I read my Bible to see when 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. The embattled leader of the Opposition Party, JLP, Andrew Holness, continues to make the headlines in Jamaica. For mostly the wrong reasons! Such a great pity for a young man who has, or had, lots of potential. Will he sink or swim? Only time will tell. As many leaders have risen from the ‘ the political ash heap’ and gone on to new heights.
2. Sudden death on the roads in Jamaica. News came this afternoon of a terrible crash in the north of Jamaica, Trelawny, where four persons travelling in a car died on the spot after colliding with a trailer. All were foreigners. One from Spain, the others from The Dominican Republic.
Yes, there were other items in the news which came to my attention. But if truth be told, during lent my mind gets very focused on trying to draw closer to God. Therefore other matters really do not attract my attention as before. So World Cup cricket is interesting, especially when New Zealand bowled out the Aussies cheaply. Only for the men who proudly wear the ‘ baggy green cap’ to come roaring back and almost snatch victory at the end. And IS continues to give trouble all over the world; triggering a comment about how we in the Caribbean may be quite vulnerable to an attack. Murder continues to be problem in Jamaica. But in all of this Lent trumps everything.
THE WORD OF GOD
So what Word, or inspiring word, did the Lord send this week. Mostly ” All About Lent”. About a forgiving and compassionate God. And one dramatic warning to our Political Leaders to be careful about the health of their soul; in the same way that they are concerned about the ‘ big issues’ in our country.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp. I am reading a book for Lent. Written by perhaps the most famous Anglican Evangelical Theologian whose, The Cross of Christ, ought to be a must-read for anyone who has a serious interest in learning about the fundamentals of the faith. And in the same way the party faithfuls are deeply committed to their leader and party, so much more so must we,who believe in The Atoning death of Christ, ‘abide in’, and ‘cling to’ and ‘stick fast to Jesus’, in order to bear fruit, and overcome evil. The kind of evil which leading so many of our young people astray, and into murder and other types of violent crime, about which this country needs to repent. Deeply!
ALL ABOUT LENT
Ultimately, Lent is not just about, giving up, or taking on, but about drawing closer to God in and through Christ Jesus. That’s why it climaxes in Good Friday and The Blessed Resurrection – Easter.
So last night this Word from John Stott – one of my favourite theologians.
LIFE IN CHRIST – JOHN STOTT
….If we are in Christ, personally and organically linked to him, God blesses us with enormous blessings – a new status ( we are put right with him), a new life ( we are renewed by the Holy Spirit) and a new community ( we are members of God’s family).
But how does this happen? We have to come in penitence and faith to Jesus Christ, and commit ourselves to him. It is thus that God unites us in Christ. And this union with him is publicly dramatized in baptism, for to be baptised, Paul writes, is to be ‘baptised’ into Christ. ( Galatians 3:27)
Union with Christ is a living and growing experience, however. Hence Paul can write both of’ infants in Christ, and of ‘adults in Christ ( mature in Christ). So the question now is : how do we grow in our relationship to Christ? The question brings us back to the words of Jesus:
‘ Remain in me, and I will remain in you….If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit ( John 15:4-5). We notice now that Jesus’ allegory of the vine and the branches illustrates a reciprocal relationship between him and his people.
If Christ is to ‘ remain in’, or ‘abide’ in us, we must allow him to do so. Our responsibility here is more passive than active. We have to yield daily, freshly to his control of our lives. We must seek to live moment by moment in total openness to him, so that his life and power flow into us as the sap rises in the tree at spring time.
But if we are to remain or abide in Christ, there are certain active steps that we must take. ..’Abide in me. Cling to me, stick fast to me. Live the life of close and intimate communion with me. Get nearer and nearer to me. Roll every burden on me. cast your whole weight on me. Never let go your hold on me for a moment’.
The command to remain or abide in Christ portrays a tireless, relentless pursuit of him. It is the spirit of Jacob who cried to the Lord who was wrestling with him, ‘ I will not let you go unless you bless me’. ( Genesis 32:26). In particular, we need to be diligent in our use of ‘ the means of grace’, to spend time each day seeking Christ through prayer and Bible reading, and come each Sunday to worship and regularly to the Lord’s Table. It is in these ways that we actively pursue Christ and learn to abide in him. The more disciplined we are in our set times of devotion, the more easy it becomes to live the rest of our time ‘in Christ’, united with him, enjoying his presence, and drawing on his life forever.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp after posting the complete message in an e-mail to my church. A message in which we can all locate ourselves. Repeatedly! For disobedience, to God, is the most problematic issue for all mankind. Whether we are baptised or not! Whether we are mature Christians or still ‘drinking milk’. O Jesus draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.
ALL ABOUT LENT
This morning, having read the OT reading in Church for this Sunday, The story of Abraham and Isaac, I was inspired to write to my church. Part of which I share with you. As this powerful lesson on obedience, which resulted in the wonderful promises of blessedness for the ‘ children of Abraham’, and in which who are obedient to Christ, ought to encourage us to use the ‘ opportunity’ provided by Lent, to repent of our disobedience. Starting with myself!
A PERSONAL PRAYER FOR OBEDIENCE
JOHN BAILLE ( 1886-1960…..A SCOTTISH THEOLOGIAN, EDUCATOR AND ECUMENICAL LEADER…ONCE PRESIDENT OF WCC….AUTHOR OF ” A
DIARY OF PRIVATE PRAYER)
Verse: Judges 2: 17 yet they would not listen to to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to God’s commands.
Holy God, to whose service I long ago dedicated my soul and life; I grieve and lament before thee that I am still so prone to sin and so little inclined to obedience.:
So much attached to the pleasures of sense, so negligent of things spiritual:
So prompt to gratify my body, so slow to nourish my soul:
So greedy for present delight, so indifferent to lasting blessedness:
So fond of idleness, so indisposed for labor:
So soon at play, so late at prayer:
So brisk in the service of self, so slack in the service of others:
So eager to get, so reluctant to give:
So lofty in my profession, so low in my practice:
So full of good intentions, so backward to fulfill them:
So severe with my neighbors, so indulgent with myself:
So eager to find fault, so resentful at being found fault:
So little able for great tasks, so discontented with small ones:
So weak in adversity, so swollen and self-satisfied with in prosperity:
So helpless apart from thee, and yet so little willing to be bound to thee:
O merciful heart of God, grant me yet again thy forgiveness. hear my sorrowful tale and in thy great mercy blot it out from the book of thy remembrance. Give me faith to so lay hold of thine own holiness and so rejoice in the righteousness of Christ my Savior that, resting on his merits rather than on my own, I may more and more become conformed to his likeness, my will becoming one with his on obedience to thine. All this I ask for his holy name sake.
THE THIRD MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp. One of the eternal lessons that all mankind is learning, most times the hard way, is that, whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, our future is in the hands of the Lord. And so The Lord send this affirmation in the words of a very familiar and well loved song. As who knows when the sudden death will separate us from our loved ones. Forever! And bring them suddenly, and hopefully not unprepared, to Judgement. Who can predict with great accuracy, and finality, the fortunes of any political leader. For as we know, ‘ a week in politics is a long time”. We only pray that all leaders, and all of God’s children, come to understand that , ‘we are called to service in this land’. And not to be served!
ALL ABOUT LENT
The message from yesterday continues in a different form today, as I was led, in a most remarkable way – moving from one hymn to another – to spend quality time reflecting on the words below. Called to service in this land, that is ‘ just aching for Jesus’, we need Him to, ‘ keep walking beside us every night, every day’. The words of this well known song touched my heart this morning, as I contemplated my own desperate need for Jesus – that was the first hymn, ‘ I need thee every hour’ – and the state of my blessed country Jamaica land we love. And pray for without ceasing. Hope it touches your soul too. For we all have a lot to repent of in this country which has wandered far from the commands of God to Love Him with all our hearts, and mind, and strength.
You have all our future in Your hands, in Your hands
We bid you take over all our live, Lord –
Our dreams, aspirations, all our best Jesus Christ.
Our all, we place in Your Hands
In your hands, Lord, we place today, tomorrow.
In your hands, Lord we surrender all.
In your hands, we commit our joys, our sorrows
In your hands, Lord we surrender all.
Keep walking beside us every night, every day
And giving us courage for the fray, Lord.
We need You to guide us every step of the way;
forsake us not, O Lord we pray.
You place many duties in our hands, in our hands;
And shaping our future is our task, Lord
On You we depend, Lord on for the power; this we ask;
That all makes sense in Your hands.
You call us to service in this land, in this land,
whose soul is just aching for your touch Lord;
and we to are reaching for your hand Lord.
Redeem us as we take out stand
So Lord we are trusting everything to Your hands,
And then we keep praying for our land, Lord.
To labour with the others for the best, Jesus, Lord,
Our all we place in Your hands.
THE FOURTH MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp. The last message spoke about our being ‘called to service’. This one is very specific about to whom we are called to serve. And to seek to achieve the balance between, ” cultivating the faithful”, and ‘seeking the lost and broken’.
ALL ABOUT LENT
At a time when Homosexuality, Corruption in Politics, Business and the Police Force, Murder and Rape, Slackness in the Dance Hall and in Carnival and among Schoolers, are hot topics, I opened my Devotional Guide this morning and found this challenging word.
HIS MISSION AND OURS
The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost. Luke 19:10
Think of the odd assortment of people to whom people were drawn. In this passage, it’s a dishonest tax collector. Elsewhere, it’s a prostitute; a raging, demon possessed lunatic; an adulteress; beggars; lepers; and just about everyone else who had no legitimate case to make about their own righteousness and well being. His harshest words were reserved for the self-righteous, those who thought they needed nothing more than what they already had. They were just as lost, but could not know it unless they were directly confronted. They overt sinners , though, knew it already. They needed help.
If Christ was drawn to sinners, why isn’t the body of Christ equally drawn? Many of us can hardly say we live to seek and save what is lost. We often act as if we affirm and support what is superior. We tend to avoid the unseemly and cultivate the faithful. Cultivating the faithful is good, as Jesus spent three years doing so with His disciples. But His search for that which was lost and broken was zealous and relentless. Is ours?
If any of us cannot answer yes to this great question, and I am in that category, then Lent is a good time to repent of mainly cultivating the faithful, and avoiding the the ‘ lost and broken’ in our society.
FINAL MESSAGE – sent out by e-mail to leaders on ‘ both sides of the house’ this morning. One that needs very little comment. In fact none at all. But only to say that it is a message for all people at all times. And only the Lord he knows why our politicians, in particular, came into my mind asI read this very well known passage before going to church to worship the God who ” gives grace to the humble”.
Just yesterday, a 90 plus year old, blind woman held my hands as she blessed me and told me how The Lord had called my name. And that was why she was in my office.
Well this morning, just now, as I read the Gospel reading for today’s worship at my church, St. Andrew Anglican Parish Church, The Lord called your names, collectively, as a group of leaders committed to provide and pursue “A Vision”- the big picture – for my country. And told me to share, perhaps remind you, is more accurate, about this profound Word.
” What good it is for a man to gain the whole world, and yet forfeit his soul “.
Lent is a good time to think about this Word.