When a Boy falls in love with a Girl: When a Sinner invites Christ to come in to his Heart.

WEDDINGS AND ANNIVERSARIES

This weekend, my neighbors, friends and part of my church family will celebrate fifty years of Christian marriage. A wonderful blessing indeed! For themselves, children and many grandchildren.  I just love weddings and celebrations of love and commitment. For love is not just, according to Shakespeare, ‘ a many splendored thing’, but a great mystery.

( Missed the wedding but caught up with them over the summer holidays)

Who really knows what happens when a boy falls in love with a girl? Or when a girl is ‘ smitten’ with love for a boy! And as I write, strains of Sam Cooke ( one of my favourite singers as a boy….yes know it dates me, but trust me, and I know what I am talking about, it was much safer to fall in love back in the day), and his take on what happens when a boy falls in love, comes into my mind.

When a Boy Falls in Love

Lyrics

Sam Cooke

I’ve heard them say love was a wonderful things
Something you couldn’t hide on a shelf
But for me they no longer have to explain
Because I know for myself

He awakens each morn with a smile on his face
When a boy is in love
And the world to him is a beautiful place
When a boy is in love
He’s up and he’s gone
There’s no breakfast for him
Cause he lives on the love of his sweet little gem
The days not through, though it’s not very long
Before he must talk to his girl on the phone
That’s how it is when a boy falls in love

His girl’s voice on the phone brings him wondrous delight
When a boy is in love
If there’s been any darkness, it all fades from sight
When a boys in love
He can hardly wait til the moment they meet
For he knows when he sees her his day will be complete
When they’re finally alone and he kisses her lips
The world sings a love song and his heart turns a flip
That’s how it is when a boy falls in love

At the end of the day the time comes they must part
The strings of regret tear away at his heart
And late in the night as he sleeps on his bed
Visions of her sweet song, how they dance in his head
And before you know he is buying a ring
To capture forever that sweet darling thing
That’s how it is when a boy falls in love
That’s how it is when a boy falls in love

Songwriters: Sam Cooke / Clint Lavert

Days of Meritone and dancing the night away – if you could not dance you could not impress a young lady. Days of eventually borrowing your father’s car to go and visit your girl; after spending many hours on ‘ Jolly Joseph ‘ ( the name we gave the bus). Days of ‘bathing’ in Brut cologne to impress your lady love. A time when you were unafraid to travel the streets of Kingston no matter how late it was, as Jamaica had no ‘ shottas’ in those days. A time of great peace – when a boy fell in love.
And so ‘ get married ‘ is a constant, and now expected, discussion, in my office. Along with ‘ start exercising ‘!

BOY AND GIRL: SINNERS AND CHRIST

But, have mercy, if the love that a boy has for a girl is so powerful and such a mystery, and leads eventually, we hope, to a solid and lasting Christian marriage, how much more it is when, ‘ we fall in love’ with Christ‘; our Lord and Savior! Which leads to Salvation and Eternal Life. And when we invite him to come into our hearts as Lord and Savior!

This, ‘ Reaching a Decision’, is what occupied the mind of the late theologian and Pastor John Stott ( an Anglican Evangelical) towards the end of his classic book ” Basic Christianity ‘.

 

 

Part One: Who Christ is?

– The Claims of Christ
– The Character of Christ
– The Ressurection of Christ

Part Two : What we need

– The Fact and Nature of Sin
– The Consequence of Sin

Part Three: What Christ has done

– The Death of Christ
– The Salvation of Christ

Part Four – How to Respond

– Counting the Cost
– Reaching a Decision
…..which section begins thus:

” The idea that a decision is needed in order to become a Christian strikes many people as very strange. Some imagine that they are already Christians because they were born in a Christian country…..

Others think that if they have been brought up in a Christian home and taught to accept the Christian creed and Christian standard of behavior, nothing further is required of them.

But whatever our background and upbringing, each of us as responsible adults must make up our minds for or against Christ. We cannot remain neutral. Not can we drift into Christianity. Nor can anyone settle the matter for us. We must decide for ourselves.

Even to agree with all that has so far been written in this book is not enough. We may admit that the evidence for the deity of Christ is compelling, even conclusive, and that he was in fact the Son of God; we may believe that he came and died to be the Savior of the world; we may also admit that we are sinners and need a Savior. But it isn’t these things that make us Christians.
To believe certain facts about who Christ is and what he has done for us is a vital first stage, but true faith must turn such mental belief into a decisive act of trust. Intellectual conviction must lead to personal commitment.”

Stott continues ( look out for commitment in marriage and commitment to Christ).

” One verse in the Bible that has helped many seekers ( including myself) to understand the step of faith we have to take focuses on the words of Christ himself. He says:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they with me”.

https://goo.gl/images/WvVJk7

The Light of the World is an allegorical painting by the English Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door

…….This involves repentance, turning decisively away from everything we know that displeases him. Not that we make ourselves any better when we invite him in. On the contrary, it is precisely because we cannot forgive or improve ourselves that we need him to come in to us.

But we must be willing for him to do whatever rearranging he likes when he has come in. There can be no resistance and no attempt to negotiate our own terms, but rather an unconditional surrender to the Lordship of Christ. What will this mean? I cannot tell you the details. But in principle it means a determination to forsake evil and follow Christ.

Do you hesitate? Do you feel it is unreasonable to submit to Christ in the dark? It really isn’t. It is much more reasonable than marriage, for example. In marriage a man and a woman commit themselves to each other unconditionally ( and to do that successfully with the help of God for 50 years, is a tremendous achievement….Congrats Vin and Bev Lawrence).

They do not know what the future holds for them. But they love each other, and they trust each other. So they promise to take each other, ” to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part”.

If human beings can trust one another like this, surely we can trust God’s Son! It is more reasonable to commit oneself to him than to the finest human being. He will never betray us nor let us down.”

Finally Stott closes this section – Reaching a Decision – with this recommendation. A recommendation I accepted and knelt down and prayed for Christ to come into my heart. For as much as I love my wife of 40 plus ( that’s the most I will admit to at this stage) years, it is Christ and Him Crucified alone to whom ‘ my Halleluiah belongs’. Not wife, not children, nor even our wonderful grandchildren

” Are you a Christian? A real and commited Christian? Your answer depends on another question – not whether you go to church or not, believe the creed or not, or lead a decent life or not ( important as all of those are in their place), but rather this: on what side of the door is Jesus Christ? Is he inside or outside? That is the crucial issue.

Perhaps you are ready to open the door to Christ. If you are not sure whether you have ever done so, my advice to you would be to make sure, even if ( as someone has put it) you will be going over in ink what what you have already written in pencil.

I suggest you get away by yourself to pray. Admit your sins to God, and resolve to be done with them. Thank Jesus Christ that he died for your sake and in your place. Then open the door and ask him to come in as your personal Lord and Savior.

You might find it a help to echo this prayer in your heart:

Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge that I have gone my own way. I have sinned in thought, word and deed. I am sorry for my sins. I turn from them in repentance.
I believe that you died for me, bearing my sins in your body on the cross. I thank you for your great love.
Now I open the door. Come in, Lord Jesus. Come in as my Savior, and cleanse me. Come in as my Lord, and take control of me. And I will serve as you give me strength, all my life. Amen.

If you have prayed this prayer and meant it, humbly thank Christ that he has come in. For he said he would. He has given his word: ” If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them.”
Don’t worry about how you may or may not be feeling, but trust his promise and thank him that he has kept his word.”.

Final Comment : Thank him also using the words of wonderful hymn.

” My God, Iove thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
nor yet because who love thee not
are lost eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me
upon the cross embrace;
for me didst bear the nails and spear,
and manifold disgrace,

and griefs and torments numberless,
and sweat of agony;
yea, death itself – and all for me
who was thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesu Christ,
should I not love thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
nor of escaping hell…….

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Political Freedom and Spiritual Freedom: Happy Independence.

Back in Jamaica. Just this afternoon! Good to be back. Great to spend my vacay, as my young people call it, with family and friends. But home is just home! Especially on Independence Day.

After spending three weeks in 24/7 A/C, the heat, however, it will take some time for me to adjust to it.
Did you see the video showing a budding entrepreneur and engineer, cooled down his ” hot room”, with ice, and fan and a ‘ contraption ‘. He really ought to win some kind of prize.

While I was away, I had time to read a few books. Martin Luther king Jr by William Robery Miller, was the first one. It’s very difficult to read about the laser-like focus, the passion and the sacrifice, that characterized the life of this amazing human being, and not wonder what injustice, which great social and moral blot on the nation’s conscience, needs our urgent attention. On Independence Day! By people of faith, who have been ‘ set free’, from Sin and Death by the shed Blood of Christ!
For, ‘ if the Son shall set you free, you are free indeed’.

For to be set free from Colonial Rule by the British, is one thing, but quite a different matter to have economic freedom, and to have a sense of dignity and self-worth. And thus I was inspired to post this message on Facebook:

FACEBOOK

Mini Independence Message for Christians from ‘ back in the day’. As they said in Angola during the war for independence ‘ A luta continua ‘. Therefore for people of faith, and in fact, for all people who love this country, believers and unbelievers, ‘ the fight’ for the hearts and minds and souls of our people, ‘ enslaved’ by poverty, political tribalism, Dons and criminal enterprises, physical and sexual abuse of our women and children, corruption in high places, materialism, cultural imperialism and Sin, continues. Even as we celebrate Independence from Colonial Rule!

And the Church, the conscience of the nation must be in the vanguard of the ‘ luta ‘. And not be part of the status quo. For that was not the understanding of church and it’s role in society as taught to us by Deacon Sam Sharpe and Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Marcus Garvey and other unsung National Heroes. Nor the way of He who started the Church; Christ the Crucified One.
A message which clearly is not directed at all Christians. But definitely for some, if not most of us. I accept it as a gentle, and perhaps not so gentle rebuke, and reminder. For the sake of this beloved and blessed nation, I hope all of us agree.

MESSAGE

It will feel very much like a fight indeed. J. C. Ryle ( The Anglican Bishop of Liverpool in the late nineteenth century) wrote:

“True Christianity is a fight….There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity.

It passes muster; it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money…..

There are thousands of men and women who got to church every Sunday…..but you never see any ‘ fight’ about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self denial, and watching and warring they know literally nothing at all”.

Then, starting last nights, and on the flight home, having noticed a book by one of my favourite theologians John Stott, on my daughter’s bedside table, I ‘borrowed’ it. And what a blessing it has proved to be so far.

Both the Foreward by well known Christian author and Pastor, Rick Warren, and a quote worthy of deep reflection, in a sense, point to ‘ genuine Christianity ‘, about which Martin Luther King Jr had concerns. And which we too in this dispensation, as we celebrate Independence, in the midst of the continued high murder rate ; a symptom of great social problems that confront us. A very real and present danger, if not a challenge, to the viability of our nation state.
And which challenge demand that Christian people get engaged in spiritual warfare and ‘fight’ for Jamaica Land we Love:

RICK WARREN – ON JOHN STOTT’S BASIC CHRISTIANITY

” There are a few landmark books that everyone in the world should read. This is one of the rare few.
In the twenty-first century, ypu cannot afford to ignore this book!
Whether you are a skeptic, raised in anothet faith, a spiritual seeker or a Christian believer, you need to know why 2.3 billion people call themselves ” Christians.”. You need to know what they believe and why they believe it.

This book is especially essential for leaders in business, government, academics, media, entertainment, journalism and other fields that work directly with people.. .John Stott’s Basic Christianity is a classic introduction to the faith that has transformed billions.

JOHN STOTT
The Fact and Nature of Sin – chap 5

…..But in order to appreciate what exactly it was that Jesus achieved, we need to understand who we are, as well as who he was. His work was done for us. It was the work of a person for persons, a mission undertaken for needy people by the only one who was able to meet their need.
His ability lies in his deity; our need lies in our sin……
Sin is an uncomfortable subject, and Christians are criticized for going on about it too much. But they only do because they are realists. Sin is not a not a convenient invention of church ministers to keep them in their job; it is a fact of human experience.

The history of the last hundred years ( Two World Wars were obviously on Stott’s mind….in the same way upwards of 1500 murders yearly is concentrating the minds of many of us) or so jas convinced many people that the problem of evil is located in human beings themselves, not merely in human society. ….
Educational opportunities have spread rapidly throughout the world and many welfare states have been created. But our human capacity to get it wrong seems undaunted.
The persistence of conflict on the world stage and widespread denial of human rights, together with the general increase of violence and crime, have forced thoughtful peopley acknowledge that a hard core of selfishness exists in each and every one of us….”

Comment: Clearly, the connection with Stott, Jamaica’s Independence and Martin Luther king Jr’ s social activism, lies in the fact that our crime and violence epidemic is not just a social, but a deeply moral problem. Which explains why wicked gunmen will, without hesitation, kill man, woman, pickney and even the dog in their bloodlust.

And therefore, in addition to social programmes and retraining of parents, this matter of Sin cannot escape attention if we are truly going ‘ fight crime’ sucessfullt,in this country. A fight that the Christian community, properly equipped, is best able to engage!

The challenge for a society agrieved by the wickedness of evil men, is to avoid the “ stepping razorPeter Tosh like response. ” Don’t test”. Revenge and reprisal! Admittedly, lethal force may be required in some extreme cases, but Martin Luther King Jr power of love, sacrificial love, a Christian concept, is the only way we are going to rescue our nation.

For we must begin to love, and work for their best interests, the forgotten, those living in terrible housing conditions, those who are dirt poor – Franz Fannon’s ‘ Wretched of the Earth’. And not just feel sorry for them. Or worse, blame them for being lazy and unwilling to try.
In the American context, MLK lamented the fact that negroes were set free, but given no economic base to sustain themselves and family. While thousands of acres of land was given to white settlers going West!

The pursuit of Economic Freedom for our people living in inner city communities, must then be a priority issue for people of faith. In the same way that freedom from the power of Sin, is currently the main priority of evangelistic thrusts. And rightly so. But man, according to King, is not just soul, but body and spirit as well. All of which need attention from a militant church!

So as we fondly recall the joy of eating ‘ suck suck‘, and ‘ blue drawers‘; of going to street dances without fear; of to miss Denbigh is to ‘ dis’; of street parades and everybody having a good time, with the changing times, much is required of those to whom much has been given. Those who knew a different Jamaica! And those who have tasted the joy of, not only political freedom, but eternal freedom from the power of Sin and death. In Christ Jesus and Him Crucified!

Happy Independence.

The glory of Sports vs the Glory of God

This past week and this weekend, for those live for sports, must seem like a gift from heaven.

FOOTBALL

The Finals of World Cup Football 2018 between a classy French team and a never-say-die ( with some class players also ) Croatian team, should be a grand spectacle.

TENNIS

And if you are a tennis fan like the newly married Meghan Markle, and the mother of three Kate Middleton, both Dutchesses and members of the British Royal Family, then watching Serena Williams go for her 22nd.

ATHLETICS

Once again our track stars brought cane and glory to their native land Jamaica.

This time not the already famous!

But this times the younger ones. Brianna Williams at the Under 20 IAAF Finals in Finland. And Ackeem Bloomfield in his first Diamond League meet in Rabat. One won the 100 M, the other the 400 M in record times.

THE GLORY OF GOD

But how does compare with the Glory I read about this morning during my #earlymorningdevotions. When on opening my Classics Devotional Bible, this famous Charles Wesley Hymn ‘ greeted ‘ me:

O FOR A THOUSAND TONGUES TO SING

O for a thousand tongues to sing

My dear Redeemer’s praise,

The glories of my God and King,

The triumphs of his grace!

My gracious Master and my God,

Assist me to proclaim

And spread through all the earth abroad

The honors of thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears

And bids our sorrows cease;

‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,

‘Tis life and health and peace.

And so as we enjoy the action packed weekend, spare a thought and a prayer. For the footballers, the tennis stars, the Royal and the ‘ commoner’, the Athletic up and coming stars, those in the news, #KrystalandBeenieman, #MinisterWheatley #PhillipPaulwell.

For everybody needs to know Jesus. And share in his Glory! But some people don’t know Him. So Lord, assist us to proclaim the Glories of my God and King. In the UK. In the USA. In Croatia. In France. And in my ‘ war torn’ country.

For what shall it profit a man, or woman, to win the World Cup or Wimbledon, or Gold Medals, and lose their souls.

Peace

Don’t weep for Brazil! Or Argentina! But thank God that in Christ Jesus there is forgiveness of Sin

Many years ago as a youngster, when life was all about playing football and partying, and I was a Brazilian fan from then, this song by R. Kelly was a popular ‘ tune’.

If I could turn, turn back the hands of time
Then my darlin’ you’d still be mine
If I could turn, turn back the hands of time.

As I watched the game between Brazil and Belgium last night after coming home from work, with the Selecao outfitted in their classic blue, white and yellow, and saw how my team could have scored early, ‘Paulinho what were you thinking’, the words of the song came to mind.
‘ If I could turn back the hands of time…..

But of course time waits on no man. No team! No country! And so, thoughts of ‘what could have been’ are quite irrelevant. And useless! For now Les Bleus, the French team, await the Belgians in the semi-finals and we will soon know, which other two teams will play in the other semis. And then ultimately the two finalists.

Just on form, it is likely that the winner of the World Cup will come from the Brazil side of the draw, as the other teams appear to be weaker. But as they say, the ball is round, so who knows what other surprises await us. Including #FromRussiawithlove! Then the football purists would weep. As many have wept for Germany, Argentina and now Brazil.
Me! I am a fan. Not a fanatic. Life goes on. Belgium is a class team. Always feared them. I would give France the edge though.

However, so in the FIFA World Cup Football 2018, so in life. For although we wish we could, we cannot turn back the hands of time.
Relatives die. Sometimes suddenly. Sometimes after a protracted period of time. Gone forever. Never to return again.

Relationships and marriages are shattered. Mash up! Can’t fix back. Like Humpty Dumpty. And all the ‘ king’s horses and all the king’s men’, counselling and begging and pleading and promising, can’t put Humpty together again. All because of a moment of indiscretion. A moment of madness. A moment of weakness.

Once peaceful and tranquil countries descend into a crime ridden land. Where M16’s and AK47’s and 9’s become household names. Names of the agents of death. Names that come easily to the minds and lips of our children. Names ‘ glorified ‘ in our music. Names which reflect the egregious wickedness of those who first introduced guns into the hands of vulnerable young men. All in pursuit of political power. And now, with all the tears and all the bloodshed, we cannot turn back the hands of time!

ALL HAVE SINNED

Why? All because of the Sin of Adam. Which is how death and sickness and all kinds of evil entered this world. A revelation about which I was reminded this week during my #Earlymorningdevotions But thank God for Jesus, there is forgiveness!

THE WORD OF GOD

” Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all, because all have sinned…….

Therefore, just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all”. Romans 6:22-18 NRSV.

This is what the Bible teaches us. And why the Word of God written in Holy Scriptures is constantly under attack throughout the ages. For ‘ progressive ‘ people of this age ( of the enlightenment) do not only wish to ‘ turn back the hands of time’, but to rewrite, if possible, or ‘ modernise’ the Bible. And leave out the reality of Sin. For the Bible is the only book that reveals that, before a Holy God, we are all sinners. And that this Almighty God, in Christ on Calvary, died to rescue mankind from the wages of sin which is death. And grant us, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the free gift, grace, of a new, transformed and unending life.

A revelation which was challenged by another worldview, and which viewpoint was captured in a report in the Jamaica Observer this week and caused me to post this message on :

FACEBOOK

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/call-made-for-church-to-welcome-homosexuals-sex-workers-and-transgenders_137669?profile=1373

#DaretoCare #JamaicaObserver Good thing God is the same yesterday today and forevermore. And 2000 years ago He died in Christ out of Divine Love. On an old wooden cross. Not just to show that He cared, but rather to rescue the marginalized and the ‘ sufficient ‘ alike. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The authentic Church has always cared and welcomed and sought after the stranger, the widow and the orphans of society. And sex workers….. But not necessarily in the glare of public spotlight, or announced on social media. For no one is too ‘ far gone ‘ in their sins. And no one is too ‘insignificant’ for God’s love and mercy. But all are called, by the authentic Bible believing church, to repentance. Recall that after rescuing the woman caught in adultery from ‘ hypocrites Jesus warned her to ” go ye and sin no more.” A quote often left out of the narrative!

And even if they don’t repent, the authentic church continues to love and forgive and care; for ‘ judgement in mine ‘ says the Lord. But it is not in the place of man to seek to reform God’s church. As God has been renewing the church from its inception ” You have lost your first love”; ” Because you are neither cold nor hot I am about to …..”, but rather to ask for mercy and expect compassion and empathy. And a call to be reconciled to a holy God.

GOD IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY AND FOREVERMORE

Finally although many are hoping for a miracle, that tomorrow they will somehow miraculously awake from a bad dream, and discover that Brazil did in fact make the semi-finals, or that the Bible and its ‘outdated’ approach to Sin has been revised, an edited version of a meditation by Chris Tiegreen brings us back to reality.

CHRIS TIEGEN : THE WONDER OF THE CROSS DEVOTIONAL

HE’S IMMOVABLE

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:35

God never changes. That’s bad news for those who want to make up their own rules in life, but in all other respects it’s comforting. When God speaks of His favor towards us, His love, and His promises to the redeemed, we don’t want Him to change. Ever!

The good news is that He assures us He won’t. The love of Christ has already been amply displayed for those will receive it, and there is nothing – that can ever diminish it. We cannot be moved from it – not by trials, adversaries, diseases, disasters, poverty, or even our own stupid mistakes…..
( And certainly not when Brazil loses….my words)

WILL YOUR ANCHOR HOLD

So in times of trouble or trial, when your team, has gone home, joining Argentina, Germany and Portugal, how do you manage?

In times of storms, when a relative, a friend, a community and a nation is in a dark place, or young boys are trapped in a cave with oxygen and food running low, what do you hold on to? Your dreams? Your hopes? Your belief in self and human potential? Or do you pray for a miracle?

Last week as I preached in an inner city community, where on the behalf of my church, and by the grace of God, I serve as a professional, this song touched my soul.
And as I prayed for friends and family in desperate need of a miracle, the words calmed my soul. I pray that the Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of this hymn, will bring peace and calm to the souls of those who look to the Lord, ‘ from whence cometh my help’. For mercy!

For the reality is that far too often, it is when disaster strikes that folks who reject the salvation offered freely by God in Christ, come to understand that the ‘ anchor ‘ they thought they had, is rooted in ‘ sinking sand’. Not so the child of God – regardless of the colour and arrangement of the flag of your country.

THE HYMN – FIRST VERSE

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain, will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

Refrain

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

No Messi, God is not an Argentinian fan. But a God who in Christ Turns Blackness Into Dawn

Martin Luther King Jr

The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, made a comment on challenging circumstances that has left an indelible impression on me:

” Midnight is a confusing hour when it is difficult to be faithful. The most inspiring word that the church may speak is that no midnight remains forever…….”

Midnight in Germany

Well, it’s midnight in Germany right now; and shall be for a long time. Why? Do you really need an explanation, when at the end of a tumultuous week in Russia, the reigning football champions of the world got knocked out by lowly South Korea. Does the church have a word for them, or for the unfortunate Senegalese team – knocked out by yellow cards?

Not sure, but perhaps Lionel Messi’s theological musings, that Argentina was saved from the ignominy of packing their bags, by God, could set them thinking.

And of course the Nigerians, and many others, are wondering if God was not with the Africans also. Perhaps, it’s midnight, a confusing time, theologically, in the minds of people, including Messi. A confusing time for people who confuse building the kingdom of God with building the kingdom of man. Or building the football kingdom of Argentina. Or Brazil.

Perhaps this is the reason why, out of the blue, I was inspired to post this message on Facebook last night. So that we may better understand the ‘ priority truths ‘ of the Gospel and avoid theological parochialism, viz, ” God is on my side”.

FACEBOOK

The gospel is christological. The heart of the gospel message is that ” Christ died for our sins…..and that He was raised “. The gospel is not limited to these events, but they are its priority truth, which are “of first importance”( 1 Cor. 15: 3).

The gospel is not preached if Christ is not preached, and the authentic Christ is not proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central – “Evangelical Truths” by John Stott. As I wait for the power to return #AnightofPowerOutage But God’s power is always available.

Targeting Returning Residents

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jun/29/retirees-returning-to-jamaica-face-extreme-risk-say-police

Well, it’s also midnight, a confusing hour, for the family and friends of the British couple, popularly known as Charlie and Gayle Anderson; returning residents who were brutally murdered in Jamaica recently. Quo vadis, from whence cometh, such evil? A question on the lips of so many people on this fair isle, bewildered and utterly confused by the sea change in the culture. For we were once a peaceful and welcoming people. But now, so many have become ‘ wolves in sheep clothing’!

And it’s not just a confusing hour, midnight, on account of death stalking returning residents. But a midnight hour for the entire Jamaica. With several states of emergencies and #ZOSO’ s keeping the marauding gunmen at bay. At least for the time being. And only in select areas. Just this week in the town where I work, in broad daylight, and on two consecutive days, a gunman opened fire on his intended victims, causing mayhem to erupt in the heart of May Pen, Clarendon.

Embattled Minister Andrew Wheatley

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/NIA_joins_call_for_Wheatley_to_resign_over_Petrojam_scandal?profile=1373

It would appear also, if the critics ( institutional, the powerful voices in the media, and political) are correct, that, once again – we have been here before – it is a midnight hour for an embattled cabinet minister in Jamaica. The relatively young Andrew Wheatley. Unless his Prime Minister ‘ saves him’!

As, following weeks of controversy over the operation of a critically important national entity, over which he presides, which triggered a press release from powerful private sector interests calling for an investigation, this week there has a virtual choreograph of voices calling for him to step down. At least until the investigation are complete and made public!
Without awaiting the results of any ‘Discovery’. Just being true to the doctrine of ministerial responsibility and accountability!

A Tragic Road Fatality

Finally, as in all cases of road fatalities , but this one touched the hearts of many, as she was only 27 years and left behind a young baby and a grieving husband, it’s a deep midnight of confusion and pain in home of the relatives and friends of the victim of a terrible crash on our nation’s roads this week. And for me too, in an entirely different but not unrelated sense; as I, and a team I have the privilege of leading, bear some responsibility for safety on our roads.

So, does the church, of which I am a part, have a word to offer a confused people in this midnight hour, when it is difficult to be hopeful about life, our democracy, and our nation and remain faithful to God?

Martin Luther King Jr 11

Martin Luther King Jr, quoted at the beginning of this message, brings to a climax, his meditation on ” He Who Turns Blackness Into Dawn”, with these words. Words of hope!

” Faith in the dawn ( no midnight long remains) arises from the faith that God is good and just. When one believes this, he knows that the contradictions of life are neither final nor ultimate. He can walk through the dark night and the radiant conviction that all things work together for good for those thst love God. Even the most starless midnight may herald the dawn of some great fulfillment.”

CHRISTIANS ARE BORN AGAIN PEOPLE

Clearly if one is not born again from above, and does not love the God who, in Christ Jesus, died for our sins, even when we were his enemies, it is very difficult, if not impossible, in the midnight hour of life’s tragedies, to trust in a God who is just and good.

Perhaps this is the point which Lionel Messi and any other misguided Argentinan team member need to heed. That God is not partial! That you can’t get proprietal or territorial with God. For as I was led to read in the book of Amos yesterday in my #Earlymorningdevotions, God is a God of Justice and Righteousness. ‘Partial’ only to the needs of the oppressed and enslaved! But also demanding that Righteousness, and not Sin, be our Master. And so the quote that Martin Luther King Jr is famous for using demands that :

Let Justice roll down like a river and Righteousness like a never ending stream”, :
placed a bookend on my reading yesterday.

Therefore, it is only when we reflect deeply on the priority truth of the gospel, that Jesus died for our sins, and was raised from the dead, to make all things new through the power of the Holy Spirit, that we can see the dawn, in what would otherwise be Shakespeare’s ‘ stygian darkness ‘ of the confusing midnight hour.

And one of the best ways to learn the priority truth of the gospel, is to reflect deeply on the hymns of the church. The Lord sent one into my soul this week. What word does this hymn offer in the midnight hour for those who love God?

God and God Alone

That God and God alone, ought to be our Vision. Not Economic Growth, as important as such a goal is. Not a crime free country in and by itself, as without the mercy of a good and just God, we will continue to be like the proverbial Don Quixote – fighting a battle which cannot be won. Not even our ‘Christian work’, as important as it is, for there are too many who spend time doing good works, without first spending time with the God who empowers us to do His will. Remember Martha and Mary!

That we absolutely need the Wisdom of God. For which human being, or political party is able to rescue us from the kind of wickedness that has entered the hearts of so many of our people!
That the Almighty and Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, ought to be our best thought always. Our goal, pun intended, as Christians, is to have God in me dwelling and I with thee one. And that He may always be first in our hearts. Not Argentina or Brazil. Not political loyalists. Not the money that returning residents bring back home. Not family and not friends and not possessions or power. For in a heartbeat all of those precious and sought after things can go. And if you don’t know God, then for you it is all over.

But, if on the other hand you trust in a God who can raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead, by saying to her ” Tabitha cum“, the gospel reading in my church for tomorrow, Sunday, and say to the dad, “ don’t be afraid just believe”, then by faith in that God, we can help to rescue our beleaguered nation. From the scourge of Crime and Violence, from death on our roads, from any threat to our democracy, from faulty theology and from trusting in our own ability to fight against evil.
Peace.

THE HYMN

1 Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art;
be Thou my best thought in the day and the night,both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.

2 Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
be Thou ever with me, and I with Thee, Lord;
be Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son;
be Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

3 Be Thou my Breastplate, my Sword for the fight;
be Thou my whole Armor, be Thou my true Might;
be Thou my soul’s Shelter, be Thou my strong Tow’r,
O raise Thou me heav’nward, great Pow’r of my pow’r.

4 Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
be Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart,
O high King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

5 High King of heaven, Thou heaven’s bright Sun,
O grant me its joys, after vict’ry is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be Thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

#MommyRocket #WhereisMessi and Keeping a Focus on Jesus

In the middle of the ” Greatest Show on Earth “, World Cup Football in Russia, Jamaica is holding its Senior and Junior Track and Field championships.

So just now ” Mommy Rocket”, Shelly Ann Fraser Price, came second to a fast finishing #FastElaine Thompson. And as Bruce James, the President of MVP Track Club, proudly announced on national television, #MVP took the first three places. But there is more! Elaine and Shelly together are the winners of the last three Olympic Gold Medals in the Women’s 100 metres. What a club! What a nation! What a time to celebrate!

 

Neymar Jnr giving thanks nz-neymar-230618

Except of course if you are an Argentina fan. “Where on earth is Messi”, the headlines in the Observer, ought to win an award. Or Salah ( the top scorer in the English premier league) fan! Or a nervous Brazilian fan; they won today but clearly have not yet hit top gear. Or a German fan, although they can still redeem themselves.

Thank God for Jesus, there is nothing ‘ iffy ‘ about our salvation. It is finished! Like ‘ all done’. On the cross of Calvary. We don’t have to depend on anyone else, like Argentina, for our redemption.

For as the Psalmist, in Psalm 20, declares, and this Psalm continues to influence my prayers:

” Some trust in horses, and some trust in chariots. But we trust in the name of our Lord”.

So yes, we love soccer, and Track and Field. But if Lukaku, or Ronaldo, or Neymar Jnr, or Raheem Sterling, or Pogba are playing on a Sunday morning, we are going to church to worship God first. And all things will come after!

It’s part of the choices we are called to make as children of the Most High God, who have been rescued from Sin and Death unto eternal by the blood of Jesus.

A problem highlighted in a challenging meditation I read this week:

THE ONE YEAR WONDER OF THE CROSS DEVOTIONAL BY CHRIS TIEGEN

A Single Focus

Why do you stand here looking into the sky? Acts 1:11

Christians often have a dual focus. We want both ” the American dream” and the Kingdom of God. We plan our careers, marry our spouses, buy our land, build our homes, save for our future, give our children the best, establish ourselves in security as best as we can.

Meanwhile, we devote ourselves to church and some kind of personal ministry, reminding ourselves of the cross we bear and the sacrifices we make. Our two allegiances don’t always contradict – theoretically, it’s possible to have both – but they do frequently split out attention between them. We become halfhearted about one or the other. And often the one we become halfhearted about is the Kingdom.

EXAMPLES

Take for example Christian politicians! Which Kingdom often comes second on their list of priorities. Winning and maintaining state power or being obedient to Christ. The Christian businessman: Profit or playing by the rules! Christian journalists: Truth and fairness or popularity and stridency. Christian professionals: Ethical priorities or personal gain. Pastors: carrying around in their body the death of Christ so that the life of Christ may be revealed in their body, or seeking to be ‘ first in the Kingdom ‘. Or some Evangelical Christians in the USA: partisan politics or Justice.

The challenge for all of us who get too excited about Messi, is he better than Ronaldo or just a good club footballer, or ” Mommy Rocket”, can she really ” come back”, is similar to what the disciples faced.

” There is an enormous difference between waiting for the Lord who will come, and witnessing the Lord who us now at work”. Says Chris Tiegen.

AND :

“Are you investing in the dream of temporal peace and material prosperity, or are you investing in the dream of eternal peace and ultimate prosperity? Or like most Christians, do you split your attention between them?”

My dream for this evening, was to spend time leisurely enjoying the game between Brazil and Costa Rica, which I had taped. But the Lord had other ideas. So here I am writing on a Friday night, instead of the usual Saturday morning.

The lesson here being that we need to keep focused on God’s will, which He will reveal more and more as our relationship with Him through Christ develops. Rather than getting ‘ distracted’ by what is good and admirable and exciting.

For the times are evil. And corruption and injustice are ‘ happening ‘.

In Kingston Jamaica! In the USA. In Venezuela. In Palestine. And thus we need to be like the ten wise virgins – keep watch and prepared. Not only for the Lord’s second coming, but to be ready to preach the Word, ” in season amd out of season”, and to respond to human suffering and need. And thus to help to build up God’s Kingdom : which is Righteousness, Justice and Peace in the Holy Spirit.

For as the Old Testament reading about young David fighting against Goliath, for this Sunday reminds us ( 1 Samuel 17), “ the battle is the Lord’s “.

Therefore we need to remember, as I was reminded after my exercise walk this morning, to ” Take the name of Jesus with you”. A message well dramatized by this video which a friend sent me tonight:

 

THE HYMN

Take the name of Jesus with you,
Child of sorrow and of woe;
It will joy and comfort give you,
Take it then where’er you go.

Refrain.

Precious name! Oh, how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heav’n;
Precious name! Oh, how sweet!
Hope of earth and joy of heav’n.

2

Take the name of Jesus ever,
As a shield from every snare.
If temptations round you gather,
Breathe that holy name in prayer.

3

Oh, the precious name of Jesus,
How it thrills our souls with joy;
All the favor of the Father
In this name we may enjoy.

4

At the name of Jesus bowing,
Falling prostrate at His feet,
Claim His vict’ry over evil
And the enemy defeat.

World Cup, Father’s Day and Victory in Christ Jesus

Which team you’re bringing? Brazil #1. Brazil #2 and Brazil #3. I am not a ‘waggonist’. Win, lose or draw, Brazil will always be my team. Ever since the days of Pele, Bellinni, the Santos brothers, Didi, Vava and the peerless Garrincha took the beautiful game to a different level. And won Brazil’s first World Cup in 1958 in Sweden, Brazil has been the team to beat over the years. Will Neymar Jnr lift the Jules Rimet trophy in Russia? Or will the best footballer on planet earth, Lionel Messi, finally get his just reward?

Or will France or Spain or Belgium come to “spoil the party”! Germany? Not this time, based on recent form. But who knows! Always leave room for surprises and heartbreak at any World Cup – the greatest show on earth.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate Father’s Day. Always a low profile event when compared to Mother’s Day. A time of mixed emotions. And heartbreak. As some fathers have been ‘ the greatest ‘ dad on planet earth. Thank God for them. While others have been simply, “missing in action”. Leaving huge emotional gaps in their children’s lives. Especially daughters. Who often, unconsciously, try to fill the void, by entering into unhealthy relationships with both older and younger men.

So while we ‘ bring ‘ our favourite team to the greatest show on planet earth, and celebrate the life of the greatest dad, more than anything else this day, we thank God for Jesus that through Him, we have come to know ” Our Father who art in Heaven”. And as the songwriter claims, and we agree, ” There is none like Him”.

For even during the excitement of the World Cup in Russia, and on Father’s Day, life goes on for the women who lose control of the remote for an entire month. And the children who never knew a father!
Tragedies like what happened at a school in Anchovy this week continue to cause heartbreak; for both the parents and the unfortunate teacher.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20180614/anguish-anchovy-student-killed-freak-accident-primary-school

And when these things happen only God can comfort those directly affected; and the wider family in the community and at school. Nobody else! Not Neymar Jnr. Not Messi. Not even the greatest dad on earth.
A reality brought into sharp focus by the words of the songwriter in one of my favourite hymns. Words on which I have been led to consider deeply, for years, before going to church on a Sunday morning:

THE HYMN

I have no other help but thine; nor do I need
another arm save thine to lean upon:
it is enough, my Lord, enough indeed,
my strength is thy might, thy might alone.

The Third Verse of the Communion Hymn: ” Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face……”

Finally, as we continue to live in a world of heartbreak and tragedy, of sickness and death, of disappointments and grief, the words of the Psalm appointed in the worldwide Anglican Church for tomorrow’s worship service, provided so much comfort for my soul.

This as I ‘owned’ the prayer. Memorizing it. Repeating certain verses, in it time and time again throughout the day. And at night!
Sharing it with others. And thanking my Father ‘ who art in heaven’ for this special gift.

A gift which is ultimately fulfilled in the Life, Death, Ressurection and Ascension to a Life of Glory by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Which team will win the World Cup? I cannot tell. But this I know, in Christ, not in my wonderful Dad, now gone to glory, I have the Victory over Sin and Death unto Everlasting Life #BetterthanaChampsticket or #WorldCupVictory.

THE PSALM

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings.

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

May the Lord grant all your requests. Now this I know: The Lord gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. Lord , give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!
Psalm 20:1‭-‬9 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/psa.20.1-9.NIV