A basketball in my hands is worth thirty dollars, but in Michael Jordan’s hands it’s worth thirty million. A tennis racket in my hands is a joke, but in Pete Sampras’ hands it’s a World Championship. A sharp knife in my hands can peel an apple, but in a surgeon’s hands it saves a life. A violin in my hands sounds like a screeching cat, but in Yehudi Menuhin’s hands it makes sublime music. Loaves and fishes in my hands make fish sandwiches, but in Jesus’ hands they fed a multitude. Nails in my hands might result in a birdhouse. Nails in Jesus’ hands resulted in salvation for the human race. It all depends on whose hands it’s in. So, put your worries, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, your family and your soul in God’s hands because the final outcome of everything depends on whose hands it’s in.
It’s often said that my parents’ generation rarely talked about sex but often talked about death. Whereas for my generation the opposite is true. But when you get to my age it’s hard to avoid it. I think the worst part for many is not death itself, but the process of physical and mental deterioration. However, I don’t think anyone ever summed up better what that process can be than C S Lewis, in the final words of his classic children’s books The Chronicles of Narnia: ‘For us this is the end of all the stories…But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world… had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: and in which every chapter is better than the one before.’
C.S Lewis once said that the essence of hell is separation – from God and from others. To be forever cut off from God’s presence …to be separated from other creatures, to be wholly and increasingly self-absorbed, makes that self smaller and smaller, and ultimately will result in the person ceasing to be a self. …The torture of separation and ceasing to exist are better seen not as punishments imposed by God, but as the natural and inevitable outcome of choices humans themselves make and attitudes they themselves develop. Some of us have seen this in people who, despite their one-time attractiveness, grew increasingly self-centred and unattractive as they aged, and whose self-imposed misery grew accordingly. To project that on into eternity is to get an idea of what damnation really means.
Most of us are pretty careful about displaying photographs of ourselves, and the last thing we want people to see is our passport photo. Yet we also carry another picture within ourselves – one far more important than any photograph. It’s the mental image we have of ourselves. For many of us it’s like a passport photo, and we don’t like it.
But, more than anything else, the one theme that dominates the New Testament is God’s lovingkindness and acceptance of us, something we could never earn for ourselves, but which is given to us freely out of God’s eternal love. And that is the basis of a healthy self-image – seeing myself as God sees me; and being committed to that reality. Jesus came to put right what had been made wrong. Through him we reconciled to God. Through his Spirit within us we are being transformed to what God created us to be.
The British historian Niall Ferguson, in his book The Ascent of Money, says that one of the reasons for America’s prosperity is bankruptcy. He points out that while debtors in England used to languish in gaol for years, there were no debtors’ prisons in the United States, and for most of its history every American has had the right to file for bankruptcy. But how did this lead to prosperity? Ferguson says it gave people a chance to start over again, and is ‘one of the distinctive quirks of American capitalism.’
I don’t know what you think about it, but it did work in the case of ketchup king John Henry Heinz and car magnate Henry Ford. But one thing is for sure, in the spiritual realm that’s the way God works. Forgiveness and a chance to start again with a clean slate is what the Gospel is all about.
We often complain about our politicians while forgetting the old adage that we get the politicians we deserve. But within my lifetime there was one politician who inherited seventy percent unemployment and reduced it almost to zero; a bankrupt government, which four years later had a balanced budget and no national debt. Moral perversion was rampant when he came to power, but he virtually eliminated pornography and vice. Mobs ruled the streets, but he restored order. Then, to top it all, his economy and military become the most powerful in the world. His name was Adolf Hitler. The German people put their hope in him, and he led them to one of the worst tragedies in history.
We should never put our hope in politicians to change the world; only God and His Gospel can do that
The Temple University School of Medicine has found that lying takes more brain energy than telling the truth. It conducted an experiment where participants were divided into two groups. The first group had to shoot a toy gun and then say they didn’t do it, and the second group watch what happened and then tell the truth. MRIs showed that the liars activated seven areas of the brain in their response whereas the truth-tellers activated only four. The conclusion: it takes more brain energy to lie than to tell the truth. But what does God think about it? Well, the Bible says: ‘There are six things the Lord hates: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, and a false witness who pours out lies.’ What we say reveals what we are.