I’m Gonna Run Away From You

Wouldn’t it be great to hop into a time machine and escape the troubles of the 21st Century? Or just say goodbye to that annoying boss, spouse, in-laws, loan shark or school bully! The video above is just for fun, but for some people running away from your problems seems the only way out.

Linda’s husband had been declared legally dead in 2003 after disappearing from his home in Indianapolis ten years earlier. On the day he disappeared, Richard Hoagland phoned his wife at work saying he was ill and was on his way to hospital. That was the last time she heard from him. She was left to bring up their two sons, Matthew and Doug, alone; a broken woman.

Fast forward to July 2016, when police one thousand miles away in Pasco County, Florida arrested him for identity fraud. Since fleeing Indianapolis, he had stolen the identity of Terry Jude Symansky, a deceased fisherman, married again and had another child. And his reason for running away? He had “family issues with his wife and children.”

Richard Hoagland isn’t the first of course. Lord Lucan, for instance, vanished in November 1974 after the murder of his son’s nanny at their home in London’s Belgravia. He has never been found. Then two weeks later, John Stonehouse, the British Member of Parliament, and alleged secret agent for Czechoslovakia, faked his own death on a beach in Miami, but was arrested in Australia one month later.

Life isn’t easy, but running away is not always the answer. Jesus told a story about a son that ran away. He took his share of his future inheritance, ran to a far country and spent everything, while having what he thought was a good time. When the money was gone, reality hit. He was reduced to feeding pigs for a living. Eventually he came to his senses and realised that his father’s servants were better off than he was. So ashamed of his failure and planning to ask his father for a job, he headed for home. While he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and filled with compassion he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him. His past mistakes were forgiven and forgotten; he was a member of the family once again.

So what about us? What about you? Is there something in your life that you can’t face alone? Something that you’d like to run away from? As Jennifer Benson Schuldt writes for Our Daily Bread: “The reality is that we aren’t on our own. God is there, ready to help and comfort us … Jesus understands our fears and problems because He lived on the earth as a human and endured the same types of trouble we face … All we have to do is turn away from whatever scares us, and run in His direction.”

“Do you know where you’re going to?”

diana-ross
Diana Ross

 

No apologies today for a post to make us think – me included!

There is so much good in our world, yet so often these days we hear the tragic news of promising young lives cut short. Just this weekend we heard of the fatal shooting of Prince William County Police Officer Ashley Guindon near Woodbridge, Virginia, USA. Ashley was only 29 years old, and was on her first shift after only being sworn in the day before. Ashley was shot while investigating a domestic disturbance in which the suspect’s wife also died. Two other officers were injured.

1602 - Ashley Guindon
Ashley Guindon (centre)

Ashley was a talented individual. She held a degree in aeronautics and a license to fly historical aircraft. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this time.

If there is one thing we can learn from this tragic incident, it is that we cannot take the future for granted, no matter how old we are. When applying to draw certain types of pension, the finance company will estimate how many years they think you have left to live – what a reality check! Yet that estimate may be years out. However, the question should not be, “How long have I got left?”, but “Do I know where I’m going to when it happens?”

Every year millions of us pay our annual subscription for breakdown cover in case we need to call out a mechanic on our journey. We want to make sure we arrive at our destination; but surely our eternal destination is of far greater importance?

The good news is that there is a Divine Power, a Supreme Being, our Creator, who knows all about us, including how long we’ve got left, yet loves and cares for us. He offers us a fresh start, forgiveness and peace of mind now, not based on what we’ve done, but based on what Jesus did for each one of us, when He went to the cross in our place, paying the price for our record of wrong. He offers us a life of freedom, purpose and hope, and not only that, but also a new life in eternity.

With all that on offer, the question comes to mind, as sung by artists including Thelma Houston, Diana Ross and  Mariah Carey:

“Do you know where you’re going to?

Do you like the things that life is showing you

Where are you going to?

Do you know?

Do you get

What you’re hoping for

When you look behind you

There’s no open door

What are you hoping for?

Do you know?”

One day, when you step into eternity, you will look behind you and there’ll be no open door, no way back. Will you then be glad you made the best decision ever, knowing perfect love, acceptance, peace and security or will your future be filled with regret? An ancient spiritual leader once said, “Choose life!”

“Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” is a song written by Michael Masser and Gerald Goffin, and recorded by American singers Thelma Houston in 1973, and most notably Diana Ross as the theme to the 1975 Motown/Paramount film Mahogany.

Don’t look back!

Colin Bell of Manchester City
Colin Bell of Manchester City

Last Saturday was an important day for the City of Manchester. On the same day that Manchester City won the FA Cup, Manchester United became Premier League champions. In recent years City fans have been those who looked back, particularly to a three year period from 1968 – 1970, when they won four major trophies under the leadership of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. Now however, they can look forward with renewed hope for a brighter future.

For those who still look back, wise King Solomon once remarked, “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10) Why not? Because the more time we spend focussing on the past, the less effort we are putting into preparing for, or even improving, our future.

Looking back isn’t all bad of course. We can learn from the past – that’s something our world needs to do more of. For those who know Yeshua (Jesus), looking back spurs us on as we move forward. As we look back to the death of Yeshua on the cross, we are reminded that we are forgiven, cleansed, made new; we have been freed from a guilty conscience. And as we look back to His resurrection, we realise that we have the power and the permission to live a new life. Our future is not the grave, but a new quality of life in God’s presence. How about you? Are you still holding onto the past or are you making the most of your time to create a brighter tomorrow?

Our Creator certainly wants you to make the most of your future. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

A generous God

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace

What a beautiful occasion the Royal Wedding turned out to be; a time to be celebrated and enjoyed by the hundreds of thousands who turned out in London, and by millions of others across the nation and across the world.

In his address to the royal couple the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, spoke about our “generous God.” What an apt and accurate description of the One who not only created us, but also created the world for our enjoyment. Jesus Himself said, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

The idea of God being generous is perfectly captured in the Hebrew word dayenu, which has its place in the annual Passover celebration. Dayenu means “it would have been sufficient.” As we consider the good things God gives, so we see His generosity in giving us far more than we deserve. Not only does He offer us His love, but also His forgiveness; not only a new start in life now, but also life in eternity; not only His help and strength, but He also fills us with His Holy Spirit. He is indeed “a generous God.” As the apsotle Paul writes: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance … and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19)

What is your safety net?

Human cannonball
Entering the cannon

A great tragedy occurred in Kent on Monday. Matt Cranch, a young stuntman, performing as a human cannonball died when a safety net failed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Many people have a spiritual safety net that they beleieve will keep them safe in eternity. For Egyptian pharaohs it was the treasures that filled their tombs. For some today, their safety net is a belief in reincarnation, without any certainty that it will hold them. Of course wishful thinking doesn’t turn something that is supposed into something that is real. The atheist claims that there is no life after this one, but has no certainty; remember the 2008 atheist bus campaign slogan, “There’s probably no God.” The only dependable safety net is a real relationship now with the One who made us; knowing that as the Bible describes it, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath  are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

A second tragedy occurred this week in Texas on Wednesday. David Wilkerson, a world famous author and pastor, died in a fatal traffic accident. Whether Matt knew where he was going or not, we don’t know, but David Wilkerson certainly did. He knew God personally, and had done for many years. You can read about his experiences with God and with New York gang members in his book The Cross and the Switchblade. God’s words were precious to David. Just as the Psalmist writes:

“Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law.” (Psalm 119:109)

Why Japan?

 

Mourning
Japan in mourning

It is now almost three weeks since northern Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and the resulting tsunami, leaving an expected death toll of 20,000 with more than 190,000 now living in temporary shelters. It is the potentially catastrophic condition of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima that keeps the story in the news, but let us not forget that life is very different now for many thousands of Japanese people.

“How could this happen to such an advanced society?” is a question on many people’s lips, but coming so soon after the latest New Zealand earthquake, we realise that Westernised societies are not immune. We are just as fragile. In fact our very vulnerability should cause us to reconsider our priorities. Is life really all about “me”; about a bigger house, a wider TV or a more expensive car? All these things were washed away by the tsunami. In circumstances like this, our priorities change. Surely people are the most important, our family, our friends, our colleagues, even those strangers we pass every day, who matter simply because they are, in a wider but very real sense, our neighbours.

Many are also asking “What is happening in the world?”; the global financial crisis, earthquakes around the Pacific rim, uprisings in the Middle East. Those who know and love the Bible have, like everyone else, been deeply moved and shocked by the scale of such tragedy. Nevertheless, the scriptures warn that such events will take place, and in increasing frequency, before Jesus returns. Although we would all love to live in a world free of disaster, we have to accept that we live in an uncertain world, and be prepared to entrust ourselves to the One who holds the future.

We can be assured that whatever happens around us, God is there to support us, to carry us through. Our ultimate security only comes through a relationship with Him. As it says in Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging …

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.