After Easter, what next?

GM: FROM EASTER BACK TO GOOD FRIDAY

It was a challenge for me the first time I heard it. Couldn’t imagine repeating the ‘ discipline’ of Lent again so quickly after celebrating The Resurrection. But on reflection it made sense!

Here’s why. Have a look at yesterday’s headlines in the Jamaica Observer, one of two daily newspapers published in Jamaica.( In fact have a look at most headlines across the globe)

“BAD GOOD FRIDAY”

With a subtitle:

‘Commish vows new attack on blood-drenched St. James Division.’

Now I know the Commissioner of Police.  I speak to him often because of my Road Safety responsibilities. He is a good and decent man guided by Christian principles. And he is outraged at the senseless killings, two separate double murders on Good Friday, which have resumed in the western Parish of St. James.
And so he should be! And all of  us who love this country dearly.

But I have news for the Commissioner, for ‘ leading from the front’,  new PM Andrew Holness and his team, and for  the Opposition. Outrage alone will not work. Neither will outrage along with Community policing and better intelligence in and by themselves. Nor will partnerships, with the Church and other agencies in and by itself!

Whether in Jamaica, in Pakistan, where 72 Christians including many children were brutally murdered by Muslim extremists, or in Brussels, Paris, Nigeria, Chad or countless other places where evil men have done dastardly things in recent times

Why? Unlike in former years, I’ve decided to continue reading John Stott’s classic The Cross of Christ.
And beginning over the weekend, and continuing today, a chapter on The Conquest of Evil held my interest.

So literally I went back to Good Friday. And here’s how the issue that confronts our Commissioner, and others worldwide, begins in respect of Jesus’ Conquest of Evil on The Cross on Good Friday.

” It’s impossible to read the New Testament without being impressed by the atmosphere of joyful confidence which pervades it, and which stands in relief against the rather jejune ( dull and simplistic) religion that often passes for Christianity today.
There was no defeatism about the early Christians: they spoke rather of victory. For example, ‘ thanks be to God! He gives us the victory….. Again, ‘ in all these things ( adversities and dangers) we are more than conquerors….. ”

Then Stott goes into a long discussion on the three major explanations of  the death of Christ; victory over sin, death and the devil – evil.
The Conquest of Evil, about which The Commissioner is concerned, given the present day manifestations,  is said to have taken place in six stages, ‘although the decisive defeat of Satan took place on the Cross.’

1. The conquest predicted – in the Garden of Eden. ” I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he ( Jesus) will crush your ( Satan) head, and you will strike his heel.

2. The Conquest began – with the Ministry of Jesus. Being aware of his imminent defeat, Satan made many attempts to get rid of Jesus….Herod’s murder of the Bethlehem children …. the wilderness temptations to avoid the way of the Cross… Peter’s contradiction of the way of the Cross ( Get behind me Satan)… the Scriptures about overpowering and binding the strongman.

3.The Conquest achieved on the Cross…
‘ He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code….he took it away , nailing it to the Cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross. Colossians 2:13-15

4. The Conquest confirmed and announced -by the Resurrection. Although I am editing heavily, Stott did caution against giving greater importance to the Crucifixion than to the Resurrection,  as both are to be bracketed together as one. Plus the powerful and indispensable work of The Holy Spirit became manifest after the Resurrection

5. The Conquest extended as the Church goes out its mission, ‘ calling people to repent and to  turn from darkness to light’, and ‘ from the power of Satan to God’. So every Christian conversion involves a power encounter in which the devil is obliged to relax his hold on somebody’s life and the superior power of Christ is demonstrated.

6. The Conquest will be consummated at the Parousia – when Christ returns.
So until then we live between the ‘ already’ and the ‘ not yet’.

For though the devil had been defeated be has not yet conceded defeat. Although he has been overthrown he had not been eliminated. In fact he continues to wield great power. In this context Stott identifies a great challenge.
” Some Christians are triumphalists,  who see only the decisive victory of Jesus Christ and overlook the apostolic warnings against the powers if darkness. Others are defeatists, who see only the fearsome malice of the devil and overlook the victory over him which Christ has already won. The tension is part of the Christian dilemma between the ‘ already’ and the ‘ not yet’

So here’s is thing. What Good Friday reveals to us, if we listen carefully in the context of the struggle to rescue our nation decisively from murder and rape and shootings and stabbings, and the many other evils which abound, we need to do the following. Urgently!

1.  Understand that the Church is not just another member of Civil Society. And therefore part of the broad coalition of  good citizens determined and empowered to fight against evil. That is is indeed.  But more, much more than that narrow location of the Body of The Risen Christ.
Because the events on Good Friday teach us, that only when our people are covered by ‘ the full armour of God in Christ Jesus’, can we resist the evil forces that lead us to do all kinds of wickedness. Repeatedly! Even on Good Friday.
2. Without apology, and against the expected resistance of ‘ let all ideas contend’, the Church needs to aggressively and creatively seek to spread the Good News of Salvation to our nation’s children. And so provide a different ‘ narrative’ to what they are being fed daily on the mini-buses, through their cell phones, in the bus parks where they gather, and in the dancehall.

3. With the same evangelical passion, and sense of victory that characterized  the early church, and my Anglican Church is having Synod/ Convention this week, the Church needs to  ‘ be awakened’, and to fight for soul of this nation, yard by yard, ‘ corner by corner’, and community by community. In the same way that the politicians mobilize their troops at election time!
” Lord renew thy Church beginning with me; Lord renew thy Church that the Church may renew the nation (s)

4. The #Prosperitygospel and all that it entails, but primarily it’s attempt to bypass the suffering of the Cross, needs to be cast back into the pit of hell from which it came.

But that kind of understanding, and determination comes only when we are prepared to keep our spiritual and moral gaze fixed on the Cross of Christ. And not on this world’s pleasures. Which is the  message from an old hymn which ‘ apprehended me’,  yesterday during my devotions.
Especially the last verse and the line that reminds us that :

‘ fading are this world’s best pleasures’.

For the reality is that on account of what this world has to offer, and the tyranny of Sin, and the flesh, and the fear of death,  all under the control of the evil one,   who encourages young women to carry cocaine across borders, comes wickedness and evil about which the entire nation is concerned.

The challenge then is for the society to turn to the Crucified One, about whom the authentic Church preaches.
And away from the power of Satan.
But that requires obedience, endurance, sacrifice, suffering and self-denial and a deep longing for the Holy Spirit to enable us bring the Good News of the forgiveness of Sin, Redemption,  to those ‘ held  captive by the power of Satan. Whether in St. James Jamaica, in Pakistan, or in Brussels.

THE HYMN

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
God, whose word cannot be broken,
formed thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

2 See, the streams of living waters,
springing from eternal love,
well supply thy sons and daughters
and all fear of want remove.
Who can faint while such a river
ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
never fails from age to age.

3 Round each habitation hovering,
see the cloud and fire appear
for a glory and a covering,
showing that the Lord is near.
Thus deriving from their banner
light by night and shade by day,
safe they feed upon the manna
which God gives them when on their way.

4 Savior, since of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am,
let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in your name.
Fading are the world’s best pleasures,
all its boasted pomp and show;
solid joys and lasting treasures
none but Zion’s children know

A Good Friday Message

GN: THE GOOD FRIDAY MESSAGE : IT IS FINISHED

This message gets a bit ‘technical’, at times,   but bear with me as it’s important.

What is finished? The Salvation story! What’s the Salvation story. That all have sinned. All, every single one of us on earth; and fallen short of the glory of God.

And the wages Sin is death, but the gift of God is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus.

Christianity 101. Right! Start the verse and almost all Jamaicans can finish it.

So, when Jesus said on the Cross, one of ‘Seven Words’,  which feature during the traditional Three Hour Service on Good Friday,  ” It is finished “, it means as we say in Jamaica, ‘ de something dun’. His shed Blood has bought Salvation, Peace with God,  for all mankind.

So as the Bible says, ‘ there is now no more condemnation for us who are in Christ Jesus’. For God’s righteousness wrath against all who have sinned, has been ‘ satisfied’ by the ‘ precious blood of the Lamb’.

So here’s the thing now, as young people like to say, if it is finished, why when I went to an inner city to work on behalf on my church, this week,  I was  moved to tweet:

26 years. Dead. 16. Dead. 16. In lockup. Police all over the place  #LifeintheInnercity. Lord have mercy #HolyWeek2016

If it is finished why the headlines:

National mourning in Belgium following deadly #BrusselsAttacks

https://t.co/0Dz4GW5v1y https://t.co/VCyp6vypyL

Or this one:

Stewardess with 60 lbs. of cocaine in carry-on bags at LAX, dumps her Gucci shoes and runs https://t.co/cPU7agATnG https://t.co/QJNdhzvbKz

If it is really finished why are  so many wives silently crying night after night because of  unfaithful husbands or partners? Why is pornography the #1 site that people use Google to search for? And why is there so much poverty and injustice in the world today?

Last night I found an answer, one among many,  in a book that I have been reading on Good Friday. For years! And I am not yet finished. The Cross of Christ, by an Evangelical Anglican Theologian – the late Rev. John Stott.

It’s all about Sin, and something called    ‘ mens rea’ – having the state of mind  and will to commit a particular crime.
That is, mankind has a moral responsibility  and capacity to choose to be obedient to God or not.
And many have elected to reject Salvation. A problem for mankind which began even on the Cross, and during the Jesus’ trial before Pilate.
And the reason for the grief and pain all over the world ever since mankind from the Fall, through Adam, chose Independence over dependence on God.

So,  as was pointed out during the Seven Words during the Three Hour Service today on #GoodFriday,  there were ‘ two elections’, and twice they voted against Jesus. With dire consequences! In the same way many vote, with their feet – not going to church – and with their hearts, going to a dance rather than serving the Lord, in today’s world.

So first  was a vote between Barabbas, a bandit,  and Jesus. And history records well who won!
Then two evil men were crucified beside Jesus. One voted for ‘ Salvation’!  Remember me when you come into your kingdom!  The other for what the world had to offer then and now. Anything else, anybody else but  Jesus. ‘ Don’t you fear God!

No wonder the songwriter was moved to pen these words; the fourth verse of My Song is love unknown:

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of Life they slay
Yet cheerful he
To suffering goes,
That he his foes
From thence might free

Which leads me back to John Stott’s The Cross of Christ and a chapter entitled, ‘ the problem of forgiveness. In which, inter alia, among other things, the issue of why did Jesus have to die for God to forgive mankind, is explored?
And one of the things Stott explains,  is that not only does the world does  not have much interest in the concept of Sin anymore, but most of us don’t understand the ‘ gravity of sin’.  And hence the need for the shedding of Christ’s Blood.

In this context Stott discusses the five   Greek words the New Testament writers use to describe Sin.

Hamartia  – missing the target,  failing to attain a goal. The most common of the five words.

Adika – unrighteousness or iniquity

Poneria – evil of a vicious or degenerate kind

Parabasis – stepping over a known boundary

Anomia – disregard or violation of a known law.

Taking all of these  things together, Stott argues that, ultimately, the lesson from Scripture is that :

” Every Sin is a breach of what Jesus calls the first and great commandment, not just by failing to love God with all our  being, but by  refusing to acknowledge and obey him as Creator and Lord. We have rejected the position of dependence which our createdness inevitably involves, and made a big for Independence…… Sin is not a regrettable lapse  from conventional standards; it’s essence is hostility to God ( ROM. 8:7) issuing in active rebellion against him.

For me all of this points to the greatest of all human failings, and to a meditation that I have been reflecting on for years.

The Problem of Self-Love

Verse: Leviticus 19:18
Francois Fenelon

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…….

It is a sensitive self-love that cannot forgive the self-love of others. The more self-love we have the more severe  our censures (  #DonaldTrumpIllegalMigrantsareRapists….and many other politicians all over the world, including #Jamaicalandwelove…. my words).

There is nothing so vexatious  as the as the collisions between one excessive self-love and another still more violent and sensitive ( I imagine this is very much at play in some homes where there is frequent strife)
The passions of others are infinitely ridiculous to those who are under 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 his 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.

Final Comment:   So,  yes it is finished.  But before Salvation can reign completely on Earth, viz, all men accept Jesus as Lord and. Saviour, and therefore love ‘ each other’ as Christ loved us, ‘ even on to death on a Cross, we have to solve the problem of self-love. And a bid for Independence. A bid to ‘ reach God without the need for a mediator’. A bid to be righteous without the Blood of Christ.

For that’s the reason why evil, Sin, will manifest itself in the ‘ chopping off of people’s heads, at one level! Opting, and in effect,  voting for,  Destra, Popcaan, and Rihanna over Jesus at another level. And why Muslims, the Jews,  and other Religions, as was the case with the Gnostics, shortly after Jesus died, refuse to accept Jesus as God. And worse,  claim as some Atheists do, with equally dire circumstances, that God is dead.
And why I see no value in any other prayer,  but that based on The Atonement, in private or public spaces in this country which celebrates Good Friday as a holy-day

So, the Salvation story is  like,  ‘ all done’. But we have to claim it personally, and with obedience, comes the promised Holy Spirit. To lead us into all Truth. Who is a Person. Even Jesus Christ the Crucified One.
Only in that context then,  can we celebrate Easter. The final stop in the journey of Lent.

I leave you with a song my Rector sang twice, so far this weekend:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain
Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain
This is all my hope and peace,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
This is all my righteousness,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain

Now by this I’ll overcome—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
Now by this I’ll reach my home—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Refrain

Glory! Glory! This I sing—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus,
All my praise for this I bring—
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Refrain

Peace.

Prayers and Religions. Christ and the Divine Yes

Offering prayers in a changing world

This blog was written in response to a discussion on RJRFM94, yesterday, March 18, 2016,  during a program #BeyondTheHealines hosted by #DjmillerJA. The  issue of opening up  Prayers in Parliament  to other Religions, apart from those offered by the dominant Christian Religion,  which sparked a lot of controversy, was triggered by a blog written by a human rights advocate and Susan Goffe .

@suezeecue calls 4 us to reconsider parliamentary prayer -getting reactions – what do u think? Hint-READ post first https://t.co/kAS1El9AtE

It’s an important issue given the increasingly pluralistic nature of the Jamaican society; and ‘ trending’ in many other societies, giving them, like us a lot of  ‘ headaches’ as we try to deal with sometimes uncomfortable changes.
The question which arises though, is:  ‘what’s the purpose of prayer’. And in the context of E. Stanley Jones’ A Divine Yes Had Sounded’, it would appear,  from someone who has been Internationally recognized for his work in India and elsewhere, that although prayers from other religions might be ‘democratic’, they may be of no use.

Perhaps that’s why our slave forebears, responded overwhelmingly to the Divine Yes, who is Christ. And thus set in place the Christianization of the Jamaican society!  It maybe that we tamper with our  history at our peril; and certainly, at the very least, without a knowledge of the Religions which are being advocated to ‘ compete’  with, or to be added to the Divine Yes. Especially on the eve of Holy Week!  Which I would suggest is not a coincidence.

How did I find this meditation by Jones? I didn’t. If ‘ found me’, also a blogger,  and which latest blog on Word Press, posted this morning, features the Divine Yes, ‘ even for the greatest offender’.

https://t.co/z28R7ZocJV my baby is coming home tomorrow. Ain’t that good news #SamCooke. Better news in this blog @Petchary @souldancing

THE DIVINE YES HAS SOUNDED

E. STANLEY JONES ( 1884-1973….Twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, he received seven honorary doctorates and write 29 books….. An evangelist to Indian intellectuals, Jones was acquainted with Mahatma Ghandi, Jawaharla Nehru….his preaching in his numerous worldwide evangelistic crusades was marked by His advocacy of the uniqueness of Christ, the Gospel and church Union.)

Verse: 2. Cor. 1:20
” For in Him every one of God’s promises is a ” Yes “. Fir this reason it is through him that we say the ” Amen”, to the Glory of God.

Call the roll of the ancient philosophies – and the modern – and they all come out to a No. The note of pessimism about life sounds in them all. Take Buddhism: Buddha, in his meditation under the Bo tree at Gaya, India came to the startling conclusion:

” Existence and suffering are one”, inextricably bound up together. The only way to get out of suffering is to get out of life. So cut the root of desire and become desireless, even for life, and then you can go out into that state, literally, ” out of the snuffed candle ” – Nirvana.

This is the most decisive No ever uttered about life. And yet hundreds of millions cling to this cling to this vast No as emancipation, for they feel life is saying the same, life is a No.

Take the Vendanta philosophy, the outstanding philosophy of of India. It says you are to lose your separate individual personality and be absorbed into the impersonal essence, called Brahma.
So you as a person are wiped out – like  a raindrop you are lost in the ocean of the impersonal. It, too, is a vast No.

Take Islam : Fundamentally Islam means submission – submission to the sovereign will of God. Your will is gone; his will is all. For all intents and purposes the individual is swamped in the divine. This too is a vast No.

Take Stoicism: To shut out sorrow and suffering, the Stoic had to shut out love and pity too, for if love and pity came in, then sorrow and suffering would come trooping in behind. This, too is a vast No to the ” greatest thing in the world ” – love.

Schopenhauer, the apostle of pessimism, seated on a park bench was asked by a policeman who thought him a tramp: ” Who are you, and what are you here for”? Schopenhauer replied sadly, ” I wish I knew “. His was a No – a sad question mark. The loudest and saddest No that has been been sounded on our planet is the latest: ” God is dead “. It is not only a No to life, but to  God, the author of life; both God and life are dead. This is the nadir of the No.

Now in the midst of this world chorus of No, at last – at long last, – ” the divine ‘yes’ has sounded.” And Jesus is that Yes.

Lent, Champs, Hillary Clinton and Holy Week

GN: LENT AND HOLY WEEK

Perspective is everything!  In #Jamaicalandwelove the ‘ talk of the town’, is all about Champs; the greatest high school show on earth. An event where the best of our male and female high school athletes, parade their skills at the Nation’s premier stadium, attracting,  increasingly,  over the years, a huge International audience. #Onespotmedia.com
Whilst in America the ‘ stop the Trump’ campaign is on in earnest, while Hillary Clinton seeks to wrap up the race to select the Democratic nominee for the Presidential elections later this year.

Then this morning, as I was completing my early morning devotions before rushing off the work, ‘ The Vilest Offender’ kind of exploded in my head. And because I knew the hymn from whence it came, and also that I didn’t have time to write a message, I let it ‘ simmer’. Until tonight!

So here’s the hymn from whence that Word from the Lord came:

THE HYMN

TO GOD BE THE GLORY

To God be the glory, great things He hath done,
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life our redemption to win,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.

Refrain

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
  Let the earth hear His voice;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
  Let the people rejoice;
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
  And give Him the glory; great things He hath done.

2
Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Refrain

3
Great things He hath taught us, great things He hath done,
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer, and higher, and greater will be
Our wonder, our transport when Jesus we see.

This morning, my Bible opened to the famous warning in tge book Ephesians about Spiritual Warfare. And which section begins with ‘ Finally….. “.

So I started the beginning of the book to receive the context. About how God proposed in His heart for us to be ‘ Holy and blameless in Christ’, before the Creation. How we were dead in our sins, following the ruler of the ‘ power of the air’, the spirit that us now at  work in all who are disobedient.
How at one time we without hope and without God in this world. How on Christ Jesus, we who were far away have been brought near to God.

After which ‘ Salvation History’, St. Paul then warns the new Church then, and we also now, that as a,consequence of the great ‘ Rescue Act of Mankind by God’, we face the full wrath of the powers of evil, viz, Spiritual Warfare.

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the Cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 NRSV.

This is where the ‘ Vilest Offender’ comes into the picture. For as the songwriter captures it lyrically,
‘ The Vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives’.

No wonder the full might of the forces of evil are brought to bear against, we who were once ‘ without God, and without hope’. For as a  young pastor once asserted during a Good Friday Sermon:
” If the Thief on the Cross could join Jesus in Paradise “, then everyone, even ‘ dog puss and rat’ can go to heaven. In other words even, ‘ The Vilest Offender’. If he or she repents and looks to Jesus for Salvation!
Even Trump! Even ‘ ‘Dudus’!  Even the worst ‘backslider’.  The Atheist. The Muslim.  Whoever! Even you and I, who until, Thank God for Jesus, were the worst of all sinners.

What a joyful reassuring Word as we enter into The Most Solemn and Celebrated Week in the Christian Calendar. Holy Week!
For whether  or not, my  alma mater, Jamaica College wins Boy’s Champs ( thanks for the encouraging WhatsApp message with the  points standing at the end of day four Bruce James) or not, or whether or not  Usain Bolt wins a historic Third Gold Medal in Rio, or whether or not Hillary Clinton becomes the next President of the USA, is, in the wider scheme of things, of little moment.

But to be reconciled to God, for Eternity, even the vilest offender, then that is really Good News. In 2016, ’17, ’18….whenever. Which is what Holy Week is all about. For we who,  at one time, were without God in this world on Good Friday were ‘ brought near’, by the Blood of The Lamb, viz, Redemption.

That’s time for celebration! Which is what we’ll do, once again,  on that Blessed Easter morning. For Christ  is Risen indeed. Hallelujah. Especially for the Vilest Offender – you and I.
To God be the glory, great things he has done.

Lent, Good Friday, and Discipleship

GM: LENT, GOOD FRIDAY, AND EASTER

God moves in some very mysterious ways indeed. For while,   once a Presidential hopeful,  Marco Rubio,  is ‘  licking his wounds, having ‘ suspended’ his campaign after losing badly to Donald Trump in his home state Florida, and while, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to be ‘ heading down the home stretch’, after big wins last night, Holy Week is about to happen once again.
And this,  the celebration, or  commemoration,  of the most important events in the history, not just of the Christian Church worldwide, but of mankind, will take place next year again, regardless of who becomes the next President of the USA. Unless of course Christ returns before that date.

And in the midst of this preparation I got a phone call yesterday. From a media person who has been the recipient of the Sunday night email Ministry. A ministry which preceded this WhatsApp ministry! And which ‘ reminder’ that I have neglected it, was received.
Her reason for calling? In this ‘ Christian ‘ country of ours, a Television station planning to do a documentary on Good Friday and Easter, approached two Ministers of Religion. And the response, as I was told? Essentially, why bother, as it is not important.

So, having, at the very least, been convinced otherwise, on account of just growing up in Jamaica, her own religious experience, and having been exposed to the E mail Ministry, I got a call.
And I am not even going to promote the documentary, as that’s not what triggered this message. An unusual one, but then, that’s ‘ my story’ for today; and which ‘ live experience’ I have consistently tried to share, and not some theoretical one.

So  what inspired this message?
On reflection two passages of Scripture. Both from the readings for Palm Sunday, which is this Sunday, when Holy Week begins.
The first one is from the Psalm:

” The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone “. Psalm 118:22

The second from the OT reading:

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary. ” Isaiah 50:4 NIV

And the clear message from this is that all of us who claim Christ as Lord and Savior, are called to ‘ proclaim Him ‘ to others. Not just those of us who are inspired to write, or called to preach, or ordained Ministers.
For Christ’s death and Resurrection, for the Reconciliation of sinful, self-centred  mankind to a Loving and Merciful God, the essence of the Gospel, so that we may become God-centred, and abandoned to Jesus, is the only Word that a ‘ weary world’ needs to hear. Desperately!
Despite the many voices which assert that ‘ they don’t need Christ’, to be good and upright citizens. Which was the subject of the previous message that featured the ‘ liberal theology’ currently being promoted in the USA and other Cosmopolitan centres, which asserts that ‘ mankind is evolving towards goodness’. A view widely held  in Europe for a while, until the atrocities of World War 11 shattered that illusion. All in opposition to the the fundamental reality of the human predicament which ‘ carried  Jesus to the Cross, viz, that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. Further, that the wages of Sin is death, but the gift of God is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus.

The challenge that we face, in the Church, and outside the Church, is that many behave as if,  ” Christ and Him Crucified ” is not sufficient. That there must be something else. Hence the rise in the #Prosperitygospel. Hence the rise in Liberal theology. All in an attempt to escape ‘ denying self, taking up your cross, and following Jesus’. Which is what our Lord says, if we wish to become His Disciples.

And the problem, for humanity, but not for God’s plans, is what Oswald Chambers suggests: that many churches are packed with people who are ‘ saved’, but not many have true disciples. People who are willing to deny their own ambitions, their own plans for life, and abandon themselves to the way of the Cross; a life of suffering, privation, torment and persecution even, for the Glory of God.

Otherwise, we may well be guilty of ‘ rejecting the chief cornerstone’,  and like those on Palm Sunday, worship a Jesus,  who we want to do something for us. But when we understand that He is taking us to Calvary with Him, we reject Him, and join the throng, saying, ‘Crucify Him’.

For like it or not, if our understanding of the Christian faith has any element of a ‘ commercial transaction’ in it,  (loving Jesus in order to get something from Him) as Oswald Chambers writes eloquently, we will not have a message for a ‘ weary world’.
And God knows, with Crime and Violence rampant in our society, Cancer and strange Viruses striking terror into the hearts of many, and with personal and family problems abound, not to speak about the unfathomable reality of death of a loved one,  how weary are our hearts.

In that context then, words from a hymn, which played a pivotal role in the genesis of this Electronic ministry ( text, the email, and now WhatsApp, with use of the social media platforms), came into my head, and which I share with you. For Good Friday and Easter celebrations  ought to emerge from the outflowing of a love for a Savior who died a cruel death for us on an old wooden Cross. Even while, as Scriptures record:
” we were his enemies’.

That’s why not just all Ministers, regardless of their denominational traditions, but all humanity ought to place Holy Week and it’s activities, at the center of their existence. Without which events we would be lost indeed.
Peace

The Hymn

My God, I love thee not because
O 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 the 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 for the sake of winning heaven,
nor of escaping hell;

not for the sake of gaining aught,
not seeking a reward;
but as thyself has loved me,
O ever-loving Lord.

So would I love thee, dearest Lord,
and in thy praise will sing;
solely because thou art my God,
and my most loving King.

Lent, H1N1, Muslims and The Truth Christ Jesus

GM: LENT, DANGER, AND GOD’S OFFER OF MERCY IN AND THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

Yesterday I shared an excerpt of a meditation with my children,  and some of my many ‘ children’, about the reality of life:

THE MESSAGE

Something to consider deeply as you go through life. Because contrary to what you hear from the televangelists, it’s true.  An excerpt. I’ll send the full text one day.

CHRIS TIEGREEN

A Long and Winding Road

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:1

Life as a Christian isn’t easy. Actually, life isn’t easy for anyone……..

So Paul reminds his protégé that there is Grace to keep going. He never tells Timothy that Grace will make things easy, and oh, how we wish that he did. But he doesn’t.
Grace sustains, but it does not simplify. It does not tell us to relax; it gives us strength. It urges endurance more often than it gives us miraculous escape. But when it’s all we have, it’s more than enough……

And at the end of the meditation is a profound quote from Samuel Rutherford:

Grace grows best in the winter.

Peace.
Dad/Dr. J

Then last evening, on my way home, and listening to Nationwide 90FM, I heard the host #CliffHughes, having a discussion with some Muslims about Jesus. And in response to an ‘ accusation’ by Hughes that Muslims ‘ disrespect’ Jesus, came this extraordinary statement. That unless you believe in Jesus, you cannot be a Muslim. Further, that it was Jesus, a human being, esteemed by Muslims at the highest level,  sent by Almighty God as a Prophet,  to turn the children Is-rael to back to God,  who prophesied that the prophet Mohammed would come and lead us into all truth. And it is the Muslims who accept Christ and the children of Is-rael who rejected him.

So in one fell swoop, this advocate of the Muslim faith, sought to undermine the foundations of Christianity, viz, that Jesus is not God, and that The Holy Spirit, part of the Holy Trinity, has been replaced by the prophet Mohammed – to lead us into all truth. No recognition of The Cross of Calvary: no discussion of Sin and Redemption by the Blood of the Lamb. And sadly, in a ‘ Christian country’, even if not a believer, but yet an informed journalist,  Hughes did not ‘ go down that road’, and pose serious questions.
Have mercy!

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why this song is never far from my lips and my heart.

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 be by my side.
Nor wander from the pathway,
of Thou wilt be my guide.

For ‘ trust me’ the battle for our souls is well and truly joined. For as bad as Trump is for America, and the world,
there is worse. Much worse!

Then last night continuing my observance of a Holy Lent – less TV and more intentional reading – OSWALD CHAMBERS spoke about the dangers of Life in this way.

CHRIST’S INFINITE PATIENCE AND HUMAN DESTITUTION

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come on unto Me, and drink ( John 7:37)

Our Lord begins where we would never begin, at the point of human destitution. The greatest blessing a man ever gets from God is the realisation that if he is going to enter the His  Kingdom, it must be through the door of destitution. Naturally we do not want to begin there, that is why the appeal of Jesus is of no use until we come face with realities; then the only One worth listening to is the Lord.

We learn to welcome the patience of Jesus only when we get to the point of human destitution.( Tweeted last night).
It’s not that God will not do anything for us until we get there, but that He cannot. God cannot do for me if I am sufficient for myself. When we come to the place of destitution spiritually, we find the Lord waiting,  and saying , ” If any man thirst, let Him come to me and drink”.

Then this morning I awoke and read the headlines in the Daily Gleaner go-jamaica.com ” Get Vaccinated”.
And I agree, as the dreaded Swine Flu or H1N1 can kill. Especially if you are in a high risk group.

But Lord have mercy, and this is the reason why I am moved to write this morning, an infinitely more important challenge, a crisis even,  is to:

” Accept Christ, Repent and be Baptised “.

Especially if you are in the high risk group, viz, a member of ‘Adam’s  helpless human race’ (According to John Wesley’s great hymn, And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood….
the third verse of which goes like this:

3. He left his Father’s throne above
(so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!

So yes, the health of our nation is at risk. Yes, good and sensible governance is at risk in America. Yes, the truth is at risk when we listen to some Muslims. But what is at greatest risk is our souls before a Holy God. And Lent is a time to ponder deeply on Spiritual matters. And repent and turn back to the God,  who in Christ Jesus, died and was raised from the dead, so that in Him we may have Life and Life more abundantly. ( Better than ‘ Cash Pot a Bubble).  Otherwise, God will  arrange crisis after crisis in our lives, until ‘ destitute’ we turn to Him. Or, perish! God have mercy!
Peace

Trump, Lent and The Holy Spirit of God

LENT, TEMPTATION AND TRIALS, MERCY AND GOD’S SPIRIT. I WANT A REVIVAL IN MY SOUL

One of the,  perhaps unintentional,  issues that the campaign for the Presidency of the USA, led by Donald Trump, and his courting of the ‘ Evangelical Voters,  is bringing to the fore, in a largely secular space, is that folks are trying to come to terms with,  what does  means to be a Christian?  How do Christians behave, and what guides their actions?

Issues which in any event, election or no election, during this season of Lent, cry out for deep reflection and guidance.

It is in this context then, that I offer my experiences with the Lord over the past couple of days.

We, two professionals, and both Christians,  one providing health care, the other in a service industry, were faced with a potentially desperate situation. And so we did what desperate people do.  We prayed. For mercy! 

Reminding the Lord of His Word, and thereby drawing an assurance,  from Hebrews 10:19, and 4:16…..that because of the blood of Jesus we can enter with confidence into the very presence of God and receive mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

This, after arranging the specific medical treatment required in that situation.

Then, the very same night, I was led to read, after opening Oswald Chambers’ ” The Complete Works”, randomly, this validation of the prayer.

” The only platform from which the holiest saint on earth is ever heard is the platform mentioned in Hebrews 10:19. Viz, we have ” boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus”. There is no other way.  ”

And in the Chapter on The Unrealised Logic of Prayer, using Romans 8:26-28:

” Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God,  who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit intercedes for the Saints according to the will of God”, goes into deep reflection on the role of the Holy Spirit in individual and the collective prayers of the Church.

Chambers issued a  reminder of a profound spiritual truth: that we cannot live an (effective ) Christian life without the Spirit of God. And our prayers have no power unless directed by the Holy Spirit.
The key message, which Chambers developed  further,  is that our prayer life should focus on Luke 11: 13.

” If you then , who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” . NRSV

For if we pray without ceasing, asking God to send His Spirit on us, and on His Church, then the promised revival of the Church and Nation will come one day. As where God’s Spirit is, the Will of God, in powerful and in seemingly simple ways, will manifest Itself. And we will know that God is at work.

And so into my heart came these two songs yesterday:

Send Down The Rain
Send down the rain (Oh glory!)
Send down the rain (Alleluia!)
Send down the gospel rain.
Send down the rain (Oh glory!)
Send down the rain (Alleluia!)
Send down the gospel rain.
It’s coming down, down, down
It’s coming down
When the glory of the Lord is coming down
Alleluia!
When the saints begin to pray
And the Lord shall have his way
And the glory of the Lord
Is coming down

I Want A Revival In My Soul
I want a revival in my soul (deep in my soul)
I want a revival in my soul
I must apply to the blood of Jesus
To get a revival in my soul.

Then this morning while in church, struggling with a lingering flu type viral infection,  after a difficult night, a word came about the Story of The Prodigal Son; the Gospel reading and text for the Sermon today.  That the bad behaving younger son, who ‘ came to his senses, had been ‘ convicted of Sin’ by The Holy Spirit. For He ‘ who was dead, was now alive, lost and now found’. Not by coincidence then that the NT reading featured:

” If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation….

For Jesus was teaching, even from then, about the critical importance of ‘ living by the Spirit, and not by the flesh’.

While the older brother, who showed no mercy to this ‘ wicked son of His Father’, like many of us in the Church, who have not been fully convicted ‘ of Sin’, are not willing  to ‘ show Mercy to the wicked and the ungrateful’, as is the true nature of God.

For it is only when,  ‘ we come to our senses’, and realise that we are all ‘ wretches’, before a Holy God, will we be more than willing to extend mercy to ‘ a  fellow wretched human being’.

But there is more! I was also reminded that Jesus revealed that when the Holy Spirit comes, ‘ He will convict the world of Sin, Righteousness and Judgement.

So in a real sense, ‘ The Spirit that leads us to all Truth’, if we ‘ dwell in the secret place of the most high’, Psalm 91, and pray without ceasing for  a ‘ fresh outpouring’ of The Holy Spirit, day by day, these Three things will characterise the actions and outlook of the New Man, and New Woman.
1. We will have an acute sense of what is Sin.

2. We will hunger and thirst for the Righteousness, The Redemption, The Forgiveness of Sin and Reality of Eternal Life  that comes only through the ‘ shed blood’ of Jesus.

3. We will always be mindful of the Day of  Judgement;  for ourselves, and for all who have not been ‘ washed in the Blood of the Lamb’.

It is in this context then that we pray for a Revival in our souls. That we being convicted of Sin, can never remain lukewarm about ‘ building the Kingdom of God’.

That we become ‘ debtors’ to every human being that God places in our way. That like Paul, we not be found ‘ guilty of anyone’s blood’, viz, always ready to share to Gospel with others.

That we have a  ‘ high calling’ to pray for the Kingdom: for every Church, and every Country. Be it Methodist, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Anglican/Episcopalian, Moravian, Church of God, Pentecostal, Sabbath keeping or Evangelical Churches . And not just for our own Church and Country. But to pray for Pakistan, India, Russia, China, Nigeria, Kenya, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia…… Barbados, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti…… Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina…..

That we remind our Political Leaders, whether Obama,  Trump, or Clinton, whether Holness or Simpson Miller, that it is not sufficient to ask God to Bless America, or Jamaica, if you have no intention of being obedient to the Spirit of God, Who is always, ‘ convicting men and women of Sin, the need for Righteousness in Christ, and the Reality of judgement one day.

For a great part of the problem in the world,  and unfortunately,  in the very  Church,  in today’s ‘ Liberal Society’, is that we have lost a sense of  Sin, of Shame,  and being a wretch before God. And hence there is no overwhelming need for Righteousness, and no fear of Judgement by an Almighty God.

And in this context, the ‘ Prosperity gospel’  flourishes, gross and unrepentant acts of  immorality are flaunted, and the Transcendent and The Sacred is replaced by Reality TV, Cash Pot a Bubble and  Beyonce.

Thus God’s Church suffers a decline in faith and love for other ‘ wretched human beings. Becomes lukewarm and ‘ of this world’  Until disaster strikes, and ‘ people come to their senses! And turn to the Father, who is always waiting. But not forever.
Remember Noah!
Peace.