Chilean miners face almost certain death

The plight of the miners in San Jose, Chile has moved many people around the world. Mining safety experts say that the effort to save the 33 men trapped deep in a Chilean mine is an unprecedented challenge. It will mean months of drilling, then a harrowing 3 hour trip in a cage up a narrow hole about 26” wide carved through solid rock. Drilling of the hole will take up to 4 months and it will take 4 days to haul all the men up to the surface.

The miners will have to move more than 3,000 tons of rock as it falls into the area where they are trapped. They will have to work in nonstop shifts to remove it with wheelbarrows and industrial sweepers. The temperature in the mine is 85 degrees all the time. There are great concerns for the men’s physical and mental well being. Communication has been established and relatives and friends are doing everything they can to encourage them. A survivor of a similar mining crisis in America said, “If they make it, they will feel like they’re being born again.”

Not many of us have to face the real possibility of death as these men are. They are trapped and unable to save themselves. They are dependent on the skills of the rescue team to get them out of their prison, 750 yards underground. It is one thing to know that one day we will die; it is another to face the reality and have to wait in the hope that the rescue will be successful. If all goes well, as we pray it does, they will, indeed, feel that their lives have been given back to them.

Because we were helpless, God sent his Son into the world to be the Saviour of all who trust in him. He came to do what we cannot do for ourselves. It is so important for us to realize our need and to look to Jesus Christ for salvation. As we experience the love and grace of God, Jesus said we are born again. We begin a new life. The past is forgotten and we have a future hope. In one of his hymns Charles Wesley wrote, “Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night; thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon, flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”

Preparing to meet God

This is the time of year when students receive their A level and GCSE exam results. It is an anxious time! Some are elated as they achieve the grades they need to move on to university or sixth form. Others are very disappointed when they fail to achieve the necessary standard.

It is a crucial time in the life of each student. Success opens the way for the future; failure seems to cast a shadow, although this is by no means always the case. This year many A level students who had hoped to go to university will not find a place, despite having achieved good grades.

In the preparation for the exams teachers encourage their students to work hard in order to achieve the best possible grades. Not all students take the advice and some hope that by a combination of natural talent and good luck they will get through. Often, however, the exams reveal their lack of preparation and poor results follow.
In many aspects of our lives we face assessment. Most employees have some form of appraisal which indicates their performance and effectiveness in their job. It is good to be appreciated and praised, but not easy to take constructive criticism which indentifies areas of weakness and poor performance.

The Bible teaches that at the end of our lives we must all appear before God to be judged. This judgment will be totally fair and will be based on how we have kept God’s laws. There is no escape from God’s justice. Tyrants and evil people may seem to get away with their evil deeds, but God will call every one of them to account and they will be justly punished. History provides many examples of unspeakable wickedness. It is a great comfort to know that those who have done these things will give an account of themselves to God, who knows all things.

But the certainty of God’s judgment is a solemn thing for us all. None of us has kept God’s law. All have sinned and have fallen short of what God requires. I need someone to stand with me on that day who will be my Advocate and Saviour. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners like me. On that great day I will plead not what I have done, but what he did for me. It is my only hope.

Compassion for those facing disaster in Pakistan

The floods in Pakistan have been devastating. They began more than two weeks ago in the mountainous north-west of Pakistan and have swept south across a quarter of the country including its agricultural heartland. The monsoon rains continue to fall and have affected 20 million people in an area the size of England.

At least 1500 people have died and diseases like cholera threaten the lives of many more, especially children. People have lost their homes and possessions, their animals and crops and face a very uncertain future. They need food, emergency shelters, medicines and clean water. The long term economic consequences for Pakistan are very serious. This disaster is the latest in a string of disasters this year that have affected millions of people in many parts of the world.

We live on a very beautiful planet which provides a rich abundance of natural resources, enough to provide for everyone. Yet in several ways we are reminded that all is not well. Disasters reveal the massive power of natural forces against which we feel helpless. Human sin and corruption spoil and mar the lives of many and often contribute to the effects of natural disasters.

Disasters are not a sign that the people who experience them are especially sinful. Many who suffer are young children. In the Bible we are told of the experience of Job, a very rich man who lived a righteous life. Yet he suffered great personal tragedy as he lost his crops, animals, home and all his children. In the face of this tragic loss he put his trust in God saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

We often strive to understand why such things happen and want to find answers to our questions. The answers are at best tentative and partial. Job experienced something better. God didn’t answer all his questions, but he drew near to Job in his anguish and suffering. God showed him his compassion and mercy so that Job could say, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Let us pray that those who are suffering so much today will not only receive the humanitarian aid they so desperately need but will also know the compassion and mercy of God.

Love in action in Afghanistan

Last week 10 members of a medical team, working with the Christian organization International Assistance Mission, were shot dead in Afghanistan. One of those who died was a British doctor, Karen Woo. She died alongside 6 American and 1 German colleagues, and 2 Afghan interpreters, as they provided eye care in remote villages in North East Afghanistan.

The motive for the killing is unclear. The Taliban have claimed they were killed because they were Christian missionaries who were telling people about Jesus Christ. Others think the motive was robbery because all their possessions were taken. Whatever the motive, it was an act of mindless evil. International Assistance Mission has worked in Afghanistan since 1966 and provides medical care to ¼ million Afghans each year.

Karen Woo had given up a well-paid job, with BUPA, to work in Afghanistan for minimal financial reward. Her motive for doing this was a desire to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans and spread the word about their plight. On a visit to Kabul in 2009 she gained an insight into how the lives of ordinary Afghan people are being affected by the conflict. She knew that working in Afghanistan put her life in real danger. She was due to be married in 2 weeks time.

The murder of these people was an irrational act. The team was bringing desperately needed medical care to many people who will now have no one to help them. Our own reactions can also sometimes be irrational. We react against the God who made us. We feel, mistakenly, that our lives are better without him, yet every day he showers his blessings indiscriminately on us all.

The lives of the medical team were a powerful testimony to the difference Jesus Christ makes. They were willing to put their lives in danger in order to enrich the lives of others. They came alongside people of another nation and religion to show Christian love to them.

The example of this team reminds us of Jesus himself. He went around “doing good.” He brought healing and hope to many people and restored sight to blind people. Ultimately he came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As he hung on the cross he prayed, “Father forgive them.” Those who live and serve in the same spirit remind us of him and make this world a better place.

Good news in a world of trouble

Many of us are addicted to the news. We can tune into 24 hours news bulletins in at any time to see news of events around the world and can also be avid readers of the daily newspapers. Have you noticed that the vast majority of news items are bad news. Every day we are told of violent deaths, disasters, terrorism and economic troubles. Is it any wonder that many people suffer from depression?

I remember one man saying that he always turned to the back pages of the newspaper first, not so much because he was a sports fan, but because the back pages told him about human achievements rather than human failures. Sometimes, to alleviate the barrage of bad news items, news broadcasts finish with a small positive story, which is often humorous.

In daily life we often have to cope with bad news. Losing our job, being diagnosed with a serious illness or the death of someone we love will cause us considerable stress. As we grow older, bad news tends to become more frequent. We all have a great need for some really good news.

The message about Jesus Christ is good news. When Jesus was born the angels announced “good news of great joy.” At the beginning of his public ministry he proclaimed the good news of God’s Kingdom, calling people to turn from their sinful lives and to trust in him. This emphasis on our sinfulness is often seen to be negative, but much of the bad news we hear is related to people who have done bad things. Jesus said that we all need to change, whether we are religious or not.

It is a wonderful thing to know that a new beginning is possible. Sinful actions may offer a temporary happiness but, eventually, only bring us grief. Through Jesus Christ our sins, however many they are and, however serious they may be, can all be forgiven. Last week I watched a DVD of a church service in Moldova. The man leading the service and the 4 men leading the singing had all been members of the mafia but have now become Christians. Their lives have been transformed. They have given up their lives of crime and are now telling people about Jesus. Their lives have a new direction and new meaning and they want others to know Jesus too. Now that’s a really good news story which offers hope to us all.