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What lessons can we learn about God from a satnav?  This is how is happened:  I programmed my device to guide me to the Baptist Assembly at the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool.  It correctly navigated to almost within sight of the hotel and then, I decided that I knew better and made off in the other direction (many men will know this routine).  After about ½ an hour of faffing about, we finally found the hotel.  After all, you cant miss it, its probably one of the largest buildings in Blackpool.

One of the overall themes for the Assembly was to challenge Baptists to “Shine like stars” (Philippians 2:15) but how can we do this?  Is it not arrogant for us to believe we are somehow better than other people?  Of course we can’t and it would be a huge mistake to take the challenge this way.  Jonathan Edwards (outgoing General Secretary) in his address to the Assembly re-iterated his belief in the fundamental importance of Prayer, he put it this way “If the Holy Spirit doesn’t show up, then there’s no point in doing it”.  Why do we think we can do things solely based on our own flawed expertise in life, better than we can with the help of the Creator of this world? (In the same way, why do I think I am a better navigator than my in-car satnav?)

In the world of the Christian Church or associated organisations, Prayer is a natural pre-requisite of any undertaking and is part of the everyday routine (according to Jonathan we ought to do it more), but in the secular occupations of many of us this just isn’t so and prayer is absent completely.  Maybe Churches ought to find out about the needs and challenges of the occupations of members and attenders, and pray systematically for them.  After all, these are things that affect people’s lives every day.   In this way, we really can shine like stars.  It’s kind of like making sure the satnav has up-to-date programming, the latest routes and updates and is able to lock on to those satellites in the sky, like stars.

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Back in the heady days of the late 1990s and early Naughties, The Internet gave rise to a new breed of company. The likes of Google and Amazon.com were names unheard of before and they challenged established brands like latter day Davids vs Goliaths. The Internet had changed everything, this time it would be different, this time it would be better!

Now of course, these Internet companies (at least the ones who survived) are today’s global mega-corporations. But, are things really different now? This week, I was dismayed to hear that both Google and Amazon (companies that I use regularly) are among those accused of using various shenanigans to avoid paying the proper rate of UK tax (100% legal but of dubious morality).

Also recently, Google has controversially merged the personal data it holds on us gathered from various companies it has acquired over the years. Google’s unofficial motto is “Don’t be evil”. This is an obviously laudable objective but it seems to me if you make such a statement, it is a lot it live up to. The behaviour of these companies goes to highlight the human failings; “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. It just goes to show how temptation and greed kick-in whenever we start to taste power and success.

Is the Church exempt from such temptations? Given the behaviour of powerful Church institutions over the centuries and even today, it appears not. Therefore, I suggest that anyone in power, who claims to know God, takes heed. Ask Him to lead them and help them avoid the pitfalls of abusing power and follow the one who is all-powerful yet made no attempt to enrich or gain comfort from himself, Jesus Christ.

“With great power comes great responsibility” is a quote ascribed to Spider Man’s Uncle Ben. It was derived originally from a speech by Franklin D Roosevelt. However, the true origin of the sentiment, if not the exact words, can be found in The Gospel of Luke chapter 12 verse 48:

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” NIV

PS: The photo of St Peters in Rome was taken by me earlier this year.  A symbol of religious power, its kind of relevant but a nice photo in any case.

Higgs BosonI was really excited today when I learned this morning that CERN scientists have finally “discovered” the illusive “Higgs Boson”. Well, to be absolutely precise, they have, with a scientifically recognised degree of certainty, discovered a new particle that looks very much like it could be a Higgs. But, lets not split hairs and congratulate CERN on an amazing discovery.

Of course the Higgs is important because scientists think that according to the “Standard Model” (the scientific theory covering the way the Universe hangs together at a fundamental level), it is the particle that gives the other particles mass. It converts the universe from a mass of random high-speed particle “soup”, to one with mass and structure, one capable of giving rise to suns, planets and of course life. For this reason, it has been misleadingly nicknamed the “God” particle.

Does the Higgs Boson prove the existence of God? No. Does the Higgs Boson mean that God isn’t there? Again, No. Hence, I think this nickname is misleading.

The whole process though, did get me thinking. This famous “Standard Model” is a scientific theory that is quite a way short of being fully formed or proven in any sense. The discovery of the Higgs will certainly move the science on to a considerable degree though and so this uncertainty doesn’t stop the scientists believing in their theory and this, to me, looks very much like faith. Of course, this is not blind faith because through the maths and experiments, the scientists have got very good reason to think that they are working, pretty much along the right lines.

Sometimes faith in God is criticised as being blind faith. But, just as the CERN scientists have good reason to have faith in their model because of the evidence of experiments and proven prediction, I have good reason to believe in my God.

Believers have the evidence of history, personal experience and the experience of others though testimony and so faith can be approached with your eyes very much open. I think that the discovery of the Higgs Boson and other incredible scientific discoveries over the years show the Universe to be a pretty amazing place. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that there is someone pretty amazing behind it all!

We have just finished watching a recording of “King of Kings” which is a 1961 film describing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  While I winced at the liberties they took with the story as told in the Bible, the heart of the producer was in the right place and I enjoyed this epic “big production”.

Near the end, I was surprised at one particular innovative scene.  Instead of covering the final sentencing of Christ by Pilate, the scene was in the jail where Brarbbas was being held.  Now Barabbas obviously thought he was about to be taken out to be killed, but instead the guard said he could go free.  Explaining that the crowd had chosen him to be set free rather than Jesus, the guard finally said, “Go, look at Him who is dying for you”

And that was great, one poignant scene, summing up the point of the whole story.

I was really excited about spending the day taking photographs at Wakefield Cathedral as part of their “366 Days” project. Anyone can volunteer and they are looking for one photographer for every day of this year.

There was a warm welcome and things were made more interesting in that they are currently dismantling the old pews as part of an extensive refurbishment. It was great to be allowed in amongst the mess to explore all the photographic possibilities offered by the lighting conditions due to bright sunlight pouring through the stained glass windows.

I took time to participate in the lunchtime Eucharist service and when talking to the pastor afterward, she mentioned how strange it was, having services in such a small space during the refurbishment. This reminded me of the recent re-building at Rothwell Baptist Church, where we had to hold our services in our smaller room for several years, so I could appreciate the challenge.

Although church buildings are just bricks and mortar, the transformation of the buildings has been a blessing here at Rothwell and we have opened up so many possibilities to serve our community and attract many more people to use our facilities. Looking at what Wakefield Cathedral’s plans are, I am sure that they will reinvigorate their relationship with the City at large.

Just as Jesus was restored from death, his followers are similarly re-born and so the real transformation is not in the buildings but in the people who come through our doors. But I think that our transformed places of worship can open up amazing new opportunities.

My best photos of the day can be found in my Gooble Album here

The 366 Days website is here

This week in The MESSAGE, the regular Sunday evening service at Rothwell Baptist Church, I will be speaking on Acts 6:8 – 7:60, the stoning of Stephen.

Although this is an ancient story, it occurred to me that the suffering of Christians at the hands of violent men may not ever have been greater than it is today. It’s not widely reported in the secular news, but if you look at websites such as those run by Open Doors and the Barnabas Fund you can see many examples. An uninteded consequence of the Arab Spring has been the persecution of minority Christian communities.

Even in the UK, it’s not easy being a Christian. You are considered strange, mad or irrelevant by many. If you are really unlucky you suffer from persecution at work, not being allowed to wear a cross or being forced to work on a Sunday.

Is it worth it? In a world of ruin and moral decline someone has to stand up for what is right, to say, Enough!  In a world with no absolute moral values, then who is to stop us reaching the point that anything goes? If nothing is sacred then who is to say that life itself is sacred?

This Week, Nick Graves pointed out the article linked below. I am sure it will horrify you. Ask yourself this question though: If this were to be allowed by UK Law and you don’t believe in God’s law, then who’s to say it is wrong?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9113394/Killing-babies-no-different-from-abortion-experts-say.html

What is EasterLIVE? EasterLIVE is an on-line real-time passion play, over 100 people and groups all telling the Easter story in their own way. More information can be found at http://easterlive2011.com

I don’t have Twitter! How can I get EasterLIVE? Twitter isn’t that complicated. You don’t have to publish any personal information and it you want, you can just view, there is not obligation to publish your own “tweets”. Just go to twitter.com/signup. When you have your Twitter account you can “follow” other users. Try following @easterLIVE and @richardmann55 (in Twitter-speak, the @ sign prefixing a word just means its a username). You can then see all the richness which is EasterLIVE.

Once in Twitter, don’t be confused about words being prefixed by # all this means is that the author thinks this is a key-word that someone might use in a search to find the tweet. For example all contributors to EasterLIVE use the “hashtag” #easterLIVE.

Back to the main story though. Things are getting interesting today with all sorts of disruption at the Temple, lots of different perspectives are coming out. If you want to follow what’s going on in my particular easterLIVE contribution, look at my previous posts in this blog which describes the background to the story and the cast of characters. Remember my name on Twitter is @richardmann55 and you are welcome to follow.