A story to change your life

*** spoiler alert *** This blog gives away the ending or at least hints to what might happen in several stories!!

Have you seen ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’? It was a Chinese film released in 2000 starring Jet Li. There were a few similar films made around that time. They were beautifully made and directed with clever story lines and twists and from a cinematic perspective stunning. The martial arts are just that art! But I’ve only watched them twice – once at the cinema and once at home on DVD and then I decided no more… Why because the endings are always so tragic. I am not going to give two hours or so of my life to end up feeling sad and sobbing.

My step son lent me a book once called The Knife of Never Letting Go. It was a really clever book and the concept behind it very thought provoking. Some of it was emotionally quite shocking but I persevered as I really wanted to know what was going to happen. Now admittedly I was in the middle of chemo at the time so emotionally probably a tad vulnerable but boy was I unprepared for how it ended – it was not good at all – all hope for the lead character was absolutely crushed.

And do you remember the year the Christmas episode Downton Abbey saw Mary’s young husband Matthew having survived the First World War and Spanish flu, die in a car crash? Why why why would you do that to us – and on Christmas Day too?!!

No – I want my stories to have a happy ending. Even if it’s a tough journey getting there it needs to end up right in the end – hope must be fulfilled and preferably shines on to an even brighter future.

And I think that’s what I find so hard about, ‘The News’ whether at local, national or international level. So much of it is so soul destroying, highlighting the worst of humanity and often leaves me feeling so despondent. Is positive proactive long lasting change actually possible??

As I read the words of the Psalmist, ‘what is man that you are mindful of him?’ I have to ask that question too? God why on earth do you bother with us let alone love us and give this world to us to care for? That’s why when I stumble across or I’m pointed towards a real life good news story that bucks that trend of hopelessness it fills me with joy and I just want to share it.

Last night Mike and I enjoyed an online magic show by a guy called Rod Williams. As well as entertaining us with very clever magic tricks he also shared some of his life story of how at seventeen he started down a road of wild teenage parties that eventually led to drug dealing, smuggling, gambling debts and heroin addition. His life was in ruins and he ended up in prison. He then went on to explain how from that place of hopelessness he turned his life around, how he has put his addictions behind him, works with people in debt, is married and has an adopted daughter, he’s even been approved as a foster carer. Rod has also started a charity working in prisons helping to show others how their lives can be so incredibly different too.

Click here to watch the show.

It’s so encouraging to hear that someone who we could write off from society can turn their life around – change is possible!!But a key part of Rod’s life story is that the turn around of his life was made possible by another incredible story – the story of Easter.

This week all around the world Christians are remembering and reading and reflecting on what happened to Jesus nearly 2000 years ago. It’s actually a tough story to take on board if you allow yourself to really sink into it – chocolate and bunny rabbits don’t feature at all.

Jesus has been preaching and teaching for three years, he’s regularly upsetting the local politicians and religious leaders of his day as he calls them out on issues of social justice and religious hypocrisy. He’s seen as a trouble maker by the authorities yet loved by the local population for his integrity, kindness and generosity. But he really starts to cause trouble for himself when it becomes clear that he claims his authority to speak out and to heal people not only comes from God but that he is God’s son and the Messiah that has long been foretold.

In the last twenty four hours of his life Jesus is sold out by one of his inner circle, deserted by those closest to him who run away in fear, was set up on false charges, severely tortured and finally crucified on a cross beside two criminals – a hugely cruel form of capital punishment. The Messiah, the one who was supposed to save the Israelites from oppression and foreign tyranny is dead. He’s buried in a tomb with a gigantic rock rolled across the entrance just to make sure we know the door has closed to any hope of a happy ending.

And that is where Andrew Lloyd Webber would have us believe the story ends if you’ve ever watched Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s not a story to really thrill you is it? It’s not a story that would give you the inspiration and hope to turn your around is it? Good Friday doesn’t seem very good does it?

That’s because the story doesn’t finish there. On Easter Sunday some women who had been close to Jesus approach the tomb and find that the hope destroying rock has been moved away from the entrance. And so begins a series of eye witness accounts to an empty tomb, grave clothes left behind and physical encounters with a Jesus no longer dead but very much alive and well.

What is going on? There’s some deep theology here and well worth exploring in far more depth – if you have more questions definitely consider doing an Alpha course. But in essence Jesus died so we don’t have to. He died despite having never done anything wrong so that we who are always messing up at some level or another can be forgiven by God and be in a relationship with the perfect creator of the universe who loves us and esteems us more completely than anyone else. Jesus came back to life again to prove that Evil and Death are defeatable – they never have to be given the last word!

It is the power and the reality of that Easter story that changed Rod’s life. He discovered that truth through reading stories of other people’s lives that had been changed by an encounter with Jesus and then deciding to give God a chance for himself. The same love that took Jesus to the grave and power that raised Jesus from the dead became available to Rod to enable his journey towards healing, hope and transformation.

What’s even more encouraging is that Rod’s life changing encounter with Jesus isn’t a one off – check out these stories…!

My Story – Adam. https://youtu.be/tslkAogs_Zo

Burnley’s Pastor Mike – from dangerous drug dealer to lifesaver – BBC News – https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-55273677

Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz sold by Amazon and other retailers.

REAL Conversations podcast by Catrina Benham with Emma Heath, her story of hope from addiction to recovery. https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/real-conversations-podcast/id1522040407?i=1000493206820

These stories of how a relationship with Jesus has made such a dramatic difference in people’s lives are so important to me because they give me hope. These stories give me hope that situations I see around me that seem so impossible and sad could actually change. They give me hope that positive proactive long lasting change is actually possible whether at an international level or in my local community, systematic injustices or individual desperation. It gives me encouragement I need to pray and call on God to bring about that change.

And for myself I’m reminded that God loves me unconditionally too. He considers a relationship with me worth fighting for and no situation I find myself in is beyond His power and grace. The reality and truth of the Easter story has the power to change my life and the power to change yours too. And that’s a pretty good news happy ending story I must say.

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