As Ferguson in the USA burns with anger, and Jamaica remains a troubled land, Jesus invites us to ” A Closer Walk with Him”; beginning at Calvary

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

Lord renew thy church beginning with me: Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s).

THE NEWS

1.The news about the NHT purchase of the all of or some of the Outameni Tourist attraction continues to the ‘talk of the town’ in my country. The basic principle fueling the debate is whether or not tax dollars, earmarked for building affordable homes for contributors – all salaried persons – ought to have been used to buy a property, which in the minds of many people, does not have anything to do with housing. The cabinet has supported the purchase, and the PM is to answer further questions tomorrow in the Parliament. In the meanwhile the debate continues unabated. And in fact protests have been organized, both online and in the public space, triggered by a comment by a senior government minister and Party Chairman Robert Pickergill that Twitter users – used as an example of the general dissatisfaction in the society over the the purchase by a ‘pesky’ journalist – are a ‘articulate minority’, and do not in fact represent ‘ordinary’ Jamaicans.

2. Predictable, and predicted, the ‘Grand Jury’ which adjudicated on the “Brown vs the Police Office Darren Wilson”, who shot and killed the teenager in Ferguson USA, returned a verdict that the officer did not have a case to answer. And so predictably, and as predicted, Ferguson burned. This despite a public appeal from President Obama for calm. Many commentators have lamented the fact that once more, a young unarmed black male, was killed by a white male, this time an officer, and no one was found criminally responsible. And so the rage, and fear continues to grip Black Americans, not just in Ferguson, but all over the country

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2844491/Ferguson-Missouri-Police-officer-Darren-Wilson-NOT-face-charges-shooting-unarmed-black-teen-Michael-Brown.html

3. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sports/football/os-ray-rice-george-diaz-1201-20141130-column.html
The above link features an article on Ray Rice, the NFL Football player, made famous for beating his wife in a New Jersey elevation, for which he was suspended from playing. For a while! And now he has been reinstated and cleared to play. Question is, who will employ him given the negative publicity that will still stick to him over his domestic violence rap. His wife, puzzling for many, has stuck with him, and yet is now a crusader against domestic violence. Question is, does he deserve another chance, or once one has committed such a dastardly act, the penalty is ‘life” ?

THE WORD OF GOD.

Of late the Lord the Lord has led me to write more on WhatsApp, a medium which people, from all reports, use more than straight texting or answering the phone. So this week, three relatively short messages were sent. The first one deals with the issue of persistent asking. This message coming in a week when I was led to reflect deeply again, on Ephesians 1:15-23 NIV

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭15-23‬ NIV)

All of this happening when so many people are struggling to deal with Post Chik V symptoms which are as bad, if not worse than the initial presentation. And perhaps worse to come in the form of Ebla! A time when people are having a hard time meeting their financial responsibilities – bills, loans, supermarket purchases. A time when getting increasingly disillusioned by our political leaders – no better herring, no better barrel – is how one retired woman, who is no fan of the Opposition Party, declared. A time when, despite the welcome news about the reduction in violent crime, the wickedness of these gunmen, still drives fear into the hearts of many people. A time when, even elements within the church seem to have lost their way; a view argued by popular and highly respected journalist and Pastor Ian Boyne in his regular column in the Daily Gleaner today entitled, ” Can the Church be Saved”.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20141130/focus/focus1.html

Although I don’t agree with his apparent pessimism and alarm about what is taking place in some aspects of the church. As this ‘body of Christ’ has never been a ‘success’ story in the way that the world defines success. For as the Scriptures tell us, wide is the road that leads to destruction, but narrow is the road that leads to eternal life. And therefore what is happening in today’s world, lured by ‘ all that glitters and is not gold’, is that people are choosing what Moses from antiquity warned against. ” Death and curses over Life and blessings”. Only because what they think are worthwhile pursuits; fame, power, earthly wisdom, riches, pleasure without ceasing, are in effect, “death” in the long run. And they will only know when they come before the ‘judge of all men’. A God is who is patient and merciful, and waiting and waiting and waiting for them to ‘come to their senses’ and repent.

Therefore in this context, a message of ” Persistent Prayer”, is very timely. About every aspect of one’s life. Be bold! Do not place limits on your prayers and our God is an awesome God.

THE FIRST MESSAGE

KEEP ON ASKING
CHRIS TIEGREEN
Ask and it will be given to you.
Luke 11:9
………If you are like most people, you pray about a matter for a while . Then, having not heard from God, you give up , assuming it wasn’t His will to answer. But nowhere in the Bible are we told that God’s silence means ” no”. In fact, Jesus demonstrates to a Canaanite woman that His silence means “keep on asking” ( Matthew 15:22-28).
Scripture never gives us permission to drop a request because we got no immediate answer. We are to have a no-ceasing attitude to our prayers ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17). If God wants to show us that our prayers are unscriptural or out of line with His will, He will show us. If He wants to say ” no”, He will actually say it. Silence is not “no”……..

And as I began praying asking The Lord to renew the church in faith in He who only can raise the dead, I was reminded of this wonderful song which I listen and watch on a regular basis. Praise God indeed.
Watch “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE ( the brooklyn tabernacle c…” on YouTube – NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE ( the brooklyn tabernacle c…: http://youtu.be/VxKuDu2Vu1k

THE SECOND MESSAGE
Today, at St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church in Kingston Jamaica, we celebrated 350 years of Christian witness to the community. And one of the charges given to us, during a very insightful sermon delivered by the ArchBishop of The West Indies, Rev. John W. D. Holder, a Barbadian, was a call to denounce the ‘drawing up of lists’ of those who we think are going to hell, as others are wont to do, and those who will go to heaven. For the Anglican understanding of God, is that He is merciful and patient, full of compassion, and willing to wait, and wait, and wait on all whom He has created.
This is the context then in which the second message is to be read.

GOD LOVES THE BACKSLIDER
DWIGHT L. MOODY ( 1837-1899)

Verse: Hosea 14:4

A backslider cane into the inquiry room night before last, and I was trying to tell him God loved him. He would hardly believe me. He thought because he had not kept up his faithfulness to God, and to his own vows, that God had stopped loving him……..
Now in Hosea 14: 4, God says that he will heal every backslider. ” I will……love them freely.” So the Lord tells the backsliders, ” If you will only come back to me, I will forgive you.” It was thus with Peter who denied his Lord. The Savior forgave him and sent him to preach his glorious gospel on the day of Pentecost when 3000 were won to Christ under one sermon of a backslider ( see John 18:25-27; 21:15-19; Acts 2:14-39 ).
Don’t let a backslider go out of this hall this evening with such hard talk about the Lord. No backslider can say that God has left him. He may think so, but it is one of the devil’s lies. The Lord had never left a man yet.
P.S. I am not sure why the Lord led me to this meditation this morning. Only He knows. But I can testify to this truth of the ‘ unfailing’ love of God. As I too, at one point in my life, had drifted away from the Lord. Praise God then for grace and mercy.GOD LOVES THE BACKSLIDER

P.S. I am not sure why the Lord led me to this meditation this morning. Only He knows. But I can testify to this truth of the ‘ unfailing’ love of God. As I too, at one point in my life, had drifted away from the Lord. Praise God then for grace and mercy.

THE FINAL MESSAGE – sent to my church yesterday, inspired by The Lord on the occasion of our 350th anniversary is self explanatory. Both the content and the final comment. The ‘take home message ‘ for Ian Boyne, and all of us who ponder on the challenges the church faces in ministering to people in these times is – focus and brood on the Cross of Calvary, as therein lies the Power of Gospel. And the answer to the ‘feebleness of today’s church’.

THE MESSAGE

I was actually looking for the hymn, ” Just a closer walk with thee”, to start my devotions this morning when I, ‘happened upon this hymn’; and was reminded of the instructions that greeted me on awakening this morning – to write about the importance of the Cross as we approach our and celebrate our 350th Anniversary.
Note how the selected words of the hymn flow into the two meditations from Oswald Chambers, writing at the beginning of World War 1, and to which reflections I was led this week.

One final revelation before I start. This week, after reflecting on Psalm 121 every night for years, before retiring to bed, I was struck by the following thought.
That captured in the declaration of the Psalmist:

” I lift up my eyes to the hill –
where does my help come from ?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth ( and the sea and all that is in it…another Psalm)

…is the Psalmist’s understanding, and the revelation by God, of all the majesty and power, and mercy, and glory of The Holy One of Israel. But this is Old Testament revelation, and more and better was to come. I believe that the verse that Chambers uses, and which inspired the profound reflections, and there are others, capture the glory of the new promise, the full extent of the mercy of God, the genesis of the new creation and the final revelation from God, as the writer to the Hebrews declares:

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days ( which is the context in which we celebrate 350th years of witness, and every Sunday morning at the Eucharist) he has spoke to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” – my help cometh from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth

THE WORDS OF THE HYMN – COME, THOU FOUNT OF EVERY BLESSING

…..Jesus sought me when a stranger
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,seal it for thy courts above.

OSWALD CHAMBERS

The Secret of Spiritual Consistency
God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . -Galatians 6:14
When a person is newly born again, he seems inconsistent due to his unrelated emotions and the state of the external things or circumstances in his life. The apostle Paul had a strong and steady underlying consistency in his life. Consequently, he could let his external life change without internal distress because he was rooted and grounded in God. Most of us are not consistent spiritually because we are more concerned about being consistent externally. In the external expression of things, Paul lived in the basement, while his critics lived on the upper level. And these two levels do not begin to touch each other. But Paul’s consistency was down deep in the fundamentals. The great basis of his consistency was the agony of God in the redemption of the world, namely, the Cross of Christ.
State your beliefs to yourself again. Get back to the foundation of the Cross of Christ, doing away with any belief not based on it. In secular history the Cross is an infinitesimally small thing, but from the biblical perspective it is of more importance than all the empires of the world. If we get away from dwelling on the tragedy of God on the Cross in our preaching, our preaching produces nothing. It will not transmit the energy of God to man; it may be interesting, but it will have no power. However, when we preach the Cross, the energy of God is released. “. . . it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. . . . we preach Christ crucified . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:21, 23).

The Focal Point of Spiritual Power
. . . except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . -Galatians 6:14
If you want to know the power of God (that is, the resurrection life of Jesus) in your human flesh, you must dwell on the tragedy of God. Break away from your personal concern over your own spiritual condition, and with a completely open spirit consider the tragedy of God. Instantly the power of God will be in you. “Look to Me. . .” (Isaiah 45:22). Pay attention to the external Source and the internal power will be there. We lose power because we don’t focus on the right thing. The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these. We are to preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work. Concentrate on God’s focal point in your preaching, and even if your listeners seem to pay it no attention, they will never be the same again. If I share my own words, they are of no more importance than your words are to me. But if we share the truth of God with one another, we will encounter it again and again. We have to focus on the great point of spiritual power- the Cross. If we stay in contact with that center of power, its energy is released in our lives. In holiness movements and spiritual experience meetings, the focus tends to be put not on the Cross of Christ but on the effects of the Cross.
The feebleness of the church is being criticized today, and the criticism is justified. One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been this focus on the true center of spiritual power. We have not dwelt enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of redemption.

Final comment: This matter of the power of the witness and preaching of the church lies at the heart of this meditation. For ultimately, the work and ministry of the church, is the same as the declared ministry of Christ: To preach the good news to the poor ( in heart and in body) …and to set the prisoners free. Many of the current and past political, social, and moral issues of the day cry out for the intervention of the church of Jesus Christ – born of David and raised from the dead. I pray God that, as church, we will heed the call to ‘return to our first and only true love’; Christ and him Crucified. And from Whom only, will flow the promised power of ” streams of living water’, to rescue the perishing, care for the dying, seek the lost, go after the stray, and bind up the wounded, and pursue justice on behalf of the weak and vulnerable and voiceless. Whether they are in ISIS controlled Syria, Ebola ridden West Africa, troubled Ferguson, USA, poverty stricken, Chik V disabled, fearful of gunmen and politically disillusioned Jamaica.
Peace.
LWJ
Then not a message but a prayer, completes this ministry this week.

The message from yesterday, and the day before, both point us to this glorious hymn/prayer- without ceasing.
JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE
1. I am weak but thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong:
I’ll be satisfied as long
as I walk, let me walk close to thee.
Refrain
Just a closer walk with thee,
grant it, Jesus, is my plea,
daily walking close to thee,
let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
2. Throughout this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who will me my burden shares?
None but there, dear Lord, none but thee.
Refrain.
Just a closer walk with thee…..
3. When my feeble life is o’er,
time for me will be no more;
guide me gently, safely o’er
to thy kingdom short, to thy shore.
Refrain
Just a closer walk with thee……

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