I Can, Or I Can't?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 07 October 2017.

It was a week bookended by two opposites. At the start of the week, we were shocked by the abhorrent and senseless act of a man in a hotel room in Las Vegas. At the end of the week, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was announced: ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. We saw the greatest perversion of ‘the right to bear arms’ juxtaposed with those who argue the wrong of stockpiling arms.

Rarely do we get so clear an example of the tragedy of the human condition: able to conceive of peace, but completely unable to achieve it. And all of it taking place at the same time as another round of posturing between the United States and North Korea, reminding us once more that the Korean War never officially ended.

The 1953 armistice might have brought an end to active armed hostility, but the tension remains - clearly. In the same way, our faltering attempts at the pursuit of a global peace barely scratch the surface, while in other contexts we see our relationships strain in so many different ways, and at so many different times.

Agnus DeiAll of this points us to the fundamental problem: without peace with God, we cannot hope to have peace with our neighbour. Unless we love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, we will never love our neighbour as ourselves. There is only one thing for it: we need the sole winner of the noble prize, the Prince of Peace, the one who has overcome: he who is the Lion of Judah and Lamb of God. He could, and he did, and will do again. Come, Lord Jesus!

Seeing Things

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 30 September 2017.

The world didn’t end a week ago, despite (yet another) prediction by a crackpot drawing inspiration from the book of Revelation. Don’t worry, he’s updated his prediction to fall this month instead...so there’s still time to buy his book and read all about it.

People have been confused by the kaleidoscope of images and characters in Revelation for centuries, and it’s rare to find a bizarre interpretation that hasn’t been proposed before. It can leave the average Christian throwing their hands up in despair, but there is a better way.

We can take the things we can see, then look a little deeper, and find that the message of the book becomes clearer. That would hardly be surprising, given it comes to us from the light of the world, the one who made the blind see, he who is the way, the truth and the life! It doesn’t require a magic eye, just a faithful pair of ears, to listen to our king.

Magic Eye

Generations

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 23 September 2017.

Family TreeYesterday, I listened to the story of two brothers, both in their eighties, who were finding a way to reconcile after years of estrangement. It was a bittersweet story, with hope for a better future - for a little while, anyway - but grief for the lost years. The root of their troubles lay way back in the past, and a generation earlier. It’s a familiar dynamic: the woes of our ancestors so often spread their fingers into our present day.

The book of Genesis is built around a refrain: ‘these are the generations’ is the literal translation, which we find as ‘this is the account’ in places like Genesis 37:2. It’s a device that pushes the larger narrative into its next phase, but it’s a telling one.

As we’ve read through Genesis, we’ve seen the patterns emerge. Spousal and sibling rivalry has propagated through Abraham’s family tree (or is it through Adam’s, perhaps?). Each generation seems to make the same bizarre mistakes. I suspect they might accuse us of the same thing, were they reading our story.

The story of Joseph leaves him in an Egyptian coffin at the end of the book. That seems like a bleak finish, but it is just the opposite. It’s an expression of hope: Joseph is so confident that God will keep his promises that he binds his descendants to take his bones with them.

That’s the solution to the curse of generations: God’s entry into our family tree, which creates a truly new humanity. And the dry bones of generations past and present will live again, at last.

Certainly

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 07 September 2017.

We sure like it, don’t we? Certainty, that is. We want our alarm clock to wake us at the right time, and if there’s gas to boil the kettle then that helps too.

There are also moments when we imagine certainty. If the entire population of the village decided to drive to Nowra at precisely the same time, there’d be gridlock for hours. When I get in my car, though, I’m pretty certain that’s not going to happen, and I can just content myself with bemoaning the roadworks. We live with such ‘sure things’ all the time, and think nothing of it.

It’s not an observation that only applies in the realm of the trivial. The things that are most important to us rely on the assumption of certainty: that our house won’t suddenly collapse around us; that our spouse truly loves us; that the bank won’t go belly-up and take our savings with it. The key components of our lives, the things that make us secure, depend on probabilities.

SureIn short, human beings are necessarily people of great faith. To truly rest only on that which is absolutely certain is the way of madness, and nobody wants to take that path. Instead, we work on the evidence we have, and draw the safe conclusions.

People speak of those who trust in Jesus as having great faith, but so what? Everyone has great faith, in all kinds of everyday things. My faith in Jesus says very little about me...and much more about his trustworthiness, demonstrated in all kinds of small ways each day of my life, and shown for certain two thousand years ago - for ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8)

 

Ronnie Loberfeld, Bless Him

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 02 September 2017.

Tooth FairyLast year, on the This American Life radio show, Rebecca told a story from her youth. When she was in second class at school, her best friend Rachel was just busting to tell her some amazing news. She’d lost a tooth the night before, and happened to wake up when the Tooth Fairy came to collect. And it was her dad!

Rebecca, of course, on returning home proudly announced to her mother that she was now privy to the secret identity of the Tooth Fairy. ‘Who is it?’ her mother asked, and Rebecca spilled the beans: ‘It’s Ronnie Loberfeld!’

Her mother quickly swore her to secrecy - ‘nobody must ever know, he works so hard to keep his identity secret...’ And for years afterwards, Rebecca’s notes from the Tooth Fairy were always signed, ‘Love, Ronnie Loberfeld.’ It did leave her feeling a little envious of her friend, that her father was so important, while her own dad ‘just came home from work and that was it.’

It’s a great story, and it reminds us of the self-effacing kindness of fathers at their best. We dads might fail regularly, but every now and then we get one right. On Fathers Day we get thanked for it, but the truth is, we’re glad when we do our job right, and the thanks is just the icing on the cake.

The best thing about Fathers Day, though, is remembering our heavenly Father - who never loses his cool, never forgets an important moment, never fails to have time for his children. To him, a day is like a thousand years, and so we look forward to one long Fathers Day celebration when he calls us home.

Happy Fathers Day, today, and for eternity!

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