Who’s fooling who?

Each year on April 1st people will go to great lengths to create plausible stories to fool the unwary, I wonder what your favourites are? One of the all time classics was the Panorama report in 1957 on a bumper spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. The BBC followed this up in 2008 with a trailer featuring flying Adélie Penguins. New technology provides fertile territory for plausible gags which in 2012 included a Lynx body spray app for your mobile phone and the stunning Peugeot RCZ which uses a psychochromatic coating to change colour according to the mood of the driver. Usually these gags are harmless fun and the ‘April fools’ who fall for it generally see the funny side and enjoy the joke.

Now it may surprise you to know that the bible has quite a bit to say about fools and foolishness – however it does not regard this as a joking matter. Over 60 times in the book of Proverbs we are given warnings about the danger that ‘fools’ will find themselves in. While the opening words of Psalms 14 and 53 say starkly that ’The fool says in his heart there is no God’.

Why such a strong statement? The Bible never sets out to provide a robust philosophical proof that God exists in the way you might prove a mathematical theorem. Rather it provides evidence of God’s existence through the wonders of creation and accounts of his interactions with historic individuals. In biblical terms, the existence of God is self evident. To ignore God or to declare that he does not exist is folly because God’s existence is not dependent upon our belief in him – he exists regardless. What a shock it will be for those who deny his existence on the day when each of us will meet him face to face! Far better to heed Isaiah’s instruction: ‘Seek GOD while he’s here to be found, pray to him while he’s close at hand.’ I urge you not to be found a fool who denies God, but search him out for yourself before it is too late.

In the meantime I hope that you have a lot of fun with pranks on April Fool’s day.

This blog post featured in the April 2013 edition of Hook Focus

True greatness

‘I’m the king of the castle, get down you dirty rascal’, goes the children’s rhyme. Its origins are hard to trace, however it can be found as part of a children’s game called King of the Castle in a book published around 1850. Other historical references suggest that the rhyme may have existed for more than 1,000 years prior to that. What seems a harmless game amongst children under proper supervision can become quite unpleasant when it comes to adults jockeying for position in business or society.

We live in a culture that creates heroes and tears them down in a moment; barely has someone enjoyed their ‘15 minutes of fame’, then a new ‘star’ replaces them. In our media saturated world, individuals get thrust into the limelight and are acclaimed for their looks, their sporting brilliance, their ability to entertain, their business acumen or their wealth. The stars of so called ‘reality’ TV shows are ‘people who live next door’ types who shine briefly on a national stage before being forgotten. Even though the vast majority of people recognise the shallowness of these measures of greatness, the sub-plot is that it could be you who next achieves fame and fortune. So greatness is distorted and devalued.

Against this backdrop, the teaching of Jesus on what makes people great is truly counter cultural and hard to embrace. Over the next few weeks we will be exploring this teaching and discovering how Jesus turns our value system upside down. In Luke 14:7-11 we read Jesus’ parable of a wedding feast where guests presume to sit at the prestigious top table, only to be humbled by the host who ejects them to the lowest place to make those places available for their rightful owners. This is a powerful warning against those who consider themselves great in their own eyes. As we do this let’s ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to use Jesus measures of greatness and live by kingdom values.

This blog post featured in the April 2013 edition of Lifelines

God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer – by Pete Grieg

God-on-mute Perhaps one of the reasons that we struggle to pray is because we don’t always get the answers we want. Our prayers seem to hit the ceiling and don’t seem to change anything. There are many books on prayer that claim to give us keys on how to get whatever we want from God. This book is not like that!

Pete Grieg is a giant on the world stage when it comes to prayer. He is Director of Prayer at Holy Trinity Brompton and a founding champion of the 24-7 prayer movement that began in 1999 and has impacted more than 100 nations. If anyone should know about prayer then surely Pete’s your man!

In the opening chapter Pete describes the moment when 29 year old Sammy, wakes him in the middle of the night with pain in her leg. In the cot alongside lies 7 week old Daniel, their older son Hudson sleeps in the adjacent room. Initial concern that his wife’s cries will wake the baby are quickly forgotten when she begins to fit. Sammy’s body ceases to be under her control as she convulses violently and barely manages to exhale a plea to her husband to pray. His prayer was frantic yet seemingly futile. Sammy was turning blue; the pillow was becoming blotted with bloody spittle, the ambulance seemed to be taking forever! Yet in all the noise and confusion Danny continued to sleep peacefully. On arriving at the hospital a CAT scan detects a growth in Sammy’s brain the size of an orange.

Pete weaves together their journey through Sammy’s illness and frustration at unanswered prayer with Jesus’ journey from Maundy Thursday through to Easter Sunday via the cross to help us understand that even God’s silence is an answer. Wrought in the crucible of reality and pain, this is not a trite answer to a theoretical question. Rather it is the journey of ordinary people who despite plumbing the depths of despair retain their grasp of faith in God.

Buy God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer from Amazon UK
Buy God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer from Amazon US