Because Blog

Viral sheep

Have you seen the latest viral video of a drone shot of a mega herd of sheep? In almost kaleidoscope fashion – forming all kinds of patterns – watching what looks like moving grains of rice being poured, these shots are even soothing to watch.

Filmed by videographer Lior Patel at a farm located in Peace Valley, Yokneam in northern Israel, in the speeded-up video you see the flocks move from one field to another, through a gate, in a sand timer movement. Sheep are often known for following and placidity, but what strikes you is that as they move together, they move as one. Because that’s what sheep do, they follow. But as I watched, sometimes I noticed the odd few doing their own thing.

This reminded me of another viral sheep encounter. This time it was a short story about these bleating bundles of wool which, ironically, went viral from Israel, too. From the lips of a man who was brought up just 15km from the farm where viral sheep footage was filmed.

You may remember the story, it’s one of those that have found itself into our culture and has a message behind it. “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”[1] Sound familiar?

If it does it’s because it’s one of the more famous short stories spoken by Jesus. But what is it all about?

Many of us when we think about the notion of God or some transcendental being – whether we think there’s one or not – sometimes conjure up someone who’s distant or harsh, someone who would disregard the weak or sinful. Certainly, the Greek and Roman Pantheon of gods would fall into this category. But Jesus surprises us with this sheep story. He related the joy of finding one lost sheep to the same joy that God experiences when a human, lost in the mess of this world, comes back into belief and relationship with God. A God who will run after the one sheep to save and keep safe.

I don’t know what your spiritual journey has been like. Maybe you are searching for something bigger than yourself. Maybe you’re on a path to finding a concept of God you are happy with. Or maybe you feel you once knew God but now feel lost. Maybe there has been confusion, even moral failings. If that is you, and you are searching for the way back to somewhere that feels safe and secure, this story tells us God is also looking for you.

God is full of goodness and grace – he wants us found, to come home. Like one famous Christian said, “we find no home until [we] find a home in Him [God]”.

Richard Fowler

Richard is Editorial Assistant at Because.

[1] The Bible, Luke 15:4-6 (NIVUK)
Photo by Stefan Widua on Unsplash

Passport to paradise

If your idea of paradise is lying on a sun-kissed beach on a balmy Balearic island, you may need a new kind of passport to get there. Yesterday the EU officially introduced its Digital Covid Certificate, a way for European citizens to prove they have been vaccinated against, negatively tested for or have recovered from Covid-19.

This passport is free and recognised by all 27 EU member states, as well as Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein. In principle, if you have one, you should be exempted from testing or quarantine should you wish to cross an international border.

If you live in England, don’t panic, it’s hoped the NHS Covid pass, bundled with the NHS app, will also be accepted by most countries. If you live in the rest of the UK, you’ll have to get by for now with a retro paper certificate.

But what if your idea of paradise is more grandiose? A place where there is no war or pain, poverty or sadness, no hunger, not even death? (Yes, we’ll throw in a beach too, if that is your heart’s desire.) If such a place was possible, what kind of passport would you need to get there?

This passport is not an app or a piece of paper, but a person. “I am the way”, said Jesus.1 “All you have to do to get there is believe in me”.2

If you’d like to know more, just ask.

Peter Mill

Peter is Editor-in-Chief at Because.

1The Bible – John 14:6
2 The Bible – John 3:16

What a comeback!

It’s only Wednesday and already it’s been a week of dramatic comebacks.

On Monday evening, in his first singles match at Wimbledon since 2017, two time champion Andy Murray battled to victory against 24th seed Nokoloz Basilashvili.

Then last night, having been haunted by endless replays of his penalty miss against Germany in the Euro 96 semi-final, Gareth Southgate came up smelling of roses as the England team he now manages secured a decisive victory over a formidable German side.

Going back a couple of decades, one of the biggest sporting comebacks ever was attributed to Finnish runner Lasse Viren. In August 1972, he stumbled and fell in the Olympic 10,000 metre final, then calmly got to his feet and chased down the lead runner, David Bedford, to win the gold medal and set a new world record.

And it’s not just the sporting world that spawns sensational revivals. In the movie business, there are plenty of comeback examples to choose from. Like John Travolta, who as a relatively unknown actor, starred in the hit musical Grease in 1978. By the 90s, however, his career had nose-dived until a certain Quentin Tarantino cast him as the lead in Pulp Fiction and he’s been an A-lister ever since.

But you have to go back some 2000 years to find the biggest comeback in history. The career of one Jesus Christ, wannabee Messiah, was brought to a crashing halt when Roman soldiers nailed him to a wooden cross and watched him die a painful criminal’s death. Yet against all the odds, he came back to life just three days later, confounding his enemies and appearing to over 500 eyewitnesses. (We still have the historical evidence to prove it.)

The biggest comeback of all time remains in the future, but the honours will belong to the same person. Before Jesus disappeared supernaturally into the clouds in front of his closest followers, he told them he would return to usher in a time of peace, joy and prosperity the likes of which humanity has never seen.

You could be a part of that future, a future that Jesus himself said would last forever.1 If you’d like to know how, I would be happy to explain.

Peter Mill

 Peter is Editor-in-Chief at Because.

1The Bible – John 3:16

The Sacrifice

Whether you are a Dolly Parton fan or not it is likely you know her name and have heard some of her songs. From humble beginnings in poverty, Dolly has become a worldwide and very wealthy star. She has enjoyed success as a songwriter, singer, actress and in business. You may not know about her charity work where she has funded books to be given to children on their first five birthdays, to encourage literacy, in the area where Dolly grew up, but also in other parts of the USA and in one or two towns in the UK.

Dolly is also a committed Christian, who believes in prayer and fasting, and in many public situations gives God the credit for her success. But I suspect her first love is songwriting and a few years ago, in 2011, she wrote and sang a song called The Sacrifice.

In it, Dolly sang about the price of success, the sacrifices that she has made and her determination to reach the top and become wealthy.

The opening line says, “Well, I sacrificed time with family and friends, gave up vacations for work without end.” Other lines talk about her determination to be rich whatever the cost and talk about her willingness to make the sacrifice. It is a sobering reminder that success comes with a price.

In a smaller way, I have also made the sacrifice for a more limited kind of success. In November 1989, after a few stressful months when I disagreed with the owners of the PLC I was working for, I was made redundant as a way of getting rid of me.

With a wife, three children and a mortgage, living in Hove in Sussex, I could not afford to be unemployed for long. Like Dolly, I believe in prayer and occasional fasting so placed the situation in God’s hands. We had a training course and brief holiday booked in the USA in December 1989 and as it was already paid for, we decided to go, even though it would slow down my search for a new job.

On my return I started applying for jobs and was appointed Managing Director, Northern Division by another PLC, starting in February 1990. But there was a price to be paid as it meant relocating the family to live in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. With my oldest son doing his A levels, and my middle son doing his GCSEs, I had to leave the family in Hove for nearly seven months, tough on me and on them. It was a sacrifice for the whole family, especially my wife, because the move meant leaving her parents and sister behind in Sussex.

But it resulted in a 50% increase in my basic salary then and three years later led to an even better job opportunity, when I was headhunted to be Managing Director of another PLC based in Yorkshire. That opportunity would never have come if we had not made the sacrifice of moving. That too was a sacrifice because it involved working 60 hours and occasionally 70 hours a week, driving 30,000 miles a year, and running a business with 120 locations across the UK, from Aberdeen in Scotland to Plymouth in Devon. Again, the sacrifice was not just by me, but by my wife and family as well. Fortunately, we always went to church together at weekends and had a special family meal each weekend as well. So we stayed together as husband and wife, and through my wife, I maintained a good relationship with all three of my sons. Yet in my career, I have seen many successful people sacrifice marriage and family for worldly, material success.

So Dolly, in her absolute determination, sacrificed everything to be the wealthy superstar she is. On a much smaller scale, I also made sacrifices for my career. But neither Dolly nor I would claim our sacrifices are that important in the context of the greatest sacrifice ever made!

We are both Christians who acknowledge our complete dependence on God who made that sacrifice which is beyond any price you can imagine. God made the universe and the Earth, created human beings, knew from the beginning that we would sin, knew from the beginning that only one sacrifice would do.

The sacrifice of himself in the person of Jesus Christ, who was both fully God and fully human. The Bible tells us that Jesus was the lamb sacrificed from the foundation of the world. While we focus on the actual, hideously painful final sacrifice on the cross, let us not forget that Jesus, as God, lived with the knowledge of that sacrifice for perhaps, thousands of years. Then he lived for around 33 years on Earth in human form, with the pressure of never sinning in thought and deed so he was the perfect sacrifice.

But perhaps the most amazing thing for us to grasp is this. Dolly and I made sacrifices for material success, hers on a huge scale, mine on a small scale, for our own benefit.

But Jesus Christ allowed himself to be sacrificed for no personal benefit! His sacrifice was all about us, humanity, entirely for our benefit. That is what the title is all about, what Jesus did was indeed, “The Sacrifice.”

Today you may or may not believe it, but one day you will because your long-term future, your chance of eternal life is totally dependent on, “The Sacrifice.”

Interestingly, Dolly refers to Christ’s sacrifice in the song. It is worth listening to the words on YouTube, an introspective super star reflecting on the price of success. But while listening, don’t forget the real sacrifice which affects you, me and all humanity.

Keith Hartrick

Keith is an Editor at Because

Life or death?

This week in the news there has been criticism of “binary” politics. In other words, say in a vote or a referendum, when there is a simple choice between “yes” or “no”. Could there be more options, and is there enough detailed information presented to help people make an educated choice?

When it comes to matters of faith, Christianity challenges us with a choice of two paths. One leads to eternal life and the other to the opposite. The difference is that we know beforehand clearly how our choice will play out. We can stay in this world’s well-trodden way of get. We see this in the news every day — it’s a pathway to destruction and misery. Or we can break free and follow Jesus — his way is the way of giving, loving and sacrifice. It’s to do with putting others before ourselves. It’s the tougher option but it leads to no more wars, fighting, and mental strife. Above all, it takes us to peace and harmony.

What do you think?

It’s time to choose Jesus and follow life.

James Henderson