Lent - Day 14 - More than we can Imagine

There are 59.5 million forcibly displaced people in our world at the moment (www.unhcr.org.uk).  That’s enough to fill Wembley stadium 666 times….  Hmmm, maybe the mark of the beast is really a combination of the worship of football and the world’s ability to make it impossible for people to live in their homes?

Don’t quote me on that!

Last year over 1 million refugees, fleeing warzones and persecution in the middle east, made their way into Europe.  And this year many more are expected to come.  I was told this morning that Germany is expecting half a million each year for the next five years. 

That is a huge amount of people to absorb, welcome and mix with.  And that’s before the very real impact of the cultural differences hit.

Nobody really knows how to respond. 

Nobody really knows the shape of Europe to come.

Today let’s think about the God who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph 3:20)

And ask for his ideas on how we can respond.

Lent - Day 13 - Imposing Peace

The main headline today on the BBC news website is about a dog that was run over and killed by two policemen in North Wales.  It’s a comparatively small issue but, for a moment, it’s taking up the prime spot in our public consciousness.

It’s a relief from discussions about Europe, the economy, Trump, Putin, IS and the NHS, for sure.  And it’s an opportunity to exercise a few of our pent-up-angry-feelings against injustice in something safe, something that stands little chance of causing us personal harm or leaving us with negative long-term consequences.

But!

But, not much really! 

Not much about the suitability and emphasis of our headline news reports for this ‘lent thoughts’ blog anyway.  

However, following on from yesterday, the dog story does raise more thought about ‘imposing issues’. 

Yesterday I suggested that we step back from the imposing issues in our lives and ask for God’s perspective.  I willingly did it myself because I’d like some things to take up less space in my sights. But I found it’s much easier said than done. 

I suppose that’s why they become big in the first place. 

So today:  Let’s ask God again for his perspective.  And keep asking everyday until we find peace.

I believe and trust that the peace will come.  Though I don’t know when that will be.  

This side of the end of lent or the other?

 

 

Lent - Day 12 - Eclipsed

Everybody knows that the sun is a lot larger and more significant than the royal observatory in Greenwich park, but if you stand in the right place (or the wrong place), at the right time of day, the royal observatory looks a lot larger and more imposing.

A few yards to the right, this evening, and the sun would be entirely eclipsed.

It’s all about where you are standing and what you are looking at. 

It’s easy to complain about the taste of the wine when others have nothing to drink.  It’s easy to complain about the size of our homes while others have no home at all.  It’s us allowing things to become larger, and more imposing, than they actually are in the grand scheme of things.

We all do it.

So today, let's step away for a few moments and ask God for his perspective on the imposing issues in front of us.  

And see the impact of him at work. 

Lent - Days 8,9 and 10 - Regenerate Where?

What do you do when you have money? 

I spent days 8,9 and 10 of lent visiting my parents-in-law’s new home in Binchester, a small ex-coal miner’s village, just outside Bishop Auckland.

And whilst there I discovered that one wealthy man (not my father-in-law) has decided to live and invest a huge sum of his own fortune there.  Bishop Auckland is the historical home of the Bishop of Durham, whose palace sits in a great park at the top of the High Street, but with the bishop no longer living in the palace and the whole town in decline Bishop Auckland became a place in great need of regeneration.

So one man has bought the palace, a large amount of artwork and several buildings in the town, and has great plans to bring history and creativity to life there.

Why?

Why does one man, who has made enough money to live wherever he wants in the world, and feed on whatever delights he fancies, choose to live and invest his fortune in a forgotten bleak town in the North East of England?  It’s not like he’s from there, or has family there.

God inspired him!

This man may have many millions in his bank account but the principle is the same for however much we have:  Let's let God inspire how we spend our money and ourselves.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Isaiah 58:12)

 

Lent - Day 7 - Rooted in Love

If you didn’t know better you’d be forgiven for looking at the bare trees in winter and thinking that they were dead.  Their leaves and fruit have gone and there is no life to be found, given or enjoyed.

Yet if they stay rooted in the right soil, in time, when the spring comes, they will grow leaves and fruit again.  And this year they’ll most likely be a bit bigger, a bit stronger, and grow even more leaves and fruit.

All they have to do is stay rooted, using their roots to help them withstand the storms whilst also mining goodness from the dark waste below.

The root analogy is great for us as Christians.  As we root ourselves in ‘love’ (Eph 3:17), even through the cold, dark and stormy times (even when we are only 7 days into lent and there are still 33 days to go before the chocolate can be harvested and eaten), we can be confident that we will grow again and bear fruit.

That’s what happens with seasons. 

That’s how God created them.

And we embrace the extra ring around the middle.

Lent - Day 6 - One Wish

Imagine, for a moment if you will, God actually asking you: “what reward would you have for your labour?”  Perhaps it’s an opportunity to ask for wealth, at least enough to never worry again, or health, enough to stay fit and healthy before dropping dead without noticing at a comfortable old age.  Or maybe it’s a chance to ask for the right partner or to request the health and wealth of others?  Especially your children.  Or world peace!  There’s a lot of potential for this one-wish that Thomas Aquinas was handed from the most powerful being in the universe.

What would you do with yours?

“Nothing but you, Lord” said Thomas

 Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours? said Solomon.  (2 Chr 1:10)

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.” Said the Psalmist (PS 16:5)

“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” said Paul (Phil 3:8)

What?!!? 

What did they know that most of us struggle to understand?

Something rather profound.

 

Lent - Day 5 - Nothing But You

800 years ago Thomas Aquinas wrote the Summa Theologica – which basically means the ‘summary of Theology’.  Imagine that!  The sum of all the knowledge of God, the answers to all our questions, conveniently contained within the pages of a book, albeit a very large book, of more than one volume.

Thomas Aquinas had a wonderful mind and a great drive to know God and communicate that knowledge.  He also had a way with words, which he used, together with his scribe Reginald, to produce a great masterpiece for people to learn how to be Christians and lead others.

Fortunately it is unfinished!

How could the knowledge of God ever be summed up in a book?

It can’t.

There are three main parts to the Summa Theologica.  The first two, about God, nature and creation, and the morality of mankind, are considered to be finished, but it’s the third part, about Jesus, that isn’t.

It turns out that while he was writing part III, and levitating in prayer, Christ said to Thomas:  "You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labour?"

And Thomas replied, "Nothing but you, Lord."  

Then he stopped writing.

Some time later Reginald begged him to get back to work but Thomas replied: "Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me".  

This is truly amazing.  A man who was most famous for his ability to write and philosophise, a man who, even today is considered one of the greatest theologians to have lived, was brought to realise that all the words in the world are not enough, whichever order you put them in, to explain or describe the wonder of knowing God through Jesus Christ.

Thomas must have experienced the remarkable warmth of the living love of God. 

Today let’s ask for the touch of God that words cannot describe.  And be glad that the Summa Theoligica will never be finished. 

Not within a book.

Lent - Day 4 - Distracted

Only 4 days in and a trip to the motorbike show at Excel with friends, a ride on the cable car between Greenwich and Royal Victoria Dock, a visit from the parents and a curry with a friend for his 44th Birthday meant a missing post.  

Lent - Day 3 - Phantom God

All credit to CS Lewis today. He puts it so well: 

“The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison… Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

“Pride has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But Pride always means enmity – it is enmity.”

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. “

“That raises a terrible question. How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks they are far better than ordinary people.”

If CS Lewis is right, if pride really is as destructive as he says, leading us to a phantom God, then we must, especially during Lent, check our selves.  And we'd better ask God to help because pride is probably also the fault that we are least aware of in ourselves - a phantom within.  

Then we can ask the real God to help us change.

(All CS Lewis quotes from Mere Christianity)