Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, speaks about the awful situation that Christians are currently facing in Iraq in this article in Christian Today
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.
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?
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!
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?
When I leave for work in the morning I sometimes see a man walking past my house reading a book. These days it’s not unusual to see someone walking down the road with their head down looking at their mobile phone. However I have rarely seen a person reading a book whilst walking along the road. It just does not happen! This man is obviously a keen reader and does not want to miss any opportunity to read his book.
As I think about this man it raises a difficult question in my mind that rather puts me to shame. Am I as keen to read the bible as this man is to read his books?
If he does not want to miss any opportunity to read his book then surely I should be able to find more time in my schedule to read the bible?
Many of us have no doubt been horrified by the recent news reports coming out of Iraq. The situation seems to be getting progressively worse and there appears to be no end in sight to the endless killing. There are differing reports of events coming out of Iraq and it can be difficult to separate fact and rumours at times.
One of the people I follow on both Twitter and Facebook is Canon Andrew White, who is the chaplain of St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad. Andrew is also the President of The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
If you are interested in finding out more about what is actually happening in Iraq and how you can support that work then I would recommend you read the following:
Resolved, whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then both carefully endeavor to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it
Jonathan Edwards resolution number 24
When you sin, trace it to the root cause not merely the action. Go back to the source of the sin, the temptation, the attitude, the unbelief; put it to death. Resolve to fight it until you die.
I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel recently and have reached the part where after returning from battle the women are singing:
‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.’ (1 Sam 18:7)
Saul did not like that, in fact that song made him very angry. Instead of rejoicing in the victory that his army had just won, he was more concerned about his popularity or rather David’s!
What did it matter who had killed the most people the most important thing was that Israel had won? However Saul could not see this as he allowed jealousy to consume him.
I wonder if we are ever like that. Maybe you were very popular at home / work / church but now someone else has appeared and people are starting to speak well of them. Some people might be saying that they are more gifted than you.
How should we react in these situations? Do you feel threatened? Do you feel jealous? Well we could do a lot worse than look at John the Baptist who, speaking of Jesus, said “He must increase and I must decrease.”
Jealousy is a horrible thing which will do us no good. Let’s rejoice when others do well and not be like Saul but instead copy John the Baptist’s example.
Yesterday I came across this very good sermon, “Caring for your soul” by Pastor Colin S. Smith, which was based on Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the spring of life.”
The following quotes are from this sermon:
You might say, “Well, only God can keep my heart.” That is like the farmer saying, “Only God can make my harvest grow,” and so he sits around twiddling his thumbs. Here God gives us a command, an active duty. This is something that God calls his people to do.
When you become a Christian, God gives you a new heart, a heart that loves God, a heart that trusts God. If anyone is in Christ he or she is a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come. But God also says to us: Keep your heart!
John Flavel wrote a book called, “Keeping the Heart,” in which he says,
“The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God. The greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God.”
Another wise writer was a man called Octavius Winslow, who began one of his books with these words:
If there is one consideration more humbling than another (any other) to a spiritually minded believer, it is that, after all God has done for him,after rich displays of his grace, the patience and tenderness of His instructions, the repeated discipline of his covenant, the tokens of love received, and the lessons of experience learned, there should still exist in the heart a principle, the tendency of which is to secret, perpetual, and alarming departure from God.
After all that God has done for you; after all your experience as a Christian; after all your service as a missionary or as a Christian leader, or however you serve the Lord, there still exists in your heart a pulling away from God. It is secret, and it is perpetual, and it is alarming.
John Bunyan is famous for writing “Pilgrim’s Progress.” But he wrote another book called “Holy War” in which he pictured the soul as a walled city surrounded by enemies. There are enemies outside the city who need to be resisted, and there are traitors inside the city who need to be tracked down and exposed.
The heart of a Christian is like a city that needs to be guarded. Your heart needs constant defending against the enemies on the outside and the traitors hidden inside your heart: “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)
The full sermon can be found here.