There are people on the island of Tanna in the South Pacific Ocean who worship Prince Philip, the gaffe-prone husband of Queen Elizabeth as a god. The duke once shocked a student during a visit to China by saying: "If you stay here much longer, you will go home with slitty eyes." Tragically many of the islanders living on Tanna used to worship Jesus but they have exchanged the Prince of Peace for Phil the Greek. Do you think that the Duke of Edinburgh can forgive your sins, grant you eternal life and save you from the perils of hell. It's worth thinking about.
We've all heard it! We need a bit of yin and a bit of yang. We need harmony between polar opposites. You have to have balance. Good needs evil and evil needs good. Hitler has his place just like Mother Teresa.
According to ancient Chinese philosophy, in the beginning was the Tao, silent, dark and impersonal. But the Tao separated into the two principles, yin and yang, and from the many combinations of yin and yang everything else that is in the world has emerged. Truth be told, the Tao is responsible for wars, famine and terrorists as well as picnics, families and squirrels. The Tao has made it all.
We've all heard it! We need a bit of yin and yang. We desperately need harmony and balance in our world.
Giovanni Brusca is known as 'the Pig' or 'il Porco' for his slovenly appearance and huge craving for Italian posh nosh – Lasagne, Barolo and olive oil. He once admitted to killing at least a hundred people and to top it all, he tortured and murdered an 11-year-old boy. He also detonated the huge bomb that killed anti-mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone, his wife and three police officers in 1992. Mr Piggy is now in prison. What would you say to 'il Porco'?
"Porco – You can't help yourself because you are just a machine programmed to kill and torture. Tough on you fatty because free will is an illusion."
"Mr Piggy – Tragically both you and your victims have bad karmas. Bad luck, my son."
"Porco – All of your wicked deeds have been secretly ordained by God. In fact you are part of the divine. Well done fats!"
"Mr Piggy – Repent, resist the devil and follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace. This is the gospel of our Lord!"
Simeon Stylites was a laugh a minute. He lived 37 years on a sixty foot pillar 1400 years ago! He wanted to be spiritual and get closer to God! Unfortunately the hermit had misunderstood the message of the Bible! He believed that the earth and the body were evil and to be shunned. One day a fly landed on one of his pus-filled wounds caused by the inclement weather. He spoke to the fly thus: "Eat what God has given you." He inspired thousands of people to follow his 'pillar' lifestyle. There are four ways of looking at this story.
1) Simeon! Come down from your pillar and have a beer!
2) Simeon! I so admire your authentic faith…..
3) Simeon! Too easy mate. Why not find a taller pillar and suffer a bit more?
4) Simeon! Your body is a gift from God. You are living in the wrong story. Read the book of Ephesians and find out about God’s grace.
Pete Gillions told me this delightful story about Dr Nott meeting the Queeen.
For more than two decades, Dr Nott – a consultant surgeon at three major hospitals in London and a Christian – has given up several months every year to volunteer to serve in war zones amid major humanitarian crises.
He recalled meeting the Queen at a private lunch at Buckingham Palace in October 2014 a few days after returning from Alleppo in Syria. He was sat next to the Queen and she asked him about his work there. And he was so affected by what he had seen that he could not speak. He said: "I had been coping in Syria with children that were really badly damaged and she must have detected something significant.
"I didn't know what to say. It wasn't that I didn't want to speak to her – I just couldn't. I just could not say anything.
"She picked all this up and said, 'Well, shall I help you?' I thought, 'How on earth can the Queen help me?'
"All of a sudden the courtiers brought the corgis and the corgis went underneath the table."
Dr Nott said the Queen then opened a tin of biscuits and invited him to feed and stroke the dogs with her.
He added: "And so for 20 minutes during this lunch the Queen and I fed the dogs. She did it because she knew that I was so seriously traumatised. You know the humanity of what she was doing was unbelievable." The Queen broke dog biscuits to share, and in doing so she shared a loving acceptance of his brokenness.
I was very pleased with how the RealityBites sixth form conference went down yesterday at Emmanuel College in Gateshead. There were about 150 students from two schools present and for the first time I presented two RealityBites talks. I spoke about Celebrity Culture, Human Trafficking and Responsible Citizenship before lunch and then I delivered the Mafia, British Values and Evil talk after lunch.
I was delighted that my stories about Jimmy 'the weasel' Fratianno, Giovanni 'the pig' Brusca, Toto 'the beast' Riina and Frank Sinatra captivated their imaginations. They were paying close attention when I challenged them to tell me how much a Mafia hitman charged for a murder in 2014 (£17,500). It was even better when they listened very attentively to my outline of five ways of looking at evil and suffering:
1) Evil is caused by bad karma
2) Evil is an illusion because nothing exists
3) Evil doesn't exist because everything is just physical
4) Evil has to exist because it comes from God
5) Evil is caused by human and angelic rebellion against God
In my talk I mentioned Glenn Hoddle, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Richard Dawkins, Plotinus and CS Lewis. The questions they asked were fabulous and showed clearly how closely they had been listening.
I was particularly chuffed when one girl asked me how I understood evil. I was able to say quite a lot about the New Testament and Jesus. I even mentioned the devil and how this relates to bombers, terrorists and Mafia hitmen.
Thanks to everyone who prayed for me yesterday!
Have you ever thought about flies? They can ruin a picknic without trying very hard. Ponder how different religions and philosophies look at these irritating insects. The Egyptians worshipped them as gods. Plato said flies are just prisons for badly behaved souls? Materialists contend that flies are just items for sale? (£1 per item) Do you know what Scripture tells us about them? The book of Colossians tells us that bluebottles were made by and for Jesus? Jesus is Lord of all… even bluebottles.
In 1998 Geoff Smith spent 147 days buried in a coffin six feet under a pub garden in Mansfield reclaiming a world record set by his mother, Emma, thirty years earlier. Food, water and human waste were transported through a plastic tube!
There are three ways of looking at this story.
1) "Geoff – you are a nutter. You could have supped foaming pints of real ale in the pub garden like any normal person. Don't bury yourself alive."
2) "Geoff – You are an incredible bloke. You have been true to yourself. Burying yourself alive rocks! Your mum would be so proud of you."
3) "Geoff – There is absolutely no point burying yourself alive in a pub garden setting. Jesus died, was buried and came back from the grave after three days. Focus on that good news and not on getting your name into the Guinness book of records."
Glenn Hoddle was born in the suburbs of London in 1957. He became one of the most exciting and gifted footballers ever to play for England. In 1998 he was sacked from his job as the manager of the England team because of the following comments he made in an interview –
You have to come back to learn and face some of the things you have done, good and bad. You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime. I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap.
In Italy, Rome's La Republica, below the headline, "Sacked Because of Karma," suggested that Hoddle may be the first man of the modern age to lose his job for his religious beliefs. Can you imagine a manager being sacked for being an atheist?
A woman living in India was asked why she wouldn’t take her baby son to the doctor. He was very ill. She replied that the illness was part of the boy’s karma and he was being punished for something he had done in a previous life. She asserted that it was the boy’s fate to suffer! Many Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation and karma. When people suffer in this life they are being punished for deeds they have performed in previous lives.
Creative Evangelistic Spiel
"With karma you always get what you deserve, reincarnation in a rat, a shrimp or a deaf person. With Jesus you get what you don't deserve: God's love, the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life."
There are four way of looking at this story!
- When you die you rot! (Materialist view)
- When you die you get the afterlife you want (Relativist view)
- When you die you come back disabled if you have bad karma (Hoddle's view)
- When you die you are waiting for the resurrection if you love and follow Jesus. (Jesus' view, study John 6:35-59)
Is it possible to be an agnostic? Many would say yes! I say – no!
The idea of being an agnostic goes completely against the idea of 'worldview'. Worldviews are not intellectual ideas. Worldviews are the 'Big Stories' that can mug us and captivate our lives and imaginations. These stories are often invisible and under the surface. You have to dig them out. It’s hard work! We are talking about the deep, spiritual commitments that drive our lives.
Now the agnostic believes that he or she can simply ignore all this. She can sit on the fence. She can be the detached observer of worldviews without having a worldview herself!
This is very misleading. The agnostic has to live in a particular way. The agnostic has to live in a story. By being born we enter a world of choices and decisions. Show me a self-proclaimed agnostic and her bank statement will tell me what she is hiding. The way we make and use our moolah betrays the Story that we trust in. Those who call themselves agnostics are often materialist believers who live in the western story. Often they are blissfully unaware that they are living in a story.
Today we must challenge the epithet 'agnostic'. It is dangerously misleading and spiritually bankrupt.