The murder of 2 year old James Bulger in Liverpool 1993 shocked the nation. He was abducted from a shopping centre in Bootle and murdered by two 10 year old boys. They were the youngest convicted murderers in modern British history. The two boys were given a custodial sentence until they reached adulthood, initially until the age of 18, and were released on lifelong licence in June 2001.
The recent court appearance of Jon Venables on child pornography charges has brought the horror of little James’s death back into our minds. There are some crimes which are so serious that we struggle to know how to deal with them. We have deep sympathy and compassion for James’s father and mother, who must think about James every day and who long for justice to be done. They believe the boys who killed James have not been adequately punished for the terrible crime they committed.
None of us ultimately escapes the consequences of our sins. We are all accountable to God, “for we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Our sins are serious and God’s judgement will fair and just. On that day no-one will feel that justice has not been done. His judgement is final, there will be no appeal. This is a deeply solemn reality for us all.
The seriousness of our sins is also seen in the Cross of Jesus Christ. God sent his own dear Son into this world to be the Saviour of sinners. God’s only Son came to pay the price of our sins and to die in our place. We could only be forgiven if God’s justice was satisfied and “there was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, he only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.” Forgiveness has been secured at an awful cost, but the Cross of Jesus offers hope to us all.
On the day Jesus was crucified, two other men were also executed. One man died in bitterness, cursing Jesus, but the other man said to him “don’t you fear God? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Scientists from the universities of Sheffield and Warwick have provided an authoritative answer to the old conundrum, “Which came first the chicken or the egg?” Dr Colin Freeman from Sheffield has said ‘It had long been suspected that the egg came first, but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first.’ Using a super computer called HECToR, based in Edinburgh, scientists “zoomed in” on the formation of an egg. They identified a protein in the chicken’s ovaries which is crucial in kick-starting crystallization, the early stages of forming a shell. Predictably evolutionists have been quick to attack this discovery as contrary to the evolutionary theory so widely believed today.
More than 3000 years ago the book of Genesis declared, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The opening chapter describes the creative acts of God who, by his divine power and wisdom, brought everything into being, including animals and birds with the power to reproduce.
Faith in God’s creative power is so important. The universe is not an accident but has come into existence for his purpose. We are not simply links in a long and meaningless evolutionary chain, but people created by God to know and love him. Because of him each of us is valuable and our lives have meaning.
The sheer beauty and magnificence of the creation declares the glory of God to all people around the world. The creation tells us that God is good and has given us a beautiful world in which to live. We are not at the mercy of our own fears, or chance events, because the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.
One of the most amazing things about God’s world is the formation and development of a baby within its mother’s womb. David wrote, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Each new life is unique and precious in God’s sight. You and I matter to God because he created us and gave us life. He also sent his Son into this world, “born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those under the law.” Jesus Christ is the way to God and through him we find peace with God. He promises his presence now and the sure hope that one day we will live with God in a new creation where suffering, pain, crying and death will be no more
We have enjoyed a lovely summer with many sunny days. It is no surprise, therefore, that already hose pipe bans have been introduced in some parts of the country. Water is a valuable resource, essential for life, it must be conserved.
Jesus once met a woman by a well. He was on a long journey and was resting by the well. He was thirsty and she had come to draw water. Every day she went to that well to draw water and to carry it back to her home. Jesus asked her if she would give him some water to drink. She refused because she was a Samaritan woman and he was a Jewish man, and Jewish people normally had nothing to do with the Samaritans. In fact the woman’s need was greater than the need of Jesus for water. It is the same for us. We need God’s help rather than him needing our help.
Jesus spoke to the woman about her need and the weary routine of life, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again.” Even the most necessary and pleasurable experiences of our lives don’t last. He also spoke about the sadness and pain she had known in her life. She had been married five times and was now living with a man. She had been rejected and divorced by a series of husbands. The hurt and pain of it all must have been overwhelming.
Although the woman had rejected his request Jesus made it very clear that he was willing to help her. He told her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is speaking to you, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” She did not realise that she was speaking to God’s Son, just as many people today don’t recognise the uniqueness of Jesus. He is not just another religious teacher, but the Saviour of the world who meets our deepest needs.
We have only to ask him and he will give us new life. This new life brings deep inner satisfaction and peace in the midst of a troubled world. He told the woman, “those who drink of the water I give will never be thirsty again.” That day she came to know Jesus as her Saviour and her life was transformed. His promise still holds true, to all who ask him he gives the living water of new life and peace with God.
In the past month more coalition soldiers have died in Afghanistan than in any previous month. Many of them are young men. They died in a foreign land far from their families and home country. Our soldiers, alongside others, are seeking to protect the Afghan people from the Taliban and the world from terrorism.
As you read these words British soldiers will be on duty in Afghanistan putting their lives on the line again from snipers bullets and roadside bombs. All the soldiers I have heard interviewed have spoken with great dignity about their determination to do their duty. They know the dangers. They have seen some of their colleagues killed and maimed and know that one day the same thing may happen to them. Their courage is a great example to us all.
In a recent interview a senior soldier said, “There are no atheists on the battle field.” When men and women face the real possibility of death they inevitably ask vital questions which the rest of us seek to avoid. Many of us try to escape from reality and give little thought to the future and to eternity. When you carry the bodies of your fellow soldiers back to camp and know that you might be next it is important to find answers to the big questions.
The hope we all need is found in Jesus Christ. He died as a young man at the hands of those who hated him enough to want to kill him. Their hatred was irrational, but they saw him as a threat to their interests and their way of life. As he died he prayed, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Those who loved him took his body down from the Cross and lovingly laid him in the tomb.
On the third day Jesus rose from the dead! The tomb was empty and he appeared many times to his disciples. He gives a living hope to all who trust in him. The “intellectuals” of every age, in their comfortable little world, have scoffed at the idea and declared resurrection cannot happen. What do they know? Those who live in the real world, like the soldiers in Afghanistan, pray to the living God and commit their lives to Jesus. He always hears such prayers and promises that though we die yet shall we live.