Surely Not

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 31 August 2012.

If you were given access to a fully working time machine for a day, would you use it to go forward, or go back? And no, before you ask, you can’t have it both ways!

For some, the chance to go back in time would represent the opportunity to undo past mistakes. That’s certainly tempting, but it’s riskier than we often realise: who’s to say we won’t simply exchange one mistake for another - and perhaps even more disastrous at that?
For others, it’s a way of satisfying our curiosity. What was it like when the world began? (I hope God made oxygen really early in the piece!) What was it like to listen to Jesus teaching his disciples? (I hope he doesn’t get cross with me for barging in...)Mystery box

For many of us, though, I think we’d aim forward. Knowledge of the future is something that can guide our actions now. It’s the difference between walking through an unfamiliar room in the dark and doing it with the lights on.  We like the idea of being sure of our path, confident of our decisions.

But there are no time machines, and we cannot be sure. Our choices are made on the basis of a responsible faith; it means we trust God, and leave him in charge of our fate. When the disciples asked him about their future, Jesus’ reply was, ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.’ But don’t worry: one day, it will be the Father who gives us our present!    

Like I Was Saying...

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 24 August 2012.

Talking to YourselfIf you’re anything like me - c’mon, you’re going to have to face up to that one day! - then it’s rarely silent inside your skull. We keep up a running commentary on life, talking to ourselves, thinking things through, making observations, and so on. Although it’s sometimes said that talking to yourself is a sign of approaching madness, the truth is precisely the opposite: if you didn’t chat away to yourself, there’d be something quite wrong with you.

I suspect that human beings are alone in this particular habit. An ant is hardly likely to have room in its brain for more than the bare necessities, but even the larger creatures tend not to think things out too far.

Curiously, I’ve been reminded twice this week, in completely different contexts, that there’s a reason for our chattiness. It comes down to us being made in God’s image, and therefore reflecting something of his own nature. We are talkative because we’re gregarious; we are made to be in relationship with God and with each other. We’ll keep on talking till the the Lord returns - and then we’ll really get started.

It’s been that way since the very beginning. Most of Genesis 1 relates God talking to himself. So, next time you’re deep in conversation with yourself, perhaps you can discuss potential topics of conversation ... and who you might invite to join in with you!

The Silence of Silas

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 16 August 2012.

SilasAmbassador for Jerusalem, messenger to Antioch, beaten and imprisoned in Philippi, evangelising in Thessalonica and Corinth: who was Silas?
Acts 15 describes him as a leader among the brothers in the church at Jerusalem, and we find him accompanying Paul on his missionary journeys, adding his name to some of the letters Paul sent to various churches, and copping almost as much as Paul himself as they proclaimed the gospel. But again, who wa Silas?
How is it that a man can have had such an impact in the beginnings of the church, and yet remain unknown? Aren’t there records of our great ones?
Yet Silas remains a silent mystery to us. We have no word from his lips or his pen, no description of his origins or fate. He is a reminder to us of the nature of Christian ministry.
Like Silas, we serve for years, and will likely never be recognised for our labours. Like Silas, what matters is not our fame, but our Lord’s. Like Silas, we take up the opportunities to do God’s work as he presents them to us.
Like Silas, we have an audience of one, the One who will one day welcome us home with words of praise for faithful service. ‘Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’ (Matthew 6)


Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 09 August 2012.

Once upon a time, competitors at the Olympic Games just turned up and had a go. Entry was restricted to amateurs, which meant that their opportunity to train was restricted to when they weren’t working for their living. It was much more a test of an individual’s natural talent than it is today.
Athletes now are professionals, paid to train, provided with a posse of coaching staff, and the beneficiaries of all sorts of sports science and nutritional understanding. Their whole lives are dedicated to shaping their physique for the sole purpose of performing in their sport. They make sacrifices, limiting their education and reducing their career options, increasing the pressure on relationships, and, well, just not getting out so much. We tend to applaud them for their dedication and see a medal as a reward for the years of hard work they’ve put into it.
Gold medalExcept we’re a bit uncomfortable with the Chinese approach: taking children from their families and hothousing them from a frighteningly young age - say, 6 or 7 - in order to find the best talent and develop it. Seems like that’s valuing a medal too much.
But what would justify that kind of commitment? What goal could matter so much? ‘Run in such a way as to get the prize.Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.’ (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Don’t miss your shot at glory!

Extreme Sports

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 27 July 2012.

No doubt the London Olympics will provide us with an abundance of highlights, tales of hard-won glory, epic tragedies, and sleepless nights. By and large, we’re a nation that enjoys sport, loves competing, and thrives on every victory. There’s something to be said for the value of promoting the kind of ideals that are wrapped up in the Olympic movement.


MascotsPictured here are the official mascots for the London Games, Wenlock and Mandeville. I think we can agree that they match in both name and appearance, reaching the very highest levels of ridiculousness. They lift Syd, Millie and Ollie into the stratosphere when it comes to classiness.


They might look silly, but the names are meaningful. Wenlock is the English town which inspired the modern Olympic movement: they created their games to improve the health of the working class, who were so unfit they were dying of it. And Mandeville recalls the town that initiated paralympic competition.

That’s the Olympics in a nutshell: it highlights the extremes. The greatest of human ability; human folly; human virtue; human pride. When you’re watching, make sure you have both eyes open!

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