Monday, 25 August 2014

Above life itself

As we are seeing more and more of the violence happening in the Middle East, with stories of beheadings, mass murder and terror, we are reminded of the frailty of life. People in Iraq have been killed in great numbers and been forced to flee their homes because of their faith, many being Christians or other minority groups.  Had I been there at that time the same thing would have happened to me. It’s humbling that we as human beings are so vulnerable.
At the same time, there is great strength in the dedication these people have shown. As they face the choice of conversion, death or fleeing their homes, many have held firm to their faith, showing the world that there is something they value more than their lives here on earth. They place their trust in God, not because of what he guarantees to do for them but because they believe him to be true and worthy of all glory. They believe God to be good even when he doesn’t step in to rescue them but allows them to suffer and even die because they choose not to deny him. That is a faith that goes deep and despite the tragedy and horror of it all, I believe they have won a great victory.
Their courage challenges me to ask how genuine my own faith is and what requirements I have of God for him to be praised. Is Jesus Lord in my life because he is giving me what I want or simply because he is worthy to be Lord?
As the struggle for these people continue, we have a chance to show our support and concern by doing what we can. The Christians in Iraq are asking people all around the world to pray for their protection and provision. At the moment, the town of Amerli in Northern Iraq is in desperate need as they fear being massacred like other towns before them. They have been surrounded by Isis for 8 weeks, holding off the forces with women and children joining the men in arms, but are now critically low on food and water.
When faced with such a powerful threat like Isis, I believe the best thing we can do is to call on the Almighty God and ask him to step in with his strength and mercy. Starting from today, Christians over the world are joining together for five days of prayer and fasting for Iraq. Not only will this have an impact on the world but I believe it will also do something in our hearts as we are prepared to give up a little of our own comfort out of compassion for others.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

one body, one mind, one heart

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in us.
But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it only had one part! Yes, there are many parts but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you”. The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you”.
This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12

There is something fresh and alive about the way the Holy Spirit moves and shapes a church, equipping individuals with unique gifts and strengths, then fitting them together to become one body. It’s a powerful picture! A limb on its own, disconnected from the rest of the body, is lifeless and can do nothing. But when it finds its rightful place, it is a valuable asset, designed for a unique purpose.
When one part of the body is hurting, the rest of the body is affected and hurts with it. It’s the same in a healthy church, as people are knitted so closely together, that your pain becomes my pain and your gain becomes my gain. Where one part is weak, the other parts will step in with their strength. When one part is moving forward, the rest celebrate and move with it.  We are not individuals, competing against one another but we are one body, working together towards the same goal.
As living bodies need to be connected to a mind for them to function, so we, as a church body, are meant to come together under one head and authority. Jesus calls us to be his hands and feet. We are not the brains making the calls, we are the ones responding to his signals and putting them into action. We are not called to create our own mission but to hear God’s word and obey. As the same Holy Spirit leads each individual, we find ourselves living in unity.
I believe that, as God fits the different parts together as one body, connected to one head, he wants one heart to be at the centre. His. In the same way that our physical hearts pump blood to every part of our bodies, so the heartbeat of God should reach each one of us. What breaks the heart of God should break the heart of his church. What angers him, should also anger us. What pleases him should please us. We each have hearts as individuals that beat for unique causes but as one body, they come under submission to God’s greater will. Our selfish desires are exchanged for his desires. No longer is it all about us, but we find our place in the bigger picture.  We no longer live for our own profit; we have died to ourselves and now live for Christ.