Jul 16, 2012

Movin' on over, not movin' on out

Hey Y'all out there who read this blog.  This will be the last post here :(  I've decided to join forces with some friends of mine over at the Cross-eyed blog, so from now on you can find my articles over there, along with some by other like minded people too :)

Jun 24, 2012

All in good time Sam


Imagine a world where a very few get very rich and live long happy lives with everything their hearts desire while most people struggle to live day to day and are exploited by the rich who don’t care if they live or die. That’s the world of the movie In Time but it’s not really that hard to imagine is it? Really it just sounds a lot like our world. 

It seems things will stay that way forever until a hero comes along… with the strength to carry on… and that hero is Will Salas. After a stranger gives him wealth beyond his wildest dreams Will decides that he is going to change the world because he’s sick of watching his friends and family die too young. For the rest of the movie he spends his time doing that and to a certain extent he succeeds. He tries to make the lives of the poor longer and more prosperous by being a Robin Hood of sorts; stealing from the rich and giving it to the poor leaving himself just enough to do it again tomorrow. 

We all root for him and forgive him for his stealing because deep inside we all want justice; we realize that exploiting people for your own gains is wrong. But something troubled me about Will Salas and his need to save the world. It wasn’t until one of the most powerful people in the world said to Will “You might upset the balance for a generation, two, but don't fool yourself. In the end nothing will change, because everyone wants to live forever. They all think they have a chance at immortality, even though all the evidence is against it.” That’s it! That’s the problem! We all want a hero to set us free from oppression but this freedom will only ever be temporary because what’s wrong with the world is not what’s outside of us, but what’s inside us; our heart

If we are given something, some wealth in this world, we only need to look around to see that most of us would not become like Will Salas. We would either become like Will’s friend who frittered his wealth away quickly and died as a result or we would use our wealth to exploit or ignore the poor and climb the ladder to riches. 

 But even those of us who are happy with our comfortable lives still have problems, and we yearn for a saviour to set us free from the troubles of this life, just like the people in the time of Jesus. Jesus announced to the people that He was the saving King they were waiting for and automatically they thoughtoh you’ve come to set us free from the Romans who are oppressing us and keeping us poor and downtrodden. That’s the kind of saviour we want! All hail Jesus! Life is going to turn out OK after all.” But Jesus did not come to earth to be that kind of saviour. Instead Jesus tells the people a story about a rich man who stores up wealth for himself and thinks “great! Now that I have enough wealth I can relax and do this, that and the other thing.” But God says to him “You fool! Tonight your life will be required of you.” And that’s the problem with saviours like Will Salas; they do their thing and life is good (for a while), but there remains an enemy waiting patiently for everyone which neither Will Salas or you or I can do anything about; death. 

What we need, but don’t want, is a saviour who will not necessarily rescue us from oppression and suffering in this life but who will save us from ultimate suffering – death and God’s judgment. Only Jesus, the suffering servant King who purchased our eternal life by giving up His life, is that kind of saviour.

May 14, 2012

Honest Greeting Cards: Mother's Day

My daughter - the inventor of the honest Mother's Day card:

Her love for me is ever so slightly conditional and though I try hard, my love for her is ever so slightly conditional too, I'm just not as honest as her about it!  I'm so thankful that we both have a heavenly Father whose love for us is totally unconditional because of the work of His Son for us.

May 1, 2012

some of the best shirt under sweater action you'll ever see

Who wants to die right? Not me. What makes death bearable for a lot of us is that we don’t have to think about it most of the time. It always seems so much further off than things that are happening day to day and we can put off thinking about it. I’ve often wondered if people who are closer to death, like people in their 70 and 80s, do mental calculations about the short amount of time they have left and if it frightens them. I wonder if it will frighten me when I reach there (if I reach there). 

Harold Crick is a man who’s like most of us, just going through life and not really thinking about death, until one day his life is invaded by a voice from the heavens that begins narrating his life. The voice is scarily accurate and he wonders what is going on. One day his watch stops at the bus stop. He resets it to the time on one of his fellow commuter’s watches and the voice says “Little did he know that this simple seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death.” Harold yells “What? What? Hey! HELLOOO! What? Why? Why MY death? HELLO? Excuse me? WHEN?” 

This scene sets off a chain of events where in absolute panic he tries to find a way out of his fate. Harold is thinking “I’m not ready! I haven’t thought about it, I’m not prepared! I’ve got the rest of my life to live” even though his life had actually been pretty rubbish up to that point. 

To not fear death like Harold does, seems stranger than fiction. But this is the very gift that Christians have; of being able to look toward death with hope. 

Hope in death?  Yes, the hope that death is not the end, but only the beginning of something much better than what this life has. In this life we struggle with sin; sin that others do to us, sin that we do to others, sin that happens on the news and sin that torments us inside. Life is a battle that is hard and full of temptations, heartache and then you die.  The hope the Christian has in death is that we will not be forgotten after we are eaten by worms, but that we will be raised again and made into something new.  New life in a resurrected body that will not sin or ache or break down but will go on forever in a place that will have no more pain, sorrow or death and we will be with our great saviour forever! 

The more Harold Crick investigated his death and what it would mean, the more he came to terms with it, and when it was time, he was ready. (spoiler alert!!) At the end of the movie, the author of the book about Harold’s death explained why she changed the ending; “Because it's a book about a man who doesn't know he's about to die. And then dies. But if a man does know he's about to die and dies anyway. Dies- dies willingly, knowing that he could stop it, then- I mean, isn't that the type of man who you want to keep alive?” There is something noble and beautiful about someone who gives up their life for sake of others. Watching Harold willingly go to his death just for the sake of a good story brought a tear to my eye.  

And then I thought of Jesus. 

He was not corrupted by sin as we are; he did not have to die. He could have lived forever on earth making our lives better by constantly doing miracles and helping others but ultimately it would do us no good, we would still die in our sin and receive God’s just judgment. Jesus willingly went to his death to give us so much more than a good story - forgiveness for our sins and life with him after death. Three days later He rose again and waits to receive us into his eternal kingdom when our heart gives out or we are hit by a bus. 

 - best romantic pun of all time in this movie too.

Apr 11, 2012

the unlikely tale of Jonathan and Charlotte

watch this first...            
This video’s been doing the facebook rounds lately and I thought I’d add to the giant recycling bin that is the internet by linking and commenting on it.

The story of Charlotte and Jonathan struck me as an amazing illustration of grace.  Firstly Charlotte shows grace (unmerited favour) by loving the unlovable Jonathan.  In doing so she discovers there is much to love in Jonathan that no one else has discovered because they were busy judging his outward appearance.  Her love gives him the courage to do the outrageous – sing in front of millions of people and submit himself to their judgment.

What the millions discover is that he is an astounding opera singer!  But at 4min50 along comes the personification of law (the standard) himself; Simon Cowell.  He tells them “Charlotte, I think you’re good; but Jonathan, you are unbelievable, you are a future star… but I’m worried that Charlotte is going to hold you back” to which Jonathan replies “we came on here as a duo and we are going to stay as a duo.”

Jonathan was tempted in that moment to dump Charlotte to gain the world but what does he do?  He gives up the world to keep a friend and support her – he gives grace back to Charlotte at the expense of himself.  This is profound love and it reminds me so much of Christ who gave up the world to gain his enemies and at the expense of his life. 

Mar 21, 2012

And the verdict is...

"The Christian is the man who no longer seeks his salvation, his deliverance, his justification in himself, but in Jesus Christ alone. He knows that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him guilty, even when he does not feel his guilt, and God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces him not guilty and righteous, even when he does not feel righteous at all. The Christian no longer lives of himself, by his own claims and his own justification, but by God’s claims and God’s justification. He lives wholly by God’s Word pronounced upon him."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life together
(thanks to Mockingbird blog)

Feb 29, 2012

Why accepting free stuff is so hard

Have you ever gone out for coffee with a friend and had that awkward moment at the till which goes a little something like this:

The friend - “I’ll get it”

Me – “no, it’s OK I can pay for mine”

Friend – “no, I insist. I don’t mind”

Me – “are you sure?” (hasn’t put wallet away yet)

Friend – “I’m sure. Go find us a table”

Me – “OK, I’ll get it next time”

I told you it was hard to accept free stuff, and you didn’t believe me, did you! In our relationships we feel most comfortable when we are equal to the other party. We don’t want to be the charity case who everyone is always helping along. If someone does something nice for us we feel guilty until we have returned the favour.
Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee lists off a whole lot of things he has done for God; he fasts, he tithes, he doesn’t cheat. He believes that he and God are tight because God does good things for him and then he returns the favour. But the tax collector just breaks down in fear and sorrow before God; he is worried because He knows that God is holy and good and he is bad. There is no way he could start to even up the relationship and so he cries out for God to have mercy on him. And God justifies him (makes the tax collector right/perfect in His eyes). 

As Christians we know that we should be like the tax collector because in the end he is the one that God approves of. But we don’t really want to be the tax collector because deep down you and I actually act like the Pharisee! And how can I make such a bold claim? Well, when someone buys us a coffee we fight that free gift. We want to be able to contribute something towards it. We can’t just take it for what it is. And we treat our relationship with God in the same way. His unconditional embrace of us sinners seems like an offer that is too good to be true. So we fight it, always wanting to give something back, and feeling guilty when we fail. But God does not need anything from us, least of all our filthy good works. He freely gives us all His good works and they are enough. 

So when you are feeling down because you failed yet again to make yourself acceptable in God’s eyes, be comforted that your relationship with God is 0% dependent on your contribution and you are 100% acceptable to God because of Jesus Christ. So relax! Rest in this good news and savour it’s sweetness like free cup of coffee.