James’s Blog: What if it’s Already Happened?

James’s Blog:  What if it’s Already Happened?

Easter is a topsy-turvey time.  Everything is back-to-front.  Suffering brings salvation, death brings life; the established order of things is turned on its head.  Yet we spend so much of our time and energy trying to make things work in a world where we believe that death is stronger than life and that despair is greater than hope.

How much of our well-being do we invest in worry?  How often does the thing that we fear never actually happen?  What about the times when we worry about something we think has happened, only to find out that it didn’t happen after all.  How tiring it is to live in a world where God is a footnote rather than the title.

In the last chapter of Luke we read about two of Jesus’ followers.  They’re taking a long stroll, discussing the events of the past few days and the rumours of resurrection.  Suddenly, they’re joined by a stranger.  He’s not really a stranger, but they don’t recognise him because they hadn’t quite joined the topsy-turvey revolution yet.  They tell this stranger their story of disappointment.  “Jesus has been crucified,” they say, “but we had hoped that he would be one to redeem Israel.”

The two travellers were living under the burden of false disappointment.  They thought that their hope was an illusion, when it turned out that it was reality – a reality that was  standing right in front of them.

This is the way to live back-to-front in our world, the way to get some of the Easter thinking into our heads.  Instead of worrying about things that might never happen, start thinking about all the things that you hope for, and ask yourself if maybe some of them have already happened.

 

James’s Blog: Creed.

James’s Blog:  Creed.

I believe in God the Father, the creator of the world and everything in it.

I believe that He has guided His people over the years, with many miraculous signs.

I believe that He parted the Red Sea, provided manna from heaven and led Israel as pillars of smoke and fire.

I believe in Jesus Christ, the God with us.

I believe that through His life and death, God has worked salvation for all humanity.

I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and so delivered the ultimate “Take that!” to the forces of evil.

I believe that death is defeated, and life is eternal.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the God in us.

I believe these things, because they are easy to believe from a distance.

But I don’t believe that He is that committed to using me to bring His kingdom on earth.

I don’t believe that He has much interest in my day-to-day life,

or that He even has much to say,

and if He did, He certainly wouldn’t do it through that person.

I don’t believe that God will part my Red Sea, nor do I expect Him to provide manna, or to lead me.

I don’t believe, in the grand scheme of things, that it matters much what I do.

And I don’t believe that He really means what He says.

Amen.

James’s Blog: The World Waits with Baited Breath.

James’s Blog:  The World Waits with Baited Breath.

It’s easy to hold the Church up as a good argument for atheism. Our shame is not that we have been exceptionally bad, but rather that we haven’t been exceptionally good. But you can’t shake off the Holy Spirit that easily. Even after two thousand years, the World still expects us to keep Jesus’ promises. After all, you can’t be disappointed with something unless you’d hoped that it would be better, right? The problem is not that Christianity is bad, but rather that we have made a bad job of Christianity. I believe that even the most die-hard atheist still expects the followers of Jesus to be different to the rest of society; to be good where others are not.

Dennis Prager, a Jewish-American conservative commentator, believes that, regardless of what people think of religion, there remains in our culture an expectation that faith should make a difference to behaviour. He tries to prove this by asking people to picture something particular.

Imagine that late one night you are walking down an alley in a major city. The dim street lights illuminate your car at the other end of the alleyway. Suddenly, a group of boisterous young men turn the corner and start walking down the alley towards you.

Once the listener has this scene in his mind, Prager asks this question: Would you feel safer if you knew that those young men had just come from a Bible study?

Prager says that he has never had anyone answer “No.”

So, that’s the good news. People are just waiting for you to prove them right. Even now they still assume that you will be different. The best thing to do is to live in such a way that our children, our children’s children and our children’s children’s children will benefit from the same expectation.

James’s Blog: What’s Important to God?

James’s Blog:  What’s Important to God?

There was this one time when I was asked to visit a friend of mine who was in hospital. Let me clarify what I mean by ‘in hospital’. He was actually in the hospital’s locked ward. He’d had a psychotic episode and been sectioned. So I went to visit him, and I sat with him in the secure unit. I was out of my depth, which is where I spend a lot of my time.  He asked me to read to him, from the Psalms. So that’s what I did. That’s all I did. For half an hour I just sat and read from the Psalms while he wept beside me. Then I went home to my family. Read more

James’s Blog: Getting their Attention.

James’s Blog:  Getting their Attention.

An actor and a preacher were discussing their work.

What I don’t understand,” said the preacher, “is why my congregation will come to one of your performances and sit for hours, engaged and alert the whole time, while I can hardly get them to stay awake during one of my twenty minute sermons.”

Maybe,” said the actor, “it’s because I present fiction as though it were the truth, and you present the truth as though it were fiction.” Read more

James’s Blog: The Road to Hell.

James’s Blog:  The Road to Hell.

I saw a man throwing a child at the sun.

“Why are you doing that?” I said.

“I’m helping him. He told me that he was cold,” the man said.

I looked at the bruised child on the floor.

“I think he needs to go to the hospital,” I said.

“Sure,” said the man, lifting the child above his head once more.  “Which direction is the hospital?”

James’s Blog: The Death of Character.

James’s Blog:  The Death of Character.

What do people want from their leaders? Reflecting on my own experiences in leadership and viewing the current political climate in the West makes me conclude that what we really want are leaders who think the same way as us. The personality and character of a leader is less important than whether or not he or she agrees with me on certain issues. We want leaders who are an extension of our opinions, a proxy who will do the things that we would do if we were in charge. “My will be done,” we say. Read more