Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew the church, that the church may renew the nation(s).
As I write tonight, never before, has the importance of reading what men ought to do, .from the Bible, before reading about what men are doing, been so profound. For, as a child of God, only one news item dominated the news this week. The decision by the Supreme Court of the USA, by a vote of 5:4 to mandate that all States should allow same sex couples to marry.
This majority decision by #SCOTUS has set off a firestorm of controversy and debate around the world, not just in the USA.
Yes the ‘madness’ in Tunisia, where 38 people died at the hands of ISIS inspired man, with at least 30 of them being British citizens, was extremely disturbing.
Yes over 1000 Pakistanis died in a heat wave, and maybe more will perish if the scorching heat continues. And we are all saddened by such a tragedy
But in terms of the potential effect on norms and values, and societal stability, across the world, the decision by #SCOTUS was monumental. Well known Christian writer and Pastor John Piper in a link send to me from a friend in the USA, says it well,
…for the first time we have witnessed the ‘institutionalization of Sin’.
http://www.desiringgod.org/ articles/so-called-same-sex- marriage
THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of the madness happening all over the world, what Word, or inspired word did the Lord send this week. if we ‘listen’ carefully we can see how the Lord has been preparing us for this news. From the opening message of an inspired word triggered by the ‘raising from the dead’ of Jairus’ daughter, and an appeal for us to believe and not be afraid, to the closing message featuring words of wisdom flowing from the acronym F.E.A.R. the central word is that ‘things are not always what they seem to be”. So do not be alarmed by what can do. But, rather be assured of what the God, who ‘raises the dead’ can do.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – all sent out on WhatsApp. One of the challenging realities that we have to come to terms with, whether we like or not, or whether we accept it or not, is that the ‘ prosperity gospel’ has many faces. And one of them is the current attempt to elevate man’s understanding of Justice over God’s revelation of what constitutes Sin. For this presumptuousness goes to the heart of the campaign to promote gay rights and freedom. It is no different from the presumptuousness, that once we serve God faithfully, we expect to receive ‘material blessings”. For this kind of thinking presumes to know more than what God has revealed in His Word. And in fact, though perhaps minority, there are some ‘Christians’ in the movement who clearly would like to see ‘ the back of God’ and His ‘ intolerable and unjust restrictions’. In that context then this message, for me, as I read it again, is an ‘eye opener’.
GM: Early this morning in the depth of sleep ‘ my song in the night ‘ was: He made Him who had no sin….. A familiar Word, so I went searching for it and ended up in the book of Hebrews and found a very challenging Word.
Recall that yesterday’s message was about the importance of believing. Today’s Word goes a step further and warns us not to be like the children of Israel who, when tested in the desert, turned away from the Living God, and therefore did not ‘ enter into God’s rest’ viz….did not receive the Peace that God offers to those who persevere in times of testing and in and through Christ Jesus.
Many of us are under severe temptation to ‘ do our own thing’ when ‘ tested by God’, as it is too hard. From buying Lotto, at one level, to ‘ getting married ‘ in order to get a American or Canadian resident status at another level. And in between we are tempted to do all kinds of things which we know is against the will of God, because we cannot ‘ stand the pressure’. And some of us even have the presumptuousness to say, without any semblance of repentance, ‘ God will understand’. And indeed, He will forgive us, if we are indeed truly sorry, but we need to read the Word of God carefully. As individuals and as a nation. For the essence of the Gospel is that Jesus, and Him Crucified, is sufficient for all our needs. Anything else, including the ‘ ‘prosperity gospel’, is from the devil. And everyday, including this day, whenever we hear from the Lord through His Word is “Today”.
That’s why the hymn writer penned the words of one of my favourite hymns:
O Jesus I have promised
to serve thee to the end;
be thou for ever near me,
my master and my friend;
I shall not fear the battle
if thou art by my side,
nor wonder from the pathway
if thou wilt be my guide ….verse 1.
If you don’t know it, Google it. Your soul will soar, and be blessed as it is challenged and comforted at the same time. Verse two continues…
O let me feel thee near me:
the world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
the tempting sounds I hear;
my foes are ever near me,
around me and within:
but, Jesus, draw thou nearer,
and shield my soul from sin….
I pray for myself first, and for all of us, that Jesus may indeed be in our ‘ boat in the midst of the storm’, and shield our souls from unbelief and disobedience – Sin. Amen.
THE WORD OF GOD
http://bible.com/111/heb.3.7-19.niv So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
http://bible.com/111/heb.4.1-3.niv Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ” And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.
THE SECOND MESSAGE – again on WhatsApp precedes my listening, and responding to President Obama and his reflections on the grace of God. And it is clearly in this context, prescient. In the sense that, here we have the Lord speaking to us about a profoundly important aspect of the Christian faith, all triggered by man’s sinful nature inherited from Adam, only to have #RevPresident redefine this Grace at best in political and social terms, and at worse ignore the central role of Sin, and the need for repentance, in a famous speech a few days later. Have mercy!
GM: This morning as I began my devotions;
Rule over me this day, O God, leading me on the path of righteousness. Put your Word in my mind and your truth in my heart that this day I neither think nor feel anything except what is good and honest – the second of three prayers I use in the mornings entitled, ‘ On Waking’: ‘ On Rising’: ‘ On Going to Work’…..struck me very forcible. And I spent some time praying about it.
Then I recalled Word in Bible Study last night which triggered a lot of discussion. Can we sing with conviction Amazing Grace….saved a wretch like me. Or do we believe that we were never wretches, as we lived a fairly decent live before accepting Christ as Savior. And perhaps that is the stumbling block for those who have not yet fully committed their lives to Christ – they believe that are living a fairly good life, not doing any wrong to anyone and obeying the ‘ traffic lights’ of life.
http://bible.com/111/rom.7.21-25.niv So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
After which session before retiring to bed, Oswald Chambers’ Devotional ‘ My Utmost for His Highest’ had these words in the June 23rd meditation:
…… At the beginning of our lives we do not bring ourselves to the point of dealing with the reality of sin. We look at life through the eyes of reason and say that if a person will control his instincts, and educate himself, he can produce a life that will slowly evolve into the life of God. But as we continue on through life, we find the presence of something which we have not yet taken into account, namely, sin- and it upsets all of our thinking and our plans. Sin has made the foundation of our thinking unpredictable, uncontrollable, and irrational.
We have to recognize that sin is a fact of life, not just a shortcoming. Sin is blatant mutiny against God, and either sin or God must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue- if sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is nothing more fundamental than that. The culmination of sin was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will also be true in your history and in mine- that is, sin will kill the life of God in us. We must mentally bring ourselves to terms with this fact of sin. It is the only explanation why Jesus Christ came to earth, and it is the explanation of the grief and sorrow of life.
Finally and appropriately, the third verse of the hymn I highlighted yesterday, placed a bookend on my thoughts and the message for today. For as we ask God to ‘ Rule over us’ each day’, we need to listen carefully to His Word. I pray God that this message inspired by God’s Word will touch all our hearts this morning. For as another version of Chambers’ Word last night says:
“Sin is a fact, not a defect.”
O let me hear thee speaking
in accents clear and still,
above the storms of passion,
the murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me,
to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen,
thou guardian of my soul.
THE THIRD MESSAGE – again on WhatsApp takes us briefly out of the news and hustle and bustle of life. And places us squarely in front of God lamenting about how we have treated Him and His Son. Again repentance is the response needed. Not seeking to justify our actions.
GM: I was looking for a passage of Scripture this morning in my devotions when this meditation ‘arrested me’. And no need to wonder why! For I believe that the greatest obstruction to true faith, in this ( prosperity gospel) generation, and perhaps ever since James and John wanted to be ‘ first in the kingdom of God’, is a desire to ‘ get something from Jesus’, and not just pure love for Jesus and Him Crucified. We are all guilty!
The mercy of God is that He will test us time and time again until, ” there is only Jesus in our desires “. And accept that He and His grace are sufficient for all our needs. The question is, do we believe that truth, or are we intent on asking for ‘ Divine Intervention’, only that Jamaica may be rescued from #QuadrupleMurder; or only that our personal situation may be ‘ fixed’ ; or only that our ‘ enemies may be routed’.
It’s a thin line between the two, for God knows that we need Divine Intervention in this country, in Charleston SC, in ISIS controlled Syria, in The Middle East as Israel and the Palestinians continue their age old battles, but A.B. Simpson ( 1844-1919 the founder of Christian and Missionary Alliance and the author of 70 books and numerous poems) challenges us to aim higher in a profoundly moving meditation on Matthew 17:8
” When they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus”.
EXPERIENCING THE LORD
Verse: Matthew 17:8
Once it was his blessing, now it is the Lord,
Once it was the feeling, now it is his word;
Once his gift I wanted, now the Giver own,
Once I sought for healing, now himself alone.
Once ’twas painful trying, now ’tis perfect trust;
Once half a salvation, now the uttermost;
Once ’twas ceaseless holding, now he holds me fast;
Once ’twas constant drifting, now my anchor is cast.
Once ’twas busy planning, now ’tis trustful prayer;
Once ’twas anxious caring, now he has the care;
Once ’twas what I wanted, now what Jesus says;
Once ’twas constant asking, now ’tis ceaseless praise.
Once I hoped in Jesus, now I know he is mine;
Once my lamps were dying, now they brightly shine;
Once for death I waited, now his coming hail;
And all my hopes are anchored safe within the veil.
All in all forever,
Only Christ I’ll sing:
Ev’rything is in Christ,
And Christ in ev’rything.
And the fourth verse of the hymn from yesterday, and the day before, reminds us, that such a following of Christ, as Simpson and God’s Word invites us to undertake, can only be done by grace.
O Jesus, thou hast promised
to all who follow thee,
that where thou art in glory
there shall thy servant be;
and, Jesus, I have promised
to serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow
my master and my friend.
I close by sharing with you, especially those who have graciously agreed to come on board this ministry in recent times, one of my all time favorite gospel videos. Jesus is ( More than) Enough, by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
THE PENULTIMATE MESSAGE – again on WhatsApp does not need much comment. Only that this response to #RevPresident is perhaps, in some respects, the most important one I wrote all week. Hopefully we will all read it carefully, as it contains several important messages in one. it also in my view explain why ‘good and decent men like Obama and Bishop Tutu’ could be led to support the Institutionalization of Sin.
GN: I am moved to express the view that these are dangerous times. Very dangerous times indeed.
Why? This evening on my way home, and for few minutes in my garbage, I sat transfixed as “Rev. President” Obama delivered the eulogy at the funeral service of the slain Pastor and the other eight persons in Charleston SC.
It was #WhatagwaanJamaica Obama at his eloquent, articulate, and oratorical best. Among other things, – –inter alia – he spoke about the amazing act of forgiveness offered to the killer instead of violence and recrimination. Of God’s grace. That it is unmerited. That it is undeserved. But that God gave us his free and benevolent love anyway. He spoke about church being the center of the lives of black America. And of the role that the church had played in seeking Justice for every American, among other things. Spoke about salvation for sinners as a manifestation of God’s grace. And that all of us ought to accept God’s grace. Then at the end he sang Amazing Grace. And through out the eulogy sang God’s praises.
They cheered. The entire congregation, and the pastors did. They rose to their feet repeatedly, in full support of what ‘ Rev. President” had to say. Tears came to my eyes as I reflected on the pain that racism has inflicted on African Americans in the USA.
Listen to the speech yourself.
But then, I thought, how did this ‘ performance’ fit in with a President whose eloquent, articulate and brilliant oratory on the Gay and Lesbian lifestyle may well have influenced the land mark decision made by the US Supreme Court today – to legalize same sex marriages in all states. How is God honored in that decision? Is that too, in #RevPresident mind, a manifestation of God’s grace?
So being conflicted with reconciling. Obama the ,”Pastor”, with Obama The President, I went searching for a Word from the Lord. And found this:
http://bible.com/111/2co.5.14-21.niv For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Then I understood why there was no acknowledgement of the need for repentance in order to receive God’s grace. No explicit mention of the saving Blood of the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus.
For the good and decent man that Obama is, and as so many people who are in support of Gay Marriages are, they mainly see God’s grace in the promotion of ” justice for all “. And which understanding is a legitimate part of the Gospel of Christ. But that is not the root of the problem why Christ died; and manifested the full extent of God’s Amazing Grace and Mercy. The root of the problem is Sin. Not injustice.
That’s why Scripture reveals that ‘ one died, and therefore all died. …..and we should therefore not live for ourselves, but for him who died for us, and was raised again.
So the question is not only about the injustices which have been meted out to Gay folks. Yes, every such action ought to be put right, morally and socially, and if necessary legally. But the Sin of same sex unions, explicitly so described in the Bible, cannot, and will never be ‘ sanctified’. Whether by #RevPresident or the #SupremeCourt.
And that viewpoint is not about hating anyone – some folks in this ministry are Gay, and who knows, maybe some who are unknown to me. And they know the respect and love I have for them. But they also know about my understanding of what the Scriptures reveal about homosexuality. And equally so about what the same Scriptures warn about judging anyone. As we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy.
So the most I can say is that President Obama has an incomplete understanding of grace. And of Sin. And which shortcoming, and not a deliberate intention to promote Sin, has apparently led him to equate the promotion justice for all people, with the grace and mercy of God as manifested in the death of Christ on Calvary. But the New Testament clearly teaches us that the road to that Amazing Grace begins with an acceptance of our sinful status……,” Lord have mercy on me a sinner…..and repentance of Sin. In all its forms!
So let us continue to pray for #POTUS.
And all of us who make up the church. That we may at all times, fix our eyes on Jesus and Him Crucified, the author and perfecter of our faith.
THE FINAL MESSAGE – brings us back to Rev. John Piper’s message in the link posted earlier on in the News of the Day, viz. that we must not be afraid or even surprised by all of these things, but accept that The News of the day, is not the last word on any situation. Whether by SCOTUS in the USA , ISIS in Tunisia or Nature in Pakistan. For out of these ‘crises’ can emerge, if we believe in a God who can ‘raise the dead’, a more mature and disciplined Christian set of people who can in turn ‘bear much fruit for the Lord’. In very mysterious ways; for His ways, are not our ways.
GM: Long ago in Angola, when that nation was at war, struggling for freedom, the declaration at the end of the day was in Portuguese, ” A luta continua’ . Which translates in English to, ” The struggle continues”.
And so this morning, after last night’s emotionally charged ( I have a great deal of respect for President Obama) message, “The conversation (with God….O Jesus I have promised….) continues”.
Yesterday I was led to read and reflect on, a meditation inspired by Jesus walking on water. A story recounted in John 6. With verse 20, providing the trigger: ” It is I; don’t be afraid “.
And on the opposite page of Chris Tiegreen’s Daily Devotional is another perspective on the same story; this time featuring the version in Matthew 14.
What struck me more than anything else however was a powerful message contained in an Acronym whose author is unknown.
F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real. I cannot begin to explain how helpful, on a personal note, and assuring that message has been. To the extent where it featured in my early morning thoughts, following an anxiety filled dream. False Evidence Appearing Real indeed.
In this context then, as our conversation with God continues, at a national level, the question arises, ‘ what is Truth, Who comforts and Reassures: and what is False evidence’, which makes us worry and fret.
If you recall, as I did this morning, as I was led to write, Pilate’s encounter with The Truth. ” What is truth “? he asked, inquiringly, as he looked at The Truth, Christ Jesus ; and had no idea in whose Presence he was.
So my friends, the eternal message from the Cross of Calvary is that the only Truth in this land of Sin and death, of suffering and pain, of injustice and unrighteousness, is Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God.
And therefore we who have The Truth living in and through us, by a mystery that we cannot begin to understand, need to remember well these words:
” It is I; don’t be afraid”.
So when False Evidence Appearing Real strikes fear in our souls, and makes us wonder why is God allowing factions in the USA to institutionalize Sin, remember that such action is not of God, and therefore will not last. So fear not about what will happen to America, and the souls of our children and grandchildren and other family members who live there. Just remember the same one who declared with Power the Truth, ” It is I; don’t be afraid”, is alive and very able to protect the faithful from all evil.
Recall also, that, in the same way, we here in Jamaica, are locked in a debate about legalizing abortions. So, even if the ” Pro – Choice ” faction secures a parliamentary victory, it would not be the last ‘ word’ on that issue. For it is not of God, and therefore cannot be The Truth. But rather False Evidence.
Yesterday #RevPresident spoke passionately and perhaps even with great insight, about God mysteriously using #thekiller to achieve the wider good, of softening people’s heart. In order for a troubled nation to move beyond talk to dealing with the real and present reality of institutionalized racism in America. And he gave several examples. Including #BlackLivesMatter in respect of how some cops deal with black folks.
Chris Tiegreen makes the same point in Visions in the Storms.
And begins thus:
Sometimes terrifying circumstances come into our lives……
And closes in this manner:
….. …Our crises can do the same. Though our initial reaction may be panic ( what is the world coming to … my words), in reality Jesus may be coming to us with a crisis that heals, strengthens , encouraged or guides. To us, they are threatening. To God, they are often the very means to develop us as disciples. They may bear eternal fruit that our terrified eyes cannot at first see.
Comment: There is no question that Gay folks have been badly mistreated by Christians ….mea culpa….throughout the ages. In many and different ways. In what we have done and left undone. There is also no question that evil forces, with a clear intention to get rid of the Truth ( Christ Jesus) and undermine His Word, have, and continue to use ‘ people held captive by Sin’, to promote an idea that God is dead; and the Bible is irrelevant to the needs of a modern society.
Out role then, as children of the Truth which cannot be altered, even in the face of F.E.A.R, is to love, without reservation, all who are created in the image and likeness of God. And who knows in what mysterious way, a compassionate and merciful God might help us, in love, and with Power to ‘ set the captives free’ , even as we remain faithful to the Truth. Christ and Him Crucified – or the sins of the whole world. Gay and Straight! Black and White. Jamaicans and Americans.