from inside the house. The son gave his speech: ‘Father, it’s your son. I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again.’ And the Father said, “That’s true, and I appreciate the apology. That’s a good first step towards mending our relationship.” The son said, “Well, can I come in?” The father opened the door and came out. “Not yet.” the father said. “We still need to deal with this sin problem. You see, you have to be punished for what you’ve done to me before I can accept you as my son again. I can’t just let you ‘get away with it’. A price must be paid.” By that time the older brother had discovered what was happening and also came out of the house just as the father was explaining the problem.

The father continued, “And unfortunately, my laws demand that blood must be spilled in order to forgive you. I’m sorry, but these are the conditions required to grant you restoration in my household.”

The father said to the older brother, “Son, go get my rod from the barn. Your brother must be punished.” The son obeyed, but when he got back, he felt compassion on his brother, who after the famine and all, wasn’t in too great a shape anyway. He was afraid that the beating might be too much for him, and was concerned he might die.

“Father,” he said, handing him the rod, “beat ME instead.” His father was shocked but also proud that his eldest son would step up and volunteer for such a thing. Even though he knew this son was innocent he said, “That’s fine. As long as justice and the law are satisfied, that will pay the debt your brother owes.” He then called for one of his farmhands and handed him the rod. The youngest son seemed confused so the Father explained, “Oh, I can’t do it MYSELF. I don’t actually punish people directly. I have someone else do it at my command.” To the farmhand, “And remember, blood has to be spilled, so don’t hold back.”

The farmhand, who was angry with the son concerning things we won’t get into here, proceeded to beat the oldest son nearly to death (It would take a “miracle” to revive him). The father was pleased to see him suffer and all the spilled blood. The price had indeed been paid. He opened his arms to the younger son and said, “I forgive you! Now we can be together again.”

However, by this time, the son wasn’t so sure what to think. He loved his brother, for sure, for taking his place, but his father was scary. Honestly, he just wasn’t sure if he could be trusted after this display of violence. So, he hesitated.

His father admonished him, “Come on. This is how my love and justice work together. And if you don’t accept me now. I might have to walk you over to the outhouse where you’d have to go live. Trust me, it’s not someplace you want to be.” “Why?”, the son said. “I thought the price was paid.” The Father replied, “Only if you ACCEPT all this and love me. Otherwise, we will be separated forever.”


Ken has asked me to provide a link to his Facebook page in case anyone wants to contact him about the article. Click here to be taken to Ken’s page.

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El-Shaddai

Fiona and I always shared an irreverent sense of humour. And, despite having lost her, my sense of humour is still just as wacky 🙂 Our outlook on life has always been free and flippant! Because we were (and are) both completely secure in our relationship with Father, we felt free to make jokes about our faith, sometimes to the consternation of other churchy types who were nearby – although to be fair, we didn’t usually use that type of humour in the presence of those who would not understand, because it would have made them uncomfortable. I sometimes think that people are afraid of God, despite 1 John 4:8, which speaks about perfect love driving out fear… sadly, then, there are many Christians – and people from other faiths too – who declare that ‘God has a sense of humour’, but whose ensuing fake laughter usually belies that belief. Lolz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

– Michael Card/John W. Thompson

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

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

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

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Doctrine, Signs and Wonders

I have seen it claimed that there are in excess of 40,000 Christian denominations. Almost all of the people in those denominations would claim to have some experience of, or fellowship with, God, despite the fact that they all believe many different things – although of course they have many beliefs in common. And He chooses to work through those people. Now, if those people claim fellowship with God, what gives me the right to doubt them, just because I have ‘other ideas’ about correct beliefs; about what is a ‘good doctrine’ and what is a ‘bad doctrine’? If God chooses to work through these people, who am I to argue with that, just because they don’t necessarily fit with ‘what I believe the Bible says’, or, more presumptuously, ‘what the Bible clearly says’? Each of those people has arrived at their current faith position through a multitude of different factors: geography, upbringing, literacy, education, family background, church background, whatever. And yet, they claim, God touches these people all the same, irrespective of belief or doctrine.

Some would argue that they definitely have God’s ‘seal of approval’, because of the ‘signs and wonders following’ that confirm the Word. In Mark 16:20, the Scripture says that, “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it”. What we see in terms of miracles, helping the poor, and other visible Christian fruits, is therefore seen as God’s ‘approval’ of what we believe in.

But we must remember that the ‘word’ being preached is Jesus – the Word become flesh. The signs and wonders confirm Him, not Us! They testify that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mt 3:2, Mt 4:17, Mk 1:15) They testify as to God’s immense goodness and love.

They do not mean that you’ve got it all right and they certainly should not be interpreted as God ratifying, approving, subscribing to, endorsing or otherwise confirming your doctrines. In short, He does His miracles not because we are right, but because He is right! He does it because, despite our imperfections, He wants us to experience the fulness of His Kingdom. It’s all because of Him.

I therefore consider that actually God does not mind all that much about what we actually believe – or say we believe, which is often different – but actually, ‘as the Bible clearly says’, God looks on the heart (1Sam 16:7). And He rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Heb 11:6). Nowhere does it say that He rewards those who hold ‘correct doctrine’.

In fact, all that the Bible says about what is necessary in order for us to experience the fulness of His Kingdom is that we believe in Jesus. Christianity is an ancient, broad faith, whose 40,000-plus denominations, encompass a vast spectrum of different beliefs on all kinds of peripheral topics such as Hell, homosexuality, the authority of Scripture and many, many other things. But still, central to each denomination’s faith, is the Person of Jesus Christ. It is completely unreasonable to expect that any one of these denominations has everything just right; all their ducks lined up. It is also therefore folly to believe that God somehow expects us – all of us – to be right all the time. Jesus is what it all hinges on, not a) our beliefs nor b) correct doctrine.

And so, my dear readers, please take encouragement. Carry on questioning, probing and thinking – because God made you to do that. Not necessarily to ‘find the right answers’, but simply to find out more about God’s goodness.

Only those with the control issues; those who will only tolerate their own doctrines, will have a problem with this.

“When the Spirit comes, He will lead you into all Truth”. He has so much more He wants to tell you…(Jn 16:12)


This piece is a companion essay to two of my previous posts on the same sort of issues, this one from two years ago and this one from eighteen months ago. Read in conjunction with this piece, they might be quite enlightening…

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