Monday, September 09, 2013

Aid not Cruise Missiles Please!

The pictures from Syria could hardly be more horrifying. The official death toll of 100,000 is almost certainly under-estimated and the terrors of chemical warfare have rightly outraged the West, though sadly, not the whole world. Yet - is it going to help the situation to hurl cruise missiles into the mix? If the cost involved in doing so were to be diverted to humanitarian aid alone, then a small dent in human suffering may be won, but the missiles alone cannot hope to do anymore than add to the sum total of misery.

President Obama may also be missing one important piece of the jigsaw. Not only could the action he proposes cause mayhem in the whole region and bring great danger to already unstable areas like Lebanon and Jordan, both almost overwhelmed already by the existing refugee crisis, it could sign the death warrants of thousands of Christian believers in Syria. In Maloula for instance - 10 miles outside Damascus - is one of the oldest Christian towns in the world, where the Christians speak the ancient language of Jesus and the disciples. Now, the town has fallen into a violent back-and-forth as government forces have battled to regain control from the al-Qa’ida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra rebels, who first overran government roadblocks and entered the town last Wednesday. During the occupation by rebel forces Christians were reportedly told to convert to Islam or face beheading. Churches have been attacked and looted and now bodies lie in the streets. Fanatical Islamic fighters from outside Syria have joined extremist nationals to eradicate Christianity from this area. And all the while, the rebels wait for Christian America to start lobbing in their missiles in support of their cause!

I am not a politically minded person, but I find it hard to see how the actions the West has already taken in the Middle East have led to peace and democracy in Iraq, Libya, Egypt (where the West supported the original so-called Arab Spring) and Syria. I accept that Mosul is not Reigate and the kind of democracy which will work there will be very different to leafy Surrey, but throughout those areas, Christians are being persecuted, killed and forced out.  Ethnic cleansing may be the outcome if the US does not enter the Syrian war, but it is already going on and will be bolstered by them if they do.

 'I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness'. (1 Timothy 2:1).  So let's pray for the US Congress now that they may receive wisdom and exercise restraint in this complicated area.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Dealing with the Big 'D' - Disappointment

I woke at 4am on the 17th July 2013 and knew that I was in deep trouble. It had been 3 years since I had last felt like that but there was no mistaking the symptoms. Acute pancreatitis was back with a vengeance. Later that day, in hospital again for the 62nd time, I reflected on what had just happened.  Like a hurricane blasting through a well-kept suburban garden, the flimsy construct of my newly healthy image of myself lay in shreds. To call my feelings 'disappointment' is like asking 'is the Pope Catholic?' but when pain cleared enough for me to think rationally that's how I felt - disappointed.

Ironically, during the last year I have been asked twice to teach a seminar entitled 'Dealing with Disappointment' at Christian conferences. At both of them, Elim Bible Week 2013 and a New Wine regional conference, both my wife and I and even the organisers were surprised at the number of folk who attended. It goes against the grain of Pentecostal and Charismatic conferences to even address the issues surrounding disappointment and very few organisers are brave enough to put this kind of title into their line-up. But the people who came spoke warmly of the help they had found through our teaching. Now, in the painful aftermath of the last few weeks, I am having to relearn the principles and choose each day to keep trusting God and not analysing my pile of rubble too closely. After all, God has not changed and His calling on my life is just as clear and certain, so I need to focus on that and not on my sense of loss, confusion or fear.

Today a dear friend has sent me a link to a new version of the old worship song Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. I have found real comfort and encouragement in this great piece of music and found my heart warmed by its honesty and hopefulness. I love the second verse that says:
Oh frozen hope, oh broken dreams
Just like a boat tossed on the raging seas
You will walk on waves again
When you have set your gaze on Him...

So, I suppose I'm really saying - if like me you have woken recently to a real setback or disappointment - don't abandon your hope in God.  In fact, fix your eyes even more closely than ever on His love for you and His amazing plan for your life. After all, He is the God of the second chance - and the third and the fourth and the fifth...! Let's turn our eyes away from the situation to focus on the Christ who walked on the stormy waters that threatened to drown the disciples. And that's a choice really. Today I choose to trust Him and though my body or my circumstances do dismay, He is not a disappointment.