Athiest

An atheist was walking through the woods, admiring all the accidents that evolution had created. “What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!”, he said to himself. As he was walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. Turning to look, he saw a 7-foot grizzly bear charge towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw the grizzly was closing. Somehow, he ran even faster, so scared that tears came to his eyes. He looked again and the bear was even closer. His heart was pounding and he tried to run faster. He tripped and fell to the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but the bear was right over him, reaching for him with its left paw and raising its right paw strike him.

At that instant the atheist cried: “Oh my God!” Time stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent. Even the river stopped moving. As a bright light shone upon the man, a voice came out of the sky: “You deny my existence for all these years, teach others that I don’t exist and even credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer? “The atheist looked directly into the light: “It would be hypocritical of me to ask to be a Christian after all these years, but perhaps you could make the bear a Christian?” “Very well” said the voice. The light went out. The river ran. The sounds of the forest resumed…..and then the bear dropped his right paw, brought both paws together and bowed its head and spoke: “Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful.”

That’s God

Have you ever been just sitting there and all of a sudden you feel like doing something nice for someone you care for? THAT’S GOD talking to you through the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever been down and out and nobody seems to be around for you to talk to? THAT’S GOD wanting you to talk to Him.

Have you ever been thinking about somebody that you haven’t seen in a long time and then next thing you know you see them or receive a phone call from them? THAT’S GOD. There is no such thing as coincidence.

Have you ever received something wonderful that you didn’t even ask for, like money in the mail, a debt that had mysteriously been cleared, or a coupon to a department store where you had just seen something you needed, but couldn’t afford? THAT’S GOD knowing the desires of your heart.

Have you ever been in a situation and you had no clue how it was going to get better, how the hurting would stop, how the pain would ease, but now you look back on it. . . THAT’S GOD passing us through tribulation to see a brighter day.

Do you think that this e-mail was accidentally sent to you? NO! I was thinking of you!

Please pass this along and share the Power of God.
In all that we do, we should totally give thanks and our blessings will continue to multiply. Keep this going. You have no idea which one of your e-mail buddies could use a little hope today.

Damaris Culturewatch: My Sister’s Keeper (review)

In My Sister’s Keeper, Kate Fitzgerald (Sofia Vassilieva) is diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia when she is two years old, and the prognosis is not positive. Her parents, Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Brian (Jason Patric), and her brother Jesse (Evan Ellingson) are not genetic matches. Sara, at least, will do anything to save Kate, and Dr Wayne (Jeffrey Markle) suggests, off the record, that producing another child in a test-tube would provide a perfectly matched donor. Anna (Abigail Breslin) is the result. The initial expectation is that only the blood from the umbilical cord will be used, but by the time Anna is 11, she’s undergone a number of medical procedures, including bone marrow transplants, and the latest call is for a kidney.

Read the rest of this article (be aware, it contains plot spoilers), which I wrote.

Week 10: Live By Priorities

Linvoy Primus and Israel Oyelumade with me in Winchester Cathedral at the end of the series.

The Main Thing
J John started right in with the worm/talking parrot joke, to remind us to “Remember that the main thing is to ensure that the main thing is the main thing!”
9 Weeks Gone
The video spun us through the previous 9 weeks, with Week 1 reminding us not to covet “most people want just a bit
more than they already have”, and questioning, what’s the Number 1 for you now – food, drink, sport… or God?
We saw a brief extract from The Winchester Passion, in which Israel Oyelumade played Jesus, before Claire Carson interviewed him. What did he truly remember from playing Jesus in the Passion?
  • The size of the audience – it was HUGE!
  • How to make the message relevant?
  • How to get under the skin of this man, Jesus? As an actor one tries to understand the heartbeat of the character you’re playing, as a Christian, God had already been working on Israel’s heartbeat!
As an actor, the profession is all about “self”, but when he met David Oyelowo, here he met a man full of self-assurance, and not from the labels he was wearing, but from ensuring that others were OK, which came from somewhere! Israel was asked by 3 people in a week to Holy Trinity Brompton, told “God wants you for himself”, but ignored this invitation until he re-met David at the Royal Shakespeare Company, when he decided “me and God are for keeps”! His priorities shifted, re-centering on God daily. Instead of looking at himself, he started looking at who around could be helped – and is always happiest when talking about eternal priorities!
J John: Is God Your No. 1?
Tonight, we’re looking at Exodus 20:3: have no other God’s before me!
God is God and He’s Not Applying for the Job…
he’s not going to play second fiddle to anyone or anything!

Here comes the analogy….
Your life is like a car…. so is Jesus:
  • Nowhere near your car?
  • In the car, but locked in the boot for Sundays, where you stuff him back in for the rest of the week, in case he upsets your ordinary life?
  • In the car, but a back-seat passenger who you don’t pay much attention to?
  • In the car, but a front-seat passenger, so he’s a bit more in your vision, but still…
  • Or is he the driver in your car….
More importantly, if he is driving your car, are you a backseat driver?
  • As Jesus drives down the “road of forgiveness” are you complaining that you don’t want to go this way?
  • As Jesus points the way at a fork in the road, are you complaining “where are you going?”
Knowing that God is First: What are the indicators?
How do we know that God is first in our lives. Here’s a useful acronym which we’ll expand on…
  • Finances
  • Interests
  • Relationships
  • Schedules
  • Troubles
God is always around, but we’re often so pre-occupied by other things we don’t see him.
Is he first in your FINANCES?
If you have a bag of 10 doughnuts, do you need all 10 doughnuts, or can you give some of it away?! You can’t take it with you when you die, so invest in sending some on ahead – invest in others!!
Is he first in your INTERESTS?
What occupies/pre-occupies you daily? You CAN be interested in other things, as there is sacred-ness in the world (God created it after all!)
  • Why is a football supporter known as a “fan”?
  • Why is a Christian known as a “fanatic”? Take it as a compliment!
Is knowing God the heartbeat of your life?
Is he first in your RELATIONSHIPS?
We need to embrace the qualities of Jesus in each other. J John referred to “My Shack, Your Shed and a Bungalow” (at least I think that’s what he said!) in reference to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who would rather be thrown into a furnace than worship a false god, a real challenge to us when we are called (daily!) to compromise!
The challenge is to obey God, regardless of what other people may think of you, and the consequences. Begins by stepping outside of your comfort zone…
Is God first in your SCHEDULE?
God knows that we have other responsibilities – are you conscious of God in that, rather than praying to Him as a last resort?! We should be constantly aware, tuning in, irrespective of what you are doing and where you are going!
Do you start your day with God. IF he is alive, and if he is the creator of the world – would you not WANT to know him… even athiest professors said yes when asked this question! (“The more intelligent people are, the more stupid they are”!!)
Is God first in your TROUBLES?
There’s 2 kinds of troubles:
  • Minor suffering, that’s what you suffer from!
  • Major suffering, that’s what I suffer from!
When we are troubled, who do we turn to? When it’s dark, that’s when you can see the stars! We all go through seasons of life, when it’s dark, we then see the morning star = Jesus.
How did you answer that, is God FIRST?
The answers to these questions indicate the kind of relationship you have with God – is he in the driving seat, and are you still a backseat driver?
A House Visit?
If Jesus came to spend a day or so at your house, how would you feel?
  • Would your welcome be sincere?
  • Would you hide some of the magazines you’d been reading and put a Bible there?
  • Would you bury some things in the deepest darkest cupboard, or is it all there for Him to see?
These are the things on which you mind and spirit feed. If Jesus is already in there, he already knows [and he already loves you as you are!]
ALL
We are called to LOVE God with ALL our heart, soul and mind… we are looking to see EVERYTHING from his viewpoint: thought, word, deed, business, pleasure, friendships, career, home, etc… He should be in all of them, not a compartmentalised “Sunday God”.
Choice?
In choosing Christ, you are always making a choice whic
h excludes all others. By turning away from other gods [in whatever form they come] you can actually HAVE GOD!
Who is Jesus to You?
  • Nothing
  • Something
  • Everything
William Booth
General William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. Toward the end of his career, he was interviewed by the press. As he looked back over his lifetime, this is what he said: “God had all there was of me. There have been others who had greater plans and greater opportunities than I; but from the day I had a vision of what God could do, I made up my mind that God would have all there was of William Booth.” Thanks
Amazing Grace

Every week we’ve been finishing with my favourite hymn Amazing Grace!
Want to Know More?
All the partner churches would be pleased to hear from you, and J John is back in Winchester for a one-off event on 17th September as part of a national tour.

Week 6; Keep the Peace With Your Parents

Opening Joke

Something along the lines of (same, same, but different!):
Dear Mum

I thought I had better write to you about a couple of problems I’m having at school this term. Last week half of the boarding house burned down. But don’t worry too much because I’m now living in a flat in the village. I’m living with Frank the plumber. There’s no need to worry, he’s very nice, in fact I’m three months pregnant with his baby. We’re planning to get married at the end of term. 
Love Sarah

Next day, another letter from Sarah……

Dear Mum

I know you will be worrying about yesterday’s letter so I thought I should write to you again. Mum the boarding house didn’t really burn down last week and I’m not living in a flat in the village. In fact I’m not even pregnant with Frank’s baby and we’re not getting married at the end of term. Mum, the real problem is that I failed my mid year exams really badly and I just wanted you to see this problem in proper prospective, All my Love,
Sarah.

THAT PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE IS SO IMPORTANT!
Culture
We live in a culture where those who are aged are sidelined, whereas the young are given increasingly more responsibility. Boundaries are unclear, and often (one of the worst things children can) hear is “I’m very disappointed in you”. 
Karin Ling
Karin was interviewed about her journey of faith, from when she asked Jesus to be her “special friend” aged 5, to deciding as a teenager that she was no longer interest, but her parents indicated that she should attend youth group til the age of 16, so she sat there and scowled. Her parents trusted that God had a bigger plan as Karin became focused/driven on success/money and gained a place at a competitive university, where after 4 weeks, without the distraction of friends, she decided she had to face up to things, and thanks her Mum to love/accept her whatever choices she made, which included leaving University. Having made a recommitment, she now uses her own experience to help others.
J.John: “This is the hardest commandment for me”
“Have you seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding?… Well, it’s worse than that in reality!”
“My mum is a travel agent for guilt trips”. 
If parents expect SO MUCH we feel we can’t possibly live up to them – no matter how good we are, there’s always room for improvement!
Thoughts on Family Life
  • Child when asked “My name begins with M, I pick things up”: Mother
  • The father carries a photo where his money used to be.
  • Teenagers: “Stop asking where they came from and refuse to tell you where they’re going.”
  • We encourage the kids to show off, then tell them to “Sit down and shut up”.
God’s Perspective/4 Principles
The commandment “Honour your father and mother” is a positive focus  on the smallest unit in society. 
  1. Honour my parents by ACCEPTING them.
    Don’t tune them out, don’t highlight the negatives.
    God is not asking us to pretend that are parents are perfect when they’re not.
  2. Honour my parents by APPRECIATING them
    Appreciate the effort that your parents put in is difficult/costly.
    Son presented bill for £1 per job, mother presented bill of £1000s in return, but the final total was “I love you”. 
    Mothers can direct air traffic control, whereas children are expensive but can operate the DVD!
  3. Honour my parents by AFFIRMING them
    This is the only commandment which doesn’t last a lifetime, a day will come when you can no longer make amends – and no amount of expense at the funeral will be equal to that of a visit whilst their alive.
  4. Honour my parents by NOT ABANDONING them
    As parents age, offer support in practical ways.
A Message to Kids: The commandment is not “Humour your mother and father”
  • “I hate my parents”: Sometimes we hate you too… 
  • You may hate it when parents repeat thing,…. if do it first time, we wouldn’t have to. Acknowledge that you’ve heard by saying “I got it”.
  • Play your part in the family, Dad is not ‘the old man’
  • Teenagers are experts on surveys of one: “Everyone else is doing it”
  • Mark Twain quote
  • We get parents at so late a stage in their life that it’s impossible to change their habits!
A Message for Parents
  • Think about what example you are setting, more likely to be honoured.
  • The perfect model for parenting: God – treat our kids as God treats us.
  1. God listens to us
    Teenagers often complain that they can say what they like at home as no one’s listening anyway!
  2. God understands us
    A carpenter works WITH, not AGAINST the grain. 
    Give your kids roots and wings…
    Are we perfect? NO, but God accepts us through grace, treat our kids the same, not as though our standards are automatically the best.
    Teachers can teach kids to count, parents can teach their children WHAT COUNTS.
    Demonstrate honesty, admit when you’ve done something wrong.
    Do/don’t do as you’ve said, even if it’s difficult.
  3. God loves us
    Offer affection, affirmation and attention (how often do you just sit and let them set the agenda?)
    The average time parents spend talking to their children is 15 MINUTES A WEEK!
    It’s easier to build children than to mend broken adults.
    If you don’t live by priorities, you end up living by pressures. 
  4. God disciplines his children
    “I love you, but sometimes I don’t like your beahviour.”
    Often people tie up the dog at night, but let their children run free. 
    Discipline offers a structure of safety until the children has enough structure in character to stand up on their own. 
    Parents discipline best when they exhibit disciplined behaviour of their own.
Rules for Home n>
Be 
  • Fair
  • Firm
  • Fun
Be there!
A challenge for J John
Requirement to assume that forgiveness does not mean forgetting, and it’s possible to forgive without dulling the pain (of 51 years of nagging!), but does remove the resentment!
Required to pardon, give up anger, show mercy/compassion. 
Forgiveness is about building positive in the present without repeating the past. 
God’s Family
God gave up his Son so that we could be adopted into God’s family. Whatever our experience of family, he will be the perfect Father. 
God loves each one of us as though there was only one of us.
As Jesus walked through a crowded street he asked “Who touched me?”, which his disciples thought was a crazy question, but Jesus could feel that there was ONE person reaching out to make contact with him. J. John believes that Jesus knew who this person was, but wanted her to articulate it (i.e. the power of prayer).  In response, Jesus will stop as he’s longing to embrace/adopt you.
Embrace God, the past is past, don’t try to saw sawdust, with his help, move forward and become what you CAN BECOME.
Tonight: “Catch Your Breath”, see Just10Winchester

Raaaaaaaaaaaarghhh: “Managing Our Anger” (J John: Week 5)

Are you angry?
Are you “temperamental”: 50% temper; 50% mental?

The opening video demonstrated how violence starts in the heart/mind… with one vegan declaring “I can’t even kill an animal, why would I kill someone!” I did wonder if anyone would admit to wanting to murder on camera, although one got close… depending on how far he was pushed/how drunk he was… to which J John added, difficult fights break out amongst those who both think they are right, and neither agrees to back down!
Interview/Sketch
The interview was with Michael Campbell, formerly a boxer, and an activist in the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland, with a great hatred of the English… now the Town Centre Chaplain for Watford, and a member of the Street Angels patrol… crime has dropped by 35% in Watford since this started 3 years ago.
Not a huge fan of the sketches (apologies to those who probably spend much time thinking of the content)… which this week focused on an argument between husband/wife over possession of the TV remote control!
DO NOT MURDER
The sixth commandment is simple… murder is a serious crime which once committed cannot be undone, and appears in many different terminologies (e.g. manslaughter, serial killing, etc.) in the newspapers on a daily basis. The term “Road Rage” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 1997, and of course there are associated terms such as ‘Air Rage’. 42% of those in the UK workforce noted that they have been yelled at at work, with many reduced to tears.
Is culture to blame?
Violence is pumped into our culture by the megatons… e.g. films such as Die Hard are not constructive models of anger management! We can also break this commandment through passive action – e.g. if we see someone freezing/hungry and do not help them out, we may be letting them freeze/starve to death.
Abortion
J John tackled the tricky subject of abortion: “Abortion is wrong even if it is a right”, arguing that the Bible clearly states that life is valuable from the moment of conception. He prayed for those who may still be struggling with grief/guilt/fear over having had an abortion – as 40 million do every year globally.
Does it have to get physical?
It’s not just about inflicting physical pain, but actions and attitudes can cause harm, e.g. grudges, resentment and prejudice, etc. Our language is full of venom: e.g. “Drop Dead”, and “If looks could kill”. J John argues that there is a thin line between violence of feeling and violence of action, and its often with those that we care most about that we get the most angry with/hurt the most.
What Kind of Anger do you Have? (or a mix?)
The Maniac: Do you explode? “Temper is the one thing you can not get rid of by losing”; “People who fly into a rage usually make a bad landing”; “Those who blow a fuse may be in the dark”; “be flexible and you won’t get bent out of shape”.
The Mute: Do you silently steam, whilst pretending to feel no anger? Those who hold anger tend to bury it alive, and the body feels its effects (e.g. heart attacks, digestive problems, etc.)
The Manipulator: Retailiates with underhand techniques, using sarcasm and hurtful humour.
Principles to Survive
  1. I need to admit my anger (if we don’t talk about it, we’ll take it out on others; there is justifiable anger – the Bible is full of stories of God/Jesus expressing anger, and we need to seek to do the same – express it non-destructively)
  2. I need to deal with my anger immediately (“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist” “Those who fight fire with fire end up with the ashes”. Don’t give a piece of your mind (you may not be able to afford to lose it), but seek to be a peacemaker. It takes more inner strength to forgive than retaliate… let God give justice).
  3. I need to understand anger (Anger usually covers a hurt, which covers an expectation, which covers a need… need to uncover these).
  4. I need to stop and think before I speak (If you speak when you’re angry, you’ll probably make the best speech you wish you’d never made)
  5. I need to ask God to fill me with his Holy Spirit (seek self-control, asking God to influence thoughts, words and actions; society tries to reform people, Jesus can transform)
Don’t let your anger get out of control!

Wearing the Cross
Jesus stretched out his arms to embrace us all… God allowed his Son to be murdered for all – including those who have murdered others.
On seeing a girl at the checkout wearing a cross on a chain, J John said “Oh, you’re a Christian then”, on looking at her surprise, he entered into a conversation, asking if she’d think it was weird if she’d seen someone wearing a pair of earrings with a gas chamber as one earring, and the electric chair as the other… both are symbols of execution. She looked disgusted, but he emphasised that that is what the Cross means – but that Jesus wore it on his back, not around his neck. He asked her to think about what it really meant, she said “it looked nice”, and he said “nice was the last thing it was” – it was painful, humiliating, and that was done for us.
Before inviting people forward as usual, J John talked about the Archbishop of Milan, who as a child had been dared by his friends to go into the Confessional and shock the priest. Doing so with relish, the priest directed him outside, to look up to the Crucifix on the building, to shake his fist and say “I don’t care”. In front of his friends, as he started to do so, he realised what the death of Christ truly meant, and broke down in tears, before transforming his life.
See more on Just10 Winchester, 5 more weeks to go!

J John: Hold to the Truth

In with the Quips

J. John started in fine style again… with a story about someone in a store who’d just said to the customer “we don’t have it”. The Manager bounces in, assures the customer that it was ordered 2 weeks ago, and when the customer has gone, asks the employee what they wanted…. “Rain”!
Video Clips
An interesting compilation of video clips, asking those in London if they thought it was acceptable to lie… the general consensus appeared to be that it’s natural to lie, particularly if it’s to protect someone!
Chris Kilby
Formerly a drug-addicted member of a band, Chris Kilby now heads up Life Church in Southampton, and was interviewed by Claire Carson about how honesty, integrity and faith are central to his life now… and nothing has ever made him as happy as God, and is continually asking God to remove anything that is in his way/prevents him geting closer.
Lies Lies Lies
  • “One Size Fits All”
  • “We’re on our way”
The inventor of the lie-detector said that people basically tell lies… as kids do when they insist they haven’t had biscuits (mouth surrounded by crumbs!)
We live in a society of “truth decay”. 
Do you lie on your Job Application?
As a research project, a job was advertised for electricians who were specialists in ‘Sontag Replicators’. They received 179 applications, although there’s no such thing… 
4 students who didn’t turn up for their morning’s exam (citing a flat tyre) were surprised to find their teacher so relaxed. She offered them a chance to retake the test. Sitting the 4 of them in corners of the room, she said “Answer me this question…… which tyre was flat?”
Tongue Twisters
The tongue, a small instrument, capable of enormous damage!
The “sermon on the mouth”.
Bette Middler famously said “I don’t know how much of what I say is true”… it’s become so normal in society to lie… in journalism, facts are not checked, etc.
Careless Talk Costs Lives
Gossip Ruins Lives: 
  • “Hearing something you like about someone you don’t”
  • All the detail, no facts
  • Travels fastest over a sour grapevine
If someone says “I probably shouldn’t tell you this”, I’d suggest “Don’t then!”
The Bible Warns Us Against:
  • Gossip
  • Slander (malicious untruths with the intention of doing harm)
  • Flattery (say to a person’s face what you wouldn’t say behind their back)
Show more GENUINE appreciation, don’t flatter
Steps to Improve
  1. I need to examine my heart (what comes out of the mouth reflects this)
  2. I need to refuse to gossip (listen more, talk less, if you’re not willing to sponsor it with your name, don’t say it)
Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean!
Say it if:
  • Is it true? Yes!
  • Will it benefit anybody to say it? Yes!
“Prove to Me God Exists”
Confusing between:
  • Maths (rational)
  • Science (hypothetical)
  • Personal (valid)
God is PERSONAL, to be experienced, not proved. It’s like trying to describe a kiss (personal) as an exchange of molecules (rational/scientific)!
The Blackboard
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – was there ever a bigger untruth?! Names stick “on the blackboard of life”. Jesus comes not to rub it in, but to rub it out!
Get to Jesus via “Kings Cross”. 
Embrace the healing you can get by refusing to believe the lies that others have told you about yourselves… (whether intentional/unintentional)

Better Late Than Never
Before J. John is on stage again tomorrow night, with “Prosper with a Clear Conscience”, I wanted to get this belated blog up. Week has been filled with job interview, applications, and some time out!

An Interview With God

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Just simply wanted to put this up as I found it very inspiring (apologise for the fact that it’s linked to marketing!)!

Life Coaching
Just a bit of an update as today I “felt the fear and did it anyway”… a life-coaching session on the phone! I work out so much by face-to-face communication I wasn’t sure how it would work, but as soon as I got on the phone my brain switched to coaching mode, and off we went! The phone conversation did not go as expected AT ALL, but feedback is that actionable points are definitely there, and that we didn’t JUST go for the easy wins! Looking forward to the next session… and meantime, tonight, I need to ensure I’m ready to give an hour-long lecture on “Media Institutions” at 9am (1st years)… slides are ready, would quite like to do it without much of a script!