Friday, 17 December 2010

Make it a wonderful life

One of my favourite things about the festive season is the old movies that come on the T.V, especially the Christmas ones. The other day I sat down and watched, probably my favourite of them all; 'It's a wonderful life' with Jimmy Stewart. The story of a man called George who spends his life putting others before himself and sacrificing his own dreams and ambitions in order to help his family, friends and neighbours. Towards the end of the film, disaster strikes and it looks as though our hero is going to lose everything when his business faces bankruptcy. In desperation he contemplates suicide and wishes he had never been born. At this point he has an angelic encounter and realises that life is more than possessions and money in the bank. True riches is having friends and loved ones, and it is those same friends and loved ones who come to his aid when he needs it most.

Life is not about accumulating wealth and possessions, it is about touching peoples lives and leaving the world a better place than you found it. Putting other people first goes against the world's ethos, but it is at the heart of the gospel message. 'For God so loved the world that He gave.' God is a giver and God's people are, by their new nature, givers. This Christmas don't worry about how much stuff you accumulate, instead look at how many lives you can touch in a positive way. One man's gift is another man's miracle.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Freedom for Belarus

In 2008 my two friends and I embarked on a Christian mission to the nation of Belarus on behalf of “Ministries without Borders.” Our trip was part of a global outreach to make contact with Christians in every country represented in the United Nations, and show them practical support.

We chose Belarus as our destination knowing that it is the last remaining communist dictatorship in Europe, and that Christians are routinely discriminated against and oppressed in that country. We particularly wanted to meet a man called Slava Goncharenko, the pastor of New Life Church in the capital city of Minsk, whom we knew had been particularly oppressed by the Belarusian government. He is known in his own country as a man of tremendous courage, who has stood strongly against a brutal and unjust regime on behalf of His God and His people.

In less than twenty years the congregation of New Life Church has swelled from a handful of teenagers to over twelve hundred people. As the church grew it became increasingly difficult for them to find places to worship together. Not only does the Belarusian government not allow churches to own property, but was also it was also forcing the managers of theatres and other municipal buildings to close their doors to New Life Church. Against all odds the church managed to purchase a disused cow barn on some land on the outskirts of the city and convert the building into an auditorium to house the church’s meetings, as well as classrooms for the hundreds of children attending meetings.

Since the completion of the building the government has tried to repossess the land the building stands on. They have cut off the power and water going into the building and even brought troops and bulldozers onto the property to try and force the church to give up what they had legally purchased. At one stage the church went on a fast/hunger strike for almost three weeks in their own building as government officials stood outside. This protest drew media attention from all across the world and even support from the ambassadors of a number of nations including the U.S. While the Belarusian government has backed off from the tactic of removing the church by force from its land the oppression continues as an assortment of underhanded tactics are employed to harass and intimidate the Pastor and his people.

We have created a website which is intended to highlight their situation and rally support for Pastor Slava and New life Church. Please subscribe to the site and lend your voice to theirs. You can also purchase Pastor Slava’s book which tells their story in greater detail through this website. All profits from the book will go towards their ongoing struggle.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Not Ashamed

I watched a brilliant documentary on the BBC the other night, with Ian Hislop telling the story of "the do-gooders," or those folks who changed the face of British society for the better. People like William Wilberforce who spent a lifetime pursuing the abolition of slavery( among other noble causes) out of a strong faith in Jesus Christ and a belief in a society based on the Christian values of fairness and equality.

These days with the rise of aggressive and militant atheism in our country, and people like, the increasingly ludicrous, Richard Dawkins, peddling his intolerance and hatred, Christians can feel like keeping their head down rather than confront this half baked nonsense. While we still have rights we need to stand up and be counted for what and who we believe in.

Today has been designated "Not Ashamed Day" across the UK as Christians from a number of denominations stand up against discrimination by those who would seek to banish Christianity from public life. I really hope that it does not end with today, and that Christians everywhere will wear the symbols of their faith and unashamedly tell people that "Jesus IS Lord."