Complete Surrender- a biography of Eric Liddell

Complete Surrender is the title of a biography of Eric Liddell written by Julian Wilson. Most of us will be familiar with Eric Liddell through the film Chariots of Fire and his refusal to race on a Sunday in the 1924 Olympic Games. However outside of the film our knowledge of him might be limited.

Although the book is only 139 pages long I feel after reading it that I know the man very well. There are so many inspiring stories and testimonies of Eric Liddell packed into the biography.

There are quotes from those who knew him saying that he was the most Christ-like person they had ever met. His humility and selflessness shines through many times in the book. Even in the very difficult situations he faced in the last years of his life, which were spent in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, he still was putting other people before himself.

Interestingly someone said of him that he was basically very ordinary. He was not the greatest leader or cleverest person or even an inspired speaker. However Eric Liddell knew what he ought to do and just did it. This is one of the constant themes of the book, doing what is right even when that is difficult. He strongly believed that we should practice what we preach.

What was his secret? It was actually quite simple: the complete surrender of his thoughts, words, deeds and life to God.  Early every morning he would get up to pray (both talking and listening to God), read his bible and ponder the day ahead.

This is a very inspirational book and I would highly recommend it.

Great Expectations

Sometimes when we look ahead to a forthcoming event we are full of excitement and expectation of what it will bring. For example we may be looking forward to our summer holidays with great expectations of the enjoyable time we will have. However I wonder if our Christian life is also full of great expectations?

When we go to church each Sunday do we have an expectation that we will meet with God? I expect that if we are being honest we sometimes go out of habit and maybe our expectations are low or sadly maybe non-existent.

At my church once a month in the evening we have a modern contemporary worship service. I personally enjoy this service and generally speaking I have an expectation that I will meet with God during this time. However when I attend our normal morning service I do not have the same level of expectation. Why would this be?

I think part of the answer is that the evening service is monthly rather than weekly and the style of the service is significantly different to the normal format of worship I experience each week. It also helps that I’m not on any rotas for the evening service so I can 100% concentrate on it. However some of the fault obviously rests with me as I should be prayerfully preparing myself before I attend the morning service with a view to meet with God.

There is another church whose morning service I have attended a few times recently. I also find when I attend that church there is an expectation I will meet God during the service. When thinking about this particular church it’s fair to say that I really enjoy their times of worship. It seems to create an atmosphere where you just expect to meet with God.

It’s not just at church though where we should have great expectations to meet with God. There ought to be this expectation each day. When we read our bibles we should be expecting God to meet and speak to us through the scriptures. However there are occasions if we are being honest with ourselves when we can regard our bible reading as a tick box exercise. This is not how bible reading is supposed to be.

Likewise the same thing can happen with prayer too if we are not careful. When we pray it’s not just a case of going through our prayer list and then getting on with the rest of our day. Instead we come to the living God and through the blood of Jesus we enter into His presence. If we consider the wonder of this then we should be excited and amazed at the privilege we have. Hopefully this will lead to a great expectation of meeting God through this discipline.

So whether it’s attending church, reading the bible or praying let us have a great expectation that we will meet with God.

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

We have a second-hand bookstall at my church and I recently came across a copy of a book called 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman in the bookstall. Like many I enjoy singing the song 10,000 Reasons but did not realise that there was also a book with the same title.

In this book Matt Redman shares stories of how God has used the song 10,000 Reasons to sustain people in very difficult situations. In circumstances where you would normally expect to encounter hopelessness and despair instead there is hope, thankfulness and victory.

One of the recurring themes and challenges in the book is praising God in difficult and dark times. Both in the testimonies of others, as mentioned above, and in his own life Matt gives examples of worshipping  God in all seasons.

It is interesting to read of Matt’s development as a worship leader which started when he taught himself to play guitar at a young age. He shares how worship brought him closer to Jesus. Matt writes about experiencing that worshipping Jesus through music has bought healing into his life. We are told how the Psalms have been both a great source of inspiration and encouragement to him.

Matt speaks about the importance of emotion in worship. We are reminded in the book that worship is very often a decision. We all experience times when it’s a struggle but in those times need to decide we will worship. Importantly Matt also speaks about how worship is more than singing songs.

This is a very good book which is moving, uplifting and challenging too and certainly well worth reading.

Theresa May and Brexit

When they come to write the history of Theresa May’s time as Prime Minister you feel that it will be summarised in one short word: Brexit.

The whole Brexit process has dominated her time as Prime Minister. One of her first statements after becoming the leader of the Conservative Party was “Brexit means Brexit!” I would not be surprised if one of her final statements in her current role is also about Brexit.

Last Monday Theresa May gave a speech in the House of Commons in which she said that the deal for the UK to leave the EU was 95% done. However there still remains the problem of the Northern Ireland border with the Republic of Ireland. No-one it appears wants a return to a “hard border” but the “soft border” option means there will have to be some compromise somewhere.  The problem is no-one is that keen at the moment to compromise!

Personally I do not know how this impasse is going to be resolved. I do find the whole subject of Brexit confusing and certainly I do not have any magic answers to the problems of Brexit! It strikes me that we are in a mess and we somehow need some fresh and innovative ideas to resolve these problems. I certainly am glad that I’m not the Prime Minister.

On Sunday during our service someone reminded us that the scriptures instruct us to pray for our government. I think at this difficult time for Theresa May and her government the following words that Paul wrote to Timothy are ones we need to consider and obey:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Interesting that when Paul wrote these words the Romans were those in authority. They were rather different to a democratically elected government yet Paul still urged Timothy to pray for them. It’s so easy for us to criticise those in authority. Instead of criticising our government we should follow Paul’s instructions and pray for them. They certainly need our prayers at the moment!

 

Worship is more than singing songs in Church.

Often when I’m discussing a church service I attended I reflect on how I felt the worship went on that particular Sunday. I might say that we sang a couple of my favourite songs. Additionally I could say I really enjoyed the worship or perhaps I struggled to enter into it. Whatever my comment is it’s usually related to the songs that were sung in the service and my enjoyment of them.

Last Sunday at the end of our service we were reminded though that worship is more than singing songs in church. We worship God not just by singing but also by the way we live our lives. Every thought, word and deed forms part of our worship to God.

We worship God by offering our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice whether we are at home, work, study or play.

When we look at worship like that then it should totally change our attitude to it. It’s more than 30 minutes singing our favourite songs each Sunday. In fact it’s a 24/7 lifestyle!

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1)

The honesty of Psalm 51

One of the standout features of Psalm 51 to me is the honesty shown by David as he prayed the words of this wonderful prayer to God from his heart.

Nathan the prophet had come to see him, after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged the murder of her husband, to bring the king a word from God. This was a quite a courageous act from Nathan to confront the king with God’s word.

How would David react to Nathan’s word? Would he accept it or reject it?

David could have said:

  • I’m the king I can do what I like?
  • It was not 100% my fault. Bathsheba is partly to blame too.
  • I could not help it as she was very attractive.

However David does not respond like that. He acknowledges his sin before God, taking full responsibility for his actions and recognising his wickedness he prays:

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (v3-5)

If you are looking to use some scripture to aid you in asking God for forgiveness then this Psalm is a good place to look.

David was very honest about his sin before God. He confessed it and stopped trying to hide it turning to God in deep repentance. We can learn much from this.