Why great achievement inspires us to be better people

Last week we spent some time in Bath, Somerset. Best known for its Roman Baths, still operational after 2000 years, Bath boasts a rich architectural and social history.


Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century, and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. Like most Abbeys and ancient churches, the Abbey presents a visual history of piety, fame and achievement.


Crypts line the floors while the walls covered with memorials to saints, gentry, and people of note. Sir Isaac Pittman, who invented shorthand notation. Captain Arthur Phillip, leader of the First Fleet, Governor of Australia also features in a memorial.


Memorial to Arthur Phillip

I do not know how many memorials there are in the Abbey. Probably hundreds. As I was walking through the Abbey, something occurred to me. Why do we have memorials? Why do we have this idea of achievement? Why do we honour achievement? And perhaps most importantly, why does achievement inspire us? It’s true: If we listen to our heart, we find ourselves drawn to those who make outstanding achievement. A roman architect in the first century AD. Thomas ‘Beau’ Nash (1674 – 1762) who in the 18th century, the town’s celebrated ‘dandy’, made substantial advances in breaking down some of the class divisions in Bath society, even if he di do it through some interesting means. Bishop Oliver King who undertook the building of the current Abbey in the early 1500s.


The organ in Bath Abbey, fanned arches in background

There is something in us that yearns to achieve. Every one of us. We want to do whatever we do very well. We want to excel, and develop, and pioneer, and create.

There is something in us that yearns to achieve. Every one of us. We want to do whatever we do very well. We want to excel, and develop, and pioneer, and create. Even we we do something very well, we still want to do better. It is in is to strive for perfection.

This desire is from God. The Genesis account tells us that God has placed his image in us. More: We are his image. And this means we want to do what God does. The early chapters of the Bible tells us that God wanted to create. And he did. He excelled. He caused life to abound. He caused the universe and humanity to thrive. It was all very good. It is not surprise that we find our purpose in imitating him.

We also know about rebellion and the Fall. While these are the natural inclination of our being, it’s not how this life giving, glorious achieving God first made us. In fact, Jesus’ coming is to draws us back to God’s original purpose. That’s why we imitate him, reflect his glory, and direct all our achievement to his wonderful praise.

Who has inspired you to be more than what you once were? What would to really long to do, or be?

Grace and peace: Dave

Under England Skies: Cornwall & Penzance

In England…

As we start our chronicle of our visit to the UK, first few posts will be a little brief. Since our arrival in arrival in England on Sunday Leonie and have been struggling to get over a stomach bug. Without going through all the details, today might be my first chance to eat something normal. Leonie has recovered a little quicker than me, but with the help of the kind people at Solihull Hospital. Our illness meant we had to cancel our first day’s plans, which included Salisbury Cathedral. Even so, we were able to finally get on the road on Tuesday, heading down toward the south west.

Heading toward Cornwall, our first stop was Taunton. We just pulled off the motorway to stop for a while, and we came across this delightful town, complete with a 12th Century castle.


Unfortunately the castle was closed for some renovations, so we were unable the take a tour. I did enjoy a true Cornish Pastie, and after all our dramas it did seem to sit well.

Penzance and Mousehole

Penzance was our overnight. A cute little B&B called Glencree House. Lonely Planet had described Glencree as ‘budget’ and ‘a bit dated’. That review is a little harsh. Our very roomy apartment was amazing.


Our room in Glencree House

Full of what Aussies would call ‘antiques’ (the British call these ‘old furniture’). Lindsay and Andrew make fantastic hosts, and Andrew proved a gold mine of local knowledge for the Lands End and Penzance area.


View from our room in Glencree House

We enjoyed a light meal at The Drop Inn, but not all things were good with Dave’s stomach yet. So his next day’s rations consisted of a few spoons of yoghurt, a few berries, some crackers, and a white bun. And a whole lot of Lucozade. Mealwise, it has been a cheap gig thus far.

Just beyond Penzance is a tiny village called Mousehole (pronounced Moushul). This proved to be our introduction to English villages created well before the advent of automobiles. Tiny, windy streets. Stone cottages. Flower boxes. Cobblestones.



Mousehole harbour consists of a twin arc of stone walls with a tiny entrance for the small boats. The weather when we visited was very pleasant, but looking at the walls, and that tiny harbour, you just knew the Atlantic Ocean wasn’t always that way.

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Abbey Green,Bath,United Kingdom

How to tell people about Jesus (3): …a few resources for answering the tough questions

In my last post I mentioned some books which I find helpful in addressing some of the common questions people ask. Here are a few titles to consider (feel free to recommend some others you have read in the comment section)

I may not need to say it, but there are no perfect books out there. You may not agree with everything an author says. That’s OK. People don’t agree with everything you say, either, and we need to relax about that. As always, test all things, and hang on to the good.

iStockphoto.com

The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
Strobel recounts his own faith journey, and in so doing answers questions about the reliability of the New Testament, the historicity of the resurrection, and the person of Christ. Strobel’s background in law and journalism make this both a great resource and a well reasoned approach. It’s easy to read, and well priced to give away. Strobel writes as an ex-atheist, so you can be sure he knows where people are coming from.

The Case for Faith – Lee Strobel
In this book, Strobel builds on the foundation laid in his first work. He addresses some of the common the objections people may raise about believing in Jesus: the presence of evil and suffering; what about those who have never heard the good news? Or how do we explain the goodness of God in the face of the Bible’s teaching about Hell? Strobel opens up the issues of violence in church history. His section on the rarity and role of doubt in a believer’s life is especially helpful.

The Case for a Creator – Lee Strobel
Strobel addresses the perceived tension between science and faith, showing how many well respected scientists now see evidence of design in the universe and life systems. There is also a great DVD series which would be a great resource to work through in a small group setting.

Searching Issues – Nicky Gumbel
Nicky Gumbel is well known for the Alpha course. This book addresses the seven most common questions raised in Alpha course settings: suffering, other religions, sex before marriage, the New Age, homosexuality, science and Christianity, and the Trinity. There is also a helpful study guide for group work.

Simply Christian – NT Wright
A more inductive approach geared towards the thinking agnostic or atheist, while still very readable and accessible. Wright wants to get people thinking about what they see in their world and in the people who live in it. Staring with people’s longings, he looks at how the Bible presents God and the importance of Jesus, and finishes with what it means to be called followers of Jesus and to seek a world that God delights in. Reading this book brings memories of C S Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’. It’s a brilliant read!

Books like these can really help others to work through questions that trouble them. They will also help the reader become more effective as they share the message about Jesus.

Remember:

it is God who changes the heart, and not the power of an argument

. So read the best resources, and pray for God to use you

Q: Which book and resources have you found most helpful for sharing the good news? Leave a comment…

Grace and peace: Dave

How to tell people about Jesus (they are probably more interested than you think)

Before we get to the best things to talk about to help people see who Jesus is, I’d like to explore the hesitation many feel about doing that.

It is no secret that many people find it hard to share the good news about Jesus. Here are some of the reasons I hear from time to time…

They imagine people are not interested. Generally speaking however, this is not true. People are quite tolerant, and open to talking about spiritual things. If you’ve already built a bit of a relationship with them, you’ll be able to talk about a lot of things, including your faith. It’s just not true that people don’t want to listen. What they don’t appreciate is an overbearing or judgmental attitude. Come to think of it, God doesn’t want that, either!

They think they need to know all the answers. It’s good to know some key responses to the common questions people ask. There are some great resources here: Understand, though, that most of the time you will not be able to explain everything. This is OK. Sometimes we just have to admit that we’re not really sure, and that we’re hoping to understand more sometime in the future. Here’s a few additional suggestions:

Ask them to explore the question with you: work on the answers together. This helps people see that you’re really not interested in cliched answers. It also helps them see that Christians are people who are prepared to apply their mind and their intellect to the troubling questions of life

Remember to take people back to the core issue of Jesus. If, for example, you are dealing with the question of why evil exists in a world governed by a good God, It’s fine to say something like ‘I have also wrestled with the question of the presence of evil in the world. I know Jesus came to break to domination of evil in people’s hearts. His promise is to bring it to right somehow, and sometimes that will involve us being prepared to engage in the fight against evil. But for me the big deal today is that I can trust God to do the right thing by me, and I can trust him to work the right things through me as I seek to follow him.’

A third reason people are hesitant to share about Jesus is because they are uncertain about the level of their own Bible knowledge. Having a good working bible knowledge is a great thing, but it will never be enough, really. There will always be things we don’t fully understand. So, just say so. People are more impressed with someone who says ‘I’m not sure’ than someone who has an answer for everything. People just want to engage at the level of the heart, at what matters to you, and why Jesus still matters to you. Sure, sometimes you will get to talk with a person who knows a bit about the Bible, and they may have some questions, but from my experience, these instances are pretty rare. Discussions that turn into arguments about Bible texts are rarely productive.

People are more impressed with someone who says ‘I’m not sure’ than someone who has an answer for everything.

Remember: you have the good news! You know who Jesus is! You have a hope that does not disappoint! That is an incredibly positive standpoint, and even though you think your life might be pretty ordinary, when you start talking about why Jesus makes a difference to you, most people will be interested enough to listen. More about this in my next post.

Q: what is your biggest fear or uncertainty about telling people the good news of Jesus? Or, what have you found helpful in addressing your hesitation?

Feel free to leave your answer as a comment…o

Grace and peace: Dave

How to tell people about Jesus … and be taken seriously (1)

Jesus says he has come to give life, and give life to the full. If Christians really do believe this (and they should!) you have to wonder why they are not better at passing on this tremendous news.

This hesitation seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, at least when viewed alongside church history since the time of Jesus and the early church. Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity has shown that early Christians were responsible for the incredibly rapid and effective spread the message of Jesus. Cultures then were very different form cultures now, but the Gospel broke new cultural and social ground on a regular basis.

If it’s true that we live in a more open and tolerant society, why do Christians today struggle to share the good news?

Maybe we’ve become too reliant on programs and packaged approaches. If we need to know the program, the outline, or the diagram, but we don’t know it very well, no one will jump when the opportunity arises. We’ve seen evangelism experts hold huge rallies, and the televangelists on the screen. We compare ourselves to these people, and we always pull up short.

Have you considered that grassroots Christianity is a much more powerful vehicle for sharing the good news about Jesus? Not only that: it is more likely to meet with a positive reception.

Here’s why: the message of Jesus needs to be observed in the context of friendship, relationship, and the realities of life. When this happens, people see what it means to follow Jesus in the context of their families. They see people doing what they can to live a Jesus honouring life at work. People showing the relevance of Jesus in the context of education or academic pursuit. People talking about the difference Jesus makes as they chat over the back fence to their neighbour.

In these environments there is so little pretence. There’s very little capacity for ‘saying one thing’ and ‘doing another. Here it is all about authenticity. It’s the sort of glass house that allows people to see what life with Jesus is really like.

This will take Jesus and his transforming grace into homes, families, workplaces, schools and any number of other social contexts. As such, it represents a tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate western Christianity. Risky, I know, but what an incredible opportunity to revitalise how a watching world sees a loving God!

In the posts to come, I want to look a little more about how we can do this better.

Q: Have you ever thought of asking your neighbours over for a meal with the intention of being open about your faith in Jesus? What would needs to change for you to do this?

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Delancey St,Ormiston,Australia