A small farming village was threatened with drought because the rains had failed to arrive. On a hot and dry Sunday, the pastor told his congregation, “There isn’t anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain.” The people returned to church the following Sunday. As they sat down the Pastor gently rebuked them. “We can’t worship today because you do not yet believe,” he said. “But we prayed” they protested, “and we do believe.” “Believe?” he responded. “Then where are your umbrellas?” Faith is made visible by our actions. So let me ask you this morning “Where are your umbrellas?” Do you have umbrella faith?
Bertrand Russell once said, “Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.” A recent research study at the University of Iowa, seems to confirm that. Researchers found that people are reluctant to change their minds and adapt their views, even when new information has been presented. This holds true even if they stand to lose money.
The phenomenon is called “confirmation bias” and apparently operates at a subconscious level at all times. The new research confirms numerous previous studies which show people invariably stick to their original viewpoint even when new facts contradict those beliefs. When faced with facts that don’t fit, we tend to ignore or change them to fit our beliefs.
In our gospel reading this morning, Mark 3:20-35, we see confirmation bias at work. Faced with the same facts, people reach very different conclusions about Jesus. Continue reading
“Treacherous colleagues, competitive friends, bloody-minded commuters – it’s a war out there. And according to Robert Greene, it’s a conflict we’re ill-equipped to deal with. After analysing the moves of history’s great military leaders, he’s written a rulebook to achieving victory in life’s daily battles.”
Spanning world civilizations, synthesizing dozens of political, philosophical, and religious texts and thousands of years of violent conflict, The 33 Strategies of War is a comprehensive guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the most ingenious and effective military principles in war. Abundantly illustrated with examples from history, including the folly and genius of everyone from Napoleon Bonaparte to Margaret Thatcher, from Shaka the Zulu to Lord Nelson, and from Hannibal to Ulysses S. Grant, each of the thirty-three chapters outlines a strategy that will help you win life’s wars. Learn the offensive strategies that require you to maintain the initiative and negotiate from a position of strength, or the defensive strategies designed to help you respond to dangerous situations and avoid unwinnable wars. Continue reading
You will probably be well aware by now of a new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is being introduced later this month. This is about your data protection and privacy. You have probably received several emails and letters from organisations and charities asking you to respond if you wish to continue to receive communication from them. If you don’t, they will no longer be able to contact you, legally. As the founder and director of a small Christian charity, Peacemaker Trust, www.peacemakers.ngoit has consumed a lot of time and energy to comply. But as the recipient of a large amount of junk mail, I think it is a positive step. We are fascinated when secrets are revealed in the media – except it seems when they are, our own.
Those deeply personal things that matter the most to us – our children, our family, our bodies, our emails, our text messages, our age, our photos, our income, our bank accounts, we keep these private, and in many cases wisely so. The more important, the more personal, the more sensitive the information, the more likely, we will want to keep it private, confidential, or concealed. And many people feel the same way about their religious faith. Its personal. Its private. And it remains concealed.
Did you watch the crime drama Maigret recently on TV? They were adapted from the novels by Georges Simenon and portrayed the French detective Jules Maigret. What made the new series stand out from previous ones, however, was the main character. The role of Mairget was played by Rowan Atkinson. I think Rowan portrayed Maigret very well indeed, but I kept expecting him to turn to the camera, open his eyes wide and grin like Mr Bean. That is the challenge for an actor portraying a serious role when he is associated with a very funny one. Rowan is in fact a very good hypocrite.
Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmerwere the six actors in the TV series… that’s right – Friends. It is hard to believe Friends first aired 24 years ago and lasted 10 seasons. You either loved it or hated it. If you’re a fan, you probably binge-watched Friends growing up. And in 2004 you may have bought the exclusive, limited edition “Friends are Forever” season finale from Warner Brothers and possibly even the Friends Party Pack which enabled you to host the perfect evening to watch the final episode with your own friends, complete with the Friends party invitations, a commemorative serving tray, coffee, party recipes, coasters and trivia card game.What made Friends as a series so popular? I don’t think it was simply the acting, the folksy humour or even the static between six young and attractive men and women living in close proximity. I think what made Friends so popular as a series was because friendship and companionship touches our deepest need. And in this fictional encounter between six different people who became friends, millions of people have lived out their own hopes, struggles and dreams. While millions without Netflicks may have mourned the end of the series, the amazing truth of the Bible is that God wants to be your best friend forever.
I wonder if you are old enough to remember the early Beatles hit, “Help”? How do the lyrics go? “Help. I need somebody. Help. Not just anybody. Help. You know I need someone. Help!” Some people view prayer that way. They only call on God when they have a problem.
Corrie ten Boom, knew the importance of prayer. She once asked the question, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tyre?” While your car has both, they have very different purposes. When you are driving, your need to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.
The steering wheel allows you to navigate and gets you to your destination safely. But the spare tyre plays a secondary role. You may never have touched the spare tyre in your car. You may not even know where it is. It is probably new and unused because it is only needed in case of an emergency.
How is your prayer life defined by this question? Is prayer like your steering wheel or a spare tyre? Does your prayer life guide you in every facet of your life? Is it something you have your hands on every waking moment of the day? Or is it like a spare tire, something you only use in times of emergency? For most of the day you forget that it’s there. You’re not even sure how to use it and find yourself struggling when you need to use it. Continue reading
A sermon based on Acts 9, delivered at Holy Trinity, Weston, Southampton
Frank Sinatra’s song, “I did it my way”, would have made a good epitaph on my early life. I was brought up in a Christian home, believed in God and we went to church on Sundays. I thought Jesus was a good man sent from God but Easter didn’t make sense. If only Jesus had not died, he could have done so much more good in the world. I had a Bible but it had small print and was written in old English so I rarely attempted to read it. When I left home and went to work in London for the Civil Service, I never got round to finding a church. I tried to live by the Ten Commandments and hoped that when I died, in the scales, my good would outweigh my bad. I remember praying on the way to work thanking God for the beauty of creation but he always seemed distant, like a sepia photo of my great-grandparent, we were related but I didn’t know them. Then I had the opportunity to go to University at Sussex. I met two people, Trent and Ed, who talked about Jesus as a personal friend. They explained that God loved me and created me to know and enjoy him for ever. They told me what I already know – that I fell short of God’s standards and although I may not be as bad as I could be, I could never be as good as I should be. My sin cut me off from God and because the wages of sin is death. The good news is that God sent his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die in our place, to forgive our sins and give us the gift of eternal life. They showed me that the Bible promised, if I trusted in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour I would experience God’s love and forgiveness.
I didn’t mean to do it. I know I should not have done it. Every week I carefully avoid looking but this Friday I did. I don’t know what possessed me. I put it down to mid-life crisis. My eyes just wandered and there it was, the most enticing, the most tantalizing, the most tempting job offer I have ever read in the Church of England Newspaper.
“It’s True Adelaide is a great place… No doubt you’ve read about Adelaide’s fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine. Its all true! South Australia wants people who see their future in its progressive climate. The archbishop of Adelaide welcomes enquiries from clergy wishing to minister in parishes and schools. Find out more about South Australia at www.southaustralia.com. Send your expressions of interest to…” and then it gave the address.
Interestingly, the advert said nothing about what they were looking for in candidates, nothing about what the role required. It didn’t need to. I confess that purely out of curiosity I visited the website of www.southaustralia.com . Yes I did and it is true.