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 the church that the church may renew the nation(s).
1.One very newsworthy item, at least in my opinion, will not be carried in the mainstream media. As there were no reporters, and definitely no television cameras on hand to record the celebration of 50 years of service to an inner city community, by the Anglican Church in Jamaica this afternoon on Sunday September 13th 2015.The community is Majesty Gardens, located in the Prime Minister’s constituency. And for the last 50 years, St. Andrew Parish church, aided by many partners, has sought to make a difference in the lives of people living in this densely populated area,which usually makes the headlines only when someone is murdered, or some terrible social malady is uncovered. And in a very soul searching sermon delivered by the Rt.Rev. Robert Thompson, The Anglican Bishop of Kingston, advanced the call for the understanding of a Christianity, which does not have a ‘ what is in it for me’, plan. Which unfortunately, in the words of the Bishop, is what is being preached in many pulpits, and attracting the crowds. But rather, one that invites us to follow Christ, as one who serves; as one who loses His life on the Cross of Calvary, so that we may gain a new and resurrected life; and one that accepts that life is a gift, given so that we may spend it – in service to others. And that is only such a Christianity will inspire people, over the long haul, to sacrifice our own aspirations and desires , so that the poor and needy can feel the presence of God, in their midst. The picture below captures The Bishop making a point at this evening’s service
2.The second matter which attracted my attention, was the amount of column inches which the newspapers have given to responses to an online column written by Dr. Michael Abrahams, questioning the Christian understanding, and the accuracy of the Biblical revelation, that the God of the Bible is merciful.In fact one of our most senior, and highly respected jounalists, Ian Boyne, dedicated his column in the widely read Sunday Gleaner today, to a response to Michael Abrahams’ claims. A situation which confirms what the ‘doc’, knows, as he writes in this ‘sensationalist’ vein regularly, irreverently critiquing the church and God, that in today’s increasingly pluralistic society, compared to a once solidly Christian country, anything written negatively about God, is sure to be published and attract attention. But at the end of the day, the age old question of what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose his soul, still stands.
Is God really merciful?
Is God really merciful?
Michael Abrahams has set off another firestorm of controversy and outrage over his online Monday Gleaner column, ‘The God of the Bible is not merciful’, …
View on jamaica-gleaner.com
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THE WORD OF GOD
So in the midst of this debate about the ‘ lack of mercy’ of the Christian God, and the celebration of the role of the church in one community, where ‘mercy’ has operated for the past 50 years, what Word or inspired word did the Lord send?
Essentially words of encouragement, hymns of instruction, and words which help us to a deeper understanding of the faith.And which is precisely what an experienced old hand, Ian Boyne is recommending to young Dr. Abrahams, who is so sure that he has plumbed the depths of the Bible and of this “unmerciful God”.
THE FIRST MESSAGE – sent out on Whatsapp, peripherally addresses Dr. Abrahams assertions. But more importantly, suggests strongly that we have Christ, and Christ alone as our ” vision in life’. Even as we contemplate elections, here and abroad.
GM: As I woke up this morning and went to get my early morning tea, before starting my devotions, this wonderful, wonderful song came into my heart. At least the tune, as it took some time for me to remember the words. Amazingly, I have not sung this hymn, one of my all time favorites, for a while.
The question is why would the Lord place it my heart at this time? Whatever the reason, the reality is that this hymn, like many others, is a prayer, a cry to God for help. For grace, for the Holy Spirit, to enable us to have God and God alone, in Christ Jesus to be ‘ Our only Vision’.
Our only goal in life. Our ‘ true wisdom’. ‘
I would suggest that we all take some time, in fact ‘make some time’, to think deeply on these inspired words written many years ago, but brought to our attention at a time like this.
And what ‘ time’ is it? Election time! In Trinidad, in #Jamaicalandwelove, in The USA. A time when men and women seek our votes and present their ‘ vision’ for a nation’s future.
What ‘ time’ is it? Jail time for some Christians who dare to oppose the Gay political lobby. Time to ‘ campaign against homosexuality’ for other Christians, when we all have our own sins to contend with, ‘ for all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God’.
What ‘time’ is it? A time of temptation to make money, success, the pleasures of life, praise from others, and power our ‘vision’.
What ‘time’ is it? A time when Satan is leading people away from God, telling them that there is no God, to stop going to church and worship at home, that the concept of Sin and Judgement is not compatible with a God of Love. Have Mercy! And that when you die, there is nothing more to come.
What time is it? A time of great uncertainty and change as people fleeing persecution and poverty, seek a better life elsewhere, within and without their country. And tensions inevitable arise; and some would ‘ build walls’ whilst others ‘ build fences’. Whilst Christians are called to ‘ build bridges’.
So into this confused, confusing and dangerous world, ‘ For God so loved the world’, God sent His Son, to die for our Sins, and to be Raised from the dead with Power, so that He alone may become Our Vision, Our Wisdom and Our Strong Tower against the Enemy of our Souls. And therefore be our ‘ best thought by day and by night,’
Thank God for Jesus indeed. Keep Him close to you today by ‘ dwelling in the secret place of the Most High’. At all times. Psalm 91.
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might;
be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
be thou mine inheritance now and always;
be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.
Words: Ancient Irish hymn;
trans. Mary Byrne, 1905,
THE SECOND MESSAGE – again sent out on WhatsApp, offers a different narrative to what Dr. Abrahams used to understand the God who we know is full of mercy and compassion. And which mercy finds it full expression in Christ, God Incarnate, on Calvary.
and hopefully, as Bishop Thompson, expressed this evening, wherever the true Christian lives and works. Whether in Majesty Gardens or in Seaview Gardens, or….
GM: At the principal service on a Sunday morning at my church, there are four readings of God’s Word. And then the Sermon. The OT reading, The Psalm, The NT reading and the The Gospel.
And the reader of the Gospel, intones….the continuation of the Gospel according to ….Mark or John…or.
So this morning the Gospel Message continues, as God’s Word never really ends.
As I prayed at the end of my devotions yesterday, the following points ‘ came into my head’.
One that, the important thing, as mentioned in the history of how ‘ I am so glad that Jesus loves me’, was written, is that Jesus loves us. And not only that we love Jesus, as important as that is.
And so, though Peter loved Jesus, he denied him three times. In the end, however, it was Jesus’ love for Peter that mattered, and caused Jesus to restore him to the position of disciple, and then Apostle.
In the same way although Saul, in the name of God, persecuted the followers of Christ, what mattered was that Jesus loved him. And after blinding him at ‘ High Noon’, called him to Himself as Paul. This same St. Paul who became the Apostle to the Gentiles, and wrote most of the New Testament.
Two, that this love, this unmerited, unearned and undeserved love, which we know as Grace, has a history.
A history about which I was moved to post on Facebook yesterday #lunchtimereflectiond, in response to an Ill informed, and perhaps meant to be provocative, article written by a colleague, Dr. Michael Abrahams, well known for his irreverent writings about God. ( I don’t think he is malicious. Just uninformed, and who knows perhaps searching).
The fact is that, in complete contrast to how most people understand world history viz. World Wars, The ‘ Dark Ages, The Byzantine Era, Alexander the Great and Napoleon, The Roman and Greek Empires, The influence of Confucius, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Slavery and The New World, Prehistoric man, The Stone age, The Ice Age; The History of Mankind according to the Bible has had, and will have only four periods.
Creation. The Fall. Redemption. Judgement.
And the two threads that feature in all four periods are The Holiness, Love, Justice and Mercy of God: and the Sin of Mankind.
Therefore, in order to appreciate the Grace of a Holy God, manifested Supremely in the Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, we need to spend time pondering on one of the ‘foundation’ passages of Scripture.
THE WORD OF GOD – GENESIS 6:5-13 NIV
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord . This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth…
To be continued…. Until then I share with you the experience, that another hymn, a favorite of my former ‘ spiritual mentor’, the late Bishop Herman Spence, came into my mind as I gave thanks, ‘ that Jesus loves me’. The first verse says it all
Blessed assurance Jesus is mine:
O what a foretaste of glory Divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God:
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Saviour all day long;
this is my story, this is my song,
praising my Saviour all the day long .
So this is my story that I share daily. One that never ends, whether or not The ReggaeBoyz win, or not; whether or not Governments are voted out, or voted in; whether Hurricanes strike or we are spared; and whether at a time that people die, or children are born, ‘ for everybody ought to know, The Good News, The Gospel message, that Jesus loves you, and me. Even to death on an old wooden Cross.
THE THIRD MESSAGE – again sent out on WhatsApp. One of the challenges that prevent many persons, even those who are genuinely searching for an understanding of the Truth about Life, is that an appreciation of Sin, eludes them. Or they shy away from this reality. For no one can understand what Sin has done to a perfectly Created World, and God’s solution manifested in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ, can ever question whether or not He is indeed merciful. This message is dedicated to a full appreciation of Sin. And ends with a reflection on one of the all time great Christian hymns which invites to consider deeply, not only the mercy of God, but His faithfulness
GM: It was not my intention for the Gospel message to continue in this forum this morning, as I have several meetings today.
But as I woke up praising God for the gift of another day, the words of a very special hymn came into my mind: ‘
Great is thy faithfulness….’ and in particular, ‘ thy own ( dear) presence to cheer and to guide’.
So as I began my devotion with that hymn, the ‘ revelation’ that Summer, and Winter, the sun moon and stars. ‘ join with all nature to witness to God’s faithfulness, mercy and love’ led me to continue, but not to conclude, yesterday’s message about the History of God’s Grace and Mercy
I never liked the Book of Romans as a young Christian. Found it very ‘ heavy’ and difficult to understand. But now that I have matured in the faith, and led to become an Evangelist, I’ve found that much of the foundations of my faith in God came from Romans.
So here am I at this point in my life reading Romans as part of my bedtime devotions. And what did I discover one night about Grace? Follow this Word carefully.
PART ONE – RELATED TO VERSE TWO OF GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS. AND PROVIDES THE CONTEXT
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
PART TWO – THE CONSEQUENCES OF HAVING NO ‘ EXCUSE’ FOR OUR BEHAVIOUR
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
PART THREE – ONE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S WRATH
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
PART FOUR – ANOTHER MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S WRATH
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
PART FIVE – THE FINAL MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S WRATH
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
I am not sure if the next time I am led to share, this message about Grace will conclude. But already we ought to be asking ourselves some key questions. Am I located now, or at some time in the past, in this passage? Does a full understanding of this passage, which applies to so many sins, give me any spiritual mandate to be involved in a campaign against any one particular sin?
Are we beginning to understand the enormity of the sinful state of the heart of mankind unredeemed by the Blood of Jesus? And can we then begin to appreciate why, ‘ something has gone very wrong in the state of Denmark’, to quote Shakespeare?
The USA, Jamaica and the whole world!
There is more, but until then we continue to give thanks for a faithful God. For Mercy, and bright hope for tomorrow in Christ Jesus. In the USA, and in #Jamaicalandwelove.
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever will be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. Refrain
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! Refrain
THE FINAL MESSAGE – again on WhatsApp first. Advances the debate about God, and takes us further than the question of mercy. The focus here is Friendship with this merciful and faithful God, and what that means in a modern society. All of which qualities of God, help us ultimately to become better servants. In Jamaica, in the USA. Wherever!
GM: Last night the Gospel story continued with my reading a chapter from Charles Swindoll’s Abraham: One Nomad’s amazing journey of Faith.
A chapter which offers details and an analysis of what ‘ Friendship with God means!
Perhaps it’s a good thing that Serena #Thebestwomensplayerinhistory lost her semifinal match at the U.S. Open. And so I didn’t just pass time waiting for them to show it again on TV.
Or that Federer #thebestmensplayerinhistory demolished his fellow Swissman in less than ninety minutes. So that I did get caught up waiting for the end!
Now recall that the last two messages had to do with the The Grace of God and its history. And how the wrath of God against those who rebelled against Him, the whole world, had manifested itself. How mankind, on account of Noah’s Righteousness, and God’s mercy, had been given a ‘ Second Chance’ to live right, after the story of The Ark. And then how St. Paul, early in letter to the Romans, developed the now famous Truth, found later on in the Book, ‘that all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.’
The Good News, the Gospel, is that,
‘ while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’. And further, ‘ Since we have been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from Gods wrath through him. For if when we were God’s enemies we were reconciled to him, through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life’ . Romans 5:8-10 NIV.
The key point, here, which provides the backdrop for a discussion on Friendship with God, is that because of the shed Blood of Christ Jesus, we, formerly all terrible sinners, can be transformed by the Power of The Holy Spirit. And become Friends with a Holy God!
That’s Grace! That’s Mercy!
And not the yearning for a Benz, for a whole lot of money, or even a helicopter in which we travel to do ‘ God’s work’.
And so Charles Swindoll uses Romans 5:1, which is what caused me to write last night, to introduce this concept of Friendship with God.
‘ Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God, because of what Jesus our Lord has done for us:
And according to Swindoll, the benefits of this friendship, in the context of the story of Abraham, who Scripture declared was ‘ a friend of God’, on account of his faith, are:
1. God, our Friend, calms our fears.
– Earlier on God told Abram: ‘ Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great’
2. God, our Friend, knows when to bless and when to delay.
– The timing of God’s blessings for us perfect …..for our good and for His glory
– As our Friend, God wants to give us blessings, but He knows good things
given at the wrong time can cause more harm than good.
– Abram waited nearly 25 years for use first sign of a pregnancy in his wife
3. God, our Friend, wants us to trust Him.
– Friendships have trust as their foundation
– The issue is so important to God that when Abram believed, He reckoned his faith to him as righteousness.
4. God, our Friend, wants us to live without fear.
– while situations change continually, God does not. It is never dark where God is. He is Light.
5. God, our Friend, has plans for our good, and not for our destruction.
– Furthermore, our future is as clear to God, as our past is to us.
– You may have to endure some growing pains as you complete the life He has prepared for you. But don’t think you have to endure the waiting and the anxiousness alone….
Finally, as we ponder on God’s unchanging Word, two days ago, I was moved in worship to post this Video on Facebook. And have been singing the song all day ever since then.
Satan is busy ( leading people astray) but God is real…. Order my steps in your Word O God
And early this morning, as I woke up:
‘What a friend we have in Jesus’, came into my mind.
THE FIRST VERSE
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all out sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear –
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer…