The Deep Freeze

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 02 February 2019.

Polar VortexI was talking to an old friend on the phone, catching up on things, and mentioned I was looking forward to the Superbowl. ‘Are you sure it will be happening?’ he asked. I was confused: what could possibly induce Americans to abandon their biggest sports event of the year? Were there threats of a terrorist attack? Had the NFL worked out it was bad PR to have one team playing only because of an utterly egregious umpiring mistake the previous week?

‘No,’ he told me, ‘it’s because of the weather.’ Having seen the conditions that they’ll play regular games in, I scoffed at the idea of Atlanta having a snowed-in stadium, but went looking for the news reports nonetheless.

In other words, the terrifyingly cold snap in North America caught me completely by surprise, just like it did so many of the residents. We’re used to fluctuations in weather, but this one was so vastly out of the ordinary that it was inconceivable. And dozens have paid with their lives, for not anticipating the unanticipatable.

It’s reality though now, isn’t it? Indeed, more real than the world suspects, for in the same way, one day Jesus will return to usher in a new age, and on that day there may be billions caught unsuspecting as they are frozen out of his kingdom. And just as the meteorologists would have been culpable for even greater loss of life had they not issued urgent warnings this week, it’s up to us to sound the alarm to a world living in blithe ignorance.

A storm is coming.

The Pink Test

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 27 January 2019.

We were at the first day of the Pink Test, and it was fine (if you were supporting India!), but ... it turns out there’s been a second one this month.

Last week, the state of New York passed legislation that increased the availability of abortion within their jurisdiction. Now, only the callous would not recognise that abortion is a deeply sensitive topic, and one on which there are a wide range of different and firmly-held opinions. The ethical questions are complex and subtle, and I’m not proposing to speak to them at this point.

Pink TestInstead, I want to alert you to the response of the government of New York to the passage of this legislation that they sponsored. The new building at One World Trade Center was lit up that night in pink. Despite the pain that the new law might bring, not just to those who oppose abortion, but also to those who have undergone one, the governor thought it appropriate to order a civic celebration, for the forces of ‘progressive’ politics had won a victory.

And there, in a nutshell, is the tragic present state of Western culture. The self-glorification, the joy in winning, the disdain for the ‘losers’. Get on board, or get lost.

The new law now allows abortion at any time prior to a baby’s actual birth. Somehow, no matter where you stand on the issue, that doesn’t feel like a good excuse for a party. And when you know that a too-high-to-be-by-chance proportion of aborted foetuses are female, pink looks like a lousy choice for the decorations.

New York failed its own pink test this week, with its lack of compassion. Pray that they might do better in the weeks and years ahead.

It's Not Easy Being Clean

Written by Super User on Saturday, 19 January 2019.

Roman RubbishDespite a clear commitment to recycling, Rome is in the midst of a rubbish crisis. Everywhere, public bins are found in groups – one bin for glass, another for plastic, another for paper… you get the idea. And when you take out your recycling, there are the same range of skip bins available, so you can pre-sort it all before collection. Except over the last month, it’s not been picked up. The carefully distinct skips are all full to overflowing.

It strikes me as a decent metaphor for our lives. We’re getting better at recognising things about ourselves – bad habits we might have, patterns in how we stuff up our relationships, language we use that hurts others. We like to improve ourselves, so we work hard at being kinder to those we love, and better members of society. We take courses, consult professionals, and keep up with the latest ideas.

Yet if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s mostly window-dressing. For every bad habit I manage to eliminate, I form another. It’s like we’re chasing our tails, spending big on effort and energy, but not quite making enough progress to justify it all.

The Bible records dozens of miracles performed by Jesus. It’s impossible to deny that a huge proportion of them involve curing lepers – or to use Jesus’ word for it, making them clean. It’s undeniable that the gospel writers wanted us to understand that Jesus had a reputation for removing our stains.

For people who dream of being better, that should make us prick up our ears. If we’re so willing to try the newest fad, we should also recognise the solution that people have been finding helpful for thousands of years…

Over the Fence

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 13 January 2019.

TiergartenLast month we stayed in an apartment in Berlin that overlooked the Holocaust Memorial, itself built upon the former line of the Berlin Wall. Beyond that, we could see the Tiergarten, the largest city park in Berlin, and in the distance, the golden statue of Victory that rises from the Tiergarten’s heart. We were, I believe, looking at the view that once would have belonged to a well-placed East Berliner, and quite literally, the grass would have been greener on the other side of the Wall. I was struck by how difficult it must have been to have that view each morning, and know it was out of reach.

The best things in life are often beyond us, aren’t they? Whether it’s particular things, or particular experiences, or particular abilities, we can’t arrange our reality to bring them within our grasp. We don’t grow up to play for Australia. We don’t retire in our 30s. We don’t even get a date with our first crush.

More important than all of these, however, is the fact that we can’t reach over the gulf that separates us from the God who made us. We might catch a glimpse of his glory, we might hope to get his attention when we’re in desperate need, we might dream of someone who can look after us - but we can’t force his hand, and we can’t force our way into his presence even to plead our case.

That’s why we’ve just celebrated the coming of Jesus. He’s the one who tore down the dividing wall of hostility, the gate for the sheep, the way, the truth and the life. He has won the victory, and he’s no lifeless statue!

The Stories We Live By

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 23 December 2018.

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring, except all the Christmas movies and shows we can now access via Netflix. Oh, the joy and whimsy we can share with our loved ones; from the classics of Home Alone, and Miracle on 34th Street, to the new adventures of The Christmas Prince and for those who like to live outside the box... Die Hard!
We live in a world that loves to tell stories, especially ones with a happy ending. Ones that captivate us, ones that make us feel good, ones that change our world view and challenge us.
But in this world of story telling, we can often overlook the important ones (and it is not the one you think I am going to say) - our own stories.
At Christmas time, we have a great opportunity to tell people our stories: the stories of our adventures this year, the stories of our triumphs, of our shortcomings and for many of us, our hardships. Let me encourage you, the most important story you can tell this Christmas is the story of how Jesus changed your life.
For me, I was a child who went to Scripture and wanted to learn more about God. My teacher said the best place to do that was at church, so I begged my mum to take me. That was 24 years ago. There have been many triumphs, shortcomings, and unfortunately harships in my life. But Christmas reminds me of the promise in Jesus name ‘Immanuel - God with us’! God has never left me. He came as a baby to be my Saviour.
This Christmas, don’t just share the shows you watch on Netflix, share stories that truly matter. Amanda

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