Holidays in Miami with family; Life with God’s family in Christ Jesus

I read my Bible to see what men ought to do: and read my newspapers to see what men are doing.

Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s)
 
 
NEWS
 
1. My big news this week is all about family. My wife and I  spending time and playing games  with grandchildren. Watching movies, going out for dinner,  attending church, and having great conversations with our children. Looking forward to a family member getting married this week. And before you know it, it’s time to go back home to Jamaica.
So yes the possibility of both Joe Biden and Al Gore entering the presidential race caught my attention. So did the various acts of terror across the world. And thank God we got some rain in Jamaica after a long dry spell; while it’s raining ‘cats and dogs’ here in south Florida
 
 
THE WORD OF GOD
 
So in the midst of experiencing  the joys of  family, we live in Jamaica and they live in Florida, so  no popping over on a Sunday evening story, what Word or inspired word did the Lord send this week.
First a reminder of the importance of praise:
 
THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent on WhatApp.
 

GM: Hanging with my with one of my ‘ sons’,  my daughter’s husband, we watched ” Exodus: Gods and Kings”….the latest movie about Moses. Then, this morning as I began my devotions with one praise song, ‘ Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation, and then went to another, a few words of old Saint came into my mind.
That, whatever time we have available to spend with the Lord in the mornings, a significant portion of it should be spent in praise. For that is what we were created to do: to praise God. And in praise, the soul is released from all the trials and petty issues of life, and brought into glorious Communion with the Almighty God.
So, let us, in the words and spirit of one of the great hymn writers, Charles Wesley:
‘ O for a thousand tongues to sing,
My dear Redeemer’s praise
The glories of my Lord and King
The triumphs of his grace!

..,.sing one of  the  greatest praise hymns of all time: to the Glory of God. Sing as we remember how the children of Israel suffered for over 400 years as slaves in Egypt until God rescued them with His strong right hand. Sing as we celebrate Independence, and how God ‘ rescued our fathers in distress’,  with His strong right hand, after almost 300 years of slavery in the Americas. And sing as we celebrate our rescue from Sin and death, over 2000 years ago, unto Eternal Life, in and through the shed Blood of Christ.

O, praise God. Praise His Holy Name

THE PRAISE HYMN


Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet thy tribute bring;
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
evermore his praises sing:
Alleluia, alleluia!

Praise the everlasting King.

Praise him for his grace and favor
to our fathers in distress;
praise him still the same for ever,
slow to chide and swift to bless:
Alleluia, alleluia!

Glorious in his faithfulness.

Father-like, he tends and spares us;
well our feeble frame he knows;
in his hand he gently bears us, 
rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia, alleluia!

Widely yet his mercy flows.

Angels, help us to adore him;
ye behold him face to face;
sun and moon, bow down before him,
dwellers all in time and space.
Alleluia, alleluia!

Praise with us the God of grace……
Words: Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847), 1834
MIDI: Lauda anima (also known as “Praise, my soul”) (John Goss, 1800-1880)
Meter: 87 87 87

 
THE SECOND MESSAGE – sent on WhatsApp….features a  a reminder of the mercy and compassion of a God who loves, and loves, and loves. And forgives, and forgives, and forgives. Makes you wonder how can folks not love, or worse ignore, much less to declare that he does not exist, this awesome God.
 
GM: On Sunday at St. Thomas’ Episcopalian Church in South Miami, I heard a wonderful sermon on ‘ I am the Bread of life’. One of the many profound revelations found in John 6. 
The preacher told us a story, contextualized in the importance of receiving Holy Communion ; in response to Jesus’, at that time and even now, radical invitation to ‘ eat my flesh and drink my blood’.
A touching poignant story. Perhaps, to some even a controversial story. Of a Jewish man, who had not been faithful to his religion, attending St. Thomas one Sunday. At the time, unknown to anyone he had leukemia, and tragically succumbed to his illness  a short time later.
On that Sunday, responding to the Rectors’ invitation for ‘ all children of God’ to take part in Holy Communion, rather than the usual, ‘ all Baptized’, with tears in eyes, he received The Blessed Sacrament. And later reported, to the preacher, how ‘ never before had he ever felt so included, so loved, so welcomed’.
When the preacher told the story to other priests, many were scandalized and ‘ horrified’ that someone who was not Baptized, had ‘ taken’ Communion/Lord’s Supper. Interestingly, the preacher, who was in support of the man’s act of faith,  closed by reminding us, that ‘ you cannot take Communion and not be changed’. Food for thought isn’t it!

Then this morning, as I began my devotions with prayers, I was led to Philippians and was struck by the following revelations.

” I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus “. Philippians 1:3 NIV

Further in vs 9-10:
” And this is my prayer for you: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness, that comes through Jesus Christ – to the Glory and praise of God.

Finally  in 2:13.
” ….continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Comment:
1. Do not write off anyone, no matter how disobedient, in whatever way, he or she may be acting out. Do not even write off yourself. For God is the one who is working in people and us to bring us to Christ. 
2. Therefore be patient and pray for people instead of getting upset and disappointed with them. We have no idea how our prayers may help to touch somebody’s heart. Much more so that all our ‘ arguments’.
3. Always, always, pray for those who will deliver the Word, on a Sunday or a Sabbath.
4. Please pray for me and others in this ever increasing ministry, as I pray for you ‘ that God will give us depth of insight and discerment into his love 
5. Pray for all non- believers, whether you know them or not. For by such prayers is the kingdom of God advanced, in this #DonaldTrumpIllegalMigrantsareRapists and #QuadrupleMurder world.
Peace.

THE THIRD MESSAGE – Sent out on WhatsApp features foundation theology. We all have ‘unclean thoughts’…we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. yet Good in His mercy, loves us and pursues us in and through the Atonement for Sin on Calvary wrought   by His Son Christ Jesus.
 

GM: The Lord woke me up, after years of this happening I knew, early this morning. To read and to write. But I hesitated. I was on holidays. Then my granddaughters favourite song came into my head, I and ‘ dead serious’, ” When Jesus says, nobody can say no”.
So I got up opened my Bible and found this :

‘ What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All of these evils come from the inside and makes a man unclean’.
Mark 7:20-23. NIV 

The key to this passage of Scripture is to be found in vs. 8:
‘ You have let go of the commandments of God and are holding on the tradition of men.’
As Jesus was admonishing the Pharisees and other ‘ teachers of the law’, for their focus on the externals, and not what was happening inside a person’s heart. All caused by Sin, (the wages of which is death) the Atonement for which was His Mission.

So why would the Lord wake me up to read this passage and write?
Two reasons come to mind.
1. Life in general.
2. I am reading a, scripturally based,  biography on the life of Abraham by Charles Swindoll – a  celebrated Christian author and pastor, whose writings were very helpful to me many years ago as I went through a dark period in my life. I had since moved on to Oswald Chambers, John Stott, Chris Tiegreen, the very deep Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and of late Timothy Keller.
However, most of all, I am learning, by God’s grace,  to ‘ dwell in the secret place of the most high’, and thus to spend time listening. And learning from the ordinary events of life! Praise God.

So I have rediscovered Swindoll. And so far, early in the Book, Swindoll is setting the stage for the life of The Father of The Christian, Jewish and Islamic faith. And to whom came the great promise from God, that ‘ I will make you into a great nation’

But Abraham, like all other us, had ‘ feet of clay’. And out of his heart also came all kinds of evil; deceit, and disobedience.

In this respect, so far, the following things struck me.

1. When confronted with a ‘ Divine Test’  – Famine – according to Swindoll,  Abraham who had listened to God, in faith left his home to go to Canaan, built altars to worship God, forgot about prayers and faith and went down to Egypt to find food. According to Swindoll, a trained Bible Expositor, In the figurative language of the Bible, Egypt stands for alliance with the world. Making your own decisions rather than depending on and trusting in God.
A ‘ Divine Test’, that we will all face. And God in His wisdom will design  a test for every believer.  For it is easy to be obedient and trust God in good times, but the real test comes when God, apparently, ‘ withdraws His blessing and His very self. And ‘ famine’ of one kind or another cones along. Sickness, death of a loved one, financial crisis, marital problems……
Will we trust in a faithful God then, and bring Him honor and glory, or ‘ go down to Egypt – buy Lotto, get into shady business deals, withhold taxes, God forbid,  turn to  Obeah or other forms of spiritualism, keep a man or a woman on the ‘ side’, file for divorce immediately,  leave church and turn to the  ‘prosperity gospel’, or listen to Job’s wife and ‘ curse God and die’ – abandon church altogether. Serious questions!

2. Abraham compounded the problem of ‘ going down to Egypt’, by lying – deceit. A half lie, but a lie nonetheless. As Sarai was His half-sister, but still his wife.
And Swindoll poses a serious question. How many people have yet to embrace the God of the Bible because they continue to live in the shadows created by our own moral failures?  As he wondered what impression Pharoah had of the God who Abraham served, and who had lied to him and gotten him into trouble.
In this respect the fourth and fifth principles which we ought to learn from Abraham life so far, resonated with me.

4. Every compromise jeopardizes a Sarai. For, until God sent a plague on Pharoah’s house, and rescued Sarai, Abraham’s lie had almost caused her to  become Pharoah’s wife.
And so Swindoll writes : your life consists of relationships arranged in concentric circles. Those living in the closest circles have connected themselves to you, and as a result, they trust you. Your victims might not be aware of the loss you have caused them, bit they lose nonetheless. There is no such thing as a victimless sin, including the sin you keep private. You may sin in secret, but you never Sin alone.

5. Every Egypt had a Pharoah. 
…. we live among people who do not know God. They serve the gods of wealth, possessions, power, status, self and others – too many to list. Then they hear someone talking about having a relationship with the One true Creator……when they see us blindly blundering through life, making unwise or sinful choices, we bring shame to God rather than glory. Furthermore we confuse the curious.

In all of this, however,  God continued to bless Abraham and remained faithful to His promise to, ‘ I will make you into a great nation’.

So we go back to the beginning. And to yesterday! For all of us have sinned, all have ‘ all kinds of evil coming out of our hearts’. Thank God for Jesus, we who fail today, morally and spiritually, can ‘ rise again’, tomorrow, because of the Covenant relationship we have with our Creator God. And if we can, so can everyone  else who may be a spectacular failure today.
God did not write off Abraham. God does not write off anyone. Not even the worse ‘backslider’.
How do we know this. 
‘ At the Cross, at the Cross – comes into my mind – where I first saw the light, and the burden of my sins fell away… 
God is indeed a good God. Abraham knows!

THE FOURTH MESSAGE – again on WhatsApp, and features a hymn which I am sure has influenced the lives of so many people across the world. And which words, sum up the correct attitude we ought to have in a relationship with a merciful and all knowing God. ” Have thine own way”.

GM: Last night after a lively discussion, with my son and his wife, one of my many ‘ daughters and her mother’, and my wife,  on infant Baptism, Adult Baptism, who has the authority to include or exclude books from the Bible, the early church, the controversies then and now, the Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed, the importance of Holy Communion/Lord’s Supper,  ( high power praise and worship)  worshiping in a particular  Pentecostal Church in Miami vs a particular Episcopalian/Anglican Church ( quiet and contemplative),  I woke up with this song in my head. 

And then as I spent some time on the powerful message which climaxes at the very end, I wondered.

Does it matter what church you attend as long as ‘ all can see Christ, only, always, living in me’?

THE HYMN

1. Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! 
Thou art the potter, I am the clay. 
Mould me and make me after thy will, 
while I am waiting, yielded and still. 

2. Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! 
Search me and try me, Savior today! 
Wash me just now, Lord, wash me just now, 
as in thy presence humbly I bow. 

3. Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! 
Wounded and weary, help me I pray! 
Power, all power, surely is thine! 
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine! 

4. Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! 
Hold o’er my being absolute sway. 
Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see 
Christ only, always, living in me! 

Then the Spirit of the Lord reminded me of a passage in the same chapter in Mark that featured in yesterday’s message. It’s a warning contextualized in a story of Jesus’ engagement with a set of Jewish religious leaders and teachers, whose worship and understanding of God was very superficial.  That as a friend of mine puts it: Its a matter of the heart, and not the head knowledge.

” These people worship me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain, their teachings are but rules taught by men”.
Mark 7 : 6-7.

Which I suppose aligns very well with the Jesus’ warning that ‘ Not everyone who says, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of God’. But only those who are obedient, ‘ deny self,  take up the Cross, daily,  and follow him’.

In the final analysis then, it is not that important which form of worship you engage in, but rather how much the Son of God is being formed in you, in and through the Power of the Holy Spirit, as you grow to love Him above everything else in this world.
And in that respect only God can judge, and those with whom you interact. Especially the ‘ wretched of the earth’  viz. the poor, the suffering, the lonely, the lost, the stray, the ‘wicked to whom mercy is shown’, the  unbeliever who comes to know Christ because of you, the ‘ ‘backslider’ who you engage, the drug addict, the prostitutes…
All those who the world has forgotten  and who become fodder for ‘ the devil who is like a roaring lion seeking whom  he will’.
Pray God, that God will have His own way in the lives of all who love the Lord Jesus, and have ‘ decided to follow Jesus, no turning back , no turning back’. No matter how strong the storms of life may be, no matter the power of the temptation, for we have an anchor, and a solid rock. Christ and Him Crucified.

THE FINAL MESSAGE – features one of  the best teaching hymns about our faith. ” My God, I love thee, not….”

And also, one life’s most important issues. Self-love! And the response that every Christian ought to cultivate in respect of this spiritually dangerous flaw in our character. Death to self-love! That’s what Martin Luther King and countless others throughout history did; and thus influenced the world for good. But most importantly, that  was ‘ the mind of Christ’, as recorded in Philippians.

“Who being in nature God……made himself nothing….and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. 2:5-8 NIV

For those whose live’s are controlled by self-love, and self-ambitions cannot follow Christ. And will not gain eternal life. And then what would have been the point of this life which is like a ‘mist’, which passes away so quickly.

GM: Yesterday  I visited a friend who went with me to Singapore for a three week Leadership Course in Evangelism in 2002. Most of the attendees were evangelicals. Only two or three of approximately forty men, including yours truly were from traditional churches. Went back in time to where this E mail  then blogging Ministry on a Sunday night, and now ( almost) daily WhatsApp Ministry started. And which Ministry, by God’s grace, has grown so much over the years. Praise God! 

All because of a very profoundly moving public display, with tears, during an early morning worship service,  by one the attendees; because he loved the Lord Jesus with all his heart. 
Having, therefore, witnessed this ‘ phenomenon’, previously absent from my experience in church, I wrote to tell a dear friend, a sister in Christ, and a Priest in my church,  about it. She responded by encouraging me to spend some time reflecting on the words of a hymn in our Anglican hymnbook.

THE HYMN ( A SLIGHTLY EDITED VERSION)

My God, I love thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
nor yet because who love thee not
are lost eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me
upon the Cross embrace:
for me didst bear the nails and spear,
and manifold disgrace.

and griefs and torments numberless,
and sweat of agony;
yea, death itself – and all for me
who was thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesu Christ,
should I not love thee well?……

not from the hope of gaining aught,
not seeking a reward;

but as thyself hast loved me,
O ever- loving Lord…..

Then last night, during my devotions, not sure what reading triggered it, came this thought:

” If you love the Lord Jesus  you have to love people “.

Then this morning, the Lord woke me early to read about the ‘various laws’ in Leviticus chapter 19. And about the dangers of self- love 

THE PROBLEM OF SELF-LOVE

Francois Fenelon ( 1651-1715…an influential Bishop in the UK; writer lecturer and administrator)

Verse: Leviticus 19:18

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

THE REFLECTION

Self-love must be uprooted, and the love of God take it’s place in our hearts before we can see ourselves as we are. Then the same principle that enables us to see our imperfections will destroy them……
It is a sensitive self-love that cannot forgive the self-love of others. The more self-love we have , the more severe are our censures.
There is nothing so vexatious as the collision between one excessive self-love and another still more violent and sensitive. The passions of others are infinitely ridiculous to those who are the dominion of their own.
The ways of God are very different. He is ever full of kindness for us, he gives us strength, he regards us with pity and condescension, he remembers our weakness, he waits for us. 
The less we love ourselves, the more considerate we are of others. We wait for providence to give the occasion, and grace to open their hearts to receive it. If you would gather the fruit before its time, you lose it entirely.

Comments:  
1. In pursuit of brevity, I left out about a third of this reflection, and have spent a fair amount of time, in the past, trying to plumb the depths of it.
2. I would recommend that all married couples, of recent or otherwise vintage, matters not , take this reflection seriously. It will certainly prevent a lot of the inevitable ‘ teeth and tongue’ from meeting.
3. Would to God that all politicians and journalists, and Priests, and all  who are so quick to criticise others, would spend time thinking about the profound truths embedded in this reflection.
4. Finally, this reflection, very profoundly, addresses the way we ought to engage in Evangelism. Beginning with love for others, in the same way God loved us. And who as the hymn writer reminded us. ‘ was thine enemy’. Followed by patience, triggered by love and an  appreciation of our own imperfections. And a warning at the end; that if self-love and all that comes with it, if not replaced by the love of God, will  cause us to ‘ lose the harvest (fruit) completely.
Pray God that one day we may all achieve this death of self- love…it really has to die….and witness the birth of the love of God in our souls. For the sake of self, family, community and nation; ultimately, however, for the Glory of God and His Son Jesus Christ. And who is to be worshipped in Singapore, in the USA, in #Jamaicalandwelove and the entire world.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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