The water of life

Cape Town, a beautiful coastal city, is running out of water. The second largest city in South Africa, and tenth largest city in Africa, has been affected by a 3-year drought, a greater than normal increase in population and ineffective administration. If dam levels continue to decline the city taps will run out by June. Water restrictions are already in place limiting daily consumption per person to 50 litres a day. In this very modern city people are already queuing to draw water at the 200 stand pipes that have been set up in the streets. Many people are praying earnestly for God’s intervention and help.

Earth has been called “The Water Planet”, with 71% of the planet’s surface covered by water. Yet in many parts of the world there is a serious water shortage. Water is essential to sustaining life and drinking unsafe water causes illness and many deaths. 844 million people in the world do not have access to safe water. 2.3 billion people do not have access to a toilet. Many women and girls spend 6 hours every day collecting water for themselves and their families. More people have a mobile phone than access to a toilet!

The worldwide water crisis reminds us of another very real crisis that touches the lives of us all. Whether we live in a rich or a poor country there is an inner dissatisfaction that leaves us unfulfilled at the deepest level of our being. Jesus once met a woman at a well in Samaria. It was the middle of the day and very hot, the sun was at its height. Jesus was on a journey and was thirsty and the woman had come to draw water for herself and her family. When Jesus asked her for a drink the woman refused because of a longstanding dispute between Jews and Samaritans.

Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Through her conversation with Jesus that day the woman’s life was transformed. She still came to the well every day to draw water but now, through Jesus, God’s gift to the world, her life had new meaning and her deepest needs had been met.

Teach us to pray

Tearfund, a major Christian relief and development charity, recently commissioned a survey on prayer. Over 2000 adults took part in the survey which revealed that more than 50% of people in Britain pray. One in three people pray regularly at a place of worship. Many people also pray as they go about their daily activities in the home, as they travel and exercise, and before they go to sleep.

People pray to thank God and to ask him to bless their family and friends, especially in times of illness. More women (56%) pray than men (46%) and even some who would describe themselves as “non-religious” pray in times of crisis and desperation. Previous surveys revealed that more teenagers and people in their early 20s are likely to pray than their parents’ generation. Younger people tend to be more conscious of the needs of others and often pray for peace in the world and for an end to poverty.

Jesus’ disciples once asked him to teach them to pray and he taught them what we call The Lord’s Prayer; “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: for yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

This is a wonderful example of how to pray. Our prayers don’t need to be long or complex as if we need to impress God with fine words. The Lord’s Prayer is so simple a young child can say it. When we pray we focus our thoughts on the one true, living God, the creator of all things. We are small and vulnerable but he is almighty and gracious. His name is holy, and he is worthy to be praised. Wherever his kingdom comes on earth there is a foretaste of heavenly joy and peace.

We can ask him for our daily food and to forgive us for the wrong things we say, think and do every day. All of us need his protection in the face of the temptations to sin and many evil influences that are all around us. And, amazingly, Jesus taught us that we can know God, in an intimate way, not as some remote, impersonal power, but as our heavenly Father who knows us and loves us!

Inspiration from the Summer Paralympics

The 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro has been a great event as disabled people from all over the world have displayed remarkable abilities. Some of the athletes have been born with disabilities and others have become disabled through an accident or illness. Some are former soldiers who have been injured in battle. The stories of many of the athletes are an inspiration to us all.

Sinna Kaastrup, from Denmark, was born without legs. At Rio Sinna, riding her horse Smarties, won a bronze medal in the International Championship test grade 1b. Sinna uses a soft, treeless saddle with two handles, and carries a dressage whip on each side, but has nothing else to help keep her in the saddle. She generates so much power using just her seat that 15-year-old Smarties responds amazingly to her commands.

Ibrahim Hamadtou, from Egypt, competed in the Men’s Singles Table Tennis competition. Ibrahim, who is now 41, lost both his arms in a train accident when he was 10 years old. He serves by flicking the ball up with his foot and hitting it with a bat held in his mouth. He didn’t win either of his matches at Rio but won a silver medal in the 2013 Egyptian Championships. For Ibrahim playing in the Paralympics was a dream come true.

When tragic events happen to us it may seem as if a fulfilling life is impossible. When Sinna was born her parents were probably devastated that she had no legs, but she has developed riding skills that are equal to, if not greater than, many able-bodied riders. Ibrahim’s parents may have felt as if their world had come to an end when he lost his arms in the train accident but, today, he is a wonderful example to us all of someone who has overcome adversity. Sinna and Ibrahim have become the people they are today through their tragic experiences.

In this life our bodies are fragile and will, one day, wear out. The Bible promises us that, because of the death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus, everyone in heaven will have a new body free from all weakness and disability. In his letter to the Christians at Philippi the apostle Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Be still and know that I am God

No other generation has been bombarded by words, both spoken and written, as we are today. Daily newspapers and magazines provide news and comment on current events. Television 24 hour news channels communicate information from around the world. Chat shows and phone-in programmes offer the opportunity for people to express their views. Social networking enables millions of people to publish information about themselves. People send and receive text messages from family and friends. Many struggle to cope with the increasing volume of emails at work and at home. In every sphere of life word processors churn out long and complex documents. The internet provides vast quantities of information.

Yet amongst all these words there are very few that really matter and significantly impact our lives. However, some words can really make a difference. In the Bible God has communicated his truth to all people in every generation. Through reading the Bible, millions of people have discovered truth by which they can live and a Saviour whose amazing love they can experience. The words of the Bible have a wonderful depth and calm authority because they are God’s words.

A minister was visiting an elderly lady who belonged to his congregation. She was recovering from major surgery and was confined to bed. The minister asked her what she had been doing that day. She said, “I have been thinking about those words in Psalm 46, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Today I have been thinking especially about the words, ‘Be still.’” That day they talked about how, in the busyness of life, we don’t find time to be quiet and think about God.

The next time he visited the lady she told him she had been thinking about the words “and know” in the same verse. They talked about the privilege of knowing God personally. On the next visit they spoke about the words, “that I” and reflected on God’s eternal nature and that he is unique. Then on the fourth visit they spoke about the words, “am God” and rejoiced in the God who created all things and who sustains all things. That one short sentence from God’s Word had wonderfully spoken to this lady’s heart and assured her of his love and care for her in a time of weakness. How good it is for us all to find time, in the midst of the noise and rush of life, to be still and to listen to what God says.

The God of hope

One of our great needs as we enter a new year is hope. The problems of our world are great and there are no easy solutions. In our personal lives or our families we may be experiencing sadness and pain. Even the dark and damp days tend to depress us. So we don’t find it easy to be optimistic.

Real hope is found in God. Secular humanism, which is energetically promoted by some, offers no hope. The apostle Paul prayed a remarkable prayer for some early Christians, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.” This is a prayer we can make our own for the coming year as we put our trust in the God of hope. How does God give us hope whatever our circumstances may be?

God helps us to deal with the past. Our memories of the past can cast a long shadow over the future. All of us have reason to be troubled by our past sins. Other people may also have done bad things to us. We need to find forgiveness and to be able to forgive. In Jesus God provided a way for us to be forgiven. When he died he suffered the punishment our sins deserve. The moment we receive Jesus as our Saviour we are forgiven and have nothing to fear. Through experiencing God’s forgiveness we also find the grace to forgive others.

God promises to provide our daily needs. As we enter a new year we may be anxious about how we will be able cope financially and pay the bills. We may have lost, or be in danger of losing, our job. What a difference it makes to be able to pray to God and trust him to provide all our needs. Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father in heaven, give us this day our daily bread.” God knows our needs. We can bring all our anxieties to him and trust him to help us.

God gives us hope for the future. None of us knows what will happen in the coming year. All may go well or we may face serious illness or even death. Jesus is a living Lord who gives us a certain hope whatever happens. When we trust in him he promises, “Because I live you will live also.” Nothing that happens can rob us of the hope Jesus gives us when we trust in him.