Death by man: Life in Christ

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing – John Newton

Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s)  A Prayer for the Decade of Evangelism

NEWS

Of all the reports that grabbed my attention this week, the one which had the greatest impact on me was : Eight children orphaned in a few seconds! A barbarous act committed by heartless killers, who shot to death a mother and a father in front of the children in the western part of the country. And which act of sheer wickedness shocked the entire nation.

THE WORD OF  GOD

What then did The Lord say to me, and through me,  in various ways this week, in the midst of this continued madness?

The first message this week  went out on Thursday morning during my devotions and was addressed to my church brothers and sisters at St. Andrew Parish  Church. It’s a message which really began on Sunday when my pastor preached a short but powerful sermon about ” Follow Me” – the call of Jesus for every Christian. And the question which the meditation from a well known preacher of yure raises, is whether or not we can really truly follow Jesus, except we yearn for a ‘deeper life with Christ”. Further, unless can ‘worthily’ praise Him, it is hardly likely that we would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to wage war against the evil that is so very present in our nation.

THE MESSAGE

Last night the song in my heart was ” New every morning is thy love”. And so that was how I began my devotions this morning with a reflection on the words of that wonderful hymn. When I got to  the second verse….new mercies each returning day…and the last line…new thoughts of God…my mind for reasons unknown to me led me to Psalm 139. A Psalm which we all know well! So I read, and read, and marvelled and marvelled. Again! Verse 14 in particular caught my attention,,,,I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. To the right of the page is a reflection by A. W. Tozer ( 1897-1963)…an acclaimed lifelong pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance with a rich pulpit ministry…was without any formal education beyond grade school….he was intensely devotional and well read and mystical…..drew from the writings of others including Francois Fenelon, Bernard of Clairvaux, Julian of Norwich…Shakespeare…wrote many book in which he encourages his readers to know God personally and experientially…..include The Pursuit of God, The Divine Conquest, The Knowledge of the Holy.

I was about to leave the psalm and read the NT lesson appointed for Sunday, as I had read the reflection by Tozer before, but  I was ‘arrested’ and led back to Tozer whom I now present to you. Watch carefully for a familiar prayer and a further word on Father Sirano’s sermon on ” Follow me”.

SEARCH ME O GOD
A. W. Tozer
Verse: Psalm 139:23

The author of the celebrated devotional work, The Cloud of Unknowing, begins his little book with a prayer that expresses the spirit of the deeper life teaching: ” God, unto whom all hearts are open….and unto whom no secret thing is hid, I beseech thee so far to cleanse the intent of mine heart with the unspeakable gift of thy grace, that I may perfectly love thee and worthily praise thee. Amen.”

Who that is truly born of the Spirit, unless he has been prejudiced by wrong teaching can object to such a through cleansing of the heart as will enable him perfectly to love God and worthily to praise Him. ( as I write …not worthy to gather up the crumbs under thy table..comes into my mind.)
Yet this is exactly what we mean when we speak about the ” deeper life” experience. Only  we mean that it should be literally fulfilled within the heart, not merely accepted by the head.

Nicephorus, a father of the Eastern Church, in a little treatise on the Spirit-filled life, begins with a call that sounds strange to us only because we have been for so long accustomed to following Jesus from afar off and living among a people that follow him afar off. ( This morning as I read the psalm, I wondered what kind of man ..fearfully and wonderfully made by God…and other such  ‘revelation’ in the psalm could so cold blooded murder those two parents in Westmoreland and leave eight children orphaned…yet many of them walk with a bible in the back pocket….of course a train of thought which leads us to wonder who else is guilty of ‘following’ Jesus from afar off)

” You,  who desire to capture the wondrous divine illumination of our Savior Jesus Christ – who seek to feel the divine fire in your heart – who strive to to sense and experience the feeling of reconciliation with God – who, in order to unearth the treasure buried in the field of your heart and to gain possession of it, have renounced everything worldly – who desire the candle of our souls to burn brightly even now, and who for this purpose have renounced all the world – who wish by conscious experience to know and to receive the kingdom of heaven existing within you – come and I will impart to you the science of eternal heavenly life – ”

Such quotations as these might easily be multiplied till they fill half a dozen volumes. This yearning after God has never completely died in any generation. Always there were some who scorned the low paths and insisted upon walking the high road of spiritual perfection. Yet, strangely enough, that word perfection never meant a spiritual terminal point not a stae of purity that made watchfulness and prayer unnecessary. Exactly the opposite was true.
In obedience to He who ‘arrested’ me this morning and who called us to truly ” Follow Him”. No doubt as we reflect on these words and ponder the state of our beloved nation, stained with the news sex videos and blood of the innocent flowing on our streets, and even the not so innocent, we may rightly conclude that only when we truly follow Christ will we be so empowered to help to rescue our people from evil.
I pray that The Collect For Purity that we pray Sunday after Sunday,  may take on a new and  more urgent meaning after having read this meditation by Tozer.
Amen
LWJ

SECOND MESSAGE

The second message was short. Twitter short.And was addressed to some folks in the media and some in leadership positions in my country

Lucien Jones (@lucienforJesus) tweeted at 11:16 PM on Fri, Jan 31, 2014:
Christianity tells people to repent and offers them forgiveness… It does not begin with comfort but with dismay #merechristianity #CSLewis
(https://twitter.com/lucienforJesus/status/429468353091366912)

Something to think about very carefully.

It came to me as I began reading another one of C. S. Lewis’ books – Mere Christianity. And so far,  Lewis has gone  to great lengths to argue that,  The Moral Law, or The Laws of Nature, deeply embedded in the human soul and psyche, whether or not we are Christians, and which ‘encourages’ us to do what is right – not steal, not murder, not rob an old lady – but which we fail to keep, as humans, is ultimately a sign that there is a God. And He is speaking to all of us! Regularly in our souls. The argument has not yet arrived at Christianity and Jesus. But in the interim comes this powerful reminder of our helplessness in ‘keeping the law of Nature’. And so Lewis makes the ‘early Christian’ point that, in this way men ought to seek God. In dismay at our helplessness in doing what is right all the time. And then we will find comfort. Otherwise, we will seek comfort and never find it. Perhaps this gives us  hint of why the church is so ineffective in some countries, and in some communities, and why evil flourishes as a consequence. This the essence of the ‘something’ to think carefully about; especially in  this  age of the ‘prosperity gospel’. Which is no gospel at all. And has no power to rescue Jamaica and other countries from evil.

THIRD MESSAGE – sent to my church again. And addresses in even more detail – retrospect it is amazing how God works – the reason why we need to be helpless before God. And in dismay!  We need to read it also with Malachi 3:1-3 in mind. The Old Testament lesson for the service this morning.

“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord. Then once more the Lord will accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past. (Malachi 3:1-4 NLT)
And Revelations 3:19
I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. (Revelation 3:19 NLT)

The point here is that God will ‘refine’ all those who call upon his  name, so that we may better serve Him in this ‘demon possessed valley. And that includes dying to self. But then, praise God,  the powerful promise of 2 Cor 10,  which The Lord led me to read and use, in the midst of severe attacks from the evil one this week,  will be available to all who pass through the refiner’s fire. So that we can help to rescue our country, our family, our neighbors and the entire human race.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV)

THE MESSAGE

I could not recall hearing a ‘song in the night’ as I woke up this morning. So I wondered what to read in my devotions. Then I ‘ heard’ Peter. So I began with Peter, and found this quote nestled in the midst of a promise  about a ‘Living Hope’ …that can never perish, spoil of fade….though  now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials….these have come to that you faith …may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:3-12. NIV

” Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes because we need them, and he proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust in His skill and thank Him for His prescription”. – John Newton ( the same one who spoke about newspapers and Bibles)

Then without any pause my mind went to another quote this time in the ‘vicinity’ of a passage which I have read time and time again.

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Galatians 2:20 NIV

Hannah Hurnard  ( 1905-1990  In 1929 she traveled to Palestine and began a ministry to both Arabs and Jewish settlements. Spent several years serving in Missionary hospitals…and from 1949  until her death she devoted herself to writing and speaking on behalf of her missionary work….Watchmen of the Walls……Hinds’ Feet on High Places  Thou shall Remember are some of her well known inspirational books
– It is through accepting the circumstances that come to us in life that we self is crucified.

I am not Pentecostal, like many of my patients who ” curse Diabetes” when informed of the diagnosis, and even my ‘self’ rebels against Hannah’s observation. The problem which then confronts us,  is that we cannot reject Hannah and accept Peter and Newton’s revelation/observation. As they are essentially saying the same thing. And then if not an acceptance of our circumstances which then leads to ‘death of self’, what other means is there to be employed? As comfort and peace and prosperity will never lead to ‘death of self’. And self has to die if Christ is to live in us…”the old has passed away, and behold…..”

Does acceptance of our circumstances then prevent us from crying out ” Lord have mercy on me a sinner”. Absolutely not! Remember the two blind men…who the disciples tried to ‘hush’. And they cried out even more…and they were rewarded  for their faith in ” The Son of Man”. The same thing happened to the woman with the issue of blood!
Last night I sent the following note by e-mail to a few persons,  and many others on twitter, after reading some very profound words by C.S. Lewis – a good discipline for Lent.

Lucien Jones (@lucienforJesus) tweeted at 11:16 PM on Fri, Jan 31, 2014:
Christianity tells people to repent and offers them forgiveness… It does not begin with comfort but with dismay #merechristianity #CSLewis
(https://twitter.com/lucienforJesus/status/429468353091366912)

Something to think about very carefully.

So is this discussion this morning happening by coincidence? I think not! One of the many things we learn if we ‘listen’ carefully as the journey with Christ continues, is that ‘self really has no intention of dying’. Trials then, come to the aid of our soul and keep us focused on the mercy and goodness of God. That’s why Jesus warns us to ” Take no thought for your life’ – one of the most severe disciplines in which a child of God can can engage. In the midst of sickness, financial distress, providing for your family, murder on the streets…… “But be careful about one thing, your relationship with me”…Oswald Chambers Jan 27.

And the relationship with God has to begin with dismay before it can end up with comfort. Whether driven by Sin, or Sin plus trials, or trials because of Sin!
Otherwise we enter through the ‘wrong gate”. And start a battle which we cannot continue. Then the world counts us as irrelevant and Satan is happy and the madness continues unabated around us.  Because power to fight against evil only comes with our recognition of our need for Redemption. So we thank God for the ‘ remnant’ throughout history who have accepted what God has ‘ thrown at them’, trusted Him and done wonders in His Name. And because of  which wonders  Satan trembles, peace reigns and God is glorified.
From Martin Luther to MLK Jnr. From John Wesley to Nelson Mandela. From Mary the mother of Jesus to  the army of Christian mothers  in inner cities across the globe, who despite living in poverty,  and often times persecution, taught their children to love Jesus, ensuring the spread of the Gospel, and thus preventing the absolute decline into anarchy and immorality in many a country. Including Jamaica! And who are far more deserving of being celebrated as ” Women of The year”, over Tessanne and Shelly, despite their ‘super’ performances last year..
But I digress! Or do I?  Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s).
Peace
LWJ

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