I went to see Jurassic Park 3D at Village cinemas in Doncaster the other day and I was very excited.
When the movie first came out in 1993, I was 15 and it was one of the most impacting cinema experiences of my life! I actually saw it 11 times at the cinema (a number I have never since beaten) and I have seen it many times since then. So you could say I knew the movie pretty well.
I realised something was wrong with the film when the tops of characters’ heads came dangerously close to the top of the screen. At first, I put it down to a possible necessity of the post-conversion process of turning a 2D movie into 3D, but then one of my favourite scenes came up and I knew someone had majorly stuffed up… and it probably wasn’t Spielberg.
The scene was the one shown above, where the first dinosaur we get to see in glorious CGI rears back and takes a chomp from the upper branches of the tree. As it reared on its hind legs, its head popped up past the screen and the above image shows exactly how it looked in the cinema.
After the film, I informed the manager of the issue and after checking he informed me that yes, the film had accidentally been showing for their entire season projected in the wrong ratio. To their credit, they immediately set about fixing the problem and gave my wife and I two complimentary tickets as hush money… I mean, as compensation.
I posted this story on Facebook and a friend, Roger McLean, asked the great question, “What other movies would lose their impact from bad cropping?”
Below is a few I have thought up.
See if you can pick all the movies as well as what has been cropped out. Leave your answers in the comments below.
Also, if you have any more suggestions, email me your cropped movie moments and if I like them, I’ll add them to the list!
If you can’t guess the movie, click on the photo and see the answer!
Consider theseÂ scenariosÂ You’re driving around a busy shopping centre car park on the weekend before Christmas and there is not an empty spot to be found. Or maybe you’re late for an important meeting and you don’t want to have to park miles away. “Come on! Please!!” you mutter with frustration as you search for that elusive space. But then you realise there is a much more spiritual solution. You recall your Creator and turn to him in prayer. “Dear God. Please find me a park!”
If you’re a Christian (or even if you’re not) you’ve probably been in this situation. Praying for a car park is a perfect example of seeking a spiritual solution for a pretty petty “first-world” problem. But is it really a wrong thing to do? Is it ethical? Is it anÂ inappropriateÂ use of prayer? Is it theologically correct? Is it spiritually edifying? Now even spending time thinking about such questions may seem to some people the bigger waste of brain activity, but I think that it raises some interesting issues and it has been the subject of some fun debate among some godly friends of mine, so I thought I’d throw in my thoughts on the topic.
What is Prayer?
Well, I could write a whole blog on this very important question, but I thought I’d explain just briefly that from a biblical perspective, prayer is not something magical. It does not have a power in and of itself. It is not a method of manipulating God or moving orÂ evoking spiritual power for your own ends. It is not a form of New Age positive thinking based on the “law of attraction” where your thoughts tell the Universe what you want (as popularised by such books as “The Secret”).
Prayer is pure and simply, talking to God. It doesn’t need to be long and wordy. It doesn’t need to be in a specific form of words, or in a specific spiritual space, or prayed in a specific body position (hands together, eyes closed, on your knees, etc) It is simply talking to God. It can be a request, or a confession, a word of praise or thankfulness, a declaration of truth, or it can simply be a pouring out of the heart and a sharing of the soul. Jesus himself prayed often to God the Father and, although most of the time he prayed privately (Luke 5:16), we do have a record of some of his prayers (see for example John 17). He also taught us principles about prayer and gave us what is commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer” as an example of a prayer that uses those principles. He taught us, “when you pray, do not keep on babblingÂ like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.Â Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you needÂ before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7-8) So Jesus grapples with (or at least, doesn’t ignore) that question about, “if God knows everything, what’s the point of prayer?” Clearly, for Jesus, God does know everything and yet he still encourages us to pray.
One of the key reasons for this I think is that prayer is an exercise and and expression of what we believe about God. It is a display of our faith. It shows us (and others, if we pray with others present) who we are and who God is. Now, that may seem like a bit of an anti-climactic purpose for prayer, but remember, as people created in the image of God, that is what we are primarily created for – to know, enjoy and display to truth about God. Prayer, along with love of our neighbour, have got to be the two most potent ways in which we bear the image of God and express the truth about him in our life.
Now, if that was all a bit wordy for you, what I’m basically saying is… prayer reveals what we believe about God. The content, frequency and motivation of our prayer says many things. As Jesus points out in that passage above, those that “babble” when they prayer, show that “they think they will be heard because of their many words” and that they don’t really trust that God “knows what you need before you ask him”. Our view of God willÂ inevitablyÂ effect how we pray andÂ what we pray for, and so in the reverse, our prayers can be a great indicator of what we truly think about God.
Now, to get back to the topic, if that is true, what does it say for us to pray for a car park? What might it reveal about how we view or treat God?
1. Treating God like your Valet (serving your every convenience)
If you pray for a car park it may reveal that you treat God like your personal valet in the sky. Your prayers are mostly about making sure you don’t have to walk further than you would like, and doesn’t really take in to account the fact that God has the right to answer your prayers with a big fat “No”. Your expectation, is that because God loves you and he is kind and generous, then of course he would want to make sure you got the most convenient spot in the whole parking lot. In your mind,God is your heavenly servant and you expect nothing but health, wealth, blessing, prosperity and that perfect sweet car spot.
If that sounds a bit like you, I’d encourage you to remember that the Jesus that we worship called us to die to ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. And what are we following him into? Well, look at his life. Hardly, an example of a “convenient” life. He was rejected, mocked, tortured and murdered, and he did it all for the good of others. His way is not a path of perfect car spots and “your best life now”. He received persecution and hardship and he promised that anyone who would follow him with integrity would receive the same (SeeÂ John 15:18-20,Â Matthew 24:9, 2 Timothy 3:12 & 2 Corinthians 4:7-18).
Be wary of forgetting who is the Creator and who is the created. God may have other plans that are slightly more important than saving you a few seconds walking time. In fact, one of those plans might be making you park further away so that you have to walk and get a bit moreÂ exercise! In God’s economy, character and Christ-likenessÂ is much more of a priority than convenience. The harder, longer, more complex, more challenging, more painful, less “fulfilling” path may just be the path that God wants to take you on for his glory and your ultimate good. Are you willing to take it? Are you willing to even pray for it?
2.Â Treating God like your Superhero (solving your every problem)
Maybe you don’t pray all the time expecting God to give you every little convenience. Maybe, you rarely pray to God at all. Only on special occassions. When you’re reeeally in trouble. Like just before a big exam that you haven’t studied for, or when your looking at an increasingly cloudy sky and you’ve organised a BBQ at the park, or when you really, really need to find a car park because your late for your best mate’s wedding. Praying to God in these situations, and these situations alone, is like treating God like your personal Superhero. You ignore him pretty much all of the time, but when things are tough, or you’re in danger, or you really need some divine intervention, you send up the SOS prayer, and like the Bat signal shining up in the clouds, you expect God to swoop down and save the day.
Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praying to God in times of distress or trouble. Jesus modelled this in praying to his Father in the garden of Gethsemene before he faced his arrest and crucifixion. Also, it is true that God is able to save us and has more power than the greatest of Superheroes. The problem is that, when we only pray to God in these situations we are still ultimately treating him like a servant. We chose when we want to engage with him, we relate to him on our terms, and when we are done using his very important services, like a plumber who has fixed the leak in the bathroom, we thank him and show him the door.
The idea that God wants your whole life, seems way too extreme. But that’s what Jesus says. When asked what the single most important thingÂ God wants us to do, Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:36-38). Not simply call him to solve all your problems, but love him with all your life. As Kyle idleman, author of the challenging book, “Not a Fan” says, “In the Gospels, Jesus never seemed too interested in fans. Is that how you define your relationship with Him? An ‘enthusiastic admirer’? Close enough to Jesus to get the benefits but not so close to require sacrifice? He was looking for followers. Not just any follower though, but a completely committed follower.”
If you find that you treat God like a Superhero or a plumber -Â not just in praying for a car park, but in the rest of your life as well -Â I’d encourage you to get a bigger and deeper picture of God. I completely treated God like this forÂ the first 16Â years of my life, partly due to my own pride and apathy, but also partly because I never knew that I could enjoy an intimate, personal, real relationship with my creator. Like Batman, he was moreÂ “symbolic” thanÂ real. It was onlyÂ after I discovered that Jesus came to make that real relationship possible, that I gave my wholeÂ life to him and turned from being simply a fan, to a follower. So, next time you cry out to the heavens for help – whether it beÂ when you can’t find aÂ car park orÂ your house keys or the meaning to life – use that moment to think about how you’re treating your Creator.
3. Treating God like your Puppet Master (directing your every decision)
You may not treat God like your servant or your Superhero, only calling on him when you really, really need him. You may go in the total other direction and treat God like your Puppet Master. What I mean by this, is that because we know God loves us and knows all things, we can sometimes expect God to guide and direct every single aspect of our lives. You may have a really solid conviction about God’s sovereignty – that God is not limited in his power and ability and so he is ultimately responsible for every action. That is what the Bible teaches. God rules everything. He is sovereign. And so, it may seem perfectly natural for you to ask God to open up a car park for you. He can make drivers move where he wants. If he wanted to, he could even make carsÂ disappear to give you that perfect car spot! He’s God! Why not ask? And on top of that, God wants us to bring everything to him in prayer. As I explained above, Jesus said to love God with EVERYTHING! That means he wants us toÂ surrenderÂ ever part of our life to his purposes and his plan. So if all that’s true, doesn’t that also mean God wants us to ask him where we should park our car? Doesn’t God know the very best place for us to park, and if he knows, why would a loving God keep us from such information??
Well, the danger of such a conclusion is that it’s based on really good premises of God’s love and care and sovereignty. The problem is that it develops in Christians an unhealthy immaturity and dependancy on God’s direct and daily guidance. Now, I’m not saying God can’t or doesn’t guide Christians through the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26-29 is a great example of God doing this), but there is no instruction in Scripture to ask God about every little detail of your life. The Bible has much more to say about developing godly wisdom and making intelligent responsible decisions, whilst holding on to your plans lightly, knowing that God may have other ideas.Â For example:
“Do not conformÂ any longer to the pattern of this world,Â but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Â Then you will be able to test and approve what Godâ€™s will isâ€”his good, pleasingÂ and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2-3, emphasis mine)
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give,Â not reluctantly or under compulsion,Â for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
“You ought to say, ‘If it is the Lordâ€™s will,Â we will live and do this or that.'” (James 4:15)
Someone who gets this unhealthily wrong is John Eldredge, in his book “Walking with God”. Now, I have actually met John and enjoyed some aspects of his most famous book “Wild at Heart”, but in “Walking with God”, he suggests that Christians should be asking God for guidance about every aspect of our life. Things like, â€œShould I go to the ranch thisÂ weekend?â€ (pg. 30-32), â€œWhat passage shouldÂ I read in my Bible today?â€ (pg. 44), â€œWhichÂ chapter in the gospel of John should IÂ read?â€ (pg. 44), and, â€œShould I ride the horseÂ today?â€ (pg. 80).
On that last example, he tells of the story of how he had asked God whether or not he should ride and felt God say “yes”, but along one path his horse got spooked by a pile of wood and bolted, ending in an accidentÂ which breaks his nose, one wristÂ and dislocates the other wrist requiring surgery. His conclusion to this tragedy is not that he heard God wrong, but that after getting a “yes” to going for a horse ride, he should have asked God exactly where he should ride. “That’s a really important part of listening toÂ God, by the way. Ask the next question. SoÂ often we get an answer to the first part of aÂ question but fail to ask the second half. . . Don’tÂ just get a first impression and then blast ahead.Â It might have been good for us to ask, ‘WhereÂ should we ride?'” (pg. 81) (For a more in depth critique of “Walking with God”, click here)
This sort of relating does not inspire childlikeÂ humilityÂ and intimacy with God. Rather, in the end, it simply inspires immature dependancy and fear of maybe missing out on “God’s perfect plan for your life”. I used to be a lot more worried about that. I used to be afraid of stepping outside of God’s will and so missing out on what God might want for my life. I used to think God has a very specific plan for my life that I had to seek out and try to discern.
Then one day, Richard, a godly friend of mine, encouraged me by saying, “Simon! Don’t worry so much! God is your heavenly Father. You’re his child! He loves you no matter which decision you make. Even if he does have a plan and you make a wrong choice, he will use your mistakes. Just try to make the best choice you can and let God look after the rest.” It was sound and comforting advice.
The more I read the Bible, the more I see that God does not have a specific plan for every moment of our lives. He has a broad fence that he wants us to keep within, but within those guidelines he gives us a lot of freedom as to where we will live, who we will marry, what job we should do, what course we should study and even, what car spot we should park in! The question we should be asking isn’t “What is God’s plan for my life?” but, “What is God’s plan. And how can I use my life to be a part of it.” God does have a plan for this world – it’s to build his kingdom, bringing more people into it and growing those people to be more like Christ. Get that plan in your sights and then you may not stress about getting guidance from God about which car spot you should park in!
4. Treating God like your Heavenly Father (providing your every need)
Now, up until now, I may seem to be fairly down on the idea of praying for a car park. Well, I wanted to offer one more possibility of how praying for a car park may actually reflect that you have a godly and healthy relationship with God. It doesn’t need to reveal that you treat God like a Valet, or a Superhero, or a Puppet Master. It may show that you simply treat God as your Heavenly Father.
Some people think that we shouldn’t pray to God about small mundane things like a car park because God must have bigger things on his mind. This is the picture of the distant Father God who is reading the paper and couldn’t possibly have any time to spare or interest in your petty little problems. But that is not the picture the Bible gives.
Although as I pointed out earlier, God has big plans for the Universe, he is also intimately concerned about his children. Consider these wonderful passages:
“OÂ Lord,Â you have searched meÂ and you knowÂ me.Â You know when I sit and when I rise;Â you perceive my thoughtsÂ from afar.Â You discern my going outÂ and my lying down;Â you are familiar with all my ways.Â Before a word is on my tongueÂ you know it completely,Â OÂ Lord… Â For you created my inmost being;Â you knit me togetherÂ in my motherâ€™s womb.Â I praise youÂ because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;Â your works are wonderful,Â I know that full well.Â My frame was not hidden from youÂ when I was madeÂ in the secret place. When I was woven togetherÂ in the depths of the earth,Â your eyes saw my unformed body.Â All the days ordainedÂ for meÂ were written in your bookÂ before one of them came to be.”Â (Psalm 139:1-4, 13-16)
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under Godâ€™s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.Â Cast all your anxiety on himÂ because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
“Do not be anxious about anything,but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.Â And the peace of God,Â which transcends all understanding,Â will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
“Jesus said to them, ‘When you pray, say:Â Father, hallowed be your name,Â your kingdomÂ come.Â Give us each day our daily bread.Â Forgive us our sins,Â for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.Â And lead us not into temptation.’Â Then he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,Â because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.”Â Then the one inside answers, “Donâ€™t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I canâ€™t get up and give you anything.”Â I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the manâ€™s boldnessÂ he will get up and give him as much as he needs.Â So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you;Â seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.Â For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.Â Which of you fathers, if your son asks forÂ a fish, will give him a snake instead?Â Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?Â If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!'” (Luke 11:2-13)
This last passage especially shows us that if you’re a Christian, then you can call God “Father” and he loves you and is concerned for you like a good father should be. Sure, like any father, he doesn’t want us to abuse the relationship we have with him or take him for granted, but when we are anxious or have a problem, he cares for us and so wants to hear our prayers. He may not take away the circumstances that are giving us anxiety, but as the passage from Philippians says, he will give us peace that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Also, in the Luke passage, Jesus gives an example of a prayer in which he encourages us to ask God for “our daily bread”. Clearly God is not simply concerned about the big issues in the world with no time for our simple, daily needs.
God loves followers of Jesus as a father loves his children. He cares about what is causing them grief, even when it is petty or small on a cosmic scale. Think about when a child breaks their favourite toy. Does a kind father just say, “Get over it! Don’t you know there’s a war in Chechnya going on??” No, they care for them – maybe helping them see that it’s not the biggest problem in the world, but mainly comforting them and showing that daddy cares. Now, if the child is 45 and chucks a tantrum over breaking a toy, then maybe the father of that person tells them to “build a bridge”, but that’s because we rightly expect more from people as they supposedly grow in wisdom and maturity.
I think God also expects us to not be anxious about petty things and care more about important things as we grow in faith and maturity, but that’s another sign of God’s fatherly care for us – he disciplines us. Â As Hebrews 12:7-11 says:
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.Â For what son is not disciplined by his father?Â If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline),Â then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.Â Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spiritsÂ and live!Â Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.Â No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peaceÂ for those who have been trained by it.”
So feel free to pray for a car park if you are stressed and want to go to God with your problems. Know that he cares for you and that he has the ability to provide every need that you may have. But also know, he is in the best position to really know what your needs are.
Maybe you need a perfect car spot. More likely, maybe you don’t.
Maybe some elderly man needs it more than you. Or a single mum with three screaming kids.
Maybe, like me, what you really need is to park further away so that you can walk a little bit and get some exercise so you don’t die of a heart attack before you’re 50!
Maybe, God just wants you to use your wisdom and God-givenÂ intelligence, to get the best park you can with the circumstances you have and not grumble about how terrible your lot in life is.
So, next time you are driving around madly trying to find a park and you begin to pray, “God, please find me a…” you might remember this blog and pause, wondering how you are treating God.
Maybe that contemplation itself might be the best gift a good Father can give you.
Businesses, organisations, clubs and even individuals often get to a stage where making a clear decisive statement of what they truly believe can be helpful. This is called their Statement of Beliefs. My theatre company, The Backyard Bard wrote up our Statement of Beliefs many years ago (you can read it here). Get some advice fromÂ Jimmy John Founder and get inspired by him to make life more interesting.
On this blog, I often am trying to explain, defend, explore and articulate my beliefs. I hope the testimony of this blog is that they are founded on Scripture and my own experience of life and God. But I also acknowledge that I hold many unfounded beliefs. Beliefs that I hold to dearly, that are founded on very little if anything other than my own imagination, superstition or paranoia.
I thought it good to state my unfounded beliefs (the ones I am aware of, or at least, the ones I could think of in the last few hours). May they be recorded for posterity, reflection and understanding. May I live my life admitting and uncovering the beliefs that I hold without foundation.
SIMON CAMILLERI’S STATEMENT OF UNFOUNDED BELIEFS
1. DAIRY PRODUCTS WILL IMMEDIATELY GO OFF IF LEFT OUT OF THE FRIDGE FOR ANY MORE TIME THAN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.
I think this one was instilled by my father who insisted that the milk be put away immediately after use. I also have many distinct and fond memories of mum or dad coming home after a big shop at the supermarket and as soon as you heard the car horn beep it was all hands on deck! We all had to run out to help bring in the bags of groceries and re-enforced every single time was the important principle that all the fridge stuff had to be put away first and as quickly as possible.
As you can imagine, every time I go on a church camp I experience great angst when during breakfast the jug of milk is just sitting on the table for the hour or so while everyone eats. Every time I can hear my internal Statement of Unfounded Beliefs screaming “PUT IT BACK IN THE FRIDGE!!”.
2. SPIDERS WILL JUMP ON YOUR FACE IF YOU LOOK DIRECTLY AT THEM, AS OPPOSED TO RUNNING PAST THEM WITH YOUR EYES DIVERTED.
You would think that this arachnophobia was caused by some traumatic experience as a child when a spider jumped on my face, but no, a spider has NEVER jumped on my face, but I would put that down to the fact that I never look at them directly and I run past them with my eyes diverted. See! It works! Just like I save myself from being eaten by sharks by not spending to much time in the ocean and I avoid being attacked by bears by not going to Russia. It all makes perfect sense to me.
3. GETTING THE PERFECT SEAT IN THE CINEMA IS VITAL TO AN ENJOYABLE MOVIE GOING EXPERIENCE.
Dad, I must once again attribute this principle to your training. You know how when you go to the movies they rip your ticket and then you go to find your particular cinema, well, back when I was a boy you used to have to line up outside of your cinema before they ripped your ticket and let you in. My dad loved (and still loves) the movies and we would get to the cinema as early as humanly possible in order to be as close to the front of the queue as possible to get the best seats in the cinema. On the tragic occasions that we arrived at the cinema after a long queue had already formed, I distinctly remember on more than one occasion, my dad would instruct me to sneak to the front of the queue so that I could get in and save seats for the rest of the family. I would have to have only been around 6 or 7 years old at the time.
So there I was, a young innocent child carrying four large jackets ready to claim seats for my parents and my two older brothers (and maybe my baby brother, I can’t remember). Not conspicuous at all! Well, I sort of felt less than convincing as I tried to sneak in to near the front of the queue. So, of my own cunning, I developed a technique. I used the fact that I was a child standing alone and I simply stood near an adult so the everyone else thought I was with them. If the adult or family I was standing with got suspicious, I would simply lean a little closer to another adult and their suspicions would subside. So my life of crime and deceit began, and so Number 3 on my Statement of Unfounded Beliefs was written in stone.
My friends (and especially my wife) know that if you’re going to a movie with me then you’re going early or you’re booking online. If there’s a big group of friends meeting before the movie, I will abandon all the social catchup and unhelpful human relationship building that traditionally goes on as you wait for everyone to arrive. I will grab my ticket, get into the cinema and save the best seats for everyone. I think in my entire life (which must involve around 1,000 movie-going experiences) I can only remember 3 times that I have had to endure crappy seats – “The Witches” in 1990, “Twister” in 1996 and “Paul” in 2011. I guess 3 out of a 1,000 ain’t too bad.
4. I CAN DO FULL-TIME WORK, PART-TIME MINISTRY AND PART-TIME THEATRE, WHILST MAINTAINING A HEALTHY MARRIAGE AND AN ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE… AND HAVE TIME TO BLOG.
Back in my twenties I seemed to be able to juggle all these things… or at least that’s what I believe as I look back with nostalgic eyes at the “glory days” when I had so much time and energy and could do so much. But come to think of it, even that is an unfounded belief. I never worked full-time in my early twenties. I worked part-time as a checkout chick at Safeway for most of it! I did do part-time theatre, but that was my main involvement in ministry, whereas now I lead the Bible Reading Ministry at my church, run a support group for guys struggling with porn addiction and am getting my “Elephant Room” ministry off the ground. I also hope to co-lead a Bible Study in my home with my wife next year and am getting more involved in various leadership roles as my church stretches its legs in its new church building. As for my marriage, well I was married at 23 and it ended in divorce! So I guess I shouldn’t really look on my twenties as my “glory days”. They sorta sucked.Â
I am older and more overweight than I was, but I’m also a lot more busy with more important things, and now that I am married again, I want to invest in it and prioritise it. So I do need to realise I can’t do it all. I sometimes think of it like I’m driving on the freeway of my life, and parallel to my freeway is another freeway, where another Simon is driving a different life. At some point, I made a choice at some junction and now I am on this path. There are multiple freeways all travelling along next to each other. On one freeway I travel the world doing storytelling. On another freeway, I moved to the US to study to be aÂ psychologist. On another freeway, I spent my days single,Â pursuingÂ reconciliation with my first wife. On another freeway, I went back to Uni to study to be a teacher. I can not live every possible life and then at the end of them all see which one glorifies God the most. I must chose a freeway. And I have. And I love the freeway I’m on. So, when I’m reminded of all the things I could be doing and I look across at the other Simons driving on the other freeways, I can just smile, give them a wave and keep driving.Â
5. A CHICKEN SCHNITZEL SANDWICH IS A HEALTHY LUNCH BECAUSE IT HAS SALAD IN IT.
My efforts to eat healthier are full of unfounded beliefs and the world of marketing is full of lies from “Mars Bar Lite” to Nutra Grain being “Iron Man Food”. Over the years, I have worked jobs that have required me to eat at a shopping centre food court, which has always kept me looking for the newest top rated weight loss supps – but enough is enough. I have come to believe that if I can avoid KFC and the Fish n Chips outlet and stick to the healthy Sandwich Bar, I am safe… not matter what I buy from them. I have a particular fancy for Chicken Schnitzel sandwiches, with swish cheese and mayo… oh, and lots of salad as well, which clearly makes up for all the fat that I consume from the other stuff.
I recently saw at my regular lunch venue, just how they fry up the chicken schnitzels that I love so very much. They guy lathered on at least aÂ centimetre or twoÂ of pureÂ margarine across both sides of the crumbed schnitzel and chucked it on the hot plate. After witnessing that, this unfounded belief just became a little more unfounded!
6. IT’S GOING TO BE A STRUGGLE FOR CAT & I TO LIVE ON JUST MY WAGE NEXT YEAR.
In 2013, Cat & I will try to live on just my wage and have all of her wage going into savings. This is partly because we want to save but mostly because we’re hoping to start a family in the next year or so and Cat wants to be a stay at home mum for the first few years. If that is going to be our life, we thought it best to start getting used to living on only one wage. This seems hard. It’s going to be a real challenge. It will take a lot of budgetting and financial planning and luxury sacrificing to pull it off.
What a load of first-world baloney! Here in Australia, we have very little concept of real poverty and real struggle. When we think of the poor, we think of people who have a beat up old car, live in a crappy high rise apartment with mould on the walls and who are unemployed. But (not to diminish the suffering of anyone who is in those circumstances), on a global scale that is still incredibly wealthy. Half of the world’s population lives on around $2 a day.Â
I don’t have any concept of what it means to live without clean drinking water, access to a toilet or to actually feel real hunger that couldÂ endangerÂ my life, and the truth is, it is almost impossible in Australia that I could ever be in that position. Even if both Cat & I lost our jobs tomorrow, we would realistically never end up living on the streets. I enjoy the luxurious benefits of material possessions, money in the bank, University education, a wide social circle, and general health (despite the chicken schnitzel sandwiches). But even if I lost all those things, I live in a country that provides water, sanitation, education, health services and employment assistance to anyone. I am truly rich. I am filthy rich. I have no right to complain about the potential “struggle” I may face by living off only one income. That income still puts me in the top %1 of the entire world, and if I have to make some petty sacrifices to adjust to a slightly lower income, they will be very superficial on a global scale.
It is so so easy to compare your plight with the wealthy around you. As we may shake our head and laugh at someone who thinks he is doing it tough if he has to travel business class rather than first class, I would look even moreÂ ridiculousÂ to the majority of people in the world. I must always keep that in perspective and my blindness to my ownÂ privilegeÂ and wealth has earned this unfounded belief a place on the list.Â
7. I CAN MAINTAIN A HEALTHY, INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD WITHOUT READING THE BIBLE REGULARLY.
This is actually not something I consciously believe. I mean, I would never say this or teach this or encourage this, but I guess the real test of what we believe is not what we profess with our mouths but what we actually do. Like the guy who says, “I love you honey”, but treats his wife like crap, our words are pretty shallow expressions of our beliefs if they are not backed up by action. The Bible is full of this principle. Like Isaiah 29:13 where it says, “The Lord says: ‘These peopleÂ come near to me with their mouthÂ and honor me with their lips,Â but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of meÂ is made up only of rules taught by men.'” or 1 John 3:17-18,Â “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him,Â how can the love of God be in him?Â Dear children,Â let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”, or if you want it from the mouth of Jesus himself, check out the challenging passage in Matthew 7:15-28, where Jesus warns that it’s not enough to call Jesus “Lord, Lord” and listen to his words, you have to put them into practise.
God doesn’t want just lip service, he wants wholehearted discipleship, and it is by our fruit that we will be known. If you say you believe that God hears our prayers and that he is powerful to act, and yet you do not pray, then something is very wrong. As Samuel Chadwick, the Methodist preacher said 100 years ago, “Prayer is the acid test of devotion”.
Well, I find the same hypocrisy in my own life when it comes to Bible reading. I very rarely read the Bible to commune with God. I read it often to look up something, or to prepare for a study I’m writing, or for a biblical storytelling performance that I need to practise. But the Bible is not simply a text book of useful information. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. What that means is that although the words of the Bible were written down by ordinary people, God’s Spirit had a hand in guiding and at times even dictating directly what they were to write. As Peter wrote, “Above all, you must understandÂ that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophetâ€™s own interpretation.Â For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from GodÂ as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21). So the Bible is a collection of writings that are inspired by God. They are, as Paul puts it, “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16)
But they aren’t simple a record of things that God once said (or wanted to be said). They hold ONGOING truths. Truths that are unchanging and must be engaged with by all people. The greatest example in the Bible of this truth is found in Hebrews 3:7 where it talks of an Old Testament scripture as something that the Holy Spirit “says” not “said”. The tense is present/continuous not in the past. Now, you have to be careful to seek wisdom as to how you understand and apply scripture and Christians may disagree profoundly on this, but what we must not disagree on is the fact that the Bible is Scripture – it is sacred. It is God speaking.
Now all that is fine and dandy to write in a blog with such confidence, but what do I actually believe? If I actually believe that God is real, and I have a relationship with him that is real, and the primary way in which he communicates with my Spirit is through the Bible, then why on earth aren’t I reading it more often?? Does it simply come down to a lack ofÂ discipline? Is it laziness? No, not really. I seem to fill my days with lots of other stuff I deem important enough to fit in. Is it because I find the Bible boring or difficult to understand? Not at all! My years of doing and teaching Biblical Storytelling has given me great tools for enjoying and understanding the Bible, along with my involvement with the Christian Union and my own church, Bundoora Presbyterian, both of which have helped train me in how to study and interpret the Bible. Is it actually a sign that everything I just wrote about the Bible being God’s Word is a big lie – an unfounded belief? I don’t think so, but I have to test my heart closely on that one, because as I said earlier, a person’s true beliefs are shown by their actions.
I actually think one of my problems is pride. I have read the bible lots over the last two decades and I have studied most of its books in depth. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of Scripture and so I go to the Bible with a sad expectation that I have heard it already. I know God will speak to me if I read the Bible, but I also arrogantly think I will know what he will say!
I recall my first few months as a new believer at age 16. I consumed the Bible like a starving child that had been just given a banquet to eat! I read it with passion and real spiritual hunger. Have I lost that hunger? Do I just feel full and think it now not all that necessary to feast. Maybe a snack now and then, but I’ll rely on what I took in yesterday to get me through tomorrow. In the end, if that is the source of my lack of regular bible reading, I really need to wake up.Â
I can maintain a healthy, intimate relationship with God without reading the Bible regularly just as well as I can maintain a healthy, intimate relationship with my wife without ever communicating with her. Or imagine if I just wanted to talk to my wife Cat, but I made no time to listen to her (don’t ask Cat if that is ever her experience… please). In the end, we may still be married, but our relationship wouldÂ definitelyÂ not be healthy and intimate. But I want a healthy, intimate relationship with my wife, and I want a healthy, intimate relationship with God. And so, I must talk and listen to Cat, and I must pray and read the Bible with God. Let’s hope I will learn this lesson, be shaken out of my pride and my true beliefs (backed up by action) will be revealed.
So, that’s my list… so far.
I’m sure there’s lots of unfounded beliefs I still hold. Some petty, some profound.
Why not reflect on your own life and bring out into the light some of your own unfounded beliefs. You may not have to throw them out (I think I’ll always try to get a good seat at the cinema, and I’m not going to start staring at spiders) but you can at least own them for what they are. It also has been a lot of fun and it has helped me identify those beliefs I hold that I actually do think have a foundation.