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
(1) The ongoing search for the victims of that Korean boat disaster had many persons praying for the families this week. Especially after the revelation that 48 girls all wearing life-jackets were found trapped in a single cabin. All of which led this week to the resignation of the Prime Minister as Korea faced its worse catastrophe in many years, amidst accusations that the response of the government was too slow.
South Korean prime minister resigns over ferry disaster response
(2) Over the past couple of days two stories about racism in America hit the news.
The one which attracted my attention more than the other was the story in the headlines in the LA Times below and the link to the report. Basketball is big news in the USA and all over the world. Almost generating the same level of excitement as the BPL football in the UK; especially during the play-offs. And to think that a mixed Mexican/ Black young lady could find herself linked to such a racist, as a mistress – the man is married – is simply amazing, and deeply deeply distressing. Almost, in my view, sinking to the same level of reprehensibility triggered by the racist comments. What was she thinking? Just money! As vulgar as that? Have mercy!
Clippers owner Donald Sterling in firestorm over alleged racist remarks
(3) The third story which grabbed my attention was the report of ‘genocide’, or near to it, in Southern Sudan. Happening in a relatively new country which both itself and the International community had very hopes that good things were in store for this nation. All after the horrors of Darfur! But it would appear that such hopes have been dashed and there are real fears of another Rwanda. Such pain all over the world.
South Sudan conflict: Bentiu ‘ethnic slaughter’ condemned
BBC News - 6 days ago
Hundreds of people were killed because of their ethnicity after South Sudan rebels seized the oil hub of Bentiu last week, the UN has said.
(4) Of course the trouble that happened abroad did not leave Jamaica unscathed as much public protest erupted after the Government announced a new tax on all bank withdrawals, in an effort to close the gap in the budget. All of this taking place right in the midst of the most holy period in the Christian calendar; and so rather than spending time reflecting on God’s grace and mercy, the country was caught up in a firestorm of debate and protest over this new tax. Further the dreadful loss of life by the gun continued to haunt the lives of all of us, with the murder of two men delivering bread being the latest in a series of murders.
THE WORD OF GOD
So what word of inspiration or Word from The Lord came into my head this week, as I contemplated the various events around the world and in my own country.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent to people of influence in my country. Entitled: Of Taxes, Of Carnival, of a nation whose values are in crisis, and of Holy Week”.
The essence of the message being the absolute need for our country to adopt Christian values; but facing the reality that such values don’t come on their own, but with an acceptance of the Good Friday and Easter message.
I came up on something which I believe goes right to heart of of the struggle we are going through here in Jamaica. Can’t recall right now who said it, but this is what a wise person once wrote; “You can’t have Christian values without Christianity”.
Think about it for a minute! This is a land that has a prayer for a national anthem, but yet the traditional day of worship, rooted deeply in our history, Sunday, a day of rest and peace and time for family – the same institution about which many are deeply concerned – is under attack from officialdom and the common man alike. And the steady erosion of what that day represents finds expression in how we treat the most holy period of the Christian Church. Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. So, instead of allowing our people, and encouraging them to use the period for inner reflection on self, family, community and nation, we announce on Maunday Thursday, a tax on banks/individuals, every time we withdraw money, which is causing a fire-storm of discussion in the nation. Why? Was there no better time? Did they not expect the reaction?
Further, so many of our people, even within the church, either ignore this Holy Period or use the ‘holiday’ for ‘chillin’, drinking the ‘Wray’, or as one ad promoting carnival suggests,” Let the spirit take control’ or words to that effect.
Therefore rather than a nation mired deeply in the Sin of murder and violence, of abuse of our children; reeling from evil people hijacking our music of protest, useful social commentary and having a good time, and replacing it with gun lyrics and violent and sexually explicit lyric; a nation guilty of the Sin of ignoring the plight of huge areas of country populated by people from the ‘wrong address’; rather than contemplating what Good Friday and Easter reveal about Sin, and Redemption, we were once again ‘distracted’. And left to ponder on things which do not go to the heart of our struggle as nation, despite the obvious importance of the state of our economy and how we have collectively lived above our means for far too long. Or the need for relaxation and having fun.
The same issue of trying to have Christian values without Christianity finds expression in how we ask Father God to bless every and anything we do publicly or privately, officially or ‘ on the street’; while having no intention of honoring that God, by attending church and committing to following the Son of Father God, Christ Jesus. I could go on! But the essence of Sin as the Bible reveals is ‘rebellion against the God who created heaven and earth, the sea and everything that is in’. This was the Sin of Adam, and all of us human beings, ‘children of Adam, have inherited this disposition to ‘ rebel against the living God’.
Therefore what Good Friday and Easter reveal, can be summed up in the words of a song which featured in many churches over the weekend: ” Because He lives I can face tomorrow”. Regardless of what life has to throw at us! As we serve a Sovereign God, who ultimately has control of our lives! Not the Minister of Finance! Not the ‘disciples of Dudus and Kartel! Not the various temptations, including pornography, of a decadent western world!
The key then to understanding and serving this Sovereign God is understanding Sin. Otherwise we will, in an attempt to have Christian values inculcated in our people, fail miserably to renew our nation, as people only truly turn to God in Christ when they are ‘sick and tired’ of Sin ruling their lives.
In this context then, the passage I was inspired to read this morning in my devotions, and again one that featured during Holy Week, explains all about Sin and Redemption. For individuals first, and by extension a society. All ‘ Because Jesus lives”.
THE WORD OF GOD
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:1-14 NIV)
Two final comments. One that this passage, perhaps more than any other in the Bible offers a clear explanation of what Baptism is all about. Thus the practice of many churches who ” baptise people every time they Sin, usually of a sexual nature, like having a baby out of wedlock, ‘ the fallen sister’, is not only without merit from a Biblical standpoint, but aids and abets the widespread cynicism about the faith. Two that, this passage of Scripture explains fully that anyone who has died, in Christ, has been set free from sin. What we need to do henceforth is to claim this victory more and more by our faithfulness in Bible Study, worship, doing good to those in need, and in this way a nation will indeed begin to have, not just Christian values, but the life of the Living God imparted to us as a people, all because Jesus Lives.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent members of my church after an intense period of worship, prayer and reflection during Holy Week. I believe that there are elements within this message, especially the sermon by Pastor Rick Warren, which could be of tremendous benefit to the suffering people of Korea, Southern Sudan, and to Donald Sterling, his mixed race girlfriend, and the wife who is now suing the young lady for money given to her by the Clippers owner. As there is so much of the ‘confusion and hopelessness’ that Rick Warren suggests that Holy Saturday brings, in those stories. Further there is so much that people need to know about themselves which is the essence of the message in the first of two songs that ‘got into my head’. That ‘ there is a fountain of blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; and sinners who plunge beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains. ” Because out of hearts of men ( and women) come all kinds of evil”.
The words of the first verses of the two hymns below have been in my head since the end of Holy Week. One was referenced by Rev. Larius, the other by Father Kitson. So much so that I found myself singing or humming the songs. Even at work! And yesterday one of my patients, who sings professionally, and is now a gospel artist, sang for, and with me, the first two verses of the two songs, both of which are well known in Pentecostal circles. Can you imagine me singing!
Then last night on Twitter I came across a service conducted by Rick Warren – Senior pastor of Saddleback Church and who gained International fame for his book ‘ The Purpose Driven Life’.
The sermon comes after a praise and worship session, and it is a Good Friday/Easter sermon about :
– days of pain and grief —Fridays
– days of confusion and doubt —Saturdays
– days of joy and hope – Easter
All shared within the context of the grief that he and his family suffered right after Easter last year when one of his son’s committed suicide.
The songs did not move me much. And certainly would not ‘get into my head’ like ‘blood drawn from Emanuel’s veins, or ‘ all fears are gone’. But if you do watch the video you cannot escape the intensity and passion and the effect that the music has on the congregation. And the question of why, on a regular basis, we don’t have that experience in our Anglican churches, as it would do wonders for our worship and ministry, came into my head. Again! And so we pray, and pray and pray for renewal.
The sermon was ‘augmented’ by the use of visuals. But for me the key thing was the message to suffering people that God’s promises are real and there are over 7000 of them in the Bible.
Not our kind of service, but it is useful, I think, to see how other traditions conduct worship. And to discover, what we have known, for a long time, that ‘small groups’ are the foundation of this huge church – 8,000, or was it 80..whatever…plenty people….. involved in these groups on a regular basis.
Peace and remember this week and forever that ” Because He lives I ( we) can face tomorrow’, and that ‘sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains’: even ‘dog puss and rat’….smile…thank God for Jesus.
1. There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains,
lose all their guilty stains;
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains.
God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died, to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives
THE THIRD MESSAGE
Finally as the Synod of my church met to discuss, and pray and worship and plan for the upcoming year, I was moved to send two prayers triggered by inspired writings, a ‘gift’ from an old man whose wife was killed in a vicious attack on both of them; but by the grace of God he survived, and ever lives to praise the name of the Lord. And the Word of God. All of which point to the need for us consider that the ultimate purpose of all mankind is to bring honor and glory to God. And the work of the church is to facilitate that process – in all its many and varied forms.
YESTERDAY – A verse given to me by an old man as he was going through the door. He turned back and said that this was what he had for me
Psalm 31:19-20 NIV
How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.
Praising God is the ultimate end and aim of all we go through. ” Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me”. What does it matter whether you are well or ill whether you have money or none! It is all a matter of indifference, but one thing that is not a matter of indifference, and that is that we are pleasing to the ears of God – Oswald Chambers.
THIS MORNING – verse of the day on the online Bible
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John 17:1-5 NIV
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
May the work of this synod bring glory to God as you seek let the manifold wisdom of God be known in this land and in heavenly places. For God has good things stored up for those who fear Him. His Name is Jesus, the fulfilment of the promise of the good things to come. He is the One therefore who we are to make known to our people; so that they may have eternal life. He must therefore increase and we like John the Baptist must decrease; as what does it matter what happens to us as long as the Name of Jesus is praised and glorified in and through us.
God sent his Son, they call him Jesus…..
John 17:11 NIV
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
WHICH THEN LED TO
Philippians 2:1-5 NIV
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
One of the purposes of a church, is to enable people through the power of The Holy Spirit, to have ” the same mind that was in Christ Jesus’. That is one of the reasons why Jesus prayed for protection for his disciples, and also for us who would believe because of their witness. The other was protection from the evil one: and both prayers are related. As it is the plan of the devil to distract us from the eternal purpose of God – that we may be one in Christ Jesus. And he has many arrows in his quiver.
Final Comments: As the world continues to go through so many spasms of violence and ‘accidents’; as it continues be affected by evil within and without the heart of mankind; as it continues to suffer from economic and moral turmoil, increasingly the church, the body of Christ needs to be that voice of compassion and care. Calling people to repentance of their sins and a new life in Christ Jesus; providing the moral compass for a world drifting from one crisis to another; and being there for suffering humanity. In the same way that Jesus did. But such a church will only grow from strength when it is empowered by The Holy Spirit, in the same way that the disciples were so empowered. And the Holy Spirit will only come into an obedient heart, and a heart of a sinner who plunges beneath the flood of blood consistently and finds that all his or her guilty stain has been removed. And therefore can ‘face tomorrow’, face tragedy, face humiliation, because ‘He, Jesus, lives”. In season and out of season. During Holy Week and for-evermore. In Korea, in Southern Sudan, in the hearts and minds of the LA Clippers, and in my over taxed, murderous, but yet still, blessed country.