I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what are doing.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church that the church may renew the nation(s).
1. After the news last week of the death of young 14 year old Kayalecia Simpson, who was found to be pregnant after an autopsy was performed, the headlines of The Daily Gleaner this morning, ‘broke our heart’. ” My Baby’s baby !”, a mother lamented, as she learned that her 11 year old girl child had been raped by two older men and left pregnant.
2. One of the worse fires, among many over the years, occurred at an area where garbage is disposed of in the capital city of Jamaica. The attendant smoke from the fire blanketed most of entire city, triggering, asthmatic attacks, and other respiratory illnesses, and panic attacks, among the city’s children and adults. Thus causing schools to be closed, businesses to lock up shop early, drivers to be cautioned, and influential persons calling for ‘heads to roll’ at the agency responsible for managing the Riverton City Dump.
3. Then news brike today, that the Taliban in Pakistan was responsible for the deaths of at least ten Christians, and 70 wounded, during two deadly blasts which targeted Sunday worshiper in Lahore.
THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of all this wickedness, at home and abroad, what Word or inspired word did the Lord send this week. Basically all them spoke to the fact that we are now in the season of Lent, and that this period in the Christian calendar climaxes in Good Friday and Easter. Further, that this is a time for serious reflection about personal and national issues which affect us deeply. And from which ‘sins’, we need to repent.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp shares a perspective on a Life With Christ written by an Evangelical Anglican theologian who has been a great influence on my journey with the Lord – the late Rev. John Stott. The importance of which Life ‘hidden’ with Christ is that manifest change must take place viz. New standards, new Ambitions, and new Relationships. All of which we bring to bear to try and change a society beset with violence and immorality.
ALL ABOUT LENT
Last night the second aspect of The Practical Consequences of a life united with Christ came into my mind during my sleep. It’s part of a message which I wrote to my church recently. So I share an edited version with you. As you read, bear in mind the Gleaner headlines today, concerning the safety of our children who leave home for school in the dark. And clearly also what happened to young Kayalecia. And how ‘ pornography’ has captured our popular music, movies, television shows with devastating consequences for our people. Lent is a good time to think on these things and for a nation to repent as nothing should allowed to ‘ dislodge God from His throne’ , in our lives.
UNITED WITH CHRIST
1. First, ‘we died with Christ’…there is no more dramatic way of describing the end of something than by referring to its ‘death’…….Our former life was one of bondage to sin, self, fear and guilt, and to the unseen powers of evil which, because of our estrangement from God, had enslaved us……
2. Secondly, ‘ we have been raised with Christ’. Not only have we died to the old life, but we have been raised to a new one. Not only has the old life of sin, guilt and bondage come to an end, but the new life of forgiveness, power and freedom has begun. For we are ‘with Christ’ in his resurrection and well as in his death…..
3. Thirdly, ‘our life is hidden with Christ’. Having died and been raised from death, Jesus Christ was then exalted to heaven and enthroned at God’s right hand, the position symbolic of his universal authority. This third event in his saving career his people have also shared with him. For having raised us with Christ, God has ‘ seated us with him in the heavenly realms’, so that our life is now ‘hidden with Christ…….Christians have a hidden life. Visibly they live on earth, invisibly in heaven. They are despised, persecuted, battered, even apparently defeated and trodden under foot, yet in reality they are reigning with Christ.
4. Fourthly, ‘we shall appear with Christ’. One day the Jesus who died, rose and reigns will return……..And when he appears, we shall appear ‘ with him’.
So then, the death, resurrection, exaltation and return of Jesus are for Christians much more than historical events. They are personal events, in which we have either participated, or do so, or will participate. Personally united to Jesus Christ, one with him as his people, we have died and been raised with him in the past, our present life is hidden with him, and one day in the future we shall appear with him. This is the primary sense in which the New Testament affirms that Christians are ‘with Christ’.
SOME PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES
1. We have new ambitions………’set our minds on things above. not on earthly things’ ( Colossians 3:1)…..things that belong to old and self-centered life………’sexual immorality, impurity, lust, , evil desires and greed which is idolatry…..seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.
2. We set new standards. Having died and risen with Christ, it is inconceivable that we should continue to live the same old life in the same old way. To illustrate his point, Paul singles out sexual immorality, as we have seen, not because it is the only sin or worst sin, not because Christians have a morbid obsession with sex, but because immorality is a conspicuous example of ‘covetousness’, which is idolatry’. It is ‘covetous’ because it involves the gratification of self at the expense of others, and ‘idolatrous’ because it is an imperious passion which dislodges God from his throne. Paul does not mince his words. God’s wrath will fall on those who give themselves up to such covetous idolatry. In such practices, he adds, his readers once lived ( Colossians 3:5-7). But now they have new standards. Instead of covetousness there is self-control and service, instead of idolatry worship.
3. Thirdly, we have new relationships. It is not only the covetous idolatry of an immoral life that we are to renounce. We are to ‘put away’, as dirty rags all the following as well: ‘anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language, together with lying’ ( Colossians 3:8-9). In their place we are to ‘put on’ as the bright new clothes of a Christian, ‘compassion,, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience………
The essence of our Christian identity is that we are ‘with Christ’ at each stage of his saving career. No truth has greater power to transform us. When we grasp it, the radical discontinuity between the past and the present is glaringly evident. We can neither fall back, not even stand still. We must go forward ‘with Christ’.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent out on WhatsApp, features a frightening reality. That at one point in the history of the Israelites, a history characterized by repeated rebellion against The Living God, there appeared to be ‘no remedy’ for their apostasy. And so God acted. They were sent into exile, but not before many perished, both young and old, by the sword. The reality is that last Friday could have been a day of a terrible disaster for the over 1 million persons who reside in the nation’s capital, had the smog which covered the city, contained any kind of poisonous material. Thank God, this was not the case. But we need to bear in mind that, ‘ unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchmen stand guard in vain’. Psalm 127:1. And that one day there will be a judgement for those who persist in being disobedient to he who died for the sins of all mankind on that first Good Friday. So we who are the present ‘children of God’, need to spread the gospel of Christ, and His love for all mankind, with a sense of urgency.
ALL ABOUT LENT
As I read the Old Testament reading appointed for my church for next Sunday, the words, ‘ no remedy’, arrested my thought. And kept reverberating in my head.
One of the great lessons we need to understand, reflect on deeply and repent of in Lent, as a nation, and as individuals, is that without the Blood of Jesus, ‘ there is no remedy’, for sin, and death and evil. So we can lament all we want, and we surely need to mourn when our young girls are impregnated and then murdered, but the reality is that, without Christ, it will surely happen again. And again! Whether in Jamaica, or elsewhere in the world! And manifest in various ways, this kind of evil. Publicly or privately! For disobedience to The Living God as revealed in The Written Word and The Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, is not a good thing. Never has, and never will.
2 Chronicles 36:15-17 NIV
The Lord , the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.
So what’s the solution? Found in another Word that has been ‘ in my head’ for a while now. The Body of Christ, The Church, has work to do. To spread the Gospel of Christ. And urgently. And watching TV – for hours – and seeking prosperity for self, is not part of the program. Lent is a good time to think on these things.
2 Corinthians 2:15-17 NIV
For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.
THE THIRD MESSAGE – again sent out on WhatsApp addresses the Christian understanding of Life; before and after Christ. And there is a world of difference between the two. Literally and metaphorically. Morally and Spiritually. Now and for eternnity.
ALL ABOUT LENT
Lent is a good time to remember our ‘ former life’ without Christ; where people we know still live; and where, if we are not vigilant Satan will lead us to again. A temptation we face daily, and everybody’s temptation is different – but disobedience to Almighty God is always at the heart of it – until ‘ death do us part’. So we thank God for Jesus, that all of us who believe, and even ‘ the vilest offender’ who believes in Him, have access to the free gift of the Grace and Mercy of God. This is the message from The Word of God appointed to be read at my Church on Sunday; and a wonderful hymn, both of which I was led to reflect on this morning. And share with you. Praise the Lord
THE WORD OF GOD
Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
To God be the glory, great things he hath done!
So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the lifegate that all may go in.
Refrain: Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory,
great things he hath done!
2. O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
to every believer the promise of God;
the vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
3. Great things he hath taught us,
great things he hath done,
and great our rejoicing thru Jesus the Son;
but purer, and higher, and greater will be our wonder,
our transport, when Jesus we see.
THE FOURTH MESSAGE – is a word of encouragement and wisdom for this age. Especially when Christians are being persecuted in various parts of the world, and in different ways. At times like these we need to draw strength from enduring Word of God, and learn to ‘ look under every leaf’.
ALL ABOUT LENT
Yesterday the Lord sent two Words. One a warning which was of great benefit to me. And I pray will serve you well also. The other, profound advice.
Therefore, if we have not trusted God for deliverance in every situation we face, you and I, and if we have not spent much time with His Word, ‘ looking under every leaf’, because of other ‘ distractions’; whether they may be our fears, or our pleasures, you and I, Lent is a good time to think about, and repent of these things.
Because at the end of the day, it will not matter what kind of ‘ empire’ you and I have built, or how others – family or friends or history – will think of us. But rather how much we have been obedient to The Living Word of God – Christ Jesus. Who cannot be separated from the written Word. For what God has ‘ joined together, let no man put asunder’.
For, “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God……The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:1-2 & 14. NIV
THE WORD OF GOD
“Be strong and very courageous.”
“Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:7 & 9 NIV
Martin Luther – the great reformer.
I study my Bible as I gather apples. First I shake the whole tree that the ripest might fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf.
THE FINAL MESSAGE – sent just this evening addresses the dilemma mankind faces. And why! For we are are unworthy of God, to live within us. But, we are created with a built in need for Him. And many try to fill that need, that desire with many other things. But they never satisfy tis human need. Thus triggering all kinds of evil to flourish within the hearts of mankind and manifest itself in stories which horrify a nation. Thank God for Jesus, as only he can fill this need. And reconcile us to the Creator God. Which is precisely what Good Friday is all about, and Easter is the ‘announcement’. That Jesus Christ is ‘Risen’. And so we too can live a ‘new life’ in Him, and find Peace in our souls. Which is precisely what Jamaica, and the entire world needs now; whether it be Pakistan, Northern Nigeria or Ferguson in the USA.
ALL ABOUT LENT
This morning, the words of a hymn, which I had heard many times before, ‘ penetrated deep in my soul. And when combined with one the most profound observations of the human conditions, written by one Christianity’s greatest thinkers, Bishop Augustine of Hippo ( 3rd Century..354-430) we get a better understanding of the news of the day. Whether it be, ” My Baby “, as the mother of the 11 year old girl child in the Gleaner Headlines, lamented who two men raped her daughter and left her pregnant. Or the death of Kayalecia Simpson under similar circumstances. Or those who are addicted to Cocaine, or have their minds controlled by pleasures, money, power or wickedness. They all suffer from the same ailment. ‘Restless hearts’, that can only find peace in God. Which is the central message of Good Friday. And that is why we maintain, that this island needs Jesus. Lent is a good time to think on these things, as we all suffer from ‘ restless hearts’. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And no wife, no husband, no partner, no amount of money or personal achievement, and certainly no kind of pleasure can fill that ‘ restless hunger’, in our souls except God in Christ Jesus
(God). “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.
My spirit longs for thee
within my troubled breast,
though I unworthy be
of so divine a guest .
Of so divine a guest
unworthy though I be,
yet had my heart no rest
unless it comes from thee.
Unless it comes from thee,
in vain I look around;
in all that I can see
no rest is to be found.
No rest is to be found
but in thy blessed love:
O let my wish be crowned,
and send it from above!
I pray God that our, ‘ breasts’, may be troubled by our own sins and that of the world in which we live. And though unworthy we be, if we repent and invite Him in, Jesus will come into our hearts, and that of our ‘ neighbors’ and set this country free from madness.