Podcast #029: The literal end of the world?

A discussion with Chris Wright on what the Bible actually says

What will happen at the end of time? How will the world end? How will our lives end? Where is history heading to? Is there any sense or coherence in this increasingly complex and challenging world that we live in? That is the subject of Hollywood movies and popular science fiction novels down the ages. Popular movies and novels can be great fun and escapism, but then you have to get on with the rest of life with all of its predictability and mundaneness.

Could there be another narrative? Indeed, what does the world’s best selling, and also arguably often least read and understood book actually say about the end of the world?

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On this podcast I have a fascinating conversation with Bible scholar Chris Wright on a subject that is often not given much serious consideration, at least not in popular culture. Is it a subject we can give sustained deliberate thought to in a world of such diverse views and opinions? There is certainly much mystery, but understanding ‘The End Times’ has profound implications on the way we live our lives today in the here and now.

Do join us on this podcast as we discuss the seven last things, according to the Bible, of this life and universe:

Death and resurrection: how the end of the world is actually a new beginning and how Jesus’ bodily and physical resurrection points to a new level of life and existence.

How the metaphor  of sleep describes the interim state between the physical death of our bodies and the end of the world.

The return of Christ at the end of history as an integral part  of the Bible narrative and its implications for us.

The resurrection of the dead and what that actually means for our earthly bodies. Do listen out for the analogy of twins in their mother’s womb!

Why the day of judgement and hell is actually a good thing in a world where so much evil and wrong-doing appears to go unpunished and unresolved.

What the Bible actually reveals about what heaven and the new creation will be like. It is so much more than sitting on a cloud, playing a harp, endless singing or even one long holiday! Heaven is not even my final destination when I die! It is only, as it were, a transit lounge for the new creation. In fact, the Bible makes clear that we don’t even go up to heaven! The new creation is actually heaven, at the end of time, coming down to earth.

Quoting from Chris’ book, ‘The God I Don’t Understand’:

“The new creation will start with the unimaginable reservoir of all that human civilisation has accomplished in the old creation – but purged, cleansed, disinfected, sanctified and blessed…… Think of the prospect! all human language, literature, art, music, science, business, sport, technological achievement – actual and potential – all available to us. All of it with the poison of evil and sin sucked out of it forever…… Whatever it may be like, we can rest assured that, for those who are in Christ, anything that has enriched and blessed us in this life will not be lost, but infinitely enhanced in the resurrection and anything that we have not been able to enjoy in this life (because of disability, disease or premature death – or simply through the natural limitations of time and space) will be amply restored or compensated for in resurrection life.”

So how should we then live?

“We are to live then as people who not only have a future, but know the future we have and go out and live in the light of that future, in preparation for it and characterised by its values.”

What questions, thoughts and comments does our discussion raise for you?

The link to Chris’ book is below.

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #028: The God I Don’t Understand

Podcast #007: Religion

 

Why Easter should be for everyday

The Easter holidays have come and gone. But what is Easter really about? Hopefully much more than chocolate eggs and bunny rabbits! In fact Easter has a lot to say to us in what can feel like an increasingly challenging and hostile world.

The following 3 minute video was part of a series made by my church, All Souls Langham Place in Central London.  In it I explain what Easter means to me. I set out to make a case why Easter should be celebrated not just once a year, but actually has implications and ramifications for every day of the year!

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That death, according to the Bible scriptures, was not an unintended accident. It was prophecised and planned as the central act of history.

Here is what Eugene Peterson, scholar, and author of the widely acclaimed modern paraphrase of the Bible scripture, ‘The Message,’ says about the cross of Christ:

“The single, overwhelming fact of history is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. There is no military battle, no geographical exploration, no scientific discovery, no literary creation, no artistic achievement, no moral heroism, that compares with it. It is unique, massive, monumental, unprecedented, and unparalleled. The cross of Christ is not a small secret that may or may not get out. The cross of Christ is not a minor incident in the political history of the first century that is a nice illustration of courage. It is the centre.
The cross of Christ is the central fact to which all other facts subordinate.”

That’s a bold assertion to be made!

But what does that mean personally for me and for anyone else who chooses to bring the implications of Easter into their own life?

It is that as death has been conquered through the cross of Christ, then our bad experiences can turn out for good; the good experiences of this life can never be lost and the best is yet to come! My best days are not behind me, but in front of me!

Also there is the security that comes from knowing I am loved as I am. I have nothing to prove. I am completely accepted by God, not because of my goodness or attempted goodness (which fluctuates and is so fickle), but by the perfect life and obedience of Christ. And in addition to all that, the living presence of God through the Holy Spirit means there is the potential to live life with confidence and joy, no matter what the challenges and setbacks that come.

I need to remember that every day! How about you? What does Easter mean to you?

We explore that more in last week’s Podcast #028: The God I Don’t Understand

 

Podcast #028 The God I Don’t Understand

Discussing tough questions of faith with Christ Wright

Religious faith. That is certainly a subject that can polarise and divide opinion between different people! 

Screen Shot 2017-04-01 at 17.40.54We live in a world where it seems as though the more committed someone is to their particular faith view, then the more certain they seem to be about life and what others should or should not do.  That is often the impression that comes through much of the popular media’s analysis of faith and life issues. But does that really help to make sense of life in all its mystery and complexity?

Why do terrible things happen in our world and why does it so often appear God is silent and not involved?

Chris Wright is a scholar of the Old Testament of the Bible who has written a number of books on knowing and understanding God. He is someone who has a life long passion for knowing God through the Bible scriptures and communicating that clearly to others.

It is somewhat surprising then that Chris has also written a book called “The God I Don’t Understand”. Here is what he writes in the introduction:

“It seems to me that the older I get the less I think I really understand God. Which is not to say that I don’t love and trust Him. On the contrary, as life goes on my love and trust grow deeper, but my struggle with what God does or allows grows deeper too.”

On this podcast we have the privilege of interviewing Chris about the book he has written and exploring this tension between living a life of faith, loving and trusting God, while at the same time being honest enough to admit there is often mystery and much we do not understand about life.

Do join us in this fascinating conversation as we explore:

How anger and frustration with what God allows and does not allow in our world is nothing new. Indeed an author like Richard Dawkins writes in his book ‘The God Delusion’:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filiacidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

How Psalm 73 written 2,700 years ago by someone called Asaph dealt with similar anger and frustration with God’s dealings with the world, but came to a very different conclusion.

Why the question of evil and suffering is a specific problem for people who have a Biblical faith, compared to those of other religions.

Why the Bible says we should not bottle up our feelings and be stoical when suffering and evil comes into our lives, but actually to be angry, lament and protest.

Why Chris surprisingly says, “Of all the things that lead me to speak of the God I don’t understand, the cross is top of the list.”

Why was the death of Christ necessary?

What did God actually accomplish through the death of His Son?

How did it all work? Or to be even more specific: How did one man’s bleeding body stretched on two pieces of wood for six hours of torture and death on a particular Friday one spring outside a city in a remote province of the Roman Empire change everything in the universe?

How can it be possible for God to be both loving and angry?

What comments and questions does this discussion raise for you?

You may also find of interest:

What Is So Good About Good Friday?

How Can I Find Hope In My Darkest Days?

Why Understanding Easter Brings Hope

Is This The Best News You Have Ever Heard?

4 Personal Implications Of The Resurrection

A Day That Changed The World

When is wife-beating just a cultural issue?

The dangers of culture

No you haven’t misread the title of this blog post!  We have talked about how culture is much more than the food we eat and the clothes we wear. It profoundly affects the way we look at life and in turn the way we live. Everyone likes to think their cultural way of doing things is the best or even the only way. That brings us to the example of wife-beating.

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Should it be a crime for a husband to beat his wife? Or is wife beating just a cultural issue? That’s not as crazy a question as you might think.

In the United Kingdom during the 1800s, a time of widespread professed Christian faith, wife beating was extremely common and only caused outrage if it was exceptionally brutal or endangered life. There was a widespread belief among ordinary people, both male and female, that it was every man’s ‘right’ to beat his wife so long as it was to ‘correct her’ if she did anything to annoy or upset him or refused to obey his orders.

In 1853 a British newspaper remarked that wife-beating was ‘being accepted as the habit of the nation’. The church by and large in England at the time saw nothing wrong with it. (For more on this see here).

That was the 1800s. How about more recently? I remember speaking with surprise and shock to some Punjabi Christian men and women in England in the late 1980s and 1990s and hearing how wife beating was an acceptable thing to do. The only question was how much pain and damage you caused……..

When life just doesn’t make sense

Joseph is one of my favourite Bible characters. The story has been well known over the centuries, and more recently was the subject of a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Who was Joseph? He was the favourite son of Jacob. Jacob in turn was the grandson of Abraham, greatly revered in the three great monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Joseph was given the famous multi-coloured coat and also had the ability to interpret dreams. However, he went through a series of unfortunate and undeserved betrayals and tragedies.

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers to be sold as a slave to Egypt. In Egypt he began to prosper as slave to a rich official in Pharaoh’s court called Potiphar. However, Potiphar’s wife persisted in making sexual advances towards him, which because of his faith in God he refused to succumb to. Even so on one day when they were alone she attempted to grab him with the intention of seducing him. Joseph had no choice but to run away, leaving Potiphar’s wife to claim that he had tried to rape her. Thus started a long and undeserved 13 year prison sentence.

The short video above is from the film ‘Joseph, King of Dreams‘. Yes it is a cartoon, and there is artistic licence, but don’t let that deceive you into thinking it is simplistic or childish.

I think the movie clip powerfully conveys something of the confusion we all at times struggle through when life does not go the way we intended or hoped for.

Here are the words of the song to ponder and reflect on:

5 lessons I’ve learnt from burnout

Looking back I have burnt out at least three times in my life. The first two times were at the end of my first and third year at university, studying medicine. The challenges of moving away from home, being out of my depth academically, feeling isolated and alone all gradually took their toll.

The third time was around 2009. I was juggling being on the leadership team of a church with all its demands while having a growing family and working as a psychiatrist. It  all became too much for me to take. Something had to give. I wasn’t liking the person I was becoming. I could sense a critical and discontented spirit growing inside of me. It was time to step down from church leadership and re-evaluate my priorities.

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In all three cases, there were significant learning opportunities and growth from these experiences. However, at the time it felt very different to that! For more on the first experience see here. After the second, I found a greater purpose and direction to stay in medicine and begin to focus on psychiatry; while as for the third, it lay the foundation for this blog and subsequent podcasts!

Burnout is a state of chronic stress. It gradually develops over a period of time and leads to:

Both physical and emotional exhaustion.
On each occasion I gradually found myself lacking energy, sleeping poorly and not able to give proper attention to what needed to be done.

Feelings of cynicism and detachment.
I became quick to focus at the negative aspects of my life, as well as feeling disconnected from others. I found myself often attributing unnecessary ulterior motives to others and putting myself in a victim mindset.

Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
I struggled to find meaning and purpose in day to day activities that became more and more burdensome. What I previously had been able to do with ease felt like an upward struggle with no apparent end in sight.

So what have I learnt from these experiences?

The Courage of Christmas

Overcoming fear, shame and vulnerability

Courage is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to thinking about Christmas. It is such a feel good time of year, along with a sense of unreality compared to the rest of life. We look forward to the holidays and putting aside the usual worries and concerns. Everyone seems so relaxed and everything for a few days appears to slow down. All over the world, children enact nativity scenes and Father Christmas comes to jolly everyone with presents and good cheer.

So what does courage have to do with Christmas? For that we need to go back over 2000 years ago and the harsh and brutal realities facing Mary and Joseph.

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Joseph and Mary had a major dilemma on their hands. He was engaged to be married to her and Mary finds herself expecting a child. Here is how the Gospel of Matthew (writing about 80-90 years later) explains the situation (1:19-21)

“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Joseph wants to do the honourable thing and quietly divorce Mary to avoid scandal for himself at least. At the same time he must have been very scared. That is why the angel has to tell him not to be afraid. In other words he needs courage.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage means you do what is needed even when it scares you.

Here are 3 ways Christmas at its essence is about courage:

Podcast #024: Making sense of time

What we never seem to get enough of

Time. Such an important part of our lives and yet so hard to get a grasp of! We all have the same amount – 168 hours or 10,080 minutes a week or 86, 400 seconds a day. But we all struggle and wrestle with it.

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On top of that time is such a strange concept to grasp. What do we exactly mean by time and why does it seem to go at such a varying pace during different periods of our life? As someone once said:

If you want to know the value of one year, just ask a student who failed a course.
If you want to know the value of one month, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
If you want to know the value of one hour, ask two lovers waiting to meet.
If you want to know the value of one minute, ask the person who just missed the bus.
If you want to know the value of one second, ask the person who just escaped death in a car accident.
And if you want to know the value of one-hundredth of a second, ask the athlete who won a silver medal in the Olympics.

Do join my co-host Andrew Horton and I as we discuss:

  • How do we make best use of the limited time we have?
  • How the fundamental issue is not managing time, but handling the explosion of choices that we are constantly confronted with.
  • The dangers of partial attention and inner restlessness when it comes to time.
  • Thinking about energy management rather than time management
  • The significant role of rest and recuperation for living in the knowledge worker age.
  • Self-identity and time.
  • A spiritual view of time that enables me to be fully engaged in the here and now while at the same time having a heart fixed on eternity.

You may also find of interest:

Is it Work-Life Balance or Integration?

Podcast #001 Wisdom

Podcast #003 Stress

Podcast #010 Stephen R. Covey

Time Management Part 1

Time Management Part 2

Time Management Part 3

What thoughts, comments and reflections does this discussion on time raise for you?

 

Is it work-life balance or integration?

5 steps to your life symphony

I’ve come to the conclusion that work-life balance is fundamentally a flawed concept.  The problem with balance is that it implies giving an equal amount of time and attention to every area of my life – and that is simply just not possible. It’s not possible to give in equal measure each week the same same amount of time to, say work; the same amount to family; the same amount to exercise or to friends or to other meaningful activities.(I’ve explained more on this in a previous post).

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Perhaps a better way to think about work-life balance then is in terms of work-life integration. What do I mean?……

We’re all materialists now!

A Guest post by Andy Parnham

We live in a culture which is dominated by one particular worldview….

Stop, Andy! What do you mean by ‘worldview’?

Everyone has a worldview. It’s all about the assumptions we make about people, the world, the universe and all that is. Because they are assumptions, they usually operate at a subconscious level. They are like specs that we wear all the time, colouring our view of everything. They are so pervasive that we don’t even notice we’re wearing them! No one can live without a worldview.

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Worldview questions sound a bit like this: What is ultimate reality? What is the nature of the world? What is humanity? What is the purpose of life? What happens at death?

So, what is our culture’s dominant worldview? It goes by the name of secular materialism. Some people abbreviate that to “modernism”. Its assumptions go something like this…