Why Japan?

 

Mourning
Japan in mourning

It is now almost three weeks since northern Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and the resulting tsunami, leaving an expected death toll of 20,000 with more than 190,000 now living in temporary shelters. It is the potentially catastrophic condition of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima that keeps the story in the news, but let us not forget that life is very different now for many thousands of Japanese people.

“How could this happen to such an advanced society?” is a question on many people’s lips, but coming so soon after the latest New Zealand earthquake, we realise that Westernised societies are not immune. We are just as fragile. In fact our very vulnerability should cause us to reconsider our priorities. Is life really all about “me”; about a bigger house, a wider TV or a more expensive car? All these things were washed away by the tsunami. In circumstances like this, our priorities change. Surely people are the most important, our family, our friends, our colleagues, even those strangers we pass every day, who matter simply because they are, in a wider but very real sense, our neighbours.

Many are also asking “What is happening in the world?”; the global financial crisis, earthquakes around the Pacific rim, uprisings in the Middle East. Those who know and love the Bible have, like everyone else, been deeply moved and shocked by the scale of such tragedy. Nevertheless, the scriptures warn that such events will take place, and in increasing frequency, before Jesus returns. Although we would all love to live in a world free of disaster, we have to accept that we live in an uncertain world, and be prepared to entrust ourselves to the One who holds the future.

We can be assured that whatever happens around us, God is there to support us, to carry us through. Our ultimate security only comes through a relationship with Him. As it says in Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging …

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Belief

“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they believe in anything.” Attributed to the English writer, G. K. Chesterton, the above quote describes the difference between the sometimes irrational and superstitious beliefs of, for example, New Age spirituality, and the perspicacity of Judaeo-Christian belief. I once had a conversation with a pleasant and intelligent lady, who seriously believed that the late Queen Mother had been a lizard in disguise! I trust that the lady felt she had been listened to with courtesy and respect, even though inwardly I was surprised and saddened by her gullibility.

“When learned men begin to use their reason, then I generally discover that they haven’t got any.” is another quotation attributed to Chesterton, but is he correct? Check out the following short video clip of Deepak Chopra to decide.

As the Bible states: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

Let’s Pretend

Dressed as a princess
Let’s Pretend!

At some stage in our lives, and particularly as children, many of us have played at dressing-up; big hats, big shoes matching our equally large imaginations. We dreamed of who we could be, even who we would be one day. Sadly some have never stopped pretending. As adults their self-worth is based on the opinions of those around them. So they project an image of confidence and stability when really everything is falling apart, or a carefree image of fun and laughter when deep down inside there’s only sorrow and heartache. Sometimes our problem is a complex one for which there are no easy answers, possibly the result of past hurts caused by others who were responsible for our care; but for many the answer is to know and understand one’s true value as an important member of the human race.

You are not an accident! Your existence is not a chance meeting of two bits of jelly in your mother’s womb, or the random consequence of a chemical soup existing billions of years ago. You are special! Unless you are a doctor you would be hard-pressed to understand the physical processes that are going on within your body, but even the most experienced doctors could not create you from scratch. You are a miracle! And although some like to claim “Once I’m dead, I’m dead!”, our character, our emotions, our abilities, our sense of justice all point to the fact that I’m more, much more, than just flesh and bone.

The ancient scriptures remind us we have a creator, one who planned our existence that we may play our part in this world’s story, and may come to know him personally, this Divine Power who knows us through and through, even from before we were born!

King David, the greatest of the Hebrew kings, was well known for putting his thoughts to music. Much of his work is preserved today in the ancient “Book of Psalms” or “Tehillim”. In what has become known as Psalm 139 he describes the intimate relationship between the Creator and his Creation.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 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…

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. … When I awake, I am still with you. … Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139)