Thursday, 29 November 2018

An antidote to chaos

December 2018

Jordan Peterson (the Canadian clinical psychologist whose book ’12 Rules for Life – an antidote to chaos’ has now sold over 2 million copies) has said that you “can’t break the rules … if you twist the fabric of reality it will snap back on you”.  So, for example, you may get out of a tricky situation by lying but you are destroying your own integrity and mental well-being, and other people’s trust in you too.

Based on his clinical work Peterson says that he has “never known anyone get away with anything”.  He knows how people break ‘the rules’, he sees the chaos and pain in their lives and he connects the two.  It’s a striking challenge to the usual view that I can live as I please.  “I did it my way” is our proud boast.  Peterson is right in this; our actions have consequences. 

But, I humbly submit, Peterson is still missing two things.

What Jordan Peterson sees as the ‘fabric of reality’ in this world is attributed by the Bible to the unchanging character of the God who made our universe.  The reality at the heart of everything is a person, not disembodied rules.  Hostility to his rules is a personal affront to the God who lovingly, deliberately and carefully knitted us.  And so the consequences of breaking the rules are far worse than Peterson has observed in his consulting room; they include being permanently estranged from the One we were made for, disconnected at the deepest level of our being.

But, secondly, a moral universe without a God leaves out all the good news – that the God who created the rules has also stepped in to rescue us.  God’s rules  show us what we should be like, but his answer to our failure is not more ‘rules for life’ but Jesus – living by the rules, dying for our rule-breaking and bearing in himself the full horror of the ‘snap-back’.  Jesus offers, as a free gift, solidarity with him so that our rule-breaking and chaotic life can become his responsibility, and his rule-keeping and ordered life can become his gift to us, given in love.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!  So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.

Happy Christmas!

Graham Burrows

Friday, 2 November 2018

Finger-Lickin’ Good News

November 2018

A white moustache and goatee, thick-framed glasses and a string tie, he is now world-famous for his restaurants.  But not everything went well for the young Harland Sanders.  When he was only 5, his father died.  Later he argued with his step-father and left home.  He worked on a farm, then briefly joined the army.  He was fired from several jobs for fighting and was well known for his constant swearing.  By the age of 40 he had a petrol station and was trying to provide for his family through the Great Depression.  Setting up the old family dining table and chairs in a corner of the petrol station he started selling food.  One of his best meals was fried chicken and Harland developed a novel pressure-fryer and his still-secret blend of 11 herbs and spices.  Eventually ‘Colonel’ Sanders began to sell franchises – the first ‘Kentucky Fried Chicken’ opened in Utah in 1952.  There are now 22,000 world-wide.

Even after he sold the business Sanders continued to be the instantly-recognisable face in the KFC advertisements, but as he grew older he knew something was wrong.  He later wrote, “If God created the world – and I know He done that – and I am part of His creation, then I should have a close relationship with Him.  I didn’t and it bothered me … all the success I’d had with my franchising business … still left me with a hollow feelin’ … I was a good citizen and all that.  But all this while I knew I wasn’t right with God.”

He was persuaded to go a church meeting where it dawned on him that this was exactly the mission of Jesus – to take on himself the weight of our guilt and so to put us right with the God who made us.  Sanders began to put his trust in Jesus rather than in his own effort to be good enough.

It “just seemed like a great burden was lifted off my shoulders.  I’d never felt anything like that before, and here I was seventy-nine years old.”

Colonel Sanders continued, “I pray to God Almighty my story will encourage you also to commit your life to Jesus.  If you will, no matter what hard times you may go through – if you keep turning to Him, acknowledging Him, and honouring Him in all you do – He’ll help you through.”


Graham Burrows

Saturday, 6 October 2018


October 2018

Have you read Dogger by Shirley Hughes?  I asked just that in a school assembly this week and I was surprised that so many of the children had read the book - Dogger was published in 1977 while I was still at school!

The book always brings a lump to my throat because of the extraordinary kindness of Bella as she resolves the problem that has engulfed her little brother.  Dave has lost Dogger, his dearly loved soft-toy dog and no-one can find Dogger anywhere.  Dave is still very sad on the day of the school summer fair when, suddenly, on the toy stall, he spots his beloved Dogger with a price tag on him: 5p.  Dave only has 3p and he can’t make anyone understand that Dogger is really his and shouldn’t be for sale.  Eventually he finds big sister Bella.  She has been having a great day and has even won first prize in the raffle, a huge yellow teddy bear with a beautiful blue silk bow.

Bella and Dave rush to the toy stall but they are too late; Dogger has just been bought by a little girl who now refuses to sell him again despite Bella’s pleading.  Dave cries.  The little girl cries and then she catches sight of Bella’s big yellow teddy and puts out her hand to stroke his beautiful blue silk bow.  “Then Bella did something very kind …”

I can’t say more in case you haven’t read the story. 

I don’t know what Shirley Hughes intended when she wrote the book but if anyone wanted to picture Jesus Christ’s extraordinary kindness towards us then it would be hard to better this.  Bella found a way to rescue Dogger for Dave but it cost her dearly.  Jesus Christ found a way to be able to rescue you and me from our self-destructive rebellion against our Creator but he paid a heavy price; the cost was his life.

As November 11th approaches remember Jesus’ words, “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”  If you remember who Jesus is and the agonising depths of his suffering on the cross, then this really means “No-one has ever loved you as Jesus did.”


Graham Burrows

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Life Explored

September 2018

“All men seek happiness. This is without exception.”  So said Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century inventor, writer, theologian, physicist and mathematician (remember Pascal’s Triangle?)

We’re all looking for happiness but it’s not obvious to us how we can find it.  Life can be good and satisfying, but so much is bad and disappointing too.  And when we do find happiness in something or someone we learn by painful experience not to assume that it will last forever.

Blaise Pascal described how there “was once in man a true happiness of which there now remains to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings”.  Pascal recorded on a piece of paper his sense of the spiritual inferno in his mind as he realised at the age of 31 how that aching void in his life must be filled: “Fire.  ‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,’ not of philosophers and scholars.  Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.  God of Jesus Christ … Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy …”

Life Explored is an informal and relaxed group where you can think and talk about these things.  Each session includes a stunning short film and provocative discussion questions.  Short presentations help us to engage with the traditional understandings of age-old Bible texts that are often perplexing to contemporary minds. 

Life Explored is for anyone who wants to find contentment and happiness in life.  It’s run by ordinary local Christian people and is completely free.  You don’t need to know anything about the Bible, and you won’t be asked to pray or sing.  You can ask any question you like, or you can just sit and listen.  You can watch a trailer for the course on our website here:

The seven sessions will run approximately fortnightly on Thursdays beginning on 4th October.  Choose between a daytime group meeting at 10.15am or an evening group meeting at 7.30pm.  Space is limited so please let me know if you would like to join us.


Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

The Real McCoy

August 2018

"Christians are entitled to believe what they like, but they shouldn’t expect their views to be taken into account by those who create laws or run our country.  The Christian faith should return to its simple origins when it was about one brilliant teacher and those who chose to listen to him.”

It is true that the early Christians had a very simple statement of what they believed: ‘Jesus is Lord!’ but that was never a private belief that didn’t ‘interfere’ in public life.  The resurrection of Jesus was proof that God had made Jesus Lord of all, and therefore that the Jewish authorities should not have killed him; that claim didn’t go down well!  Before long the Romans realised that ‘Jesus is Lord’ was a direct challenge to the official line that Caesar was Lord, and the imperial lions were called to deal with the problem.   And in the centuries since, many Christians have discovered that this simple declaration has been enough to deprive them of their property, their employment, their family and even their life.

So too today.  Christian faith is a direct challenge to any authority or power that tries to ignore the risen Lord Jesus.  If ‘Jesus is Lord’ over this world then everything is under his command, including the leaders of the nations, my health and the weather.  If ‘Jesus is Lord’ then his words must determine what my family believes and how we use our time.  Jesus gets to declare what the church must teach and who can be its leaders.  And, in the state, Jesus has the right to say when tax is legitimate, what marriage can be and what constitutes a crime.

That’s the simple and original Christian faith, the real McCoy, the genuine article:
“ … if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (Romans 10:9)


Graham Burrows

Friday, 29 June 2018


July 2018

When you feel the sun beating down on your head what do you think about?  Barbecues and beer?  Watering the garden?  Or how it is possible for a ball that is 93 million miles away to feel so hot?

King David lived in Israel and knew the heat of the sun, not our weak Cumbrian sun but “the cloudless, blinding, tyrannous rays hammering the hills, searching every cranny” (CS Lewis).  He wrote a song that is half about the sun and half about the rule of God – because those two are related.  From the perspective of earth the sun is the chief ruler in the heavens but it is also telling us about the God who rules from heaven.

According to David’s song (Psalm 19) the rule of the sun is perfect and powerful.  Each day it appears again like a radiant bridegroom beaming with wedding day joy, or like a champion athlete leaping out of bed, eager to run for victory.  The sun never fails to rise; it’s not on a Northern Rail timetable but is always at the right place at the right time.  Its life-giving rays light every corner; its dangerous heat pierces everywhere.

God’s rule is the same; perfect and powerful.  David is saying that nothing is hidden from the piercing heat of God’s Word – all that he has spoken in the Bible is blindingly pure and truthful.   But, unless you stand against him, you also find that his Word is life-giving warmth, dependable and “sweeter than honey”.  Just as the sun can both scorch the ground and cause seeds to spring to life, David knew that God’s Word had both exposed the rottenness in his heart and showed him God’s gracious willingness to forgive and restore.

I hope that there are many days this summer when you feel the power of the sun - and that you will let that immense power speak to you of God whose powerful and perfect Word rules all.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).


Graham Burrows

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

One Way

June 2018

A few of my words from  the funeral of my mother-in-law, Daphne Murnane, who died on 29th April having lived for the last 4½ years in Holme and then Burton.

“What happens when I die?”  Google street-view can tell you what it would be like to walk down a street on the other side of the world but who can tell you what it will be like to travel the very short distance from life to death?

Try answering this question first:  “What happened when Jesus died?”  On that night, after a last meal with his disciples, Jesus told them not to be troubled; he was going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for them.  Do we imagine Jesus like a ghostly hotel-keeper cleaning the rooms and making the beds in his heavenly Father’s house?  That’s not what Jesus means.  He does not get a place ready by what he does after death but by the way that he dies.

God’s Son will die in the place of others, taking on himself the punishment that they deserve for their hard-hearted stubbornness towards him and his Father and all the foolishness and wickedness that flows from that.  Going first to the cross, he will open the way to his Father for others.  Jesus doesn’t show them the way or tell them about the way.  The way to the Father is not a map or a set of directions, but a person.  Jesus says, “I am the way … no-one comes to the Father except through me.”

To move the Space Shuttle between different NASA sites they strapped it to the top of a 747.  If you want to go to the place where Jesus has gone then you need to be strapped to him: depending on his cross for your rescue, living with him as your boss. 

On the morning of Daphne’s operation she was reading Psalm 31 where David cries out, “Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD.”  Years later Jesus spoke those same words from the cross.  And they were in Daphne’s mind in the last week of her life because without arrogance she could say with confidence, “Where Jesus has gone, I – by his grace and kindness – will surely follow.”


Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

The deep song of the universe

May 2018

In the last few weeks I’ve heard some great live singing: from a huge youth choir singing 8 parts a cappella, to the power of Les Misérables, to the singing of choir and congregation at our own Good Friday service.  Why is it that singing can be so enjoyable and powerful?

Singing is a glorification of speech, like the icing on the cake or the elegant clothes of the bride and groom.  We can just say words, or we can lift our voices and sing!

Singing speaks to us of the awe-inspiring creative power of the God who made the universe.  We enjoy good singing because our minds are built to appreciate his mind. 

Singing is an expression of our solidarity with others.  It’s no accident that the word ‘harmony’ describes a close relationship with other people and a pleasing relationship between notes.  It can’t be a good sign that, despite all the renewed interest in choirs, we generally don’t sing together in our culture.  It was recently suggested that song sheets could be handed out at Manchester United matches because today’s fans don’t sing!

Singing is also given to us so that we can speak to God.  As the Christian faith took root in our nation we began to build glorious church buildings and to fill them with wonderful music in praise of God.  Christians have always been known for their singing.  Do people from other religions sing?  Do atheists sing together?  (Genuine questions – do let me know the answer!)  Are you getting good at singing?  Are you learning to praise God with your voice? 

The Bible tells us that the destiny of the human race is to be a people who sing.  A vast crowd, people from every nation, supplemented by a great myriad of heaven’s creatures, all singing together the deep song of the universe, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Revelation 5:13).  You do want to be part of that, don’t you?


Graham Burrows

Thursday, 29 March 2018

A new theory of everything

April 2018

Imagine a world where it is possible to win the battle against weeds in the lawn and brambles in the hedge.

Imagine a world where buildings and bridges can go up that will never collapse, where planes don’t fall out of the sky, where plans succeed and crops are healthy; where work is never futile.

Imagine a world where governments always serve, where power is not abused, where the things that “must never happen again” never happen again.

Imagine a world where wrong-doing is never ignored, where those who destroy families or raid bank accounts or selfishly crush other people have nowhere to hide.

Imagine a world where my guilt for the things I have done can be brought into the open, faced, atoned for; where the mess I have made of my life can be untangled and re-worked like new.

Imagine a world where people never hear devastating news from doctors, where life does not become harder and harder as the years advance, where death is not an invincible enemy.

Of course it’s a fantasy world, isn’t it?  This is so far removed from life as we experience it now that we can hardly imagine such a world existing without a major overhaul; a complete strip-down of the universe with all the parts assembled differently, a world with a new theory of everything.

But what if there had been a time when just such a rearrangement of the universe had been seen?  What if there had been a man whose whole life work never once had the shadow of futility and despair fall across it?

Imagine if we lived in a world where, even just once, a dead man had lived again, with a new kind of body that would never weaken, age or die. 

Imagine the glimmer of solid hope that might be to us!

Happy Easter!


Graham Burrows

Thursday, 1 March 2018

On the Map

March 2018

Denesh Divyanathan is from Singapore.  His mother was from a Chinese Taoist family.  His father was from an Indian Hindu family.  One day he asked his father about the stirring tales of gods and kings and heroes in the Hindu scriptures, “These are just myths aren’t they, these things didn’t actually happen?”  His father said that they were myths but that they would teach him how he must live.  In time, Denesh decided that he did not need myths in order to be able to work out how to live and he began to call himself an atheist.

Then he came to England to study economics and a friend persuaded him to come to church.  Finding everything in church boring he began to flip through the Bible in the pew and was very surprised.  He was struck not by the size of the Bible or its elegant language or its grand themes, but by the maps included at the back – maps of the ancient world, boundaries of nations and empires, locations of cities, rivers and recognisable coastlines and routes of the journeys made by Israelite ancestors, marching armies, Jesus and his disciples, and by the apostle Paul.  For the first time he realised that the Christian faith claims to be about real historical events taking place in real earthly locations.

That was just the beginning of a long journey from that moment of surprise to Denesh’s present conviction that the Christian faith stands because of the historical truth of the events in the Bible, both the Old Testament preparations for God’s sending of the Christ, and supremely the birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Denesh Divyanathan is now the minister of a church back home in Singapore.  Like us here in our village church, he aims to proclaim these world-changing historical events believing that Christian faith stands or falls on this.  If you’re not sure whether the Bible is myth or history then come along.  Our church Bibles also have maps in them!  And we aim to warmly welcome all those who come through the doors of our church and to be ready to answer any question that you may have.


Graham Burrows

Friday, 2 February 2018

2018 CE

February 2018

Have you been writing 2017 and then correcting it to 2018 for the last few weeks? Eventually our brains accept that the counter has moved on one and we know for sure that we are in 2018.  But what are we counting?   2018 since what?  Well, of course, our calendar was designed to count the years since Jesus was born.  Before that, various systems were in use counting the years of a particular emperor or king until someone suggested that we should count from Christ’s birth.  A mistake of four or so years was made in the original calculation, and the idea took a few centuries to catch on, but now the whole world is able to work to this system (even if there are some local alternatives).  Ancient history is ‘Before Christ’ and more recent things are ‘Anno Domini’ (‘In the Year of the Lord’).

Of late, there has been an increasing reluctance to tie everything to Jesus in this way.  Is his birth the one event in history to measure all other dates against?  Is this insensitive to those who are not Christian believers?  But what other event in history would be acceptable as the world-wide marker of Year 1?  (Perhaps when we leave the EU we should restart our calendar and count years ‘Post Brexit’ but I doubt that the idea will be welcomed everywhere.)

And so, increasingly, the labels BC and AD are replaced with BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) as if we know what event our dates are based on but we don’t want to talk about it publicly.  As others have pointed out it’s ironic that CE could just as easily stand for ‘Christ’s Empire’.  For those with eyes to see, all those BCE and CE labels in museums and text books continue to speak about the world-shattering arrival of God’s Son as the all-conquering and just King over a new Empire.

The reign of this Royal Son “will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations” (Psalm 72).  Perhaps when we reach the year 20018 or 200018 no-one will care what letters we add because it will have become clear that no other ruler’s birth will ever be a candidate for the year from which to count all years.  

Happy 2018!


Graham Burrows