Give us this day our daily bread

24-Hour news coverage is a feature of modern life. Millions watch the various television news channels for as much as 8 hours a day. There is a fascination with the latest “breaking news” and with the reports through the day which concentrate on the “big” stories. People are afraid of missing something important. When big events happen the news coverage is saturated with the various angles of the story.

News reports give the impression that they are helping us to stay in touch with the real world but many of the stories they cover are not relevant to our daily lives. At best news reports give us a small, selective, sample of what is happening in the world. I watched a programme recently on D R Congo which described the genocide in that country over the past 15-20 years in which more than 6 million people have died. The reporter said it was the largest number of deaths in any country since the Second World War, yet there have been hardly any reports about it.

Our daily lives are not newsworthy. Most of our time is taken up with the ordinary routine of life. It is encouraging, therefore, to know that God cares about us and our ordinary lives even though we will never make the news headlines! He knows about the stresses and anxieties we experience and he cares about us. We are living in difficult economic times. For many families, unemployed people and pensioners it is hard to find the money for their daily needs. Billions of people in the world live on less than a dollar a day.

Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they are?”

As the winter comes to an end there are more birds around. They wake early to find their food for the day. Perhaps you put food out for them because you care about them. Jesus said that his heavenly Father cares about us very much and knows what we need. So he taught us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven…Give us this day our daily bread.”

God makes everything beautiful in its time

The first day of Spring has arrived. The winter is over, although there may still be cold days and frosty nights to come.  The days are getting longer and the clocks will soon change. The spring flowers are out in abundance. Carpets of crocuses and banks of daffodils bring colour and beauty after the dark days of winter.

Some years ago a Romanian church leader, Richard Wurmbrand, was visiting the UK and was walking in the mountains of Wales. Richard had suffered at the hands of the communists in Romania and had spent years in prison, in solitary confinement, for his faithfulness to Jesus.  He met another walker who greeted him, “Good morning, it’s a lovely day isn’t it!” Richard replied, “Yes it is, have you thanked God for it?” After years in prison, Richard loved to be able to walk in the countryside. The beauty of God’s creation that morning reminded him of God’s goodness to him.

The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, found comfort in God as he lived through the dark days before his people went into Exile in Babylon. He wrote, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Those who know God and rejoice in all he has done love to sing praise to him. Eleanor Farjeon’s hymn simply expresses the joy of waking to each new day conscious of the goodness of God. “Morning has broken, like the first morning, blackbird has spoken, like the first bird; praise for the singing, praise for the morning, praise for them springing fresh from the word. Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from heaven, like the first dewfall, on the first grass; praise for the sweetness of the wet garden, sprung in completeness where his feet pass. Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning, born of the one light, Eden saw play; praise with elation, praise every morning, God’s recreation of the new day.”

As we enjoy the lovely days of Spring, let’s give thanks to God for them. There are many places of great sadness and suffering in the world today, but there is One in whom we can all find hope for the future. Whatever happens, we can say with the Psalmist, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker or heaven and earth.”  He is the One who makes everything beautiful in its time.

Be still and know that I am God

The pictures and reports of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan are heart breaking. The interview with Natsuko Komura, standing dazed where her house had once stood in Sendai city, brought home the devastating impact of the tsunami on thousands of people. She, with others, had escaped by car and had returned to find she had lost all she had and everyone she loved. She said, “Words fail me because there is nothing here, everything is gone.”

Amazingly 60 year old Hiromitsu Shinkawa, from Minami Soma city, was found alive, two days after the tsunami, sitting on the roof of his home 10 miles out to sea. He was waving a piece of red cloth as he clung to the wreckage. He said, “Several helicopters and ships passed by, but none of them noticed me. I thought that day was going to be the last day of my life.” His wife is still missing.

Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and has made extensive preparations for earthquakes in the construction of houses and other buildings and in the design of nuclear power stations. Yet, in the face of the devastating power of the earth and water they were as helpless as the poor people of Haiti last year or as the more affluent people of Christchurch recently. The pictures of the power of the tsunami made us all feel very weak and vulnerable.

How do we respond to these things? People from former generations, who had experienced similar tragedies, found strength in the living God. Psalm 46 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea, even though the oceans roar and foam and the mountains tremble as the waters surge! A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. God himself lives in that city; it cannot be destroyed. The Lord Almighty is here among us; the God is Israel is our fortress.”

The Lord Almighty gives us his strength to face the tragedies of life and also hope for the life to come. In the midst of trouble he says to us, “Be still and know that I am God.” Life in this world, for us all, is just for a time, but heaven, the city of God, is forever.

The Example of a Courageous Man

Last week Shahbaz Bhatti was murdered by Taliban gunmen in Islamabad as he was being driven to work. He was Pakistan’s Minority Affairs Minister and the only Christian at the head of the federal government.  Mr Bhatti was a Catholic and came from a family of poor farm workers. Born in a small village, he was elected in 2008 to a seat reserved for Christians, the largest group in Pakistan’s non-Muslim population.

For some time he had been the subject of death threats because of his opposition to the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. He spoke up when a 45 year old mother of 4, Aasia Bibi, was sentenced to death because she had been accused of criticising Islam. Those who murdered Mr Bhatti said they killed him because he, too, was guilty of blasphemy.

A few weeks ago Mr Bhatti, who was 42, made a video which was found after his death. He spoke of the desire of  al-Qa’ida and Taliban militants to kill him because of his stand against the country’s blasphemy laws. He spoke of his campaign against sharia law and for the abolishment of the blasphemy law and his commitment to speak for the rights of the oppressed and marginalised, persecuted Christians and other minorities. He said. “I will die to defend their rights.”

The example of Mr Bhatti is a challenge to us all in a violent and intolerant world. He was a man who graciously held to his clear convictions. He was not afraid to stand up for what he knew to be right. He was not cowed into silence by the threats of violence against him and spoke out fearlessly for those who are being oppressed. He demonstrated love and kindness not only for his fellow Christians but also for all who were in need of help. He continued fulfilling his responsibilities as government minister despite the fact that no protection was provided for him. Mr Bhatti was a man of true strength and courage, whilst the gunmen who killed him were weak and cowardly.

Mr Bhatti said he was inspired by the example of Jesus, who was also killed because he spoke the truth.  Jesus did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. Mr Bhatti knew Jesus as his Saviour and was ready to live and, if need be, to die for him.