Following the excitement of the Olympics came the trials of Hurricane Gustav. When we recovered, it was back to the excitement of the US presidential race as is being played out on CNN. But even Barack Obama and Palin - where is McCain - took a backseat this week for the US Open , where we witnessed some amazing tennis from both Serena and her sister Venus Williams in the quarter finals - perhaps the best match they have ever played. And now, as I write, my wife and I just just finished watching the finals, and once again Serena reigned supreme, despite a gutsy performance from Jankovic. So what's next on the excitement trip?
Bolt's homecoming tomorrow, when no less than the Prime Minster will meet him on the tarmac at the airport! The Reggae Boyz trying to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa next year? The next holiday weekend coming up? Add to that the constant cell phone calls, the text messaging, and the e-mailing, the long hours at work. And I have not yet factored in spending quality time with family! Or music on the iPod in the car or on the computer - no, definitely not when I am exercising in the mornings!
What does this all add up to? This is one very busy world, and if we are not careful the constant demands on our time will not only overwhelm us, but more importantly set the tone for our relationship with God - just enough to get by.
So no doubt with all this excitement in the air the Lord led me to read two very important meditations. One about prayer - which is the foundation of out relationship with our Father in heaven. And the other about the role of a Christian in this world. The second one sets up the need for the first and so that one precedes the other.
KEEP WATCH AUGUST 22 CHRIS TIEGEN
" Stay here and keep watch" MARK 14:34
IN WORD Peter, James and John had surely noticed Jesus' distress on their walk to the garden of Gethsemane, but they were blissfully unaware of the nature of the battle raging around them. They see only with their eyes. But Jesus is nearing the conclusion of a long warfare with the enemy, and the unseen war is most intense in the garden. Whether the Cross of Christ will or will not occur hangs in the balance between the bitterness of Jesus' assignment and His submission to the Father. We know the outcome, of course, and all the suspense is lost on us. But the three disciples in the garden didn't even know suspense was in the air. They slept.
life can give us the same illusion. We know it has its struggles, and we are distressed on occasion. But we are often blissfully unaware that there is a cosmic warfare going on around us, and it is always intense.. We have been told to stay awake and keep watch, but we keep falling asleep. Like the disciples, we may be thinking only about tomorrow's issues while our enemy is waging a war over eternal issues. We think we're taking a midnight stroll in the garden; but our Commander has led us into a high-stakes battle. Regardless of our apathy or exhaustion, this is not a time to sleep.
IN DEED Whether we like it or not, when we put our faith in Christ we left civilian life. We try to revert to a peacetime lifestyle whenever we can, but the attacks of the enemy have a way of reminding us where we are. We are on the battlefield, and though we know the outcome already, our opponent, Satan, forestalls his final defeat as long, and as vengefully as he can.
That's why the New testament emphasizes faith and prayer as much as it does. Faith is our weapon against the enemy, and prayer is our communication with the head-quarters from which come all our resources. And until we have been called home to Jesus, His orders for us remain the same -- stay here and keep watch.
It just cannot be coincidence that this week's Scripture reading in my church focuses on the need the Redeemed people of God to act as " watchmen" for the nation and indeed for the church.
" Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from e. When I say to the wicked, " O wicked man, you will surely die, and you do not speak out to dissuade from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sins and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself"
Ezekiel 33:7-8 NIV
Or that the gospel reading highlights Jesus' promise that " Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and that whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven".
Our Pastor in a fiery sermon this morning was at pains to point out that there is culture of revenge and reprisal in the land, and which is manifest even among the children, and is the cause of much mayhem and murder in the country. Further, that this kind of warfare - my words - can only be "loosed' by the church demonstrating God's love as manifest in His mercy and grace - thus leading to forgiveness and reconciliation in the church when members are wronged by others. having practiced that kind of love, then we will, in the name of Jesus, be able to
" bind up" the sin of reprisal in the nation, and "set loose" the spirit of forgiveness in the country.
This is the very same message from Chris Tiegen's meditation. That for far too long we have lost sight of the eternal spiritual battles taking place in the world, and have focused primarily on dealing with tomorrow's pressing issues. Issues which if successfully conquered leads to a sense of accomplishment and letting down of the guard and allowing " the excitement " of life to distract us from constant prayer and reflection. In short to "keep watch". This metaphor of those who choose to follow Christ having to leave civilian life behind, is a very apt one. For if we think otherwise, and fail to keep watch, fail to be a watchman for the society, the demands of a busy life and the temptation of the world, will lead both society and church astray -as the church is the only salt and light for any society as without it, nations and civilizations crumble and die. The Roman and Greek civilizations being prime examples.
This then leads to the subject of prayer and our expectations of God, often coloured by our busy fast paced lives. If we live a good life, and inundate God with our requests, He is sure to grant us the blessings we demand - and very quickly so that we can get back to our pleasures and pursuits. I need a wife - right now Lord! A new car -right now Lord! A house would be good Lord - just in time for Christmas. I need deliverance from sickness Lord - right now. So what is the Lord saying this week to us His " busy" people.
I had one of three meditations on the following passage of Scripture from which to choose.
What swayed me? Just a strong feeling in my soul.
PERSISTENCE REWARDED AUGUST 21 CHRIS TIEGEN
Everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
IN WORD As much as we hate to admit it, we are never more tuned to God's voice than when we are in desperate need. We search our hearts for obstructive sins; we examine our relationships for hindrances or conflicts or bitterness; we diligently dig into God's Word for His promises and assurances; and we hang on to any little word of His faithful and unfailing character. We grow during those times more than any other. Most people looking back on their lives will readily admit that the times of need were the times of flourishing in their relationship with God. ( one such need drove my wife and myself to our knees in prayer in the morning before leaving for work many years ago and which practice continues in good times and in bad times until now) And God built us exclusively for relationship.
Given this, why would God possibly want to rush us through that process? Why would He hasten to answer our prayers and subvert the purpose of this experience? We often think His delay is due to some divine indifference, a lack of caring on His part for those He says he loves. But it is just the opposite. His delays are granted us precisely because he cares so much. Immediate answers to fleeting prayers would never bring us this close to Him, no matter how much we try to assure Him that they would. he knows how we work. he knows we can learn from Him and be conformed to His image in no other way.
IN DEED We see our need as a desperate situation. God designs it for an opportunity to know Him more intimately. When we are truly needy, we learn of Him as Provider. When we are really sick, we learn of Him either as Healer or as Comforter --whichever role He wants to reveal to us. We might think we are being punished by His silence. We are not. We are being rewarded. He is drawing us close to Him saying ," Come nearer, learn from Me, know me as your Strength, your Defender, your Refuge". Keep praying. That is a far greater blessing than an immediate answer.
So let us "keep watch". Let us not follow the pattern of this world and become too busy to listen to God's Word. Let us understand that we have left the civilian life behind and are not involved in an intense warfare for the souls of men and women around us. Involved in a struggle to rescue our nations and indeed the world.
No doubt this is why the Lord led me to meditate on some words of the glorious hymn
" Mine eyes have seen the glory of the
coming of the Lord.........
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me,
As he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on.
Glory glory Alleluia.......
So let us keep watch with God in Christ who died to make men holy,
so that we can live, like watchmen, to make men free from reprisal, murder and mayhem,
in the name of Christ Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is not a time for sleeping. Amen