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.

Death has been swallowed up in victory!

The debate on the Assisted Dying Bill provoked strong views on both sides. The Bill proposed giving people the “right-to-die”. If the Bill had become law then terminally ill patients in England and Wales with less than 6 months to live, who understood the alternatives, would have been able to make a choice about the time of their death. Doctors would have been able to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs which the patient themselves would have administered. After a full, and often emotional, debate the Bill was defeated by 330 votes to 118.

Death is a fact of life. All of us will one day die, but we don’t know either the time of our death or the way in which we will die. Recently I visited the place where a friend who died at the age of 80 is buried and nearby was the grave of the baby daughter of some friends of ours who died when she was just a few hours old. I have ministered to people struggling with cruelly disabling conditions such as multiple sclerosis and motor neuron disease and also those dying of cancer. I have felt the pain of families watching a loved one dying and have also seen the amazing love and care with which the dying people have been surrounded. The love of the family, and the dedicated care of nurses and doctors, has meant so much to the dying person.

It is right for us to ask questions about death and dying. Anyone who has watched and cared for a loved one who is dying has asked the questions death raises. What is the meaning of life? Why do we die? Is there hope beyond death? Is heaven real?

The answers to all the big questions of life are found in Jesus. He is the eternal Son of God and came into this world to give us hope. He lived a perfect life and then, in love, gave up his life when he died on the cross to take away the sins of the world. His resurrection on the third day was the glorious affirmation of the decisive victory he had won on the cross. The apostle Paul wrote, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Water of Life

Half of Britain is now in drought as we face the most severe water shortage since 1976. More than 35 million people are now living in drought-affected areas. Parts of the country are already drier than they were in the summer of 1976, when Britain experienced its worst drought for more than 100 years. Restrictions on the use of water have been imposed in many areas.

The water shortage presents us with a big challenge. Water is essential for life. We need it and so do our animals and crops. One of the reasons our earth abounds with life is because of the abundance of water. In the past we may have taken for granted the fact that we had a reliable supply of fresh drinking water, but now we have become aware how precious water is.

Jesus once met a woman at a well. She had come in the middle of the day with her water jar to draw water for her and her family and to carry it home. Many people in the world today still have to carry water to their homes. It is a tiring job which has to be done every day in order to sustain life. This woman spent most of the day doing the things necessary for her and her family to survive. Many times as she walked to and from the well she must have wondered what life was all about? How could she find meaning in her life amidst the drudgery of her everyday routine.

Many people today ask the same questions. Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Our secular society tells us there is no ultimate meaning to life. We just have to make the best of it. I’m so glad that isn’t true. Jesus knew the woman’s life was hard and that she didn’t know deep inner fulfilment. He said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Taking up this theme, Horatius Bonar wrote, “I heard the voice of Jesus say, Behold I freely give the living water – thirsty one, stoop down and drink and live! I came to Jesus, and I drank of that live-giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in him.”

The Water of Life

Water is very precious and is vital to sustaining life. Our little planet is, as far as we know, unique in the universe because of the abundance of water. Yet the East of England is experiencing a serious drought. A record dry 18 months, with virtually no rain this winter, has left rivers and reservoirs at critically low levels. These are the worst shortages for more than 90 years.

Some countries in Africa are experiencing very severe drought so that people and animals are dying. Since July 2011, a severe drought, the worst in 60 years, has been affecting the entire East Africa region. More recently aid agencies have warned about serious problems, because of drought, in West Africa, including Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso. We pray that rain will come and people’s needs will be met.

In John, chapter 4, we read of Jesus talking to a woman by a well in Samaria. She had come, in the heat of midday, to draw water from the well. Fetching and carrying water was hard work then, as it is today for many women in the world. The woman had experienced many problems in her life, including several broken marriages, which had really hurt her. Jesus spoke to her in a kindly way, even though her first response to him was negative. He revealed a real love for her and addressed her deepest needs.

Jesus knew that the water from the well could only satisfy the physical needs of the woman and her family for short time but, using the image of water, spoke of the deep and lasting satisfaction which comes from knowing him. He told her that she had only to ask him and he would give her “living water”. He went on to say, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

All of us want to find deep and lasting satisfaction. We want to know why we were created and the meaning of life. The answer cannot be found in religion, but is found in knowing Jesus. Many people, from all nations, have responded to his love, demonstrated in his death on the cross for our sins. As they have come to him they have experienced a deep peace and joy, as the woman did that day, which satisfies their deepest longings.

He came down to earth from heaven

NASA has just launched its most ambitious ever mission to Mars. An Atlas V rocket took “Curiosity”, the one ton Mars Science Laboratory, on the first stage of its 8 month, 354 million mile journey to Mars, travelling at 3200 mph. This complex project, which has cost £1.6 billion, is intended to discover whether there has ever been life on the Red Planet. Curiosity, which is the most powerful, capable and complex planetary rover ever built, will spend 2 years travelling over a small part of the surface of Mars seeking evidence of life, past or present. The project is an amazing example of the skills of scientists.

The principle of life is wonderful and mysterious. It is supremely precious and fragile. It seems to require more than simply water and the right environment or to be a mere chance event. Rather it is something that has been given to us by an awesome Creator who is powerful and wise. He is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being. We can speak to him where we are, and he hears us and cares. He is concerned for us all from the smallest child to the frailest elderly person. He cares for people of all races and languages. His promise is, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

We will soon be remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. In the words of the carol, “He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all, and his shelter was a stable, and his cradle was a stall: with the poor and mean, and lowly, lived on earth our Saviour holy.” Jesus was more than a good man or a wonderful religious teacher. He was the Son of God, who took human nature and lived for a time among us. He came to show us what God is like and to reconcile us to God.

God created us with amazing abilities, as the Curiosity project demonstrates. We share in a little of his amazing creative skill. The meaning, significance and relationship we all seek, and so much need, will not be found through an exploration to a remote, rocky planet. Millions of ordinary people, in all parts of the world, have found the key to life in receiving the Jesus Christ as Saviour, Lord and God.

Remember your Creator

For many weeks the main item on almost every news programme has been the economic crisis in Europe. The struggles of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy have been analysed in great detail. These countries, and the UK, have massive debts as a result of government over-spending and these debts threaten the economic stability of the whole Euro zone. The solution is a combination of high interest loans and austerity measures which will impact many people. Millions of people, including many young people, have no job and most of us will have to tighten their belts.

In Europe we live in a consumer society. Consumerism is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts. We are encouraged to buy things we don’t really need with money we haven’t got. This is in contrast to the millions of people around in the world who survive on a dollar a day. For them life is about survival. They have no extras and are grateful if they have one meal of rice a day. The child mortality rate is high and life expectancy low.

In the Western world consumerism has developed over the past 60 years as we have enjoyed an increasing standard of living. We judge ourselves and others in terms of how much money we have and the designer goods we own. The mantra of consumerism is “I shop, therefore I am!” The range of goods available in our supermarkets is an attempt to meet the growing demands of consumers for greater choice. But now we are being brought back to reality and the impact on our societies will be great.

Solomon was a great king who was renowned for his wisdom and his wealth. He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, which is in the Bible, and reflected on the meaning of life if we live simply for money or pleasure. He recognised the ultimate meaninglessness of life if we live for material things and forget the living God. His book is a tract for our times. He wrote, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, I find no pleasure in them.”

Which came first the chicken or the egg?

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