Unmasked

July 24, 2020

Am I the only one to get confused when wearing a mask? Recently I had my face mask on when I went for a cup of coffee. I tried to pay by using my phone, but it would not process. What was the problem? My phone’s security works by facial recognition and the mask obscured my face! I felt flustered and peered intently at the phone, thinking it would click in. People in the socially distanced line behind me were sniggering as they watched, and I too began to laugh.

Masks have a fascinating history and were worn for all sorts of reasons, and they still are. I remember watching a movie which featured a masquerade, a party where people wore elaborate masks to conceal who they were. The idea goes back to the theatres of ancient Greece and elsewhere, where actors would don a mask to get into character. Typically, they’d use a mask that featured a recognisable attribute of the role they were playing.

A friend of mine, who knew I was a Christian, asked me about God. What is he like? Would he please come out from behind his mask and identify himself? My friend was being sarcastic, but I had an answer. Jesus came, I said to him, to show us who God is, to reveal how God is love.

It’s something worth noting. If we want to know what God is like, how he thinks and how he cares for us, we look to the life of Jesus.

Jesus is God unmasked.

James Henderson info@because.uk.com

System overload

June 19, 2020

You may have seen in the news this week that the web giant Amazon fended off one of the largest cyber attacks in history. The attack in question was a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack and it works by flooding a website with a huge number of requests so that the system becomes overloaded and ceases to function.

As I was reading this story, I was struck that sometimes all the news and social media we are exposed to can have a similar affect on us. Life can seem like a continual bombardment of conflicting information that can leave us confused, anxious and even paralysed with self-doubt.

When you are experiencing your own DDoS attack, perhaps you will find comfort, as I do, in these words taken from the Bible: “God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help” (Nahum 1:7, MSG).

If your digital life has left you feeling overwhelmed, perhaps it is time to turn to God.

Gavin Henderson info@because.uk.com

Good news

March 6, 2020

Sajid Javid made history as the first British-Asian Chancellor of the Exchequer – but may now be remembered as the second to never deliver a Budget. Following a cabinet reshuffle next week’s budget falls to the new Chancellor Rishi Sunak, but will it contain good news or bad? Will there be the good news of a rise in the National Insurance threshold, saving many workers around £100 a year? Or the bad news of a fuel duty rise? Will there be more spending on social care to provide people with dignity and security in old age? But to pay for it will councils be permitted to raise council tax above inflation? Good news or bad, or maybe both, we’ll just have to wait and see.

In contrast, the Christian message contains only good news. In Jesus’ death and resurrection there is forgiveness, healing and reconciliation for all humanity. This is not something you have to wait and see if it applies to you. Everyone is included, everyone is invited, there is room for all, even you and me. Now that’s good news to be heralded from the despatch box, and which I commend to those who hear.

Barry Robinson info@because.uk.com

Small steps

January 3, 2020

2019 has come and gone and incredibly we find ourselves entering 2020.

What will the year ahead bring? Will it be another bumpy year as the Queen described 2019 in her Christmas Day message? Or even another annus horribilis? Or are we about to enter the roaring twenties that our forebears experienced a hundred years ago?

I don’t know what will happen in our individual and collective lives over the next decade, but I suspect there will be ups and downs, good times and bad as the ebb and flow of history marches on.

What will enable us to navigate through whatever lies ahead? The Queen’s message pointed us to the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, and how he showed that ‘small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.’ She concluded by saying ‘small steps can make a world of difference.’

Start your first steps of 2020 with Jesus and let this year be a time of coming together and healing.

Barry Robinson info@because.uk.com

Shedding new light on ancient words

March 28, 2014

Ancient words on cracked wallIt is a very exciting time for armchair archaeologists like me, who don’t want to actually get involved in digging and in any hard work! This is because of something called Reflective Transformation Imaging (RTI). Maybe you have heard of it.

RTI is a remarkable breakthrough in the reading of ancient inscriptions that are sometimes barely visible, never mind readable. Such inscriptions may be found on walls, pottery, doors, artifacts and documents. This new technology allows researchers to look at objects in different light configurations so that any hint of writing or lettering shows up. As a result new information is becoming available. It gives historians an opportunity to re-examine some things they’ve assumed in the past.

Perhaps it’s about time to look at the Bible in a different light. I read a news article this week that was against the Bible because of something that the writer thought the Bible said: I knew that it said no such thing. So much of what the Bible actually teaches and says has been obscured by centuries of distorted views and by the debris of under-informed traditions. Oddly enough, this is what Jesus came to clear up. In one famous passage of the New Testament – Matthew 5 – Jesus points out that old biblical perceptions need to be clarified in the light of what Jesus had to say. Jesus himself is the light that shines on the truth of the Bible, dispersing many long held assumptions about God. In fact, one of Jesus’ disciples, a man called John, called Jesus “the Light of the world”.

Perhaps we all have assumed some things about the Bible. Why not let Jesus be our light as to what it really says? His light will reflect on our thinking so that we are transformed, and our image of who God is will never be the same again.

Let’s participate in some spiritual RTI.

james.henderson@gracecom.org.uk

What to believe

March 7, 2014

Newspaper storiesThis has been another week of history in the making.

It’s difficult to know who to believe. Should we believe the pro-Ukrainian or the pro-Russian news coverage? Sometimes the details seem confused. And there are differences in the way events are interpreted and explained.

History is often that way, full of conflicting stories surrounding something that happened. According to many historians, however, differing versions of the same story only underline that the central events or events happened. For example , take the story of Spartacus, the famous slave who fought against the Romans during the First Servile War. Varying accounts were recorded at the time, each reflecting the points of view and political persuasions of the writer involved. The fact that they differ in the details adds to the credibility that Spartacus did exist and that he did defeat the Romans many times before his eventual defeat. Even so today, putting the posturing and the opposing arguments to one side, history will point to the fact of the military mobilisation and to the build up of East-West tension.
In about a month from now Christians around the world will remember two historical events. Coverage of them at the time, even by Christian writers, was contradictory. I am referring to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sometimes people dismiss them as factual because of contradictions in the descriptions of what happened before and after them. On the same basis, because of contradictions in the recording and the analysis of the news, should we dismiss the reality of what is happening in the Ukraine today? Of course not: it would be nonsense. Differences in reporting and in opinion don’t necessarily undermine the truth of the main event.

Could the same be true of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection? The difference in the details might only strengthen the truth of these events.

Don’t ignore what must be the greatest story ever told.

Christ died and rose, the Bible tells us, for all men and women in every age and in every place.

james.henderson@gracecom.org.uk