bad news good news

This week Microsoft announced that they were pulling the plug on their clipart. Apparently it was because so many of us now search for images online that there has not been much demand for clipart. That’s bad news. Not because I am a big fan of clipart. And I do search for images (royalty free) online.

sheep cartoon
a captured screenshot from a PowerPoint slide I created, hence the crosshairs!

But it’s bad news for those of us who are not good at drawing – it was a real blessing to be able to create images by using clipart. A few years ago I created this cartoon (left) using clipart. I had a concept but I needed ready-made components to be able to make the concept a reality. Now that Microsoft has withdrawn clipart I am either going to have to learn to draw, or find another source for the components I need.

I think that I have always had an affinity for the shepherds and angels part of the Christmas events.  I think the whole episode lends itself to all sorts of comedic interpretations and slants – for example the cartoon below (again created using clipart)Christmas Card 09, or Nora the Noisy Angel (last year). But most of all I like it because it shows that the incredible good news of God’s gift to humanity in Jesus is for everyone – even (or especially) those who were excluded from mainstream society.

Which indeed is “Good news of great joy for all people.”

Be blessed, be a blessing

risk

Some of you may not get the full relevance of this image to 'risk'.
Some of you may not get the full relevance of this image to ‘risk’.

Oooh, isn’t it interesting what ignites people’s interest? The mention of something topical and a bit controversial in the blog title yesterday caused a surge in views. The letter in the Daily Telegraph from 50 high profile people complaining about our Prime Minister describing the country as ‘Christian’ made headline news. (I was interested in the use of statistics here – the letter from the 50 said that Christians are a tiny minority, based on Church attendance, while those defending the position refer to the last Census where 6/10 people said they were Christians). And now politicians are fighting back by reasserting what the Prime Minister said and saying things like: ‘it’s difficult for moderate people of faith to express their views because of extremist attitudes’.

One of the ironies is that the values based on the Bible that have shaped this country (such as ‘tolerance’; ‘welcoming the stranger’; ‘care for the downtrodden’; and ‘free will’) are now the values that are being used to say that we can’t assert one faith over any other.

And that doesn’t surprise me because God is a real risk-taker. When he put human beings on the planet with the freedom to choose whether or not we wanted to know him he took the risk that we wouldn’t. When he chose the nation of Israel to be a ‘light to all nations’ as a way of showing everyone what a relationship with him could be like he took the risk that they would assume that they were the ‘special ones’ and see it as a right to be exploited not a privilege to be shared. When Jesus chose twelve somewhat flaky men to be trained up as his followers ready to take on the world he took the risk that they would let him down.

And when God wrote out his ‘maker’s instructions’ for the planet and for people he made them universally fair and took the risk that they would be used against him. God says, “Everyone is equally valuable”; so we reduce faith to a matter of personal choice and say: “Because everyone is equal you can’t say that your God is better than any other god.” God says, “Love me, love your neighbour as yourself”; and we ignore the first bit and reduce the second bit to a Universal Truth: “Respect everyone.”

If you doubt that God is a risk taker, consider this: he wants to use ordinary people (albeit filled with his Spirit) as the ones who will spread the Good News about Jesus around the world. He risks us getting the message wrong, fighting amongst ourselves, being too scared, and blending in with our surroundings so that people don’t notice us. But he also risks us changing the world forever. This may not be a Christian country, but it’s God’s world and he is loving it back – through you and I!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

rewriting Murphy

Have you heard of Murphy’s Laws?

There are many variations, which are summarised as ‘If anything can go wrong it will’. Other versions relate to specific events such as ‘falling bread always lands butter side down’. We may have a chuckle at them, and also feel an empathy with it when things go wrong for us. There has been serious research into Murphy’s law, linking it with concepts such as entropy (everything tends towards decay). But at its root is a pessimistic outlook on life that is typified by Eyeore in the Winnie the Pooh books.

I don’t think Jesus would have quoted Murphy’s Law, or a Hebrew version of it, except to point out that it is not how God looks at his world. I sense a divine optimism in the way that Jesus approached life. For him it was not whether the glass was half full or half empty it was: ‘Wow, a glass with water in it! How can we use that to bless someone?’

Sometimes Christian theology and teaching suggests that it’s all doom and gloom. You don’t see so many people with billboards now saying ‘The end of the world is nigh’ but that does typify the approach we sometimes take. The Ten Commandments are (on the whole) phrased negatively: ‘Thou shalt not…’ (Have a look at this bloggage if you want a different perspective on the big ten). Christians are sometimes portrayed as negative people in TV shows (Dot Cotton anyone?)

But there’s another side – Jesus spoke of bring life ‘in all its fullness’. The Bible speaks of God’s love for his creation and of how he longs for all humans to know him and be with him forever. Jesus’ life did not finish on the cross but continues because of his resurrection and that is the prototype for us if we have faith in him. The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’.

typewriter - permission for blogSo here are some rewrites of Murphy’s Law:

If anything can go wrong, pray. If it does go wrong, pray. If it doesn’t go wrong, pray.

If anything can go wrong and even it does God is still with you and for you.

God can redeem any situation.

Be blessed, be a blessing

I’m just saying…

iStock_000008457626MediumI am not someone who sees demons lurking around every corner and considers that everything that goes wrong is the result of the devil having a go at me. I think that sometimes in this world we have to acknowledge that the bumper sticker was right: s**t happens.

But just occasionally when stuff goes wrong I have paused and wondered about the timing. I was speaking at a youth camp a long time ago (when I had hair – yes that long ago!). On the evening where I was particularly asking the young people to consider their relationship with Jesus and whether any of them wanted to make a commitment I had planned for us to sing a song after the talk during which the young people could consider their response. I switched on the overhead projector (remember them?) and the bulb blew. No problem, there was a spare, which I slid into place using the convenient lever at the front of the machine and switched it on. The same thing happened (the projector had been fine all week). I abandoned the plan to sing and carried on. God was gracious and young people came to faith despite the tech failure.

After the session I switched the OHP on again and it worked fine. The timing was, erm, interesting. That’s all I am saying.

This morning I am beginning work on a significant sermon for Sunday. The significance is not because of me, but because of what I (and the other church leaders) feel should be said. I switched my computer on and it chugged into action. Then it ran i n c r e d i b l y   s l o w l y. Then in crashed. I restarted it and it all came back to life, except that the antivirus software would not work and was flashing alarm messages at me. I used the online chat facility with the nice man from the AV company and the problem was resolved.

But it was a time consuming distraction. The timing was, erm, interesting. That’s all I am saying.

Even though s**t happens, and it happens to good people as well as those we might consider deserve it, we should not discount that there is evil at large in the world: not personified by a red character with horns, a pointy tail and a fork; but personified by greed, lust, rage, deceit and other less pleasant characteristics we have. And just occasionally, when God wants to do something significant, stuff happens that makes you think that the opposition is not keen and that it is trying to distract us.

The good news is that there is Good News and that God is more powerful than anything. The Cross of Christ is the moment when evil is doomed to defeat and love wins. We need not fear – even the sting of death has been drawn – and I sometimes think that when stuff ‘happens’ it is a good sign, because (to use a CS Lewis metaphor) Aslan is on the move and the White Witch is getting twitchy!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

ready? steady? go!

I am feeling a bit self-chuffed. It might even be pride if that was not a sin (!). Regular bloggites will know that I enjoy learning and performing magic tricks. Well I have now invented a trick. I think it is quite good, magician friends to whom I have performed it also think it is quite good, and even a magic trick manufacturer liked it (but not enough for them to buy the rights and make my fortune!).

The trick is based around improbabilities, beating incredible odds. I am not going to go into it now, but if you ask me nicely and persuasively I will reluctantly perform it for you.

Okay, you won’t have to work very hard at all: I am always ready to share it because I am so pleased with it, and with the responses I get from those to whom I perform it. And obviously that reminds me of sandals. You know what I mean, so I don’t need to explain it any further do I?

What?

You haven’t a clue what I am blogging about? (What’s new?)

Roman_legion_at_attackIn his letter to the church in Ephesus Paul encouraged them in their following of Jesus by using the image of a Roman soldier’s armour and telling them that there is spiritual armour we can wear too. Alongside the obvious (helmet, shield, breastplate, sword) he also mentioned what I call ‘good news shoes’.

“… with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15)

Apparently Roman soldiers used to wear heavy duty sandals that would help them to march for long distances and give them grip in slippery conditions. Paul used that image to talk about how ready we are to share the good news of Jesus. How far will we go to tell someone the good news or be good news to them? Do we need extra grip? Interestingly he talks of ‘readiness’. If you have your army sandals on you are ready to roll.

I have reflected on my readiness to share magic tricks and whether I am as ready (or even more ready) to share the gospel of peace with others? If I am pleased and impressed (and trying and failing to be humble) with my magic trick, how much more pleased, excited and impressed should I be about the good news of Jesus?

Get your sandals on.

(Socks are optional).

Be blessed, be a blessing.