are we there yet?

One of the things we do in our Team within the Eastern Baptist Association is share a ‘thought for the week’ with Ministers in the Association. It is sent by email each week. This week it was my turn and, in the spirit of recycling, I am posting it here too. If you are an EBA Minister and have already received this by email I am sorry that you have had it twice…

20140327_121204The family car is finally packed. The children are finally strapped into their seats with their favourite toys. The journey has started and everyone is finally able to relax. And then, from the back seat, come the chilling words that will be repeated all the way for the rest of the journey:

“Are we there yet?”

At the start of the season of Advent (this Sunday) we reflect on the promises of God.

Isaiah 2:2-5:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.

Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

“Are we there yet?”

It was because the destination was so wonderful that the Advent expectation, anticipation (and impatience) was so high by the time of Christ. Consider it for a moment: in the last days God’s reign will be obvious to all; people from all nations will stream to him to learn from him and follow his guidance;  his word will be proclaimed; his justice will be experienced; his peace will be universal.

“Are we there yet?”

Well, no. But we are on the way. Advent is a season of hopefulness and anticipation. We have the advantage of knowing how God will bring all of this about (starting with a baby in a cattle feeding trough). But we also have a call to make God’s reign obvious, to learn from him and follow him, to proclaim his word, to seek his justice and be agents of his peace today so that his Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

Be blessed, be a blessing

danger

The internet is a dangerous place.

Not because of the scams that are out to ensnare the unwary, the pornography that seems to be everywhere, the emails that offer medical assistance or opportunities to receive millions of pounds from complete strangers if I give them my bank details. Although those (and others) do make the internet a dangerous place.

No, it’s dangerous because it gives you access to information you didn’t use to be able to access. Even if you had an up to date complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica (other Encyclopaedias are available) you would not have had access to as much information as is now available at the click of a button.

For example, if I type ‘Elmer Fudd’ into a search engine [types ‘Elmer Fudd’] I am offered information about cartoons, offered T shirts and other merchandise, provided with links to videos, given the option to change my language setting in the search engine to ‘Ewmer Fudd’ (go on, you know you want to), offered sound clips, shown how to draw him, provided with background information about him, and much more besides. A while back because I mentioned Elmer Fudd a lot in this blog it was listed 23rd in the list of sites for people to visit to find out about him. That’s dangerous!

But I still have not got to the nub of the danger. The thing is that sometimes we can have too much information. No, don’t think I am going all ‘Big Brother’ on you (the book, not the TV programme). But if, for example. I had a health symptom that I looked up on the internet I would be offered all sorts of possibilities and before I know it I could be sure I was having a heart attack when in fact I had just bruised my left arm. (That actually happened to me. Have a look at this bloggage if you are interested.)

I wonder how much of a doctor’s time is spent having to reassure patients that their internet-search-based-self-diagnosis is not correct.

Let me give you another example – help with a golf swing. I was having some problems with the ball not going in the intended direction (I still am) and did a search for an answer. I was offered so many different solutions I was completely confused and ended up even less confident about what to do than when I had started.

What if you typed ‘Meaning of life’? I just did and the range of options for answers to that question are staggering.

Or if you do a search for ‘Colchester church’, do you decide to go to the first church that is offered? Careful if you do!Capture

It’s dangerous because you can end up either with more information than is helpful, or you can end up receiving information that is just wrong. Who or what do you trust? Do you accept that the sites the search engine offers you on the first page are the ones that are right?

As we are in the season of Advent I felt it was good to have another look at how Luke opens his gospel – right at the start of chapter 1 before we get to angels, shepherds, stables and babies…

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eye witnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account…

This Christmas I invite you to investigate carefully what you understand about Jesus of Nazareth. You may have been a follower of his for all your life, you may be a recent follower, you may be an inquirer or event an ardent critic. But don’t take my words or anyone else’s words for it – investigate for yourself by going back to the eyewitness accounts*. Examine them afresh for yourself and see what they say to you.

But be warned – that’s dangerous too because it can transform your life!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*ie Matthew, Mark, Luke or John (I’d start with Luke, but that’s not essential)