Prince George is born

The birth of Prince George has been welcomed around the world. The joy of Kate and William in the safe arrival of their son has been plain for all to see. The birth of George has been a very public event, but the most important things have happened in private. A young couple, who are very much in love, have experienced first the wonder of conception and now of birth. A precious little life has been committed to their care and already George has felt the security of the warm embrace of his mother and father. They love him and will do everything they can to care for him and protect him. George is a precious gift from God to them.

Long ago King David reflected on the wonderful way in which God had created him. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”

William and Kate, too, have marvelled at the way in which George has grown and developed within the protection of his mother’s womb. Every detail of who he is has been ordained by God – his little fingers and perfect nails and the similarities he bears, even as a baby, to his mother and father. The greatest thing about George is not his royal descent, but that he has been created in the image of God. He is unique human being who, like us all, has been created to live in daily fellowship with his Creator and to experience the love of the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

None of us can know what lies ahead of Prince George, but his little life is full of immense potential. King David recognised his dependence on God’s wisdom and guidance. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” We pray that at this very special time, and in all the days to come, William and Kate, and baby George, will know the wonder of God’s love for them and his care expressed in every detail of their lives.

Living and dying in hope

C S Lewis, who wrote “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, had links with North Wales. His great-great-grandfather was born in the village of Caergwrle, near Wrexham. The neighbouring village is called Hope and a local pun, which is still current today, is “Live in Hope and die in Caergwrle.” This saying often comes to mind when I read the obituary columns in national newspapers. The obituaries can be very interesting as they give a brief account of the lives of well-known people. Many have served their country with distinction. Two things which are almost always absent, however, are the cause of death and any reference to their personal faith in God.

Wherever we live, and whatever we do, it is so important that, when the time comes for us to leave this world, we “die in hope!” The early Christians suffered severe persecution. Many of them died as martyrs in the Colosseum in Rome. Men and women, and even children, were thrown to wild beasts as a form of entertainment for wealthy Roman citizens. These Christians died a terrible death, but they died in hope.

The apostle Peter, who himself would later be executed by the Romans, wrote letters to encourage Christians who were experiencing persecution. In his first letter Peter wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.” Christian hope is unique because it is based on a unique event, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus died a terrible death but, on the third day, he rose from the dead. His resurrection transformed his disciples. He then sent them out to proclaim the good news of a living hope to people of all nations.

The story of our lives is still being written. For us all our lives are a mixture of achievements and failures. Few of us will have an obituary in a national newspaper! That doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that we die in hope! An old hymn says, “Be near me, Lord, when dying; O show thy cross to me; And, for my succour flying, come Lord to set me free; These eyes, new faith receiving, from thee shall never move; For he who dies believing dies safely through thy love.”

It’s not cricket!

Moral standards are changing. There was a clear example of this in the first Ashes Test between England and Australia. The match was at a critical stage when Stuart Broad edged the ball and was caught by a slip fielder. The umpire did not see the ball hit Stuart’s bat and said he was not out. Stuart knew he had hit the ball, but stood his ground and continued batting, to the dismay of the Australian team.

In the past it would have been accepted practice for a batsman who hit the ball and was caught, even though the umpire did not see it, to declare himself out. This kind of integrity gave rise to the phrase, “It’s not cricket”, which describes unacceptable behaviour, something which is just not done. When the television pundits discussed the incident, many did not condemn Stuart’s action. Their reasons were that the umpire’s decision is final; other teams do it; or other team members would frown on any action which jeopardised their chances of winning the match. As it happens, the extra runs scored by Stuart and his partner after the controversial incident did mean that England won the match.

The Ten Commandments set out God’s moral principles. They are commands, not good advice, and form the essential moral basis for all human society. One of those commands is, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.” Truthfulness matters to God, who sees and knows all things. Stuart’s actions were witnessed by tens of thousands of spectators and millions of people who watched the endless television replays and analysis. He knows, and so do we, that he acted dishonestly. In the heat of the moment he did the wrong thing.

It is easy, however, to stand in judgement on others and not to face our own personal responsibility for what we do. How should we respond when we do wrong things? We must never try to justify our wrong actions and certainly not try to change the rules so that what was wrong is now right. The way to put things right is to acknowledge our sin, to seek God’s forgiveness and, with his help, to promise never to do it again. The Bible says, “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”

Andy Murray wins at Wimbledon

Andy Murray’s triumph at Wimbledon has brought great joy to him and his family, to the town of Dunblane and to the nation. The long wait for another British men’s champion is over. It was a fiercely contested match, in 40C heat, between two men who know each other well. Novak Djokovic is just 7 days older than Andy and both have committed their lives to becoming tennis champions. Novak left Serbia at the age of 12 to go to Germany to learn his skills. Andy left Dunblane when he was 15 to train in Spain.

Andy has experienced great sadness as well as triumph. He was a pupil at Dunblane Primary School when a local man shot 17 people. Andy’s class was due to be the next in the gym where the shooting took place. This year Andy’s best friend, and former doubles partner, Ross Hutchins, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As Wimbledon began Andy said, “Tennis obviously means a lot to me, but at the end of the day my tennis career is going to be, I hope, seven or eight years more, but there’s a lot more to life than just playing tennis.” Ross was at the Centre Court to see Andy win the title.

Andy has achieved success through hours of great physical and mental effort. He has steadily improved through dedication and patience in the face of disappointments. He said, “I think I persevered, that’s really been it, the story of my career probably. I had a lot of tough losses, but the one thing I say is I think every year I always improved a little bit, every year my ranking was going in the right direction.”

Andy exemplifies very important qualities and insights. The triumphs of life are very brief and transitory. We learn far more through the hard things, such as disappointments, setbacks and tragic events. A Christian song affirms this, “I walked a mile with pleasure, she chatted all the way, but I was none the wiser for all she had to say. I walked a mile with sorrow, not a word said she, but O the things I learned that day when sorrow walked with me.” Sad experiences remind us of our mortality and point us to the ultimate realities of eternity. The apostle Paul wrote, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever.”

A Vision of Heaven

Large crowds of people are demonstrating around the world. Tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets in protest about the policies of their governments. In Turkey the protest began because a large park in Istanbul is going to be turned into a shopping centre. In Egypt the protest is against the policies of the newly elected President. Sometimes the protesters have been dispersed with water cannon and tear gas.

In Brazil the people are protesting at the large sums of money being spent on hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016. They want the government to address the needs of the millions of poor people, including those living in the favelas found in all the large cities of Brazil. These people live in shacks with no sewage systems or supplies of clean water. Brazil has one of the most successful economies in the world, but the people see the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer. The President of Brazil seems ready to respond to the protesters.

All of us long to find true happiness and fulfilment, and it can be found. True fulfilment is found in God, who created us. The Bible calls this eternal life, which begins here on earth and continues in heaven. In Revelation 7 there is a vision of a joyful crowd of people that no-one can count, from every nation, tribe, people and language. They are standing before God’s throne and in front of Jesus, the Lamb of God. They are wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cry out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

These people are rejoicing because God has delivered them from all the sufferings and troubles of this life. They had not cried out to earthly rulers, but to Jesus, who is the King of kings. He heard their cry and brought them safely to heaven. “Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”