I read my Bible to see what men ought to do; and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.
Lord renew the church beginning with me; Lord renew the church, that the church may renew the nation(s)
Only one big news across the world this week. The brutal, and racially motivated hate crime, carried out by a 21 year old white male in an historic black church in Charleston S.C. And when the dust had settled, nine people, including the Pastor lay dead! Since then an even bigger news worthy event took place. Forgiveness! As one by one, in a dramatic show of Christian love, in the midst of deep pain and unfathomable grief, the relatives of the slain members of the congregation, forgave the murderer. ” You have caused me great pain, but I forgive you.
Yes today is also Father’s Day. And people all over the world will treat fathers in a special way today. As has been the case in my house and at my church. We thank God for life and family for the love, but this is day and week to remember that #AllLivesLivesMatter. And at this time #BlackLivesMatter.
THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of the great debate occurring in the USA, and elsewhere about race relations in the “home of the brave and the land of the free”, what Word or inspired word did the the Lord send this week. One main message will emerge from the WhatsApp messages. That, even when, and especially when, things are all wrong, with God at our side, and in our hearts, we can overcome the the difficulties. This is a message that America, flirting with evil and atheism, and becoming ever more dependent on materialism, while rejecting the ‘old time religion’, needs to learn. This is a lesson which Jamaica, ‘catching the proverbial pneumonia whenever America sneezes’, needs to learn, as we too have become guilty of rejecting the ‘old time religion’, that : ” all men are like grass…all their glory is like the flowers of the field…wither and fall…but The Word…stands forever”. For who but a loving and merciful God could move His disciples to offer love and mercy and forgiveness, at a time like this #IForgiveYou, instead of hate and violence which the world expected. For who but God can heal this great nation where the controversial flag i still flying high, and not even at half mast, respectfully. For who but God can help this powerful nation to change its attitude about gun laws? The ease of which one can purchase one of these extraordinarily dangerous weapons is unbelievable. But time will tell. As, the sad but powerful reality, is that, historically, Christians have had to suffer and die for this world to understand that in Christ alone we can find peace. Ask Martin Luther King Jnr’s family. And countless others not well known. Therefore as we read the message, let us join with the people in Charleston SC and cry out to God…..Savior, Savior….do not pass me by.
THE FIRST MESSAGE
GM: “Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry”, has been in my head all day after church yesterday. And I woke up with it this morning with instructions to share aspects of the sermon by a young Anglican priest who was brave enough to make invite the congregation, to what could be described as an ‘ altar call’. And the song he sang, which helped to create a special moment in the service was the very song, words of which refrain has been ‘ in my head’.
He began with the song below. I was hearing it for the first time, but immediately loved the haunting melody and moving words.
Lord keep my day by day,
in a pure and perfect way.
I want to live, I want to live on
in a building not made by hand
Lord keep my body strong
So that I can do no wrong
Lord, give me grace just to run this Christian race
to a building not made by man
I’m just a stranger here,
traveling through this barren land.
Lord, I know that there is building somewhere
In a building not made by man
His sermon, as I reported in an e mail summarizing all which took place yesterday – another ministry by God’s grace – could be entitled ” But God”.
He used the Gospel Reading from Mark about the Mustard Seed and The Kingdom of God to teach the following lessons.
– that God has planted in us small seeds…..as small as the Mustard Seed…of love, mercy, faith and other seeds
– that this same God, when the time of Harvest comes, right here on earth, not in heaven, will bring forth huge ‘ trees’ for His glory and for the service of mankind.
– we have to learn to trust this God, so that we have a connection with Him in and through Christ Jesus.
– when, not if, the time of testing comes, if we trust God, we will remain steadfast and immovable, ‘ though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the sea.
– in other words if we trust God, when fear, bad news from the doctor, financial distress, family and relationship problems, all come knocking, as they will, the seeds of faith sown in us by a good and wise God will enable us to ” gain the victory over fear and doubt and visions of disaster. And even, and perhaps, especially death. That’s why a child of God can exult, ” O death where is thy victory, O death where is thy sting”, as or she goes down to the grave.
– the same assurance holds when Satan ” like a roaring lion seeking whom he will” comes also to ‘harvest’ what God had down in us. So resist him by standing firm in Christ Jesus. Resist him who would Harvest us for immorality and wickedness, lack of compassion and mercy. Resist him who would tell you to ‘ sow a seed so that God will bless you’ – the essence of the misguided ‘prosperity gospel’. As if God needs our money to bless us. No, what He asks, is that we nurture that which He has planted in us, so that at the appropriate time, we will give back to God, what He gave us in the first place. For His glory and for service to mankind
– So I was weak and about to fall, and indeed fell into temptation, But God rescued me from the pit of hell; I was struck down and came close to death, But God rescued me from illness: I was down to my last cent and about to suffer embarrassment and shame, and some have been there, But God rescued me with Power and Mercy. For in me He sowed seeds of faith, and trust and love and mercy. So that we too in turn, may have mercy on others.
I pray God, that this example of ” Sound Doctrine” will assist us in ‘ praying according to God’s will and purpose’. So that with God’s help we can move the mountains of #QuadrupleMurder and #ChildAbuse which currently tower over our blessed land. For then, and only then will we be assured of living in a ‘ building, not made by man’. And which building, ‘ neither death nor life’ nor hurricane, nor gunman, nor sickness nor hard times, nor those who persecute us for calling for repentance and righteousness, as our Blessed Lord Jesus did, can destroy.
THE ‘ ALTAR CALL’ SONG…..
altar call in the sense that he invited, right after the sermon, all who had been crying out to the Lord to stand and sing with him, the words of this wonderful song. I invite you too to use this song to cry out to God, without ceasing for Church, self, community and Nation
Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.
Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.
Thou the spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me;
Whom have I on earth beside Thee?
Whom in heaven but Thee?
THE SECOND MESSAGE – As we contemplate #IForgiveYou and #Charleston what the USA needs now, and what Jamaica needs now as agonize over #TeenMurder, more than ever, are Ambassadors of Christ to rise up and ‘lift up the name of Jesus”. All over the land. Telling of Redemption and Forgiveness and Justice and Righteousness and Judgement. All of which messages went out out on the Cross of Calvary #OldTimeReligion
GM: Yesterday in the midst of performing my professional duties, a former classmate at high school #Fervet, returned my call. During the brief conversation, he posed the profound question. ” So Lucien how we going to fix this thing once and for all – Jamaica’s problems.” There is a history to this kind of conversation. And it has in part, not fully, to do with the difference between the pursuits of my generation and the present #Bling #Hype #Prosperitygospel generation.
He was not impressed with my answer that ‘ the problem was a complex one’, #Copout he declared, but did admit as a conscious Rastaman and celebrated Musician, that the solution had to involve an element of spirituality.
Then this morning, as I began my devotions, the words of this famous hymn presented itself. And as I reflected deeply on the message from one of history’s greatest Evangelist, Charles Wesley, the answer to Jamaica’s problems, no doubt born out of Wesley’s own experiences with testings and trials in his native country England – the kind of wickedness that existed then was unbelievable – was revealed in the words of this precious hymn.
So my friends, I beg you, ‘ assist me to proclaim….. the honors of the Name of Jesus….throughout this land. Then who knows, just maybe The Lord will have mercy on this #WrongAddress #QuadrupleMurder #ChildAbuse land and send ” showers of refreshing”, a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit. Peace.
Verse: Psalm 19:1
1. O for a thousand tongues to sing
my great Redeemer’s praise,
the glories of my God and King,
the triumphs of his grace!
2. My gracious Master and my God,
assist me to proclaim,
to spread through all the earth abroad
the honors of thy name.
3. Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
that bids our sorrows cease;
’tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’tis life, and health, and peace.
THE THIRD MESSAGE – can little Jamaica play a role in helping big America to overcome its race relations issues? Can insignificant Jamaica play a role in helping to solve the problem of Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East; and helping Africa to overcome its challenges with democracy and economic development. Can indebted Jamaica shake off it own economic malaise and join other countries growing at 5-% of GDP annually. Our National Pledge tells us that we can. Do we believe! That Jesus is sufficient for all our needs!
JESUS IS MORE THAN ENOUGH FOR ALL OUR NEEDS
GM: As I journey with the Lord, one if the things I have learned, is that we should always read God’s Word with a view to sharing with others the good news about Christ and Him Crucified – for our salvation. Yes, for our own strengthening, but also for others.
So this morning as I read the New Testament lesson appointed to be read this Sunday in my church, just above the start are these profound words.
“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men”.
2. Corinthians 5:11
Then the reading begins with, vs 14:
“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 alone but for him who died for them and was raised again…..”
And ends: ” We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you then 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.” Vs 20.
Comment: I would humbly, very humbly, suggest that in these few words are contained the essence of the Christian faith. And that if we understand and be obedient, as Christ’s Ambassadors, to this Word, Jamaica would change. From a #GanjaSmoking, #QuadrupleMurder #ChildAbuse #IMFdependentCountry #WrongAddress Nation, to one that not only fears God, but helps to ‘ advance the whole human race’. #NationalPledge.
Peace. So let us begin by fearing the Lord. And then who knows, that the Lord may send ‘ times of refreshing’ on our dry and thirsty land.
THE FOURTH MESSAGE – carries the essence of a sermon I preached today. That Jesus in the boat beside us, is all we need. Even in Charleston. In fact especially in Charleston; in Tel Aviv; in the WestBank and Gaza; in Lagos; and in Kingston Jamaica. For if the Creator of the Universe is with us, no ‘grave can hold us down’. Whether metaphorically in the culture associated with the Confederate Flag, or literally as occurred inside the church!
GM, again. There is such a thing called system overload. And another called disobedience. The latter is not a good thing. So I am sharing what the Lord laid on my heart this morning, as last night is gone. And there is a connection between the two messages. For The Benefit of believing prayer, is Jesus asleep and awake, beside you ‘ in the midst of the storms of life’.
Last Sunday, the young priest, one aspect of whose sermon I shared earlier, put a profound spin on a popular sanke.
The original version
“Well it is alright, it is alright, as long as I’ve got my Lord beside me it is alright”.
His version ….based on his understanding of what it means to have faith in God.
It is all wrong, all wrong, but as long as I’ve my Lord beside me it is all right.
This version came to mind this morning as in preparation for service this Sunday, I read the Gospel reading appointed for this week. Here is the relevant and familiar verses:
” A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was on the stern sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’.
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘ Quiet! Be still!.
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, ‘ why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”.
Mark 4:37-40. NIV.
This week I had occasion to visit a patient who suddenly and violently the night before, became a widow #MurderinJamaica. I was moved to share the revised version of ” It’s all wrong, all wrong….but God …is beside you.
A popular TV ad ends by asking ‘ what’s in your wallet today ‘ (credit card). A better question in this context, is what storm, what ‘ wild Gilbert’, not threatens, but it wreaking havoc in your life today. Relationship issues; financial trials; children gone astray; church in need of renewal: a terrible disappointment; health issues; crime and violence affecting you personally and not just your neighbor: even death of a loved one leaving you empty and lonely, even then, when it is all wrong and confusing, Jesus is ‘ asleep’ right beside you. And He is, His very Presence is, sufficient for all your needs. To break every chain, and to calm every storm. For at that moment, no credit card, no flat screen TV, no talk show host, no political party, nobody else but Jesus can help. What a friend then we have in Jesus! Call His Name often today. For we have no idea when Satan or the trials of this mortal life will come. But, our Blessed Assurance is that Jesus is with us, even until the end of time. This is the essence of our faith in the God of Abraham, the God of Issac and the God of Jacob, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
FINALLY A WORD ABOUT FATHER’S DAY — which places a bookend on the ministry this week. Because, what happened in that courtroom in Charleston this week is mystery to most Americans, and indeed for people all over the world. But for the children of God, who were once ‘enemies’ of God, to forgive, as we have been forgiven, in Christ Jesus, is the essence of our faith.
GM: Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in this ministry. As we celebrate fathers on earth let remember that we have a Father in Heaven. And we know Him because He sent His Only Son Jesus Christ to reveal the full extent of His Love and Mercy and Justice and Righteousness on the Cross of Calvary.
All of which if we are honest is a grand mystery which can only be apprehended by faith.
In this context as I prepare to worship and preach at my church this morning, a quote from St. John ( 1542-1591) of the Cross, one of the early Saints of the Church, provides us with a deeper understanding of the faith we have in Our Father Who Art in Heaven.
” Faith tells us of things we have never seen, and cannot come to know by our natural senses “.
Let us humble ourselves then on this Father’s Day and trust in the God who we have never seen, and the Christ who died for us in a horrible death which our natural senses can never understand. Except, and thank God for Jesus, for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of Truth. For until a father or a mother for that matter, is filled with the wisdom and mercy of the Holy Spirit of God, ” they labour in vain “.
That’s why it is a difficult ask to teach people about proper parenting in the absence of the teaching of Christ. Our parents and grandparents, were blessed with wisdom, and love for us and other people’s children in the community, because they first loved and trusted in God. Hence the reason why Jamaica was once the ‘ pride of the Caribbean’. And now a different place all together.
So too the USA