I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what me are doing.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s).
1. Two issues dominated world news this week, at least from my perspective. The extent to free speech ought to be protected. And, the second of which caught my eye, how western media in general, and western leaders in particular have treated with murder of almost genocide proportions in Nigeria vs a much smaller scale of homicide which took place in France recently.
For even though the Nigerians have attempted to down play the scale of attacks by Boko Haram, from all accounts hundreds if not thousands of people died in the most recent attacks. A situation which has prompted neighbors Chad and Cameroon to join Nigeria in combating the murderous attacks from the Jihadist group.
and increasingly there are calls for US to become more involved in combating Boko Haram
In all of this however, the most heartbreaking and soul searching issue which has emerged, is the barbarous use of young girls strapped, spoils of the war, with explosives and sent into crowded areas, where they are blown up by remote control, together with everyone around them. Really, what kind of evil mind could plan such a wicked act! Repeatedly!
So yes, there was a murder suicide in my country where a common-law husband used the service revolver belonging to his policewoman girlfriend, to kill her and then shot himself to death. With their four year old son on the bed beside them. Yes, there was more drama in Europe this week, as the Belgian authorities, took pre-emptive action against a terrorist cell group. And also death visited a mall in Melbourne, where a friend of mine had to take cover, all of this being reported live on facebook…triggering lots of prayers and thanksgiving after the ‘rescue’. But Oh my God, 2000 reportedly murdered in a few day! What kind of world do we live in really.
THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of evil, what ought to be the response of the church, according to the Word of God which I read this week, supported by inspired words. Two were sent out by WhatsApp. Another one to my church family, and a two others that almost did not make it. All of them essentially address the question of should the church respond to evil and temptation. And there main instructions emerge in these messages.
1. When faced with evil and Sin, this is not a time for the church to seek its own comfort, but to accept the Suffering and Pain which God sends to help us to grow in grace. So that we can witness about Him in this evil world.
2. When faced with difficult and controversial Issues, accept God’s Truth, before considering any other reaction.
3. When face with Pain and Suffering, regardless of its origins, the proper Christian response is to offer Compassion and seek mercy. Not judgment.
I believe that if we hold these instructions in careful balance, regardless of whether we are confronted by mass murder, International neglect of the poor and marginalized, complex philosophical issues, or ‘hot button’ problems, The Spirit of God will grant us wisdom and grace to persevere and help others through these challenging times.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp and really needs no comment. Save and except to reinforce the extent of God’s mercy and forgiving Spirit. A God who is ” merciful even to the wicked and the ungrateful”
The Bible warned us that they will ‘ invent ways of doing evil’. Which is exactly what the Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram did last week. Sending young girls strapped with explosives into crowded markets in towns in Northern Nigeria and then blowing up the ‘ sacrificial lamb’ and everyone around her.
That’s precisely why we need Jesus in this life and the next. As only He can protect us from evil without; and if we are honest, the terrible evil thoughts we often harbor within, towards others. And only He will judge such evil in due course.
In that context then, the song in my heart this morning as I awoke carries a special message for all of us in times like these.
I NEED THEE EVERY HOUR
I need thee every hour,
most gracious Lord;
no tender voice like thine
can Peace afford
I need thee, O I need thee
Every hour I need thee
O bless me now my Savior!
I come to thee
And the verse which meant the most for me:
I need thee every hour;
stay thou near by,;
temptations lose their power
when thou art near
I need thee, O I need thee..
When you locate this wonderful hymn in the story of the Prodigal Son, a meditation about which I was led to read this morning, then we really get a glimpse of how much God loves us. Regardless of the evil we have done. Amazing! Even Boko Haram. Even the Muslim terrorists in France. And carefully read, the second son represents our human nature – unwilling to forgive the ‘ wicked son’. But, thank God for Jesus, out Father in heaven is always waiting to forgive. And forgive. And forgive.
Thus the meditation opens with these grand and profound words:
No other religion pictures its deity like this. No other faith can claim a God who zealously pursues his children.
Perhaps the key to all of this evil, and to life, is to be found in a verse in Luke 15 (7)which proceeds the story: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety- righteous persons who do not need to repent. ”
I really need that kind of God. So does Jamaica and France and Nigeria. In fact the whole world. Muslims, Atheists. Everybody. Do you?
THE SECOND MESSAGE – again sent out on WhatsApp. I really hope and pray that our National Prayer Breakfast, borne out a need to combat evil in one of the darkest hours of the nation’s life, may be replicated all over the world. Wherever evil exists! In France, or in Nigeria. For as explained in a profound piece of writing in today’s Daily Gleaner, the hand of God ‘ hovered over the nation’ and inspired the start up of the NLPB.
And in this message, the instructions about eschewing comfort in times like these are made very clear.
Prayer Breakfasts And Dons Who Hear From God
Published: Sunday | January 18, 2015 5 Comments
In a short while I will leave home to attend yet another National Leadership Prayer Breakfast. The name says it all; leaders in government, civil society and church gathering together to pray, to fellow and the listen to a Word from the Lord.
And as I woke up early this morning:
Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord Jesus. Come in today, come into to stay, come into my heart Lord Jesus.
Then I was led to read the story of how Naaman was healed of his leprosy in 2 Kings 5. And two verses struck me.
1.” When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: ‘ Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is s prophet in Israel.
2. Where have you been Gehazi……now turn your mind back to the garden of Eden in Genesis 8:9 ….Adam and Eve were hiding after having
disobeyed the Lord, and let Sin come into the hearts of all of mankind. ‘ But the Lord said, Where are you….
Now back to Gehazi who had disobeyed his master and his the money taken from Naaman after Elisha had refused to take gift which was offered earlier.
‘ Your servant did not go anywhere,’ Gehazi answered
But Elisha said to him, ‘ Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from the chariot to meet you? Is this the time to take money, or accept clothes….. Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you.
Message to the church. ‘ God’s spirit is watching us, and ‘ envies intensely…according to His Word. And since Jamaica needs to know The Living God of Power, Compassion and Mercy, now is not the time to seek comfort and glory for ourselves. But rather to suffer as Christ did. So that Jesus will indeed come into our hearts today. And healing will take place in the land. Amen
THE THIRD MESSAGE – sent to my church family at St. Andrew Parish ( Anglican) Church, is a follow-up to the Second message. featuring a very special hymn and instruction about two issues which modern western civilization and misguided churches, would have us place on the sidelines, rather than being a vital part of the Christian journey. Opposition to Sin, and acceptance of Pain and Suffering!
Then on my way to the Pegasus, reflecting on what was just revealed to me and anticipating a strong ‘Word’ from the preacher, the message to the church was made more clear.
Based on Gehazi’s response to temptation….I need thee every hour; stay thou near by; temptations lose their power when thou art nigh. I need thee, O I need thee….and that given his relationship with Elisha, he was part of the forerunner of the modern church, two similar challenges face the church today.
1. Not just a call to suffer, or a commitment to suffer, as none of us can or will suffer like Christ did, but rather a call to ‘have the the same mind which was in Christ Jesus’……the same attitude…. Who though he was by nature God….emptied Himself…made Himself nothing…became a humble servant…even to death on a cross. This is the crux of the matter, as like Gehazi, far too many of us, all of us, are more interested in a comfortable life, than to be ‘disciplined by God’, in one form or another. And every child of God will be ‘disciplined’, according to Hebrews 12. Therefore the words of Elisha ring throughout the centuries: ” now is not the time to seek comfort and glory for ourselves.
2. According to Chris Tiegreen, Naaman left his ‘sin’ , his leprosy, behind in the river…..as result of God’s mercy and Naaman’s obedience. According to the Word of God, Gehazi’s disobedience, like that of Adam, resulted in ‘Sin clinging to him. To Adam. And to all of us. Again this is the crux of the matter. Far too many of us, no longer spend sufficient time contemplating the depth of our sinfulness, before a Holy God. And therefore forget about His Grace, become presumptuous, and thus treat with the sins of others, as if we too are not, desperately, in need of God’s grace and mercy. O my God: Guilty, very guilty, very very guilty!
Then this morning, with instructions to ‘ feed my sheep’, Hark my soul….came into my mind….say poor sinner lovst thou me……and if you love me, ‘feed my sheep’. Words of a hymn which the Lord sent to sustain me in one of the darkest periods of my life. And as I sat there, waiting for the kettle to boil in the early hours of this morning,….can a woman’s tender care….led me to the original passage in Isaiah.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast, and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget you, I will not forget you. See, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands”. Isaiah 49:15-16. NIV
This then is the ‘blessed assurance’ then we have as we ‘ walk with God through Pain and Suffering’, in this life, for the sake of Christ. That, on the Cross, God in Christ, has borne every suffering, every pain, every disappointment, every separation from loved ones, every doubt, every act of persecution. And has therefore not ‘forsaken or forgotten us’, in our desperate hour of need. And all of us are called to have this ‘mind of Christ’. For this is the only way, appointed by God, that we may grow in His grace, and carry out “The Ministry of Reconciliation”. That all mankind…that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.. Isaiah 49:6…..may come to know and love the One who says: ‘Say poor sinner lovst thou me”.
O Jesus, O for grace to love thee more.
Hark, my soul, it is the Lord!
’Tis thy Savior, hear His Word;
Jesus speaks, and speaks to thee,
“Say, poor, sinner, lovest thou Me?”
“I delivered thee when bound,
And, when bleeding, healed thy wound;
Sought thee wandering, set thee right,
Turned thy darkness into light.
“Can a woman’s tender care
Cease toward the child she bare?
Yes, she may forgetful be,
Yet will I remember thee.
“Mine is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above,
Deeper than the depths beneath,
Free and faithful, strong as death.
“Thou shalt see My glory soon,
When the work of grace is done;
Partner of My throne shalt be:
Say, poor sinner, lovest thou Me?”
Lord, it is my chief complaint
That my love is weak and faint;
Yet I love Thee, and adore:
O for grace to love Thee more!
THE FOURTH AND FIFTH MESSAGES – which I thought had been sent out to my family, were hijacked in Cyberspace. And had to be rescued. Seriously!
The first one is a reminder of Sin; and therefore a follow-up to the Third message.
Trust me, I really was not planning to write about any ‘hot button’ issue this morning. And to stir up any controversy! In fact, I woke up with Isaiah’s, :
” You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you”. Isaiah 26:3 NIV
And then I began preparing, in my devotions, for the worship service tomorrow, and turned to the readings. One of which is 1 Cor. 6:11b-20. So, as is my habit, I read the entire passages for context; and which passages in the NIV are entitled, ” Lawsuits among Believers”, which ends with 11b…and thought briefly, very briefly about Professor Bain, and then dismissed the thought..and “Sexual Immorality”, which ends with vs 20.
So then what do you do when you are challenged with the very Word of God. I chose to be obedient and write.
One more thing. As a young man growing up with older boys, I was taken to a ‘Red Light” area, and told that unless I had sex with a prostitute I was not yet a man. My mother’s prayers saved me, ” and I fled from sexual immorality”‘. Like a thief! Literally! So thank God, at least in that respect, I am still a boy. I pray God then, that the prayers of the Saints will keep the church from error in this age.
Finally as I write, memories of Eli’s sin, in the OT reading comes into my mind. That he failed to restrain his sons when they committed sins, …made themselves contemptible….about which sins he was well aware. And what God prophesied against him through the young Samuel. Coincidence? Lord have mercy on my soul if I have called that which is evil, normal; in my life, in the life of my family or in the life of anyone else. For then, like the prophet Ezekiel, who was called to be a ‘watchman’, if I failed to warn the wrongdoer, and he dies, then his ‘blood’ will be on my head…..I will be held accountable. Have mercy!
Finally, finally, this is the same person who wrote about being patient with others yesterday, as we are all in need of God’s grace and mercy. So this message is certainly not about judging anyone, whether in respect of ‘hot button issues’ or others, as all sins mentioned are important, but rather obedience.
If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord’s people? Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother takes another to court—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:1-20 NIV)
THE FIFTH MESSAGE – sent out to my family…or so I thought…is also a follow-up to booth the Third and Fourth messages. In the sense that, the proper response to Pain and Suffering, and God’s revealed Truth, is not condemnation, nor insensitive remarks, regardless of how true they may be, but rather to show mercy, and to act with Compassion. And in the end God’s Glory will be revealed in very mysterious ways indeed. That is why we must be careful, as children of God, who have been rescued by Grace, how we respond to events in France, in The Middle East, in West Africa, in the USA, in Nigeria, and in our own home country Jamaica. As ultimately this world will be rescued by a God of Compassion. Not a god of Vengeance and Evil.
As I continued my reading of Rev. Timothy Keller’s ” Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”, this evening, I was moved to write, with the same compulsion, as I was moved to write this morning. You will soon see why.
EXTRACT FROM TIMOTHY KELLER’S BOOK – WEEPING
……. The point is this…suffering people need to be able to weep and pour out their hearts, and not immediately be shut down by being told what to do. Nor should we do that to ourselves, if we are grieving. A man who lost three sons at various times in his life wrote about grief in ‘The View from a Hearse’:
“I was sitting , torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly, he said things which I knew were true.
I was unmoved, except to wish he’d go away. He finally did
Another came and sat beside me. he didn’t talk. He didn’t ask leading questions. he just sat beside me for an hour or more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left.
I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.”
My brother, Billy was a gay man who had AIDS. My parents were Christians who held on to the church’s historic teaching that homosexuality is a sin. When Billy took a turn for the worst and was moved into a hospice, my parents, then in their seventies, moved nearly a thousand miles, slept at nights on a pullout couch in a relative’s den, and for seven months stayed beside Billy and cared for him fourteen hours a day.
They did not confront him about or even bring up their differences. They fed him sips of juice and spoonfuls of yogurt. They served his most basic needs. Eventually he brought up the issues that had divided the family for many years. He was able to do so because my parents had created a climate of care in which such a frank discussion felt safe to have. We talked them through with truth and tears, and many relational and spiritual issues were resolved.
Comment: Almost makes you fell like crying doesn’t it.
So here are two messages. One speaks to the truth about Sin. And the consequences! The other speaks to the heart of the Gospel message; that God cares, in spite of, and in the midst of the Sin. We need to keep both aspects of the nature of God in careful balance, lest we lose our way. On either side!