‘Sully’

I’ve just finished watching the movie ‘Sully’, starring Tom Hanks as Capt. Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, the airline pilot who landed his crippled Airbus 320 passenger jet on the Hudson River, New York, on 15th January 2009. (Can’t believe that’s nearly ten years ago!)

After a double engine failure due to multiple birdstrikes, Sully and his First Officer, Jeff Skiles, glided the jet down for a forced water landing, on to the Hudson River, in one piece and, despite several injuries being sustained, there were no fatalities. Of the 150 passengers and five crew aboard, all survived. Fittingly, it was known as the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’.

Well. What a superb movie.  It tells the story of the flight; what happened, the decisions of the crew, the investigation by the US NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) and also a little about the people involved. While the NTSB investigation is not shown in a good light – the members of the investigation panel are more hostile than they were in real life – this only helped, I thought, to highlight just what an amazing job Sully and his team did.

It was technically (i.e. from an aviation point of view) perfect. So often, in movies like this one where aeroplanes are simulated using Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), the computer-generated aeroplanes fly nothing like the real thing. For a Pilot, it’s usually very painful to watch. But this was perfect. Also the other technical details were accurate too.

Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger

As my regular readers know, I fly aeroplanes for fun, and I often practice emergency situations, including simulated engine failures. I know how to cope with an engine failure, and I have over twenty years of flying experience to call on. I sincerely hope that, should the same sort of emergency situation happen to me as happened to Sully that day, that I too would manage to pull it off and land safely*. Mind you, not with 155 people on board…

Sully had been flying for twice as long as I have. I love the modest quotation from him that sums up the experience and training aspect of his amazing feat. He said, “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years, I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.”

I personally think that the movie will also increase passenger confidence. Many people have a fear of flying, and seeing the professionalism of the aircrew on this movie is bound to help. Mind you, the sight of a flock of Canada geese knocking an airliner out of the sky is a bit worrying… Also, they go to great pains to explain that a forced landing is not a ‘crash’, as the media love to call it. It’s not even a ‘ditching’; it’s a forced water landing. One implies lack of choice. The other implies being in complete control. I’ll leave you to guess  which is which.

And there was so much to learn from a Pilot’s perspective. ‘Fly the aeroplane’ is the first rule of flying. Nothing else matters more than that. And the discipline; the calm, measured approach to handling the emergency checklist; the effect and benefit of experience and training; the ‘permission’, almost, that the movie gives to make split-second decisions based on that experience and training; the interaction between, and best use of, the crew of the aircraft; the liaison with ground controllers; the ability to ignore distractions. All excellent stuff, and yet accessible by the general, non-aviating public.

So, if you can see this film on Netflix or Amazon Prime, or whether you need to rent/buy a DVD or borrow one from a friend, definitely watch this movie. I heartily recommend it.

“Just doing my job”, said Sullenberger afterwards.

What a hero.


*A forced landing is one where due to loss or lack of engine power – still under full control, but like it or not, the aeroplane is coming down – and you just have to make sure it gets down in one piece. Look at it this way: well before I went on to flying powered aircraft, my flying career actually began on gliders. These are aeroplanes just like the ones I fly nowadays – but they have no engine. In a glider, then, you have a permanent ‘engine failure’.  When flying gliders, therefore, Every. Single. Landing. is a forced landing. Since I have about 70-80 flights in gliders under my belt, that means that I personally have performed 70-80 real forced landings. They are perfectly safe when you know what you’re doing!

20

What a Day That Will Be!

This is the most moving painting I have seen in a long time.

It’s called ‘First Day In Heaven’, by Egyptian artist Kerolos Safwat.

It moves me to tears just looking at it. Something snapped inside of me as I pondered this painting; something deep happened within my spirit.

That’s because this painting reminds me of a vivid picture that God gave me two years ago today: 25th October, 2016, the day my precious wife Fiona began her first day in Heaven. On that day, I saw a vision of her that I can’t describe, it was so simple, and yet so awesome and personal and such that I can’t communicate it, but suffice it to say that it was very similar to this one. And this is why I am using this painting in today’s blog post, marking the second anniversary of Fiona’s passing into that incredible place.

I mean, can you imagine what it must be like to be the lady in that picture? Look at that expression on her face!

It’s saying:

“Yes! It’s all true! Jesus, I love you so much! Thank You, thank You, thank You!”

“Wow, I feel so young again!”

“I’m out of pain! I’m whole! I’m alive!”

“I was so scared of dying…and this is just amazing!”

“I’m home!”

“YESSS!”

This lady can now see – with her own eyes – that everything is ok; everything is fine – in fact, it’s better than fine; better than she’d ever hoped for, better than she could ever imagine (1Cor 2:9-10). No matter what her sufferings in this life, she now has a completely new, whole, functioning, beautiful, heavenly body – and yet she’s still completely herself; more so, in fact, than she’s ever been . She is fully aware that the place she has entered is the most beautiful place she has ever seen: like Earth, like the world she was used to, but the colours are so much more vibrant, the air is sweet and clear, the temperature is just right, there are huge mountains, pastures, lakes and forests the like of which she has never even contemplated in her best imaginings. And, best of all, the Person she loves the most is right there!

The joy that she feels is indescribable. She never knew such joy was possible.  Alongside that joy, the greatest earthly ecstasy was just a dim, flickering glow. To see Jesus face to face, and know that she is now completely safe from danger, pain, horror, suffering, weeping (except maybe tears of joy) – it’s the ultimate healing.

She’s been looking forward to being reunited with her loved ones, and with countless other people from all ages and all civilisations throughout history; friends whom she hasn’t yet met. And now that’s going to happen. And she will be reunited with her beloved pets. Like Jesus, she has the ability to do just about anything she wants to do. She can pass through walls, she can enjoy food and drink, she can feel the warmth of His Presence all the time as a constant glow. She can see the full glory of God, and yet she’s so aware that there is all of eternity stretching out before her so that she can learn more and more of Him and His ways. To gain a full appreciation of an infinite Creator will require an infinite amount of time, and she’s got all the time she needs. Time will never again be a constraint on her life or on her activities.

Then there’s Divine justice. The Judgement, which holds so much fear for so many people, but not for our friend here. Divine judgement; Divine justice, is restorative, not adversarial nor punitive. All wrongs will be made right. Everything that was ever done to her that was unjust, undeserved, painful, heart-wrenching, agonising – all this will be made right and her hurts healed forever, to trouble her never again. God will wipe away every tear from her eyes (Rev 21:4). Everything will be made to be as it should be. All wrongs that she ever did to anyone else will be – has already been! – completely forgiven and forgotten (Is 43:25, Heb 8:12). She will have no more enemies, ever again. All her cares and worries are now in the past, and will stay there forever. No more arguments, no more conflicts, no more fighting, no more anguish, no more pain.

Imagine it. Eternity opens up before you, in its full glory and potential, rich in unlimited possibilities. Wow, wow, wow!

This is the promise that is for everyone. Life in God’s Presence, for ever and ever. Sure, there’s lots of people on the Internet (including myself) who remind us that ‘Jesus’s teaching was for this life, not for any kind of afterlife’. And yes that’s true too, because we don’t want to be ‘so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly use’! But the promise of the afterlife with Jesus is key to the Gospel. It takes away all fear (1Jn 4:18) and Jesus gives us His Spirit to guarantee what is to come (2Cor 1:22, Eph 1:14). Isn’t that awesome? It means that the joy that this lady feels in that painting, is the joy that you and I will also feel.

It seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? And if it was something on this earth, something someone was trying to sell us, then yes – it would be too good to be true. But you see the thing is, the Gospel – that God loves us, He’s not mad at us, and He wants us to spend time with Him – is almost too good to be true, except that God is the One who can make good on His promises – to the point that if it isn’t too good to be true, then it’s not the Gospel!

I think that’s a simply mind-blowing concept!

What  a day that will be
When my Jesus I shall see!
And I look upon His face
The One Who saved my by His Grace
And He takes me by the hand
And leads me to the Promised Land
What a day, glorious day, that will be!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5)

Please note that Mr. Safwat’s painting has been pirated, copied, even printed and sold by unscrupulous people who had nothing to do with its creation. People have modified it and altered the image to reflect their own agendas. If you want to support the original artist by buying his work, you can visit his Facebook page here.

Granted, it does strongly appear that Mr. Safwat’s painting was itself inspired by a photo by photographer Paige Stewart; a shot of the celebration of two Canadian Rugby players, apparently.

But still the painting, however it was inspired, still moves me to tears because, for me, it captures just what we will feel when we, too, spend our first day in Heaven. The joy of even the greatest Rugby score pales into nothing when compared with that; indeed, all this earth’s joys are but a pale reflection – and yet perfect models – of the joy we will receive when we get there. Kerolos Safwat has taken this photo and recreated it into one of the most moving paintings I have ever seen. That takes real talent!

00

A Sense of Proportion

I find it interesting – and, given my personal belief in the completed work of Christ, somewhat frustrating – that many Christians believe that there are a whole lot of hoops that people need to jump through in order to be ‘saved’.

Jesus said in a few places (Mt 19:14; Mk 10:13-16; Lk 18:17) that the Gospel is far more easily accepted by ‘little children’, though, which suggests to me that actually the Gospel is very simple. And I also believe that not only is the Gospel simple, but also that religious people have added (and continue to add) layer upon layer of conditions and caveats to that simple Gospel, thus making it virtually unreachable.

Jesus had this to say about people in His day who did things like that:

“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46)

This strongly suggests to me that in fact the imposing of religious burdens on people is a far cry from the freedom that Jesus actually came to bring us. In short, He came to bring us Rest:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

– Mt 11:28-30 (Message)

It’s also analogous to a military combat aircraft. Of itself, a modern jet fighter is fast, clean, manoeuvrable and sleek.

But once you start adding missiles, bombs, fuel tanks and other pods and stuff onto the underwing racks, the aeroplane rapidly becomes far heavier, more unwieldy and harder to fly, and its performance is reduced drastically. The aircraft becomes ‘dirty’, to use flying parlance, and it is no longer ‘clean’.

In short, the more you burden it, the harder it becomes to fly. And I do wonder if actually some Christians’ faith actually does ‘fly’ as it should do, to continue the analogy, so burdensome have all these various add-ons and requirements become.

And that’s not at all what Jesus came to give us!

 

In a previous post, I have examined the dire outlook which is the logical conclusion of taking literally the ideas of the ‘narrow way’ and the ‘wide way’, as put forward by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:23-24. Today, I thought I would try putting some numbers to this concept, and follow that with a little bit of logic (albeit fairly tongue-in-cheek!), to give us some idea of just how crazy this doctrine is, in the light of the fact that Jesus is usually claimed to be a ‘perfect Saviour’. Using this logic, Jesus actually ends up appearing to be nothing of the sort, as we shall see.

Right, let’s get started. There is, we are told, a wide way, and a narrow way (Mt 7:13-14). By definition, the narrow way is less travelled, because Jesus said that ‘few are those who find it’. We can therefore assume that the narrow way is not as broad as the wide way, and that less people travel the narrow way than they do the wide way. What sort of proportion are we talking about here? Well, most Evangelicals would use backward logic and say that since only about 1% of the worlds population have said the ‘sinner’s prayer’, and said it ‘properly’ at that, then it’s about 1% on the narrow way, and the other 99% on the wide way. But I am going to be more generous than that today. I want to use the most generous figures I can get away with, and still show how ludicrous the numbers are even in spite of this.

It is estimated that roughly 33% of the world’s population is (nominally) Christian. [1] So I am going to use this figure – one third – at each stage in my argument, which as I said is generous, but hey. So, one third of the world’s population find the narrow path, which we assume is Christianity. Now, each Christian religious group will have their own ideas as to what additional doctrines are ‘essential’ to [what they would call] being a Christian, so let’s add some of these ideas in to the formula. A typical set of required Evangelical beliefs, and the numbers resulting from them, would go something like this:

Of that one third of the world who are nominally Christians, let’s assume that one third of those are in the ‘right’ denominational field. For Evangelicals, that is of course Protestantism as opposed to Roman Catholicism.

Of that number, one third will be in the right Protestant denomination (e.g. Baptist, Pentecostal or whatever) [2]

One third of these will claim that they are following the correct leader or be in the correct congregation.

One third of these will have said the ‘sinner’s prayer’

One third of those will not only have said it, but actually meant it/said it ‘properly’/said the ‘correct form’ of the prayer

Of those people, many people in that congregation are those that ‘God hates’ [3]; only one third are in his ‘good books’.

One third of those people in His good books will be actively keeping the correct laws/Rules as determined by that church; (some will not, and will be closet ‘sinners’ and therefore ‘lost’)

Of those keeping the Rules, only one third will ‘endure unto the End’ (Mt 24:13)

Of those that ‘endure unto the End’, only one third will have confessed every single sin before they die.

Of those few that confess Every. Single. Sin., only one third will have absolutely no fears or doubts when they cross over – these fears and doubts also being a ‘sin’ and therefore sufficient to ‘disqualify’ that person.

Of those that stand before Jesus and say ‘Lord, Lord, did we not [do lots of things for you]’ (Mt 7:22), to only one third will Jesus not say, “Away from Me; I never knew you!” (Mt 7:23) because they didn’t do those things from the correct motivation or whatever.

Only to those remaining after all these tests will Jesus say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter now into your inheritance’ (Mt 25:23).

And that’s not even including those who have/have not been baptised, those who believe/don’t believe that the Bible is the inerrant/infallible Word of God, those who believe/don’t believe in Hell, those who believe/don’t believe that the King James Version of the Bible is the only true version, those who do or do not feed the hungry, visit those in prison and clothe the naked, those who hate gay people, those who don’t hate Donald Trump, those who vote differently from how God would vote, you get the picture. There are so, so many hoops that Evangelical churches would have you jump through that it’s nigh on impossible to pass all the tests.

Try calculating that even roughly [4] and even only including the factors I have [sort of] quantified above, and you end up with a vanishingly small fraction of people who will ‘qualify’ – because, let’s face it, every Christian has slightly different beliefs and will in no way believe in all of those things, plus the other random hoops that every different group invents for themselves. Therefore, for someone to qualify for Heaven by jumping through Every. Single. One. of those hoops is more or less impossible to attain. And that’s all presuming a Saviour who is apparently capable of ‘keeping [us] from falling’, although given that list of pitfalls that are all supposedly our fault, it doesn’t sound all that hopeful, now does it?

By the way, I should re-emphasise somewhat sarcastically at this point that this is all supposed to be “Good News”.

You’d never have guessed, would you?

Of course, I don’t believe any of this. I’m just emphasising how silly all these ‘requirements’ are. Of course Jesus is an effective Saviour – infinitely more effective, in fact, than these people give Him credit for!

In fact, Jesus is indeed the One Who is ‘…Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy!’ (Jude 24-25) It’s all based on what He has done, not on what we will do, believe, achieve or assent to. All these hoops to jump through? In reality, God doesn’t care about them because they don’t actually exist. Leave them behind, ignore them and take no notice of those who advocate them.

So, what shall we say then? I think we should reiterate the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28, which I will quote once again for your edification:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Mt 11:28 (Message)

Come to Jesus. That’s where the freedom lies. As I emphasise in many of my blog posts, the Christian life is not about rules and regulations, it’s about freedom. Freedom from sin, freedom from care and worry, freedom from human regulations, freedom from the fear of man, judgement and God – freedom, freedom, freedom! If it’s not about freedom, it’s not the Gospel!

So, take heart! Jesus came to free us from the letter of the Law, and in fact nailed it to the Cross in Himself (Col 2:14). We are no longer bound by the Law; we are instead living under Grace (Rom 6:14). In fact, none of the ‘requirements’ listed above apply to any of us. What matters is not rules, requirements and regulations; what matters is the New Creation (Gal 6:15). If you are In Christ, you are a new creation, and there is no going back. If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him (Rom 6:8; 2Tim 2:11) – and that death we died is a one-way deal!

Dead to sin, dead to Law (which is the power of sin) and alive to God in Christ Jesus!

Oh, glory!


[1] 2012 figures, from Wikipedia entry ‘List of Religious Populations

[2] Obviously ‘Our’ denomination is the right one to be ‘in’, and indeed the ‘only’ one to be in. Everyone else is ‘out’! Funny how these things work, isn’t it? 😉

[3] Mark Driscoll: “Some of you: God hates you!” – link to YouTube video

[4] To save you the effort, I have calculated this for you. The proportion of people who would make it to Heaven by fulfilling every one of these criteria simultaneously would be 0.000055% of all people, or one in approximately 1.8 million people. Calculating this even further, this means that of the worlds population of approximately 7.4 billion people, there would only be just over 4,000 people in Heaven. The rest, according to standard Evangelical doctrine, burn forever in the fires of Hell. No wonder I don’t believe in that concept!

40

Itching Ears

Here’s a great piece by Lee O’Hare:


“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

I get so tired of people using this scripture to supposedly confront and rebuke those of us who teach about the love of God and the Christ like nature of the Abba of Jesus as if we are simply making up doctrines to accommodate our wicked and rebellious desires and ungodly passions. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, many of us have actually had to be convinced almost against our will and prior deep religious conditioning of the things we now believe and hold on to. Many of us have suffered the loss and ostracization of friends and family members and some have actually lost jobs and ministry positions, been branded as heretics and false teachers and deceivers because of what we now believe and teach.

So, why do we do this? Why do we allow ourselves to be so misunderstood and misrepresented and maligned by those with whom we once walked? It is because we have been convinced by a serious study of scripture and the conviction of the Holy Spirit that we have been wrong about how we understood God and His character and nature and that He is in fact so much more loving, compassionate and merciful than anything we had previously been led to believe.

I would suggest that if anybody has “itching ears” it is those whose hearts have not yet been transformed by the love of Jesus and are still holding on to a pagan mythology of a wrathful and retributive God who will punish their enemies to satisfy their own punitive and vengeful nature and desires and NOT those of us who have repented of and renounced such unworthy and slanderous images we had previously projected upon God in our fallen desire to have a god who was just like us in our lust for vengeance and retribution.

Lee O’Hare, shared with his kind permission.

20

Leadership in the Cage

The above picture depicts very nicely what I would like to see Religion become.

An empty cage.

You see, God loves it that people of faith have a hunger for Him, a seeking after meaning, and a desire to be near Him. He blesses their efforts with His Presence.

But Religion can also be a cage. A cage of seeking approval from God, humans, even ourselves, for what we do and what we are. And part of that approval relies on us not ‘rocking the boat’; not causing others to question their faith and so on. In some ways this is good, because not everyone wants to actually move on in their faith into deeper things. For them, the ‘security’ of ‘knowing’ what they want to know is what they want from their faith, and that’s fine.

But at the same time, for those who desire the freedom of the wide open spaces of God’s love (and that includes His full approval), there is the stultifying pressure to conform to others’ expectations. So many of Jesus’s parables and instructions, if you really look at them, were actually concerned with not being worried about what others think of us; but instead to seek God’s approval – or, more accurately, to rest in His already-existing approval of us.

And in the case of Church leadership, this is extremely important. If the Church really does need leaders (something I am not convinced of) then that leadership needs to be forward-looking, and leading their flock further into the things of God, not sitting with their wheels spinning in the mud. So here’s the brilliant Jeff Turner, addressing Church leadership in a simple yet profound piece:


If you’re a pastor, and people fear being hauled into your office for asking the wrong questions, reading the wrong books, or discussing the wrong ideas with the wrong people, I’m afraid you’re no longer operating as a pastor. Instead, you’ve taken on the role of elementary school principal, and have juvenilized those under your care in the process. You’re not there to squelch curiosity, or to tell people what they are to think. You should be the thought leader, and by that I mean the person pushing the boundaries, and calling people into the unknown!

Leaders aren’t leaders if they don’t ask “why?”, and they certainly can’t help people move beyond where they are if they don’t practice the art of questioning and wondering. Pastors: become curious about your faith, your God, and your place in this world again! Don’t leave people stuck in the tarpits of certainty, but help them move forward by becoming a student again!


Excellent.

I can so identify with this. You see, the way I see it is that if you have no questions, then by definition you think you have God all sorted out; all ‘taped’. There is nothing more to learn about God, which by definition means that we know nothing really about Him as He’s infinite; a never-ending fascinating Being Who’s full of surprises and amazing revelations. ‘Pressing in’ will be pointless because you’re not going to learn anything more about Him than your Bible, and your bosses, say you are allowed to.

I call that being in a cage.

Contrast that with the vast, open spaces and deep oceans of God’s freedom, with a never-ending voyage of discovery about His nature and His ways…and that voyage lasts forever…how is living in that former cage ever again going to feel like it’s where you belong?

My blog is about freedom. Use the search bar on my blog pages to find more about the freedom you have – as your birthright – as a believer and as a Child of God.

00

Cheap Grace?

I always wonder if people realise what they are saying when they effectively insult the Grace of God, by saying it’s ‘cheap’ – although I appreciate they are mainly criticising people like me who live in Grace, rather than criticising Grace itself.

But whatever their reason, their Bible says that Grace is good, and that it comes from God, Who gives us only good things. Why then is it ‘cheap’? That’s ridiculous! And as for it being a ‘licence to sin‘, well, people manage that easily enough without Grace to help them. No, it’s Grace that teaches us to say ‘No’ so sin, not to give in to it! (Titus 2:11-12)’

In this excellent short piece, Christy Wood gives her take on Grace and how it works in her life:


I’ve heard people complain about the ridiculously extravagant grace of Jesus. They don’t like the way we teach it. They call it “cheap grace.”

It’s more than cheap, it’s free! 😂

“But God still expects you to do the right things,” they say. “You should still do the right things. You can’t tell people that it doesn’t matter what they do.”

I don’t think they realize this, but the emphasis here is on behaviors. And even good behaviors can be sin when our heart motives are wrong. 😬

We are broken people! And we are so often motivated by fear, pride, guilt, etc. Jesus came to set us free at the heart level. He doesn’t need us to fix ourselves. He just wants to shower grace upon us, build a relationship with us, and begin to work on restoring our hearts. 😊

We WILL change when we meet Jesus. That’s a total given. But it won’t be because we are obsessed with a checklist of behaviors.

We will change because Jesus is changing us deep inside. Because the Spirit is at work empowering us, molding us, and remaking us. We will change at a heart level because of His scandalous, extravagant grace. ❤️


Link to the original piece is here.

10

And What He Says, Do…

It’s twenty-three months today since I lost the love of my life, my dear Fiona. Nearly two years.

In that time I have learned so much, I have grieved so much, I have lived so much. I have learned a wisdom and a compassion I never thought possible. I have walked closely with Jesus like I never have done before. I have attained a depth and breadth of understanding that previously I could only dream of.

Truly, I have taken that terrible loss, and with my best friend Jesus walking by my side, we have brought new life from the darkness. New ideas, new concepts, new understandings, new meaning for life and faith.

Of course, I would give anything to have my Fiona still by my side. And the last couple of months, particularly, have been extremely hard for some reason; I seem to have felt her loss more keenly than I have before, at least since the first few months. I dream about her most nights, and that’s good, because I get chance to talk to her about how I am feeling.

But the growth continues; the strengthening of my spirit, the confidence, the complete lack of any kind of fear, the total absence of any compulsion to please men rather than God. It’s almost as if my recent growth has placed me in a position where I feel that I am beyond mere worldly cares and considerations. Sure, I have my responsibilities to my family and to my employers. But the freedom I experience in my life is immense.

I find myself above and beyond the considerations of mere worldly politics and other double-meaning, double-dealing shenanigans.

Here’s an example of this wisdom in action. A friend of mine, the other day; a man who is far on in the faith and has an incredible spiritual maturity, was accused of ‘taking sides’ on a certain matter of dispute because he can see both sides, just like Jesus can. Here’s how he expressed it:

I’m afraid my “middle of the road” stance is gonna get blasted by BOTH sides. You have to either believe everything that a potential victim says and demonize the alleged offender, making him unfit to serve our country in any capacity, or try and minimize what could be a serious crime and call their accusations “fake news”. And I’m not good with EITHER of those positions. I want to know the truth, but I don’t know if the truth can be ascertained in these circumstances. I want justice for [the person in question], but don’t know if justice means destroying a man’s career and possibly life over what COULD have been a stupid macho mistake or terrible misunderstanding. Can I trust a man to handle the law that has potentially hurt someone? Yes, under the right circumstances. But I’m not even clear on what those would be, but I want it to revolve around the truth, admission of any guilt, apologies, forgiveness and restitution. I really just want compassion and justice for all”

I wrote this to him:

“[My friend], I don’t see you as being ‘middle of the road’ at all. I see you as being above the road; being able to see what is going on – but not only not taking sides, but just being Jesus. Remember the theophany in Joshua 5? [Josh 5:13b-14 (KJV)] ‘Are you on our side, or the enemy?’ “No” was the answer. Not ‘Neither’, although that’s not far off, but ‘No’. ‘Neither’ involves the choice of taking neither side. ‘No’ indicates that the question is not germane. There is a detachment from sinking to the level of the human conflict and its ‘choosing sides’, or even choosing the middle road, and seeing it from God’s point of view instead. Any and every Christian has the right to sit in that position of ‘No’; it’s far above a simple refusal to take sides, it’s part of being who you are in Christ. There is neither requirement nor compulsion to declare or assume sides; you are not answerable to anyone because you are a spiritual man. And you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone either.

His reply:

Wow, thanks Anthony. I don’t know that that’s EXACTLY what I’m doing, but it sure is something I would aspire to. I am trying to see everyone’s point of view, to put myself in their shoes and think about what they would need and want. And, yeah, that’s why I can’t just pick a side. Argue for one side, and I’ll just end up telling you why the other side can’t be ignored or belittled. When it comes to perpetrators (or even alleged perpetrators) that becomes VERY difficult in this country [USA – Ed], even among the Christian population. Everyone seems to call out for their pound of flesh. I’m trying to see from the point of view of that flesh”

I finished off the exchange with this:

And that was exactly what was in my mind when I wrote the comment. But as a man of peace, you naturally, well, maybe not always see both ‘sides’, but you at least are aware that both ‘sides’ exist and having that ability to put yourself in both sides’ shoes and try to see things from their point of view is about as Christlike as it gets. Unfortunately, those who cannot understand this see it as picking sides, merely because you express the fact that both sides have a point of view – but without making a value judgement on those points of view. So, you haven’t picked sides, but because you express attempted understanding of both sides, this makes you apparently complicit with both. But you and I both know that this is not the case at all, and this is why the spiritual man cannot be judged by anyone – because we see things from the spiritual point of view, not the worldly. Not that we are superior on anything, but we simply have a perspective that not everyone has”

This is the kind of wisdom that we learn from being close to Jesus and listening closely to His heart. And to bring this back to Fiona, I believe that Jesus has taken the wisdom that she implanted in me, as part of our relationship, and He’s developed it in deeper ways because I have lost her. I can think of several very deep reasons why this is the case, which I will not share here as they are too personal. This really is an example of ”the Secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him.

But be encouraged. You do not have to go through a bereavement process in order to take on a wisdom like this. Simply walk with Jesus, and what He says, do (John 2:5). Ignore what other humans say when it contradicts what Jesus says, even if they quote Bible verses at you that apparently also contradict what He says. Anyone can find Bible verses to support their point of view. But, as I said, Do whatever He tells you (Jn 2:5) and your wisdom will grow simply because you are walking with the Personification of wisdom – Jesus. And in the process, you will also find, almost as an added bonus, the strength and also the wisdom to cope with the hard times that life will inevitably throw at you. Life in its fulness (Jn 10:10) includes the ability to cope with the hard circumstances of life, simply because of Jesus, Who walks with you through those times.

This is faith. This is freedom. This is Jesus.

He will never let you down!


Header picture shows my beautiful Fiona dancing with her nephew, at the ceilidh at her brother’s wedding in November 2011.

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Golden Nuggets

Here are yet more interesting quotes from various people. Enjoy!


“We must stop using the Bible like a hammer, unless it is to build something useful”. – Mike Douglas

 

“The majority of humanity writhing in flames for eternity is not Christ victorious nor the church triumphant. It is creation ended in disaster, God’s purpose failed, Christ incompetent, and the gates of hell standing strong against a weakling church”. – Jacob M. Wright

 

“[the doctrine of Hell]  is the single most repulsive idea in all of Christendom” – Me

 

” ‘My kids don’t deserve my love but I give it to them anyway’… said no parent ever. Parents love their children just because they are their children. To focus on and say we don’t deserve love is to miss the point of the Cross. We are worthy of love NOT because of Jesus but just because we are created. The cross displays this, it doesn’t activate it. You are worthy. You do deserve it and you are loved simply because you exist”. – Nathan Jennings

 

“I always believed in God, but struggled with stuff. Through gradual and sudden revelation of the Spirit I realised freedom and actually see that imbedded through a lot of the old and new testament. God was and is revolutionary. Man suppresses it”. – ‘Naomi’

 

“…we stopped tithing too, and started setting aside money ‘for God’s Work’. Bottom line: I didn’t trust my church leadership to manage my giving for me”. – Me

 

“The good news is, God was in Christ on the cross, not counting humanities sins against them.

“No matter what you think about what used to be. It’s not anymore. Awakening is the key to living from what is. That’s good news, even if it used to be bad”. – Tim Standafer

 

“Divine acceptance is the house you live in, not a ladder you must climb”. – Jeff Turner

 

“Never make truth your enemy. You will always lose”. – Dan Frederiksen

 

” ‘I don’t like power I can’t control’ ” – random bad guy in ‘Black Lightning’

 

“Personally I see the cross as God in Christ getting inside death, and our horrific ideas of justice. He is exposing our blood lust and violence, and transforming it into the most radical picture of forgiveness the world will ever see. He also brings the I Am into the ‘I am not’ of death – busting it open for everyone at the resurrection. He becomes the ultimate scapegoat, a place for us to see our burdens sucked into the grave and left there.

“God in Christ is bringing the deep shalom of heaven to earth by taking all that is broken into his own body and defeating death by death.

“What happens when we kill God? How does God react?

” ‘Forgive them, Father, they don’t understand what they’re doing’ “. – Dave Griffiths

 

“These are all great [Scripture passages] and no doubt you will be aware of other great quotes which can be found to support [a doctrine]. Which all goes to show how lousy a Biblical Quote Shootout is to solve deep questions”.  – Ian Haylett

 

“There is a world, far removed from our own and from common sense, where what he says makes perfect sense.” – Luther G Williams, writing about someone making a contentions assertion.

 

“To my mind, when God has favourites, that favouritism is not at the expense of someone else being not in favour. I think Wm. Paul Young had it right in ‘The Shack’, when God says ‘Oh I’m especially fond of [whoever]’. God is such that He can have everyone as His favourites.

“The offshoot of all this is that if favouritism for some means that someone else is out of favour, then that favouritism is not of God. Because God treats everyone as if they are His favourites”. – Me

 

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The Slippery Slope

I often write about people who live in a fear-based system, primarily those who live in perpetual fear of God. One of the main threats they use to keep people in line is that of the ‘slippery slope’; the idea that if you put one toe out of line it eventually leads to the loss of, well, everything.

And in no place is that fear greater than that of questioning the status quo; asking awkward questions about God, about the Bible, and especially about your leadership, lol 😀

Here’s a great piece by Ryan Harbidge, describing the whole thing really well:


The Slippery Slope

 

It was a heady view for miles in all directions. We were hundreds of feet up in the air. We had reached the top, something most of the poor schmucks at the bottom likely never would do. We were fairly proud of our status, though we would always feign humility. We were set apart from the rest of the common, unenlightened rabble. The large platform had a safety railing around it, except for one part. There was a gap in which there was a long, steep water slide that emptied into a large pool at the bottom. I cautiously edged over to get a closer look. Grasping the railing for dear life, I looked over. My heart started pounding. The slide was so steep, I couldn’t even see the whole thing from the platform.

A sharp voice barked behind me, making me jump.
“Get away from there you fool! Stay over here with us where it is safe. We have all worked hard to get here. There were many stairs to climb and now that we are here we need to enjoy our position. You don’t want to risk that dangerous slide back to being like all of those fools down there. We need to be where they can see us, what they could become with much discipline, hard work and perseverance…all given to us by God’s grace of course.”

I blinked incredulously, slowly breaking eye contact with that smug, self righteous face. I turned and looked over the railing to the people below. There was a vast crowd. Many were on the beach. Some looked miserable and lost. Others were laughing, talking, eating and drinking. They, for the most part looked to be enjoying themselves.

And then there were the ones in the pool. They seemed to be the most alive of anyone. Not just alive, but astonishingly alive. In fact, looking around the beach, you could tell just who had been in the pool—by their aliveness.

And then there was us. We were a stoic crowd, all by ourselves, separated from everyone else. We would sing and tell stories to each other about how we have made the right choice to be on this platform, far above everyone else. Encouraging each other to stick it out here no matter how hard it got. We would also shout encouragement to those we saw climbing the long staircase to the top where we were.

“Come on! Keep walking! Trust in the Lord! We are praying for you! Don’t give up, there’s great reward where you are going!”

Some would keep trudging upward and onward, some would turn back in discouragement. After all it was a tiring climb. If we were honest, we would have admitted that the climb had worn us out as well.

Once in a while, someone from our group would go down the slide. Oh, what a ruckus that would cause! We would tell each other, very piously, that the slider was weak, didn’t have enough faith to stick it out with us at the top. “Don’t be like that person”, we would whisper. We would show outward disgust and disdain all while secretly wondering what the ride was like.

What was it like to have freedom like that?

I kept looking at the slide, at the pool, at the people in it, and I was drawn. The more I watched them, the more I realized that life up here on the high platform wasn’t what I thought it would be. It just seemed empty and lonely, like I was missing out on something important. It felt like being the only one to miss out on a friends birthday party because you have the flu, and you’re at home all by yourself while everyone else is having fun.

I slowly moved toward the slide, trying to look inconspicuous. Trying to avoid being seen by the pretentious eyes of those who would often take me aside and caution me against getting too close to that slide…with loving concern of course.

Finally, I could no longer think of anything else but the slide and the pool at the bottom. With my heart pounding in my chest, I stepped into the water at the top of the slide. I heard the gasps of horror from those behind me who happened to notice my new position. I lay down, crossed my arms over my chest, took a deep breath and closed my eyes.

I let the water take me.

Down.

The descent was at the same time terrifying and exhilarating. I’ve never felt that out of control in my life and I’ve never felt that much peace about being out of control either. There was only one way to go on this slide of grace. And that was into the pool of self emptying, unconditional love.

I hit the water fast and skipped on top of the surface like a flat stone briefly before sinking in. The water was wonderfully warm and smelled like fresh rainfall. I went under and could not surface. There was a tremendous weight making me sink that I could not shake off. I flailed about wildly, panicking, desperately holding my breath, before I realized that I was all right. Peace enveloped me. I stopped fighting and surrendered to the water. I took a breath.

My eyes went dark as my false self drowned in that water

My eyes opened and I saw differently. Before, my eyes were on my performance, trying to look good, trying to appear joyful when I was not. My eyes used to be focused on my flaws and the flaws of everyone else around me. Trying to look like I had all of the right answers. Trying to appear acceptable to the God who had never rejected me. Now, I began to see beauty around me. I began to see others before I saw my self. I was no longer concerned about trying to look alive, trying to appear joyful. I just was!  I realized that I was still at the bottom of the pool, but breathing! I was not just alive, but astonishingly so. The weight of my false self was gone and I could swim about freely.

Life is different now. The old crowd I used to hang around with on the platform looks down on me, some with pity, some with open disdain, and yet some have a hungry look about them. I see them looking at me and then glancing at the slide. I just enjoy living life to the full. Once in awhile the ghost of false self haunts me, kind of like an amputee experiences ghost pains. When that happens, I just jump back in the pool and breath in the sweet waters of divine love.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it”. Matt 16:24, 25

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would
have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” John 4:10-15


Excellent. Here is the link to the original piece.

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Bite-Sized Wisdom

Here are more bite-sized nuggets of wisdom from various people. Bite, chew and enjoy 🙂


“Christianity is about helping others and controlling yourself. When it becomes about controlling others and helping yourself, it ain’t Christianity” – Jim Heath

“A lot of people have done it “all right.” [done everything right – Ed] But when you look at them you say to yourself, “If that’s salvation, I don’t know that I want to be saved.” If those are the people in heaven, I don’t want to go there! Is that what heaven is going to be like? A bunch of superior people who tell you when you’re wrong all the time? Is that the life Jesus promised? That can’t be it.” – Richard Rohr

“Does our interpretation [of the Bible] match the self-giving, all-forgiving, radically merciful Jesus? If not, or if the fruit from our interpretation results in misery, fear and suffering, rather than righteousness, peace and joy, then I would suggest we are reading it – or at least interpreting it – wrongly. And then of course our application of that interpretation also bears bad fruit, and so it goes on”. – Me

“When you find that your heart has grown bigger than your doctrine, it is the doctrine that needs to go, not the heart that needs to be restricted”. – Jeff Turner

“The main difference now is that my uncertainty [about spiritual things] is tied to wonder instead of insecurity”. – Wendy Francisco

“Your membership in God’s family does not depend on someone else’s approval”. – Me

“The spilled blood of Jesus says that man is merciless to the merciful.
The unspilled blood of humanity says that God is merciful to the merciless.
The spilled blood of Jesus says that the greatest evil that can be committed, has been committed.
The unspilled blood of humanity says that the greatest evil that can be committed, has been forgiven.
What then does it say about all lesser evils?” – Jeff Turner

“What’s scary is how some people refuse to even consider there might actually be “truth” that differs from what they’ve been taught, and choose to currently believe, as though their personal knowledge is perfect, infallible, and never to be questioned, regardless of all the other ideology that has come before now”. – ‘Steve’

[On the doctrine of Hell in the Scriptures] “…the Old Testament does not actually mention it by name; Jesus mentions it only in a very few passages where it can be shown that actually we have His [formerly assumed] meaning wrong anyway; the Gospel of John does not mention it even once; and Paul is almost entirely silent on it. The emphasis on Hell in Scripture is nothing like what it should be if it were actually real, because … it would be the single most important thing that Jesus would ever have to tell us”. – Me

“Following the Jesus path ensures that one will make enemies, precisely because it calls us to reject the easy path of assuming anyone with whom we disagree, or who disagrees with us, even violently so, is our enemy. Ironically, the refusal to label a person an enemy as a knee jerk reaction, is precisely what provides us with the opportunity to trust the Spirit to empower us to “love our enemies.” “- Jeff Turner

“For Jesus followers, we must accept that those who have come to a different conclusion about the Bible, often have done so through the same study, reflection, and sincere desire to know the very heart of God that we have”. – Mike Douglas

 

 

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