The Pope in America: Christ on the Cross

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)

THE NEWS

1. All about #ThePopeinAmerica. CNN apparently, whenever I turned on my TV, carried the entire visit, live. A most amazing thing to watch on prime time TV, Evening prayer, Mass, speeches, the singing, O Blessed God the hymns of praise and thanksgiving, and just the presence of the Word of God constantly on the most powerful medium in the world today. What a joy! What a refreshing difference from the standard fare of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, of ISIS and Syria, of problems and challenges all over the world. Food for the soul which can encourage, empower and inspire us to go and ‘ do good in this troubled world’. pray to God that all of the events surrounding #ThePopeinNYC and elsewhere touched hearts, even within CNN itself.

Pope of the people, and the politics, in historic U.S. visit

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Pope of the people, and the politics, in historic U.S. v…
Pope Francis dove into some of the United States’ thorniest political debates during his historic visit by urging the world’s wealthiest nation to welcome i…
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THE WORD OF GOD

So what Word or inspired word did the Lord send in the midst of the excitement, the debates, the analysis and the call to follow Christ, all of which attended Papa Francis’ visit to the USA.

The First Message – on WhatsApp. A word about prayer, about the need to listen to God carefully, and a word about the evidence of God’s speech all over the world. All of which ought to have prepared America for Papa Francis’ visit

GM: Last night I went to bed with thoughts about an approach to prayer, shared by Charles Swindoll in his book on Abraham. ‘ What happens when we pray’? All of what followed was guided by first, an initial introduction to prayer from his mother – words with which we can all identify, at least those of us who grew up in the age of corporal punishment .
” God help you if you if you ever do that again “.
But then he ‘ learnt a better way to pray’, from the Word of God.
” You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”. James 4:3-4. ESV and NASB respectively.
From which experience he learnt the following principles about prayer.

1. God can say yes to our petition but no to our motives. So be careful what you ask for, as you may receive more that what you requested – God’s wrath for ungratefulness as did the newly freed children of Israel when they grumbled about manna, and asked for meat, which they had plenty of in captivity.

2. God can say no to out petition, but yes to our motive. Abraham prayed that the ‘ wicked ‘ city of Sodom might be spared on account of the ‘ righteous’, read Lot and his family. But Lot and his family were spared but the city destroyed.

3. God can say yes to our petition and yes to our motive….which is pure joy. Read the story about Elijah and his ‘ duel’ with the false prophets of Baal and how God rained down fire Elijah’s request so that the King and Queen who worshiped Baal the storm god, might know who was the Living God.

4. God can say no to our petition and no to our motive….usually because of unresolved Sin.
So I went bed praying about Crime and Violence, about which I have a deep interest but no official responsibility: The carnage on the roads, for which I have official national and International responsibility : and other matters.

Then last night the first few lines of this answer from God came into my mind as I slept peacefully – falling asleep and the next thing I knew it was daylight. The key lesson for me is that we have to spend time with our Lord if we are to hear Him speak to us. Time away from the many, many ‘distractions’, including even ‘ church work’ that can prevent us from hearing his voice – the ultimate goal of every, not just child of God, but every human being.
For how much President Obama and other World Leaders, need to hear God’s voice as they confront the challenge that ISIS, the Middle East, the Refugees in Europe, Poverty in Africa, sabre-rattling in Iran and the International Drug trade with his many and tragic consequences, present to a free world. Even the guest list of who will meet the Pope at a reception at the White House, which is already the subject of controversy, needs a word from the Lord.
For how much the Minister of National Security, The Police Commissioner and the Prime Minister need to hear the voice of God as we, as nation, grapple with the twin headed monster of Crime and Violence in general, and of Murder in particular, in our country. Perhaps the Cabinet needs to go on a retreat with nothing on the agenda except to listen and reflect on the words of this song. And Charles Swindoll principles of ” What happens when we pray “?
Peace. Even better Shalom.

THE SONG

Master, speak! Thy servant heareth,
Waiting for Thy gracious word,
Longing for Thy voice that cheereth;
Master! let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
What hast Thou to say to me?

Speak to me by name, O Master,
Let me know it is to me;
Speak, that I may follow faster,
With a step more firm and free,
Where the Shepherd leads the flock,
In the shadow of the rock.

Master, speak! Though least and lowest,
Let me not unheard depart;
Master, speak! For O, Thou knowest
All the yearning of my heart,
Knowest all its truest need:
Speak! and make me blest indeed.

Master, speak! and make me ready,
When Thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady
Still to follow every word.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
Master, speak! O, speak to me!

Finally, this morning as I read the Psalm appointed for Sunday at my church, the end of which was quoted by the Prime Minister, at the beginning of her address to the PNP’s Annual Conference, yesterday, I understood further how much more the Lord speaks to us each day. Whether we pray or not.

THE WORD OF GOD.

The heavens declare the Glory of God,
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into the all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world….
Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

So there is no excuse that we cannot hear the Lord. For all we need to do, is look up in the skies and listen. And then look to the Cross on Calvary and believe.

The Second Message – really a short prayer for wisdom. But the kind of wisdom which comes only when we recognize that we are helpless in the face of overwhelming trouble. Which is exactly whenre the world is now with climate change, the refugee issue, extreme poverty in vast areas of the earth, unending wars……

GM: A long time ago I ceased believing in coincidence, and accepted that the Lord’s hand is somewhere involved in all that happens to me. Big things or small matters.
This morning as I spent some time reflecting and praying about one line in the hymn ‘ Be thou my vision’….Be thou ever with me, and I with you Lord….from the second verse….my mind went to a mediation which is a great Word for our times. And so I took up my phone to write.
But a voice in my head urged me to read the OT reading for Sunday, which was my original plan anyway, and not even to write.
And would you believe, that the passage in Numbers is the same Word which Charles Swindoll referenced in yesterday’s message in respect of God saying yes to the petition and no to the motive. The story of Israel’s ungratefulness in demanding meat, like what they had in captivity, instead of the ‘same old’.. my words… manner, that they were being fed day after day in freedom.
Clearly there is a message there for us in Jamaicalandwelove. A nation, for the most part peopled by descendants of slaves. And who God with a mighty hand, rescued and granted freedom and eventually Independence. A nation also peopled by former indentured labourers from India; by folks from China, Lebanon and Syria, seeking a better life. And peopled by descendants of former slave owners, who were also set free from their own desires to enslave other human beings, by the Gospel of Christ.
A nation that in far too many ways has turned its back on worshiping God Almighty, and sought ‘ salvation’ in political leaders and the spoils of victory of their party at the polls; in enforcers, Dons, like ‘Dudus’: in the ‘ Almighty Dollar’; and in their own intellect, their capacity to ‘ work it out’ and which has become their ‘ god’.
And having replaced the God of Abraham as our deity, many see the gun and what it can bring them, how it can protect them, as the solution to their problems. So we have a virtual epidemic of murder in our country, and no one knows how to solve this terrible blight on our nation.
In the midst of all this madness the Lord sends a word. A word originally meant for the American Leaders, and people, and God knows that with the rising popularity of DonaldTrumpIllegalMigrantsareRapists and other issues which have dominated the news recently #SCOTUS, #illegalimmigrants, #Refugees, #ISIS, they desperately need to be reminded. But so do we in Jamaicalandwelove. Desperately!

FOR GOD’S GRACE IN OUR HELPLESSNESS

Peter Marshall ( 1902-1949…a Scottish immigrant to America who served as Chaplain to the United States Senate for two years.

Verse: Judges 7:2.The Lord said to Gideon ” You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her.

We know, our Father, that at this desperate hour in world affairs, we need thee. We need thy strength, thy guidance, thy wisdom.
There are problems far greater than any wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in this hour?
May thy wisdom and power come upon the President of these United States, the Senators and Congressmen, to whom have been entrusted leadership. May the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge their helplessness and turn to thee. Give them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don’t know to do. Only then can they lead us as a nation beyond human wisdom to thee, who alone had the answer.
Lead us to this high adventure. Remind us that a ” mighty fortress is our God “- not a hiding place where we can escape for an easy life, but rather an arsenal of courage and strength – the mightiest of all, who will march beside us into the battle for righteousness and world brotherhood.
O our God, may we never recover from our feeling of helplessness and our need for thee! In the strong name of Jesus , our Lord, we pray. Amen.

The Third Message – again a short prayer for protection from evil. And God knows that evil lurks at every corner in our lives. Alone or in a multitude! Gunmen; pride; fear and unbelief; temptations within and without; fits of anger; lust for money and power……

GM: It’s a dangerous thing to go to bed at night without asking God for protection from evil. For, as one of my favorite gospel songs, ” Order my steps in your Word”, reminds us, ‘ Satan is busy, but God is real’.
And isn’t he busy in the dark. In the broad daylight too, but he who is the epitome of darkness, works best at night.
These thoughts came to mind as I reflected on the meditation below, which is associated with one of the all time great comforting verses in all of history.

” Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me”.
A final thought as we receive this inspired Word from the Lord this morning. It came from St. Paul last night, as I am now reading 1 Corinthians for my bedtime devotions.

” My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of God’s power so that your faith ( and mine) might not rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power”. 1. Cor. 2:4.

So, someone, somewhere, needs to hear this Word this morning. At this time. Or whenever it is read. To the Glory of God, as we give thanks for another day, and seek protection from the evil one. For nation, for community, for family and for self.
As we continue to walk literally or metaphorically through this ‘ valley of death and darkness’.

I ARISE TODAY

Patrick of Ireland (390-461…born to a Roman Magistrate, become a Christian, enslaved, escaped and ended up in Ireland where for 30 years he shared the Good News).

Verse: Psalm 23: 4.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guide me
God’s way to lie before me
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From the snares of the devil,
From temptations and vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar or anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
In Jesus’ Name.
Amen.
,
The Fourth Message…Actually a Two Part message. One received early in the morning. The other as I awoke again.

Part 1….one of the things which I hope the Pope’s visit to America along with the extended coverage, is to allow us to ” Search our hearts deeply”. And see how much we have strayed from the path that a Creator God has laid out for us. With disastrous consequences! But such a revelation can n only be received if we are willing to look at the big picture of life. And not just whether or not Lisa ( Hanna…a local politician and member of the cabinet) prevailed over her challenger; or whether of not Sanders has a fighting chance against Hillary Clinton! Interesting, but in the broad scheme of things, of little moment.

GM: The Kingdom of God, that which the authentic Christian life seeks to build, is, according to the Holy Scriptures, not a matter of talk, but of power. 1. Corinthians 4:26.

And so the Lord with Sovereign power woke me up at minutes to 3:00. To read and then to share.
The context? Who knows for sure, but three experiences, two of which gave me pause, serious pause, come to mind.

The first was triggered by a Word about which the Lord reminded me, after a discussion at Bible study, on ‘ living by the flesh and living by the Spirit. My recollection of it comes from the KJV.

” I have been crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ who lives in me.”. Galatians 2:20.

And then the great existential question arises. If Christ is really and truly living in me, Why? Why do so many of us still continue to do so much evil which would appear to contradict the claim if the indwelling of Christ in us. Cheating, lying, stealing, ‘ involved in the Lotto Scam’ ….breaking news, unable to escape from the ‘ addiction of pornography’, obsessed with sex, filled with greed, given to fits of extreme anger, faithless and cynical…..just like the rest of the world. The list goes on.
I got an answer, but that’s for another message.

The second was an awful experience. In the heart of the ghetto, a woman whose son was abducted and found murdered, showed me a picture on her phone. I looked for a nanosecond, and had to quickly avert my eyes. God have mercy! Christ have mercy!

The final one is #ThePopeintheUSA. #ThePopeinNYC. Among the excitement, words of wisdom, recognition of his humility, sombre moments, and masses of people turning out almost as if the greet Royalty, came a caution. That God called us Christians to be holy!

And so the Lord led me from Jeremiah…’ that they may know me’…those in exile…in one chapter.. to ….’ then you will find me when you seek me with all your heart’…..to Isaiah…’ that the fire will not burn you when you pass through it’…to Romans..that ‘ those who live by the flesh cannot please God’…to Hebrews… that the Lord disciplines those he loves.

And finally to this Word.

” Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one missed the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.
Afterwards, as you know, when he wanted to to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. ” Hebrews 12:14-17 NIV.
As I read and reflected on this experience in the dead of night with the Lord, the following thoughts cane to mind.

1. From a cosmic perspective, we are all, since The Fall, the Sin of Adam, exiles. Living a life as sinners, rather than the ‘ immortal life ‘ that we were created to live, before the devil intervened.

2. So too were all the Twelve Disciples who ‘ abandoned’, ran away from, Jesus when He was arrested. And even earlier, so too many of his other ‘ disciples’, who found His Words about Holy Communion ‘ too hard’…eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

3. Therefore, all of humanity in the Cosmic narrative, are exiles seeking to return to a relationship with the Creator God. A fact of life which inspired Augustine of Hippo, one of the early Bishops of the Church to pen one of the profound quotes of all of history:
‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Sadly some find temporary rest in other gods, and find no lasting peace; for that which they really seek is The Living God. Who Only can grant Peace. Hence we have the socially destructive reality of people seeking to find rest and ultimate joy in sex, whether homo or heterosexual; in the acquisition of material things….retail therapy; in seeking to have power over other human beings; in violence and murder; in Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana… blow your mind; in Music…. let the music take you higher.
And so family life suffers, economies stagnate, nations are in crisis and throughout history civilizations self-destruct.

4. Thank God that some seek God and find rest in Him through Jesus’ Act of Atonement for Sin on the Cross.
But then comes the prophesied ‘ discipline’, the purpose of which is to lead us to holiness. Not for our own personal salvation alone. No! But that we may with the help of the Holy Spirit, having over time, ‘ crucified’ the sinful nature, help to rescue a nation from having gruesome pictures of murder most foul on a cell phone; having too many people living in #WrongAddrresses. With the predictable and observed consequences.

5. But too many of us ‘ choose to run away’, because the discipline and suffering is ‘ too hard’. And that’s why so many ‘ Christians’ continue to ‘ live by the Flesh and not by the Spirit’. So a nation suffers, as the behavior of some brothers and sisters bring the Church into disrepute and people turn away from God. With tragic results!
I pray God that we may all, as sinners, seek forgiveness from the One Who Scripture declares ‘ is merciful to the wicked and the ungrateful’, as we prayerfully reflect on the words of this hymn to which God, with Power led me yesterday. For God knows that what we need is more than a visit from a Pope, a Holy and humble man of God, but a Revival of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in our restless hearts.

THE HYMN

Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.

I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.

Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine;
Take all my will, my passion, self and pride;
I now surrender, Lord, in me abide.

O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee;
Send a revival, start the work in me;
Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need;
For blessings now, O Lord, I humbly plead.
Amen.

PART TWO …closes this meditation by posing the question: What kind of anchor supports your life? Not whether or not Papa Francis’ words founf favour with you. but whether you trust in the only One who can support us in times of trouble. Christ the soon coming King

As I woke again. This! Actually last night began in Ezekiel and then to Jeremiah.
And spoke about God’s mercy along with His wrath…

” I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered – with a mighty hand and with out-poured wrath….. then you will know that I am God “. Ezekiel 20:34-38.

For the fact is that you cannot truly know God unless you experience both His wrath and His love.
As what took place on the Cross of Calvary is the full manifestation of God bringing back to Himself, all mankind created in His likeness and image’. Which according to Swindoll is the reason, ‘ made in God’s image and likeness’, why we treat people fairly and with Justice; and not because mankind possesses ‘ unalienable rights ‘. In fact he points out that, ‘ in Sin we are held captive’, and only in Christ do we really enjoy have freedom. Food for thought.

The Gospel Truth is that, on the Cross, both God’s love for mankind and His wrath on account of Sin, were fully shown. That’s why Jesus cried out ” My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”, as the full wrath of God on sinful man ‘ weighed on His sinless soul’, and separated Jesus for the only time in His life from the Father He loved. And obeyed, even to death on a Cross.

No wonder then a wise Saint of yure once stated:

” I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming with no offense in it”. – Dorothy L. Sawyers.

Which is the trap New York Governor Cuomo fell in, and if truth be told others have been similarly affected, on #CNN when asked for his reaction to the ‘ phenomenon’ of #ThePopeinNYC. And so in response he ‘ gushed’ that Papa Francis’ humility and authenticity, which drew millions of people to him, shows that if we could just love as Jesus did, humanity would be much better off.
Close but no cigars! And a naive and uninitiated, and incomplete understanding of Jesus’ Mission of earth. Because it omits the doctrine of, and profound effect that, Sin has had on mankind. Made us exiles, separated us from a loving Creator God in the first place. Caused women in inner cities and elsewhere to grieve. ‘ Lady where you come from, people die there everyday’. #Etana
For yes, God so loved the world, that in love He sent His only begotten Son. But…..so that mankind would not perish. Please never ever forget that part. For Christ died, Christ is risen, but Christ will come again as Judge.
And then no tears will bring about any change for those who are now Godless, and have ‘ sold their birthright, as children created in God’s image, for that which the world longs for. Sex and drink, success and fame, power and money!
All because The Word of God which called for self-denial, the crucifixion of self- centeredness, to ‘ let go and let God’, was ‘ too hard.
I close with the words of a hymn, strains of which came into my mind, shortly before the Lord woke me up. Instructive words. Challenging words. Words we forget at our peril and that of our family, friends and nation.
We Have an Anchor

1 Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

[Refrain:]

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!

2 Will your anchor hold in the straits of fear,
when the breakers roar and the reef is near?
While the surges rave, and the wild winds blow,
shall the angry waves then your bark o’erflow? [Refrain]

3 Will your anchor hold in the floods of death,
when the waters cold chill your latest breath?
On the rising tide you can never fail,
while your anchor holds within the veil. [Refrain]

4 Will your eyes behold through the morning light
the city of gold and the harbour bright?
Will you anchor safe by the heavenly shore,
when life’s storms are past for evermore? [Refrain]

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