Monday, 23 May 2016

Tell me the #StoriesOfJesus

I was thinking yesterday again about how the Christian community sometimes works today versus how it started in the time of Jesus and the early Church. It's amazing really how very different our contexts are, sometimes making sense of what they're talking about in the Bible can be different - and I have lived most of my life in a rural setting, what about people who live in ultra-urban areas now, how easy can it be to relate to the tales of Jesus for them?

One thing I always used to love in the church I grew up in was that nearly every Sunday evening service there would be opportunity for "testimony" for people to share how God was moving in their life today. (Note, when I grew up it wasn't unusual in The Salvation Army to have at least 2 services on a Sunday, 3 if you include the "open-air" service in the town immediately before the evening service in the summer months.)

Yesterday I was reminded of the words of the song:
Tell me the stories of Jesus I love to hear;
Things I would ask Him to tell me if He were here;
Scenes by the wayside, tales of the sea,
Stories of Jesus, tell them to me.
I want to challenge you, without looking at your Bible, remember one of the old stories of Jesus and tell it in your own words; then tell a story of the living Jesus and what he's doing today. If you're on social media, please share it with the hashtag #StoriesOfJesus. Maybe this could become a weekly tradition?

One story I remember is the one where he's on the boat with the disciples. They've had a busy time and they're trying to get from one village to the next. Jesus is asleep in the front of the boat and the disciples, the majority of whom were seasoned fishermen, get very worried when a huge storm sets in. Lake Galilee is apparently known for it's sudden and very violent storms. The fishermen are worried, the landlubbers are scared, Jesus is asleep. This isn't the very start of their adventure with Jesus, though, they've seen him do amazing things; so maybe he can help. With a mixture of fear, hope, faith, expectation and a little bit of anger because he didn't just fix it, they beg him to save them. He looks at them in utter amazement, they don't quite realise who he is; he isn't going to die in a boat, his future has been foretold. He calms the storm with a simple "be still" and shows them again how much power is available to him. Not forgetting that later he tells them that everything he did, they will do even more and even bigger through the power of faith. Pretty amazing!

I've been rereading through the stories of Jesus recently, just getting to know him a little better. It's been nice to be reminded that he wasn't the glowing soft Jesus we sometimes see in the pictures; he was gentle but firm, a leader, a teacher, a man who felt anger. He killed off a fig tree because there was no fruit on it! He was the kind of man that you'd love to visit with, have a meal with. He was the life of the party and a loving friend. He was a healer, helper to all mankind. He had no prejudice in a culture that had many. He was a man who set a very high standard for his followers to live to, but he was forgiving and kind. He's the sort of man you'd love to be more like. I guess that's my Jesus story for now, just that I'm still able to get to know him more.

So I'd love to see/hear your Jesus stories - one from when he walked the earth and another from now. Your turn! I'll try and do this regularly, if I can, no promises though!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

I believe! What do I believe?

I grew up in a Christian household. It wasn’t overly strict, at least it didn’t feel that way to me; I never felt the need to rebel against it. It obviously had an impact on me though. My upbringing was as a part of The Salvation Army, the church that started in the east end of London 150 years ago this year. It’s been great to watch the celebrations this year, it’s brought back a lot of memories and got me thinking a bit. Notice all the past-tense. 6 years ago, a little over a year after we got married we were taken on an adventure by God. He sent us to Cornwall; it wasn’t a hardship, we weren’t overly satisfied with the life we were leading, although we had friends where we were living before, and Cornwall was a pipe-dream for us (“we’ll move there when we retire”). That journey also took us away from The Salvation Army, but that wasn’t a coincidence or just a side-effect, we felt very strongly that God was intentionally taking us away, perhaps only for a time, but He needed us to break away and learn more about Him and His Church outside of those confines.

At the time we left we both, but I in particular, felt called into full time ministry within The Salvation Army. Being called away wasn’t easy, but we chose to put a call from God over and above our denomination. And anyway, maybe he would use us to plant The Salvation Army where we were going?

We described this process to people at the time as being like alice going down the rabbit hole, ok actually it was more a reference to The Matrix (“...see how far the rabbit hole goes...”); but the point was the further we went the harder it was to go back. It’s true what they say, ignorance is bliss. It’s much easier to just carry on through life in a form of autopilot than it is to question everything. I’m not saying that every Christian is some sort of mindless drone, but I am saying that we’re creatures of habit and sometimes that has value and sometimes it stops us from getting deeper.

Over the last 6 years we’ve gradually opened our minds, hearts and spirits to different ways of thinking, being and doing church. We’ve learnt a lot about faith and love; I think I said in a previous blog that our next challenge would be to learn more about hope, and I think that’s where we are at the moment.

Hope and faith go hand-in-hand and as we’ve had our faith knocked we’ve seen our hope suffer with it. For me personally I was quite happy to describe my faith using the doctrines of The Salvation Army. Like any other faith organisation they have their statement of faith written up, so people can decide if they agree or not. It defines the basis of their whole theological universe and compared to some religious groups is pretty pared down to it’s fundamental parts and I completely agreed with them. They weren’t forced on me, in fact before I signed up to say I believe them wholeheartedly, I was taken through them one by one and discussed them with a group. I like a good theological discussion me and I wasn’t afraid to pick them apart, but I struggled to find much to disagree with - over 14 years have passed since then, mind.

There are 11 doctrines that I’m going to briefly run through one by one. It should be interesting to compare where we are with where we were. Perhaps these brief points will form the basis of a blog series on their own, but I’ve not been great at writing blog series…

1. We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, and that they only constitute the Divine rule of Christian faith and practice.

That the scriptures were given by divine inspiration remains a clear belief, although I think that the word “inspiration” is important here. Humanity has certainly had an affect on the scriptures as they were originally recorded, chosen for the collection we call the Bible and again as they are translated to better suit our modern culture. However, to decide that the inspiration of God stopped after the last book of the bible was written seems a little limiting; The Salvation Army itself has always placed great emphasis on the movement of the spirit, so I think it’s important that we stay open to God speaking into our world today, the way that he spoke to the first believers. This is considerably less clear cut, and a much harder road to navigate, but I think it gives us more opportunity to hear from God.

2. We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.

I was about to just type “Yep” when the word “Governor” jumped out at me. This is an issue I’m currently struggling with, and one that we’ve talked about quite a bit. Whilst I believe that God is all powerful and can do anything, I also believe in free will and that we must worship him in “spirit and in truth” not just because He’s commanded that we will.

I guess it depends on your interpretation of the word “governor” - for many that will mean the God controls every little thing, but a governor of a country or a state does not focus on the minutiae, but uses their power, influence and authority to ensure that the state continues to work in a way that best serves the peaceful majority etc. That’s where I see God, He knows all and can step in when required, but He doesn’t micromanage His creation.

3. We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead – the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.

Without wanting to be controversial, I’ve had some trouble with this concept. Let’s start with the Holy Ghost; neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament seem to point towards the Holy Spirit being an actual separate entity - in both the hebrew and greek it is referred to as the breath of God. It is a movement of God, an effect that God creates, it’s effectively God’s output - why in the english do we try to make it an agent in itself? Then let’s move to Jesus; He may be wholly divine (see below), the breath of God in human form (note that Adam was also filled with the breath of God…) but He says of Himself “I am the way to the Father”. He doesn’t expect that He should be worshipped, but signposts to God Himself. That’s a fairly unchristian viewpoint, so I’m struggling with that at the moment.

4. We believe that in the person of Jesus Christ the Divine and human natures are united, so that He is truly and properly God and truly and properly man.

This goes hand-in-hand with the point above, although I believe I can agree that in Jesus the divine and human natures are united.

5. We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocency, but by their disobedience they lost their purity and happiness, and that in consequence of their fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.

I don’t believe in the creation story as told in Genesis, there, I said it. The God I believe in could have created everything in 6 earth days, I do believe that He is all powerful, however I don’t believe that He used that technique in this case. I believe He initiated a course of action (along with ensuring that certain “coincidences” happened along the way) that would result in our creation and that we were created with free will, but that through the gifts of self-awareness and morality we have a natural tendency to be selfish. I believe that is the basis of what we call sin. I believe this is what the creation story of Genesis tells us, that God created everything, that we are the pinnacle of the creation on earth and that our intelligence etc gives us the capacity to be ultimately good, but also to choose otherwise.
I’m not sure that we’re all exactly “totally depraved”, but I think we all have parts of ourselves we’d rather people didn’t know about. There are lingering bits of pride, selfishness, greed and inhumanity to fellow man in us all. Does that deserve God’s wrath?… Can I postpone that question for now? That just seems too hard to answer right now. But what if the Kingdom of God is about learning to set aside our sinful nature and live in harmony with each other and the world around us, true heaven on earth stuff.

6. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved.

I’m still trying to get my head around what the atonement actually means. Does it mean that God is something truly to be feared, that he must be appeased? Is God love or is he the child with the magnifying glass playing with the ants. If we understand the concept of breaking rules to do good for our fellow man, surely our perfect God can just bend the rules a little? Or if he wants us to be other than how we were created he could just fix us, or make us into mindless drones that will worship him.

When conversing about heaven and hell with believers in the past, I’ve always said that “if there is salvation, there must be something to be saved from”. But what benefit or pleasure does God get from eternally punishing those who actively or naively chose to go against him? The fire and brimstone version of Hell doesn’t make a lot of sense sometimes. I know of non-christians who do more good in the world than christians I know, which deserves their place in heaven more? Doesn’t make sense. Perhaps we just need saving from ourselves and from religious practise - Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, so there’s no need for any more of that nonsense, no more separation from God. Ugh. I don’t understand it at all. It was so much easier just agreeing with someone else’s definition! But I love talking this stuff through with people, faith is a journey and we’re supposed to walk it together.

7. We believe that repentance towards God, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit, are necessary to salvation.

Repentance, the act of literally turning away from who you were and how you thought/acted, is vital to what I’ve been saying. I believe that the regeneration that follows isn’t just necessary to salvation but perhaps may be a big part of our salvation. The more we become like Jesus, the better our world will become. It’s not about not being ourselves, though. Think of it like coming to a T junction, you’ve turned left and walked (or driven or ridden) a long time, then you finally realise that left was the wrong way, so you turn around. When you get back to that T junction you’re not the same as you were when you left, you are who you are and you’ve been changed by the experience of turning left, but now you’re travelling in a different direction.

8. We believe that we are justified by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and that he that believeth hath the witness in himself.

The gift of the Holy Spirit, the salvation we are offered (whatever form that takes) is all a gift from God; It is by his choice that we receive it; It is not earned. That is the definition/example usually used to define grace. But that isn’t the dictionary definition of grace, so either the translation from the original scriptures is wrong, or our interpretation of it has become twisted. The word “grace” comes from the latin “gratus”, meaning pleasing or thankful; synonyms of grace include elegance, courtesy and honour. Let’s look at Ephesians 2:8 (the ESV highlights this perfectly) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God...” so is it not just a means of emphasising that it is a gift from God, out of God’s courtesy, honour and elegance he has saved us through our faith.

Christians seem to give Grace this magical property, but really it just refers to God’s gracious and graceful nature. I believe that the gift of God, and of Jesus’ sacrifice, might actually be the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that perhaps heaven is far more accessible than some of us believe, but I’m straying off topic here. If you are a believer, you have the Holy Spirit; your life is transformed from the inside out as a result of that. That is your witness.

9. We believe that continuance in a state of salvation depends upon continued obedient faith in Christ.

We come back to that question of what is salvation. Is it salvation from Hell? Eternal damnation? What is hell, what is eternal damnation? There are people with more knowledge than me who believe the doors to heaven might not be as tightly shut as some of us were led to believe. If that’s the case, what does salvation refer to? Is it salvation from religion, salvation from the worst parts of human nature? In that case, keeping yourself focussed on becoming more like Christ would seem to be an obviously necessity.

10. We believe that it is the privilege of all believers to be wholly sanctified, and that their whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Between the Holy Spirit and the goal of becoming more like Christ, the process of becoming more holy is definitely something that believers should be going through and I do believe that it is a privilege. When it says about our bodies being preserved blameless, i’m not sure if this refers to resurrection of the body or not; I don’t know what I think about resurrection of the body, will we need these bodies? Does this mean that we shouldn’t cremate? But during life I think it is possible for us to live holy lives with our spirit, soul and bodies preserved blameless; but there’s no way this is possible by our own efforts, that ability rests solely on the Holy Spirit.

11. We believe in the immortality of the soul; in the resurrection of the body; in the general judgment at the end of the world; in the eternal happiness of the righteous; and in the endless punishment of the wicked.

Okay, so that clears up my question above; resurrection of the body. Really?! It seems so unnecessary. Does God have the limitation of a physical body? If there is a physical new earth, then maybe we will need a physical body to navigate it. Definitely an area I need to investigate further!

Immortality of the soul, check.

General judgement… I like the way the it is described as separating the sheep and goats. Both have different value to a shepherd and/or owner, and they have different needs. Neither would have been seen to the audience to be wholly good or wholly bad; it’s just a matter of managing your flock. If heaven is more open than evangelicals generally judge it to be, then maybe judgement will be less like a courtroom and more like a farm.

Eternal happiness of the righteous: Yep, down with that.

Endless punishment of the wicked: Maybe, but I think my idea of “the wicked” is probably very different from what it was. Revelation 21:8 (Amplified Bible) describes those who will be punished as this: “But as for the cowards and the ignoble and the contemptible and the cravenly lacking in courage and the cowardly submissive, and as for the unbelieving and faithless, and as for the depraved and defiled with abominations, and as for murderers and the lewd and adulterous and the practicers of magic arts and the idolaters (those who give supreme devotion to anyone or anything other than God) and all liars (those who knowingly convey untruth by word or deed)–[all of these shall have] their part in the lake that blazes with fire and brimstone. This is the second death.” There are, of course, arguments that this may be a process of purification, or simply stating that these people will be near heaven, but on the burning trash heap outside of the city. Again, a huge area that I really haven’t made my mind up on yet.

All done.

So there, I’ve gone through what I once believed and responded to it briefly point by point. I’m keen to have conversation about these points, constructive rebuttals are hugely welcomed. As I say, I love a bit of debate, I think it helps us deepen our faith and broaden our horizons. Something you say might challenge me now, but it might take me time to come around to your thinking. I hope I’m big enough to accept now that I’m not, nor can I ever be, absolutely right and that faith is a never-ending journey.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Summary post for the end of summer

Since the last post we've been pretty busy helping Willow to settle in, which was especially hard given that she ended up having an infection. After an initial course of treatment she ended up having to go on a course of antibiotics, which was unfortunate but one of those things; that in turn meant that we had to put off her second vaccination until Friday. So now we're just waiting until Wednesday until she can get down on the ground and have a taste of freedom! She's getting pretty fed up of being carried all the time, and she's also getting pretty big!
A photo posted by David Lumm (@cyberneticiandave) on

Already in the few days since that picture was taken she's grown quite dramatically! We've taken to using the bike trailer (which has an add-on wheel and handle so you can use it like a pushchair) to push her around, because it's just so hard to carry her all the time! I don't have any good pictures of her in there, so here's a picture of her in there asleep today...
We went to see the fireworks at Lands End on Thursday, which was a first for us. My instinct was that it would be a bit tacky, but we thought Isaac might enjoy it and that it would be a good experience for Willow, to hear all the bangs and see that we weren't phased. Quite frankly I was very surprised, it was a great show and I'm pretty sure we'll go down there again. Lucy's phone was playing up and waiting to be hit with my magical fixing hammer, so she borrowed my phone and got some decent pictures.

It's looking increasingly like summer is pretty much over, although every time we think it's done it picks up again. Here's hoping we'll have one last hoorah before it's all done, and then we can enjoy autumn. Hopefully we'll have a relatively dry and warm enough week around Isaac's birthday in September.
In other news I've been working on a replacement for our home-automation set up, following the news that NinjaBlocks have gone bust, I'll be writing a blog about that over on, once I've got it reasonably sorted. I've also been working on some other blog posts; hopefully I'll finish one of them one day!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Where have I been?

It might come as a surprise to those of you who read this that I actually enjoy writing. It's been more than a year since I updated this blog. I wish it wasn't.

I constantly have ideas that I'd like to write about and I'd love to do more of those weekly summary posts - it was fascinating to bring together some of the stuff I was doing online and in real life. The problem seems to be one of time and motivation. It's the combination that's a killer.

I've got the day job, which I love. Problem solving, programming, technology; I love it! Then when I get home I want need to spend as much time as possible with Isaac. We're less than a month from 4 years old; he's a bundle of energy, but he's so full of life and love that I hate having to get other things done sometimes. I also hate it when I feel tired after a particularly mentally challenging day at work; sometimes I have to force myself to play, which is awful, but I do my best to give him some time whilst being honest about my limits.

Then there are the jobs that need to get done around the house and garden. I'm rarely on top of them all, but that's alright, I'll catch up later when Isaac is older and wants some time/space from his old mum and dad. As long as I can just keep it ticking over.

But that usually just leaves the evenings when Isaac is asleep, I can get some jobs done, but nothing too noisy. Usually by this point I just don't have the attention span to sit down and write. And I've got other projects that need my attention too. D'oh!

And then, just to make life even more interesting, we added Willow to the mix:
A photo posted by David Lumm (@cyberneticiandave) on

It being summer, we're also spending a lot of time exploring beautiful Cornwall (as much as we can whilst she's not allowed on the ground) which tends to lead to a lot more blog ideas but even less time to write them. Ho hum.

I've been trying to write a little something each day, let's call it micro-journaling (it's like the Twitter of journaling...) but even with that I've struggled. It's trying to decide what is worth taking the time to write down that sometimes slows me down.

I'm resisting the urge to make any "I'm back" announcement, but here's hoping it'll be less than a year before I write again. I'd like to publish at least a post a month. Wish me luck!

Dew genowgh oll

Monday, 28 July 2014

Open letter to Philip Hammond

With a little help from 38 Degrees, I've just written the following letter to Mr Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary. Perhaps you'd like to write your own?

Dear Mr Philip Hammond,
First off, welcome to your new role. I guess there's never a good time to take on a role like this, but you seem to have taken yours up during particular unrest about the situation in Palestine.
Thanks to social media and the constant under-current of religion and politics it doesn't seem there's a person in the country without an opinion on the matter, and they're not shy about sharing it.
I understand that the UKs political relationship is biased towards Israel, not least because we were heavily involved in starting this mess in the first place, but I think we need to make a statement to both parties that this behaviour can no longer continue.
Neither party is in the right here, both must be called to account. The UK must be seen to not be supporting one side or the other, so this means withdrawing financial (and other non-humanitarian) support from Israel.
Whether or not either side has committed war crimes, this has become a very dirty war, with many innocent lives paying the price. Both sides should be investigated. I honestly do not understand why the UK abstained from the UN vote to do so? Was it because only Israel was targeted? Would the UK vote on a resolution to investigate both sides?
Peace talks need to focus on two areas. 1, Hamas, on behalf of Palestine, must accept that Israel have a legal right to some of the land, as per the UN resolutions from 1947; 2, Israel must return land to Palestine that it has taken since that date and remove all blockades around those borders. It must cease and desist from attempting to claim further land, if necessary by having it's armed forces disbanded.
The general populous of both sides have a right to a free and pleasant life. I don't for one minute think that the UK should intervene in the way we did in Iraq or Afghanistan, but we do need to take measures to prevent further innocent bloodshed. I hope I can count on you to represent the growing opinion in this country that this must end now. Enough is enough.
Yours sincerely,
David Lumm

Friday, 13 June 2014

Is God authoritarian?

I'm currently reading Follow by Floyd McClung, a very challenging and thought provoking read. Today's thought centres on one point. Is God an authoritarian?

The book spends some time talking about how we're to give God complete control of our lives. However he seems to approach this from a very authoritarian point of view. That God literally wants to control every aspect of our lives, I'm not sure yet whether he means at the macro or micro scale.

I guess it may be because of my increasing distance from the institutional Church and increasing leaning towards universalism, but I find myself kinda confused that we would take people from their perceived freedom to become slaves (willing or otherwise) of the King. Surely the good news is freedom? Are we not adopted children of the king rather than His servants?

I seek to bring in God's Kingdom, to be and proclaim the good news. But should I really seek to be micro managed?

Jesus seemed to outline a different model of leadership, so why do we treat God the Father as an old world King? Is it because he had to give all of those rules to the Isrealites? Was that for his benefit or for theirs?

I may just be overreacting, I almost certainly am, but I was interested in starting a conversation. Is it about giving up myself completely and allowing him full control, or is it more about becoming one with him and Jesus and the Father are one?

Answers on a postcard please!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

All I want for Christmas is an electric car

I love electric cars, I’d love to have one, but I can barely afford to keep the car I have on the road, never mind an electric one too and let’s be honest, range anxiety is still a very real thing (and the sort of electric car I could afford wouldn't have range as a selling point). For sure the situation will improve with time and the network of charging points is increasing, but who wants to have to stop every couple of hours on a long trip?

That there is why I love what +Tesla Motors are doing with their cars, they’re starting from scratch and really thinking the whole problem through. They’re slowly working their way towards mainstream, but of course they have to start somewhere. More power to them, at least they’re taking the risk at being at the cutting edge of this, which is risky.

There’s reasons for the high cost of the cars, of course there is, as +Elon Musk mentioned in his recent blog post, but at the same time this slows down the time it takes for the technology to get mainstream. The more people who have electric cars, the more charging stations; more infrastructure will then push up adoption figures. Plus the more people who own electric cars and the more they can provide useful feedback and usage figures which will help improve the technology.

The sort of media coverage they've been getting recently may not help, even with great responses by Elon (see the above linked blog post); they need users who will actively push the good news into the social media and traditional media.

As a software developer I see it all too often that the best way to understand whether you've developed something right is to test it and take notes of how it is used and how the users feel about it and I think the situation is the same here.

I'm never going to afford a brand new top-of-the-line Model S, frankly it’ll be years before I’ll be able to afford a decent used electric car. So I did what any sane person would do, I wrote to them and asked them to send me a free car in exchange for regular reviews, blog posts and articles. Unfortunately I haven’t had a reply, but that doesn't mean I'm giving up hope.

If they considered a lease type offering, that could work out similar to the costs of running an internal combustion vehicle. You see with tax, insurance, fuel and maintenance that can cost a fair amount each month; and whilst there would be a hike in my electricity bill, I’d imagine that I’d be able to work around that considerably.

We've had a new Sainsbury's supermarket open in Penzance and that, rather helpfully, includes an electric car charging point. We simply change from monthly shops to weekly, change where we normally do our shopping and have a meal there in their excellent cafe to extend charging times. Our food shop bill will go up a little, but against the savings being made on our car running costs it’ll probably be negligible. Whenever we’re planning a trip away we’ll have to do an overnight charge at home (on Economy 7) and plan around en route charging points.

No, I haven’t thought much about this…

I really want an electric car and I can’t wait until they become mainstream! I want to be involved in making them mainstream.

The tales of an electric car towing a caravan and being used successfully away from home for a week or doing fairly ordinary journeys like Cornwall to Bristol, Cornwall to London, Cornwall to North Wales would make people rethink about range anxiety. Having an electric car that is fast enough to compete in races is one thing, but what about an electric car that can be used by a family with minimal or even no inconvenience? Now that’s something that’s going to encourage uptake, and in turn encourage the infrastructure to improve.

What I’d like to see Tesla do now is some sort of subsidised lease programme, with all costs included (except electricity), in exchange for enhanced coverage of the vehicles. Like an extended test drive crossed with Peugeot's “just add fuel” scheme… I can see the branding now, “Tesla, just add leccy”. But seriously, this would be a way to get an advanced electric vehicle in the hands of an average car driver for a year and really accelerate the whole process. I’d like to nominate myself for the scheme; I’ll take a red model S with a towbar please or a charcoal Model X, if they’re coming soon...