Live is always better

It’s been another excellent summer of sport with the World Cup, Commonwealth Games, European Athletic Championships and Wimbledon providing some wonderful moments. I’ve really enjoyed watching these events on television.

Last night I went to see Milton Keynes Dons play Manchester United, which was the first football match I have been to for over 12 months. One thing that hit me immediately on entering the ground was how much better it is to watch a game live rather than on television. The atmosphere is so much better and you really feel part of it which is not the case when watching a game on television. I had forgotten how much I enjoy attending matches!

MK Dons v Man Utd

I think there can be some similarities here with attending church. These days with the advance in technology it’s possible to listen to on-line sermons from all around the world and also watch live church services too. The temptation can be to stop attending our local church and instead just listen to the best on-line sermons and worship sessions.

However just as I rediscovered last night that live football is better than watching it on television, I also know that it is very important to actually attend your local church.

One of the most important reasons to actually attend a church is because we are members of the body of Christ and that means that we should be serving our fellow believers. Christian faith is not a solo faith but involves being a member of a body of believers.

Romans 12 reminds us that we have been given different gifts and we should be using them in serving our fellow believers. It’s difficult to serve your fellow believers if you don’t actually attend the church services but instead stay at home and watch church services on-line instead!

There is obviously nothing wrong with listening to on-line sermons or worship sessions. However that should be a supplement to us attending church and not a replacement for it.

What is God’s will for my life?

I guess at some stage many of us have asked the question “What is God’s will for my life?” Normally when we hear that question we may well be thinking about any of the following:

  • Who should I marry?
  • What job should I do?
  • Should I change my job?
  • Where should I live?
  • Should I move house?
  • What church should I join?

Interestingly when we are seeking God’s will for ourselves we often focus on the above type of questions. However I wonder if there is a whole lot more to this that we ignore?

I’m referring here to the practical living out of our faith in daily life. What is God’s will for my life at home, work, church, and in my local neighbourhood? In Romans 12 Paul provides many indications of God’s will for our lives:

  • Love sincerely (v9a)
  • Hate what is evil and cling to what is good (v9b)
  • Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (v10a)
  • Honour one another above yourselves (v10b)
  • Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour serving the Lord (v11)
  • Be joyful in hope (v12a)
  • Be patient in affliction (v12b)
  • Be faithful in prayer (v12c)
  • Share with God’s people who are in need (v13a)
  • Practise hospitality (v13b)
  • Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse (v14)
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice (v15a)
  • Mourn with those who mourn (v15b)
  • Live in harmony with one another (v16a)
  • Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with those of low position (v16b)
  • Do not be conceited (v16c)
  • Do not repay anyone evil for evil (v17a)
  • Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody (v17b)
  • If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (v18)
  • Do not take revenge (v19)
  • If your enemy is hungry feed him (v20a)
  • If your enemy is thirsty, give him something to drink (v20b)
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (v21)

I suspect that the most important question most of need to ask concerning God’s will is not “Shall I work for Company A or Company B?” but rather “are we living out God’s will for our life in the manner of the verses above?”

 

Faith under Fire

Thanks to my wife for this review of Andrew White’s book “Faith under Fire”. Andrew White is the vicar of St George’s Church, Baghdad and also president of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

This short but highly readable book gives a fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people whose daily lives are lived out against a backdrop of continuous conflict. Despite this Andrew states “we are not miserable but joyful”.

Andrew, a qualified anaesthetist and a vicar, talks about how he became involved in the work of reconciliation initially in Israel/Palestine where he was actively involved in Jewish Christian relations.

He was then called to work at St George’s church in Baghdad at a time of escalating violence and unrest in the region. All of this has been at great personal cost to Andrew and is even more remarkable when you realise that he has himself been battling ill health for many years.

This is a fascinating story of one man’s commitment to honour God’s call and to serve his congregation no matter what the cost. What is clear from this book is Andrew’s love for God and for his congregation who he refers to as “my people”.

Faith under Fire is about bringing God’s love and hope to bear on a seemingly hopeless situation. Although there is clearly no “quick fix” easy solution to the problems in Iraq, this book is an encouraging and informative read as Andrew explains that in believing and trusting in God, we remain joyful not miserable whatever the circumstances.

Go out and buy this book to be encouraged and to help support the wonderful work which Andrew and his church are doing for the people of Iraq.

 

Ukraine, Iraq and Gaza

As I’ve watched the news this weekend it’s been difficult to avoid feeling a sense of hopelessness at the tragic events that are happening at the moment.

We’ve seen a civilian aircraft shot down in Ukraine and then the UN investigators denied full access to the site. It’s like someone is trying to hide something!

On Saturday morning I heard that ISIS had told the Christians in Mosul that they either had to convert to Islam, pay a protection tax or they would be killed.

On Sunday morning, just before I left for church, they were showing the awful scenes from Gaza as the fighting had intensified overnight.

Three horrific situations. We can feel quite overwhelmed when attempting to pray for these massive issues. However we must bring them before God even if it’s just a short sentence “Lord have mercy”.

Only God can bring healing and peace into Ukraine, Iraq and Gaza.

The World Cup Blues

It’s now been 3 days since the World Cup finished and Mario Gotze scored the winning goal in the final to give Germany a 1-0 win over Argentina. Overall it was an enjoyable tournament as the 64 matches produced 171 goals all of which can be viewed on this 3 minute video from the BBC website!

This World Cup had shocks and surprises which included:

  • Defending champions Spain losing 5-1 to Holland
  • Spain, Portugal, Italy and England not qualifying from the group stages.
  • Costa Rica defeating Italy 1-0 and reaching the quarter finals before losing on penalties to Holland.
  • Colombia reaching the quarter finals before losing narrowly to the hosts Brazil 2-1
  • Brazil sensationally losing 7-1 to Germany in the semi-finals.

After 64 matches starting on 12 June and ending on 13 July the question is what do we do with ourselves now? There always seems to be a feeling of an anti-climax when a major sporting event finishes. Many of us are probably experiencing the World Cup blues now and are now counting down the days until the start of the 2014/15 season!

I really enjoy my football but if I’m being honest there are many times when I let it take a too important place in my life. I get annoyed and feel fed up when my team loses. I also spend too much time worrying about it when I could be thinking of other things. You would think that as I get older I might actually grow out of that!

Maybe it’s time to look at what has been going on in the real world whilst we have been enjoying the World Cup:

  • The latest conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has resulted in the tragic deaths of many people.
  • The fighting is still continuing in Eastern Ukraine between government forces and rebels.
  • Kenya and Nigeria have continued to suffer terrorist attacks.
  • The situation in Iraq continues to get worse.
  • Fighting also continues in Syria.

It’s not very pleasant the real world. Maybe that is the reason we like to immerse ourselves in sporting and leisure events, so we can forget the horrors that many people face?

 

 

 

 

Comforting those that mourn

Bob Geldof gave an interview last week on the Chris Evans show where he spoke about the death of his daughter Peaches. During the interview he spoke about how he had felt “overwhelmed” by letters of support he had received from the public.

I guess often we are not sure what to say to those who are mourning or sacred of saying the wrong thing. Bob Geldof said that it was the sentiment of the letters that really helped, even if it only contained one line.

When I read this it struck me that this is something that should be lived out in our churches. We should be people who support and comfort those who mourn. Paul in Romans 12:15 says “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Sadly there are occasions where we can be the complete opposite of this!

Do we serve God or reject Him

In 1 Kings 18 we read the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah said to the people:

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him”

What was the response?

But the people said nothing.

We don’t often like being directly challenged to make a decision in life. So often we prefer a number of options. However when it comes down to the most important decision in life there are just two options: we either serve God or we reject him. As Paul says we are either a slave to righteousness or a slave to sin. (Romans 6:15-23)

There is no third way. We cannot serve both God and sin. It’s one or the other. One way leads to life and one way leads to death.

At the end of his life Joshua stood before the nation of Israel and challenged them to make a decision to follow God or the other gods they used to serve. His own response was:

 “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  (Joshua 24:15)

What will be our response to the question: do we serve God or reject him?