Racism, Shaming, Scapegoating and Hope

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, Cross, culture, My videos, videos | 5 Comments

Here’s a response to some of the events of the last fortnight, focusing on racism and some other of the blame games that threaten to tear us apart.

Sorry for the hands-off-the-steering-wheel-gesticulations! Won’t do it again, I promise! If I do an in-car vlog again I’ll probably do it parked.

Anyway, hopefully my Jehu impression won’t distract too much from the issues discussed…

 

Champions!

Posted on by Glen in 321, apologetics, evangelism | Leave a comment

LeicesterWe experience it all the time. Leicester City lifts the trophy and millions rejoice.

England beats Australia in the rugby and strangers introduce themselves to me with the words “Three Nil!” (To which I respond, “Eddie Jones, what a genius!”)

The Euros come on TV and the whole nation is on tenterhooks.

What’s going on? It’s all about champions, as this extract from my book, 321, explains. (Get the book here, and as an e-book for just 99p).

 

Champions

“Who do you support?” they ask. “In the football, who’s your team?”

“Umm,” I hesitate. I’ve been here before. “Well I’m Australian but I lived for a while in Highbury, north London. So I suppose I follow Arsenal. At a distance. Sort of.”

“Arsenal?! We STUFFED you on Saturday!” they beam.

“You did?” I look at their shirt. Yep, it’s a dead ringer for the shirts worn by eleven men who, last weekend, bettered another eleven men neither of us have met. But that’s not the way it’s ever phrased. It’s always “We beat you.” When our champions win, we win.

At that point I want to protest: “Who’s we? I know where you were last Saturday. You were glued to the telly, part-man part-sofa, bellowing advice at the greatest athletes in the world. I’m not sure shrieking “Referee!!” every 90 seconds helped the cause. But if you want to claim victory in the name of your champions, who am I to sneeze on your custard?” That’s just how champions work: they win, you celebrate.

During the London Olympics, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, wrote a poem to capture the nations’ feelings about Team GB. She wrote: “We are Mo Farah lifting the 10 000m gold… We are Sir Chris Hoy… We are Nicola Adams.” Of course none of us have made the sacrifices these athletes have made. And if you asked us to compete we wouldn’t have a hope. (Speaking for myself, the most aerobic workout of my day is brushing my teeth). But when Mo Farah wins, the nation celebrates. He is Britain’ champion and his victory is their victory.

Perhaps the epitome of “faith in our champions” is seen in the football transfer market. Here managers, coaches and scouts sift the world’s greatest leagues for that one miracle maker. Pundits speculate, fortunes are spent, millions of fans hold their breath and it’s all founded on the myth of the one man.

The myth of the one man goes something like this: Somewhere, out there, is a player of such extraordinary talent that no price is too absurd, for – so the legend goes – if we have him, then everything will change. He will galvanize the team. He will win every game. He will turn our fortunes around. This man is out there and we must have him.

Of course it’s a myth, but imagine it was true. Imagine your team actually found “the one man.” And in spite of the naysayers, you’d always believed in him – he’d always been your guy. As the season unfolds, he scores the winner in every game propelling your team up the league, through the cup, all the way to Wembley. And there you are at the FA Cup final. His last minute double strike snatches victory from the jaws of defeat. The noise is deafening as he runs over to your end of the ground, arms outstretched. He’s mouthing the words “For you… It’s for you.” There you are amidst the deafening roar. How do you feel?

Remember that you have not assisted in this triumph. In spite of your high quality coaching from the stands, none of it has affected the outcome. Nonetheless, how do you feel? “Over the moon” is the usual expression. But that doesn’t capture it. We’re ecstatic – beside ourselves with joy. We jump, we shout, we sing, we hug complete strangers just because they too share a connection with the one man. Victory, camaraderie, euphoria – this is how Christians feel about Jesus.

 

Jesus our Champion

Jesus is God’s eternal Son but he became “the one man” to turn our fortunes around. From the very beginning of the Bible, stories about “the one man” were circulating. He was going to join Team Earth and defeat our enemy in a fight to the death (see Genesis 3:15). Throughout the Old Testament, hype surrounding “the one man” built to epic proportions. Then one day, as a wild and woolly man – John the Baptist – was giving people a ritual “washing”, we got to see our man.

In a scene that opens all the biographies of Jesus (the Gospels), we see him taking a bath – a.k.a. getting baptised. This was the ceremony where Jesus identified with Team Earth publicly and irreversibly. It was like the footballer’s official signing for the club – this was Jesus publicly wearing our colours. The rest of the Gospels reveal his “wonder-season”. He took on the forces that constantly defeat us: temptation, sin, evil, disease, death. These powers always get the better of us, but not Jesus. He “played a blinder”, living up to all the hype.

Then, at the end of his life, we see how deeply our Champion identifies with us. On the cross he took responsibility for everything that belongs to us – even our sins and the godforsaken death they deserve. As he died, the crowd fell silent, wondering if the hype was misplaced. Yet, just when they thought it was all over, Jesus scored a decisive winner against the ultimate “baddy”.

“Death is the final enemy” wrote the Apostle Paul (1Corinthians 15:26). In billions of matches, death has never lost a battle. Without exception it sucks us down into the grave. But Jesus ran headlong into that pit and smashed a hole right through it. On Easter Sunday he burst through to the far side as the ultimate victor. Then, like the triumphant footballer, running to his supporters, Jesus has his arms outstretched to the world and he cries: “For you! This is for you!”

A Christian is someone who has found themselves swept up in this story. We have recognised our place in Team Earth. We have owned our failures and faced the certainty of defeat. But, more than this, we have seen Jesus. We have heard his claims to be the long-promised Champion. We have witnessed his life, his death and his resurrection. We are persuaded that he is who he says he is. And now the penny has dropped: If he is our Champion then his victory is our victory. We know we look like “a bunch of losers” and we know we haven’t expended a calorie of effort in the victory. Nonetheless we sing like we’ve won because, though Jesus our Champion, we have:

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

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Get 321 here, and as an e-book.

 

Catch Up On Reading Between The Lines – 124-130

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This week’s Reading Between The Lines.

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Catch Up on Reading Between the Lines – 116-123

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This week’s Reading Between The Lines.

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Catch Up on Reading Between The Lines – 108-115

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The Gospel According to Abraham – Genesis 15 Sermon

Posted on by Glen in covenant continuity, sermons | Leave a comment

Godneverlies-Webbanner-01

Abraham is fearful in Genesis 15.

He’s fearful when life has gone well.

He’s fearful when life has gone badly.

He’s fearful when he’s unsure whether life will go well or badly.

At every turn the Word of the LORD meets him to overwhelm those fears with fresh promises of Himself.

Fear is when life overwhelms us

Faith is when Christ overwhelms us.

LISTEN to hear how Christ overwhelms our fears with more of Himself


 

 

Catch Up on Reading Between the Lines – 101 to 107

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Recent Sermons

Posted on by Glen in Easter, sermons | Leave a comment

Palm Sunday – The Surprise of Love (John 12-13; Philippians 2)

 

Easter Sunday – The Sovereignty of Love (John 20:19-31)

 

Sunday After Easter – The Solace of Love (John 21)

 

Catch Up With Reading Between the Lines – 94-100

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This week’s Reading Between The Lines.

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Four Thoughts on Evangelistic Events

Posted on by Glen in evangelism, mission | Leave a comment

evangelism

I’ve just been asked my thoughts on evangelistic events. Four things spring to mind:

1. If an event is basically a social mixer so that Christians and non-Christians rub shoulders there is a problem here. And the problem goes deeper than the fact that the gospel may be sidelined on the night of the event. The problem is that Christians often don’t socialise with non-Christians unless there’s an evangelistic/pre-evangelistic event put on by church. In other words, they don’t feel able to get out into the big bad world and enjoy life with non-Christians until or unless their Christian leaders give them explicit permission. That’s a big issue in church life. And maybe less events (of all kinds) would actually free people to do more evangelism.

2. I often find that Sunday mornings are the easiest events to invite people to. Other events which we hope might be stepping-stones can be equally, if not more, off-putting to non-Christians. You’d be surprised how many people might be up for giving church a go. Remember Sunday is where the action is!

3. Having said all this, I definitely still believe in events. Because the gospel is an event. And conversion is an event. Sometimes, when people talk about evangelism, they speak in terms of “processes” – they tell you the number of times someone needs to hear the gospel before they’ll convert, they’ll big up the importance of building trust and doing life and loving on people. The thing is, conversion is crossing from death to life. And an event at which Christ is offered and unbelievers are confronted actually mirrors the nature of the gospel we claim to believe. Such events bring people to the event they must consider. So events can be very good ways of serving what we say we believe.

4. If you are going to put on an event, work backwards from the end result you want. If you want folks trusting in Jesus then you better give good time and space to the gospel message. And that better be undistracted time and space. When you work backwards from there you might find yourself designing quite a different event. If you simply want Christians and non-Christians mixing, having a good time and gently leading people on to ‘the next thing’, then, fine, put on a pub quiz and have a 5 minute talk before the results are announced. But if you want people to really consider Christ then clear a space for a talk in undistracted space. I prefer interview testimonies followed by a talk or a ‘meal with a message’, but whatever you do, begin at the end. Imagine the talk you want your friends to hear. Imagine what you want to happen as the speaker draws to a close. Now work backwards.

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