I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing – John Newton ( former slave ship owner turned Anglican Priest)
Lord renew thy church beginning with me: Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s) – Prayer for the Decade of Evangelism.
1. So America under Obama’s watch is going back to war without using the ” W ” word. And if you listen to some voices, the USA should stay out of the fight with ISIS and leave the Arabs and others in the Middle-East to sort out their problem.
One voice which is hard to ignore, belongs to the celebrated economist Jeffery Sachs. And whose voice is not unfamiliar to many Jamaicans given his ‘star ‘ role in the once very influential ‘ Breakfast Club’ hosted by the late Anthony Abrahams and Beverley Manley. He argues inter alia, that other more pressing issues ( hunger poverty and disease ) in the region ought to take priority over ISIS
The problem is that we live in a media saturated world, and it is hard for anyone with a conscience and the power to made a difference, to ignore those pictures of Iraqi Christians, and other minorities, fleeing for their lives on the mountains in Northern Iraq- CNN ought to get some kind of prize for that coverage. Especially when we learn of the beheading of children who refuse to ” change their allegiance”, and other such atrocities. Further, what apart from terror is the end game of ISIS? This is not a group simply fighting to establish and maintain an Islamic State, but rather one that has clear intentions to forcibly convert others. And if not, ” off with your head”. Imagine if we had the same ‘ early warning ‘ coverage of the atrocities which took place under Hitler’s watch in Nazi controlled Germany, how quickly that war would have ended. Or how much sooner the Americans would have gone to war. Long before Pearl Harbour! Evil of the sort that ISIS represents has no place in a civilized world, and must be driven out lest it take root and infect the entire Middle East, and beyond.
Let the Middle East Fight Its Own War on ISIS Huffington Post - 4 days ago
We should understand from the start that the US had a major hand in creating the new ISIS monster. The US funded the Mujahedeen in …
Yes, other news caught my attention. The funeral of the late Minister of Government Roger Clarke and the tremendous outpouring of grief, love and respect. The continued mayhem occasioned by gunmen in Jamaica, in the USA and other parts of the world. The heightened fears over the spread of the Ebola Virus in Africa and what it is doing to the Tourist Product in that continent. As the fact is that as Bob Marley famously wrote ( there is ) ‘ so much trouble in the world’.
THE WORD OF GOD
So as we reflect on so much trouble in the world and the role of the church in renewing the nations, what Word or inspired word did The Lord speak about this week to His people through this medium.
Two messages stuck in my mind. One very short. And the other, just a bit longer. Thus making this Sunday Night Ministry one of the shortest ever ; a joy to the ears of many. Although whatever I write is always in obedient to the Spirit.
1. The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. John 7:63 NIV.
The context here, and hence the link to ISIS, is the continued warning by Jesus, that ” man cannot live by bread alone”; and that ‘flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of God”. That teaching was extended in His advice to ( especially those who come to Him by night ; because they are afraid of what others might say, or do ) Nicodemus that, “no one can enter the kingdom unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
So in the same way that flesh, no matter how great that person is, or was loved, or was heralded – all those with ears to hear let them hear – counts for nothing in the sight of God; and must die, and be made anew by the Power of The Holy Spirit. So too the unadulterated and unfettered evil that ISIS represents, as did The Fourth Reich, as did the Pol Pot Regime, as did the Mau Mau, must be removed, so that new life can be breathed back into the Middle-East.
2. The message below is really an extension of the word that reminds us that we cannot serve God unless we are ” Spirit filled”. And thus we cannot ‘renew the nations’. Thus the kind of anemic Christianity, dim faith, and languid prayers which attend the preaching and acceptance of the prosperity gospel; which properly understood is an attempt to ‘serve The Lord by coming through the back door”. That is, without the suffering, that marked the lives of the early Christians like Paul and Peter. And whose teaching and witness by the Power of The Holy Spirit, transformed civilizations, much less regions and nations. This then, the ” Spirit filled ‘ life, is what is needed, and has always been the case throughout the long history of pure Bible based Christianity across the ages, if we are to defeat ISIS, the forces of evil causing murder in Jamaica and continued mayhem in parts of the USA, the despoiling of our young women and children, and the ever widen gap between the rich and poor across the world.
Last night whilst listening to song after song of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and praising The Lord, for some unknown reason I ‘happened’ upon one of my favorite pictures and tweeted it with the following caption:
@lucienforJesus: https://t.co/0BFH715PIV one of my favorite pictures. Think of Pentecost and The Holy Spirit descending on the disciples #tonguesoffire
Then this morning whilst praising The Lord with the words from the Benedictus in the old prayer book….that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies might serve him without fear…I was led to the famous speech by Joshua as he approached the end of his life. And during which (chapters 23-24) charge to Israel, among other things, after recounting their long and glorious and event filled history as guided and protected by God alone, he spoke these remarkable prophetic words after he had declared who he would serve ( As for me and my house……)
” We too will serve The Lord, because he is our God. Joshua said to the people,” You are not able to serve The Lord . He is a holy God, he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake The Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you”. Joshua 24:18-20 NIV
After which Joshua made a covenant for people at Shechem ” a stone to be a witness against us”
Comment: One of, if not the greatest challenge, that we as children of the Resurrection, and partakers of the New Covenant established by the Blood of Jesus, is to remember that ” You are not able to serve The Lord”. And in fact the Word of God in 2 Corinthians 1:21, says that : ” Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come”.
In fact properly understood, the entire Old Testament after Joshua, is a history of a people rebelling against God, and God in His mercy rescuing them. Again and again, until ‘ in the fullness of time God sent His Son”.
The point here is that every day, every minute, every Sunday morning, lest we forget, we need to give thanks to God for His Holy Spirit; Who alone empowers us to serve God. For as the songwriter reminds us in that wonderful hymn, we are all, ‘prone to wander’, and serve ‘gods from beyond the river’.
This week I was led to reflect and write about on a meditation from E. F. Bruce the preeminent evangelical theologian in the post World War 11 era and who lived in Scotland. An excerpt from which I share to underscore the importance of coming to church, and more importantly, living a life of ‘ sincere heart-devotion’ to Jesus, Whose Holy Spirit living with and among us enables us to worship and serve God. For otherwise we would have suffered, the same fate as the children of Israel, as ‘ without the Holy Spirit we cannot serve The Lord’.
………..’God is spirit’: it is not merely that he is a spirit among other spirits; rather, God himself is pure spirit, and the worship of which he takes delight is accordingly spiritual worship – the sacrifice of a humble, contrite, grateful and adoring spirit. This affirmation of our Lord’s was not entirely new; it but crowns the witness of psalmists and prophets in earlier ages, who saw that material things could at best be the vehicle of true worship but could never belong to its essence. Sincere heart-devotion, whenever and wherever found, is indispensable.’
Final Comment: In the same way that the weight of the evidence in the Bible, is captured in that wonderful hymn, the words of which were in my heart as I awoke one day this week; ” I must have my Savior with me, for I dare not walk alone”. In the same way we need to understand that the weight of human history teaches us that we dare not let evil flourish for a moment. For evil left unchecked anywhere is an affront to the God who made the earth, and declared it, not just good, but ‘very good”. And the same God who in Christ died on the Cross, to defeat the evil which had infected mankind and the creation, is the same God who calls on us, the Body of Christ to fight against evil anywhere. Whether it be in a country, in the music or entertainment industry, in the Justice system, in commerce, in a community, or in the hearts of mankind – out of which flows all kind of evil. For the Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.