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).
1. What a week! The eyes of the world community were fixed on the horrific events that unfolded in Paris and its environs this week. And due to the advanced technology, you could virtually sit in your house and watch the drama and the madness; witness the Pain and the Suffering, and ponder on the state of the world. When the dust had settled, twelve persons were brutally murdered at the Office of the Satirical magazine named Charlie Hebdo, including the senior editors and cartoonists, and many many injured seriously. The three well armed and obviously highly trained Muslim gunmen, who carried out this heinous crime, “in the name of Allah’, were later to die in a hail of bullets as ‘martyrs’. All because, the magazine had, repeatedly, used satire in cartoon form, to ‘ mock Allah’. A magazine which was known to target just about anyone, including Roman Catholics and senior Government officials. Then the madness continued, as another ‘cell partner’, reportedly killed a policeman, took several persons hostage in a Jewish store, and he too perished in a hail of bullets. But not before executing four of the hostages and injuring others. Consequently hash tags triggered by the event went viral, including # JeSuisCharlie – officially now the most tweeted hash tag in history #Notinmyname and #JenesuispasCharlie
Yes Boko Haram continued its deadly attacks in Nigeria, and other acts of violence were noted across the world, but the events in Paris consumed most if not alll of my attention.
THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of so much Pain and Suffering, so much angst, in Paris and in the western world, about the Muslim extremists, Jhihaddists , possible cells of terrorists just waiting to execute another set of mass killings, what Word or inspired word did the Lord send this week?
THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out to members of my church family at a time when I was just begging to grapple with the extent of the wickedness which took place in office of Charlie Hebdo, and later on in the Jewish store. While at the same time, certainly not by coincidence, I was reading an extremely well written and nuanced book on Pain and Suffering by Rev. Timothy Keller – a New York Times best selling author. A book I had referenced in the message last week. One of the tweets which I sent and quoted last week spoke to the reality that evil continues to mutate all the time. And the essential lesson we have to learn as a fallen race, since Adam, is that, evil cannot be conquered by man. Evil cannot be fully rooted out and destroyed. So when checked in the act of killing Osama Bin Laden, and having alqueda degraded, evil simply mutated into ISIS – a major international concern at this time. And into which body, the Parisian gunmen had links. So the folks in France, bewildered and shell shocked, on the one hand, and determined to preserve their democracy and liberte, on the other hand, need Jesus, who only can conquer evil. And not only more demonstrations of solidarity, and more intense monitoring of evil men within France, and the capture of the highly dangerous and well armed female terrorist on the run. Of equal importance, so do all of us in Jamaica, and in the far reaches of the world, as evil abounds everywhere, and in different forms. That’s why the call to be very courageous, and very determined to ‘dwell in Christ’, as we are weak, But He is Strong, and very Able. To defeat evil!
Every so often, as I begin my devotions, I open the hymnbook, this morning it was for some strange reason , ” The Songs & Hymns of Fellowship”, and reflect on whatever song that appears. This morning there were about three. But finally I settled on:
Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak but Thou art mighty,
Hold me with thy powerful hand:
At that point my mind carried me to the great promise in Deuteronomy: ” The Eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms…..”. Then right opposite was a continuing Word from the Lord this morning as set out below. My thoughts went like this. I don’t know what resources many persons in Paris have to cope with the recent events which has triggered over 2.3 million Tweets with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie. As such a horrific murder scene must bring back memories – the quality if not the same quantity – of the evil unleashed in Europe during the Nazi years. I don’t know what kind of God, the Muslims serve which could trigger such barbarity, even among extremists, a sentiment expressed in a Tweet I sent out – @lucienforJesus: My God was crucified Your God was only ridiculed My God suffered and died to destroy evil #JesusChrist #JeSuisCharlie Who really is your God.
And then reality set in, as memories of the Crusades in Europe in dark years, and the burning of witches in the ‘name of God’, came flooding back.
But all this suffering, including the heinous crime committed in our country, recently where an elderly woman, a stalwart in her church and in her community, was brutally murdered, reportedly by two teens, has been brought in to very sharp focus by a book I am currently reading. And would strongly recommend to you all! ” Walking with God through pain and Suffering by Rev. Timothy Keller – a New York Times best selling author. One of the Tweets I sent out during the reading, yet unfinished, of this book, was : @lucienforJesus: The main reason that Christians insist that God can be trusted in the midst of suffering is that God himself in Christ suffered on the Cross.
So in the midst of this suffering that many of us are going through, and witnessing all around us, in Jamaica and far away in Europe, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Liberia and other countries in West Africa, the Word of God comforts us this morning. And helps us to comfort others in this “journey of life of travail’, which will only end, when we ” land safe on Canaan’s side. Until then:
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5, 7-9 NIV)
….but only, as the text suggests, if we , ” Make His house a house of Prayer, and not a den of robbers”. Which was the message in a meditation I read recently on this last verse from Matthew; a passage that speaks to the condition of our heart and our need to be in constant communication with God, and not allow, the thief, who has come to ” steal and rob and to destroy” ( my understanding), to distract us and lead us astray, to fret and worry and try to solve our problems on our own. Which is what the children of Israel did, eventually with disastrous results. Which is what “Fallen mankind” did, and which fateful action in Eden, has triggered so much Pain and Suffering in this world. Including#JeSuisCharlie. So rest assured, that these things will continue to happen as we ” Pilgrim through this barren land”. Our response, as children of the Cross of Christ and His Mighty Resurrection, the Atonement for The Fall, is to accept, and to tell others, that ” I am weak, but God is mighty”. And thus we will always be in need of His Everlasting Arms, so that we can heed Joshua’s call to be ” strong and courageous”, in the face of evil, and in our journey in this ” barren land”.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – and third messages were sent out on the same day. In fact the very same morning. One to my church family, by regular e-mail. The other by WhatsApp to another group of persons. The message here is threefold. One, that from the Christian viewpoint, The Glory of God is there to be observed by all who would care to see! And therefore to be acknowledged, and in which Glory we are to rejoice. In this tradition and understanding, there is no need to protect God from ‘infidels’. In fact, God allowed ‘wicked men’, to crucify His only Son, Christ Jesus; so that evil could be conquered. Two, It would appear that, at the very least, in the eyes of some Muslims, and not all of them are extremists, The Name of Allah is to be protected, at all costs. As if, in some shape or form, Allah’s Glory is somehow diminished by ridicual and mockery. Three, increasingly in Europe and other areas of western civilization, men and women do not see any need for God. And deny His Glory about which the Psalms exults :
” The heaven declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voices is not heard.
Their voice goes out to the end of the earth, their words to the end of the world. Ps. 19:11-4 NIV
These three starkly different viewpoints on the nature and glory of God, I would suggest, result in the ‘world of difference’ between the Western Culture and the Muslim one on the one hand. And on the other hand, has profound consequences for how Christians treat with Pain and Suffering, vis-a-vis measures adopted by the secular world. Differences which are destined to play out more and more, in full public view, in this ‘dark world’ filled with grief and pain. A scenario which was brought into too very sharp perspective by the events which spawned #JeSuisCharlie
The constant theme that threads right through the book I am reading, ” Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”, is the stark difference between the worldview – understanding of the ‘big question’ of what is the purpose of human life – of the ancient world, the so called dark age of Medieval Europe and increasingly that of modern secular Western Civilization. And how we treat with Suffering brings things into very sharp perspective! But that’s for another discussion or message.
I am closing in on the end of the book now, and last night…. watching television is such a huge distraction and more often than not a grand waste of time…… before dealing with ‘Suffering and Glory’, the writer, and I suppose all who have tried before, struggled with an explanation of ” The Glory of God”. At the beginning of which struggle came this:
” According to all branches of Christian Theology, the ultimate purpose of life is to glorify God……..Many of the popular churches ( I presume in America about which he can speak with some authority) teach that God will make you happy, healthy, and prosperous, that He is there for your personal benefit. If we tacitly accept that view of things, we may find it offensive to hear someone say that tragedies and evil can honor and glorify God. And indeed, to simply say such a thing to someone who is watching their mother or a child die from cancer would be confusing and cruel.
C. S.Lewis, in his book Reflections of the Psalms, confesses that for many years after becoming a Christian he was confused and embarrassed by God’s call to to us to glorify him and rejoice in excellencies….among humans such a desire for praise would be despicable……However, Lewis began to think about how praise and glorifying worked in other ways…….From there Lewis reasons that God commands us to glorify Him because it is only by doing this that we will ever find the rest, satisfaction and joy in Him that we were made for. He directs us to do this not only because it is simply right but also because we need it. The Psalmist tells us that it is ‘fitting….to praise him”…33:1…147:1…..
The Hebrew word for “glory” is kabod, which means ” weight” – literally God’s weightiness…the English word ” matter” is the equivalent…same lexical range ( love that phrase…first time seeing it)…..Matter means ‘ as opposed to the immaterial’…but it can also mean ‘ importance’. And therefore when the Bible says that God is glorious, it means that He should matter, and does matter, more than anything else or anyone else. And if anything matters to you more than God, you are not acknowledging His glory. You are giving glory to something else……..
There is one more thing to say about God’s glory – it is His absolute splendor and beauty. The word for ‘glory’ in the Old Testament means importance, the word for ‘glory’ in the New Testament ( the Greek word doxa) means ” praise and wonder; luminosity, brilliance, or beauty.” Jonathan Edwards once said: ” God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but it being rejoiced in…….Glorifying God does not mean obeying Him only because you have to. it means to obey Him because you want to – because you are attracted to Him, because you delight in Him…….
So to see God as glorious is not only to admit his incomprehensibility and beyondness, and make Him the thing that matters the most, but it is also to work your heart so it finds him the most pleasurable and beautiful thing you know.
And then this morning I got up with ” thou hast stooped to ask of me the love of my poor heart”. In the Name of Jesus! Then try and try as I could, although the words were quite familiar, and the tune also, I could not recall the name of the hymn. So google came to my rescue and allowed me to reflect deeply on the words of one of my favorite hymns. All of which verses, and indeed words, speak to the “glory of God” in even a much more profound way than all the theologians. All because Jesus, put away His Glory, and in the midst of Pain and Suffering, ‘asked for the love of my poor heart”.
And so I write, and I write, and I write! All “for the Glory of God”.”
“” Lord renew thy church beginning with me: Lord renew the church, that the church may renew the nation(s)…especially France and Jamaica at this time.
I pray God, that the words and the message of ” My God, how wonderful thou art”, in the context of the discussion on Pain and Suffering, and the changing worldview of modern societies, in which our children and grandchildren are being nurtured, may guide us to deeper appreciation of, and love for, the God who we serve in and through The Crucified Christ. Amen!
My God, how wonderful Thou art,
Thy majesty, how bright;
How beautiful Thy mercy seat
In depths of burning light!
How dread are Thine eternal years,
O everlasting Lord,
By prostrate spirits day and night
How beautiful, how beautiful,
The sight of Thee must be,
Thine endless wisdom, boundless power,
And awful purity!
O how I fear Thee, living One,
With deepest, tenderest fears,
And worship Thee with trembling hope,
And penitential tears!
Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord,
Almighty as Thou art;
For Thou hast stooped to ask of me
The love of my poor heart.
Oh then this worse than worthless heart
In pity deign to take,
And make it love Thee, for Thyself
And for Thy glory’s sake.
No earthly father loves like Thee,
No mother, e’er so mild,
Bears and forbears as Thou hast done,
With me, Thy sinful child.
Father of Jesus, love’s reward!
What rapture it will be,
Prostrate before Thy throne to lie,
And gaze and gaze on Thee!
THE THIRD AND FINAL MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp is a continuation of the theme of the second one, and expands of the concept of a ‘dark world’; a situation which the events of #JeSuisCharlie forces us to think about deeply. Even if we would rather not. As those who don’t believe in God, I would argue, cannot believe in nor accept the concept of evil. A very dangerous presumption in today’s World indeed.
People in France take great pride in their secular lifestyle, their democracy and their liberty. Many of them see no need for God or Jesus Crucified. But they don’t understand that they too like us live in a dark world. Pray God that the recent events which spawned the now world famous #JeSuisCharlie will help them, and we in Jamaica too, to at least stop and think again.
LIGHT AND TRUTH
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:46
We live in a dark world ( Colossians 1:13). The Bible is very clear and consistent about that. Our understanding was darkened ( Ephesians 4:18); we are surrounded by darkness ( Ephesians 6:12); we ourselves have done deeds of darkness (Romans 13:12); our motives are dark ( 1 Corinthians 4:5); and we even when we see God, we see Him very dimly ( 1 Corinthians 13:12). In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that we were darkness ( Ephesians 5:8).
This is insulting to the human ego, to say the least. We think we’re fairly well educated and wise. We even have an intellectual era we refer to as the Enlightenment. So when Jesus implies that He has come into to the darkness we might wonder where all this alleged darkness is? Aren’t we all pretty bright folks? No, Jesus is the only light this world has ever seen. We can’t find illumination any where else. He is the One through whom God once said ” Let there be light, and there was light”. We’re the ones who have shrouded this planet in a sinful haze of spiritual blindness. He came back into it with all the radiance of a million suns…. .
Do not dabble in the wisdom of this world. This world no longer has anything to offer you. Its interpretations are but shadows; its knowledge untouched by the light of the truth. Reject it. Do you want understanding? Open your mind exclusively to Jesus and let him shine – CHRIS TIEGREEN
In that sense #JeN’estPasCharlie but rather in Christ a child of God. The only Light of the world.