There is a way to solve world problems? Really?

I daydream about a world leader at the United Nations leaning forward to the microphone and saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, I deeply appreciate being with men and woman like yourselves who want to change our world for the better, because I’ve just come to the realization how we can make it better. I know things look grim right now, and we’ve met here dozens of times before and the world hasn’t changed much for all our efforts, but what if the problem at the heart of it all is so simple and obvious?”

A pause to watch the reaction. Some delegates look up with mild surprise and even possible interest. Others sink down in their seats thinking, “Oh no, this is going to be painful.”

Time to plough on. “I’m aware of our history just as you are, that most humans would love peace and prosperity, but crazy people keep messing things up. They think war works. They justify killing innocent people. And while these awful people exist the world will never improve. But one thing they have done for us: We’ve learnt from them where our problem lies. It’s in our heads, because it’s obvious that something has gone horribly wrong in these crazy people’s brains for them to do what they do.”

“But don’t they, in fact, speak for all of us, because in one form or another we’re all just as crazy? We all do stupid things that hurt people. We all have good intentions, but selfish pursuits and motives constantly mess things up. But even the great apostle Paul cried out, ‘Oh, what a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ And isn’t that the sad cry of all of us, that at heart we’re all a bit crazy?”

“But Paul also said he’d found the solution, a way round the monster. He even called it a new way, because he’d never experienced it himself before, either. And what this new way involved was simply the injection of Jesus Christ’s mind into his head by God himself.”

“And is that so weird, really, when surely it’s obvious by now we can’t solve our problems on the strength of our own minds alone? So, what if Paul was right, and God really will provide us with a counteracting force in our brains that enables us to do what we know needs to be done? But what’s the alternative? No system of laws we’ve come up with so far has worked, nor has chucking more money at problems. Isn’t it so much simpler just admitting we need help?”


Inspiration that lasts

     I remember reading about a Catholic who drifted away from the church and lost interest in religion all together. But one day she was passing a Catholic cathedral, walked in when the organ was playing, and she burst into tears.  

     It really surprised her, how intense her emotions were after all that time away from church. But what a wonderful moment, that sudden lifting of the soul, and if only it could’ve lasted forever! It wasn’t to be, though. It wore off after a while, and she left the cathedral, absorbed by whatever came next.   

    And isn’t life like that? It has its inspiring moments – a song on the radio reviving a memory, a hobby you can’t wait to get back to, a worship service that charges the batteries, or a concert that has you dancing in the aisles. A book will do it, too, so can a movie, a favourite TV series, helping someone in need, an early morning walk, watching kids open gifts, listening to a choir, seeing someone take advice – they’re all wonderful sources of inspiration. 

     But they’re all so temporary. Once the concert’s over and the song has finished, the brain automatically clicks back into cold reality mode and it’s back to the business of survival. I’d hate to be dependent on these things for my inspiration, then, because they only last so long.  

     I like what Paul said, therefore, because it was his dream to keep people inspired all the time. “My aim,” he wrote in Colossians 2:2, “is to keep them in good heart,” always feeling encouraged, positive and hopeful. Why? Verse 2, “so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, and grasp God’s secret, which is Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” It wasn’t Paul’s purpose to lift people’s emotions for the moment, it was to get people discovering the treasures hidden in Christ, because once they got a taste of that, there’d be no stopping them.  

     This was the secret to keeping people inspired all the time. It wasn’t trying to create a really moving sermon or a cleverly orchestrated worship service to win the youth, because they only last for a while, and if people become dependent on emotion for inspiration, they’ll need more and more. But if people hear the gospel and experience for themselves that Christ “is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24),” that’s what will keep them inspired forever!

Defeating death before we die

     I have a funeral to do today, and I always get nervous doing funerals because all eyes, if only briefly, are on me. And for what, pray tell? For a message that tries to make sense of death.  

     There is no sense in death, though. Here’s a person who’s lived for 90 years and we’ll compress his lifetime into a 30 minute funeral service, followed by a reception and a gravesite interment, share a few memories and all go home. 

     It’s awful. He’s got nine decades of accumulated wisdom and memories to share, and he’s dead. The stories people tell of him, the great services he performed, and the wonderful legacy he left, will soon be forgotten, too. And for some odd reason, people like to call funerals a “celebration of life!”

     But actually, they’re right. A funeral for a Christian IS a celebration of life, because the man’s not dead! “Whoever lives and believes in me,” Jesus said, “will never die (John 11:26).” Now that’s a whole new twist on death. Death is no longer death when a person believes in Christ. Shocking? Yes. Even Jesus had to ask, “Do you believe this?”  

     Believe what, though? Verse 25, it’s believing that Jesus is the “resurrection and the life,” because anyone who believes that “will live, even though he dies.” In other words, for simply believing that Jesus is the source of our eternity, a Christian receives a life that will carry him right through a physical death. He can die physically but not be dead. 

     We can actually defeat death, then, before we die! Or defeat death while we’re still alive! And the secret? Believing Jesus is our eternal life.

     But why should we believe he’s our eternal life? Because he defeated death himself, for starters. Proof? He came back to life again. So Jesus knows all about defeating death because he’s already done it. For him to say, then, that he’ll do the same for us, carries the weight of his own experience behind it.

     But it’s more than that. When Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” she answered, “Yes, Lord, (verse 27), I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” And she believed this BEFORE Jesus was resurrected, not after, too.

     So what made her believe even without the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection yet? Simple. It was the Bible, because the Bible had said the likes of Jesus would come along (John 6:14), and that was enough for her.

     But how do I get that across at a funeral? One can only try.