Friday, February 20, 2009

Obedience is better than worship

Four o'clock is just four o'clock whether you are in Madrid, Miami or Jamaica. And whenever the Lord wakes me up at that time and instructs me to write I need to be obedient and not argue. Which is what I did this just now, after a long flight across the Atlantic, yesterday and not much uninterrpted sleep during or after the journey. What's the message about. Obedience.

From Jesus Himself in a meditation I read this morning - God always prepares us if we listen carefully - by Tiegen. And which meditation I was led to read again as I woke up and began my devotions, and as I read I recalled my own deficiencies and was then compelled to write.


" Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and not do what I say". Luke 6:46

IN WORD It is a penetrating question . The Lord of all creation has put His finger on the inconsistency that invades all our hearts. There is always a discrepancy between what we say and what we really believe. For some of us it is a slight discrepancy; for orthers it is vast. For all of us, " Lord has not always meant what it should. God has a way of testing His Lordship in our lives..........

From Oswald Chambers whose words of wisdom included in the meditation at the side, is what really touched my heart and made me stop and think about this profound message from the Lord.

" The best measure of a spiritual life is not its ectasies but its obedience".

I thought about us Anglicans and Roman Catholics, and our shared focus on the joy of taking Holy Communion; " Here O Lord I see thee face to face....." wrote the hymnwriter inspired by this most precious act of worship. But how many of us are really obedient to Him whom provides such an ectasy. The same applies to the Pentecostals who revel and find great joy in " speaking in tongues"; or the Seventh Day Adventists who find great joy in being obedient and keeping the Sabbath; or the Baptists and whose rich history of involvment in the nation's history acting on the movement of the Holy Spirit and fiery sermons about social activism has greatly endeared them to many across the world; or the "Evangelicals" who are hungry for the souls of all mankind and place an emphasis on crusades and "seeking the lost". All rewarding and part of the mandate of being a Christian, but ultimately the question arises how obedient have we been to Him who call Lord.

My mind ran also on the many who are " God fearing", and " Christian minded", in our country who often acknowledge the Sovereignity of God and even the reality of the crucified Christ, quote the Bible frequently and like the American Presidents often say " God bless you". But who in the choices they make demonstate their unwillingness to be obedient to the One they call Lord.
So who is not guilty. Not me. Not you. So the Lord who is always preparing us if we would but listen carefully led me on more than one occasion to pray the last verse of a most wonderful and instructive hymn:

Hark my soul it is the Lord
Tis the saviour hear his word
Jesus speaks and speak to thee
Say poor sinner loves thou me........

Lord it is my chief complaint
That my love for you is weak and faint
But I love and adore
O for grace to ( trust and be obedient- my words) love thee more.

So whether we are in Madrid doing the Lord's work, or in Miami, or London, or Jamaica or wherever on God's planet, our goal is not the joys and ectasies and satisfaction of serving God or calling His name, but on being obedient. As He is the only One who really knows what He requires from those whom He has created. To be obedient to His Son Jesus. That's the only way the madness in Jamaica, or in Spain - already I have considered the reality of the Basque separatists - or in Iraq, or in North Korea - developing as we speak -or in Mexico or in London where they killed teenagers last night or......... Amen

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Jesus is highly recommended: Send these 'daggering' people to the church that they may know Him

This week in Jamaica the entire country was was once again caught up with the debate about "daggerin songs " and "Rampin Shop", two of the type of songs said to contain sexually explicit lyrics, and which were targeted by the Broadcasting Commission to be banned from the public airwaves. It was amazing to hear media personalities, who are quite influential, admitting to their love for what " the uptown middle class people " call slackness, and defending their right to listen to " adult" material". One young man even went so far as to say that songs like Rampin Shop help to unmask the entire society - I can only assume that he was saying that there is a hidden desire in most of us for this kind of material. Well he can speak for himself but certainly not for the vast majority of people whose views I have canvassed.
Many of us have grown tired of repeatedly warning the society of the profound damage we are doing to ourselves and to the next generation by adopting this naive view of the consequences of allowing " garbage " so much access into our minds. All sorts of things now have free access to the sometimes unprepared and non-discriminating minds of both young and old. And so the old order is changing and we live in an increasingly " anything goes " and " if it feels good do it" society. It's very distressing and increasingly frustrating to live in Jamaica now. Sure, there are some "bright lights" which help to lift our spirits every so often but generally speaking the society is becoming more and more course, rude, impatient, violent and uncaring.
So what do we do? Throw up our hands in the air in despair? Join the debate and argue one's point of view forcibly and verbally chastise those who are, in our opinion, leading the society, not just the young people, astray? Keep quiet and mope and pray that the Lord will soon came His world. Run away and head for " greener pastures", wherever that may be in today's troubled world? Examine ourselves and see where we need to change and help to make a difference.
I believe it is the last option about which the Lord spoke to me this week, as I read the Scripture passages in my church for this week, and reflected deeply on a meditation from one of my favourite commentators.
The story which triggered a lot of thoughts in my mind all of this week, 2 Kings 5, is one of the more popular Old Testament stories and which has so much to teach us. Essentially it's a story about a valiant soldier named Namaan who had leprosy and who also had a Jewish slave girl as a servant. This little wisp of a girl recalled the power and goodness of The Holy One of Israel, who had parted the Red Sea and fed her forebears manna in the desert. No doubt she had learnt well from her parents who had been instructed by the Lord to ...." impress these commandments upon your children", and to " Talk about them when you sit up and when you walk along the road '. And therefore she shared with her master Namaan that this God was, in the words of the gospel artist Shirley Cesar, " highly recommended". Namaan took her advice and armed with much money to " buy his salvation", he went on his way but ended up talking to the wrong person - The King who had no power to cure him. Fortunately the right person, a man of God, a prophet, found about about his plight and instructed the King not to be fearful but rather to send Namaan to him so that " he may know that is a prophet in the land of Israel".
To cut a long story short, Namaan is eventually healed, but not before he had to shed his pride and just believe what Elisha the prophet told him to do. Having been obedient to the Lord he now witnesses for himself the power and love of God and he then " declares that there is no other God but the God of Israel. He tries to " pay for his salvation" but Elisha declines the money, and sends him off in peace, no doubt praising the Lord.
And then greed rears its ugly head as his servant Gehazi chases down Namman, concocts a story and eventually gets the money that Elisha had , in his mind, foolishly refused. Of course Elisha finds out what took place and punished Gehazi and his family 'forever' with the curse of leprosy. But not before Elisha utters some of the most profound words in the Old Testament and which cry from the heart has resonance for us here as church in the 21st century.
" Is this the time to take money, to accept clothes........." 5:26 NIV

A number of question coursed through my mind as I read and reflected on this powerful story.
Do we as Christians have a story to tell in the same way that the Jewish slave girl did?
Is our Jesus " highly recommended"? Have we missed any opportunity to " lift up the name of Jesus", remembering that God's eternal Word reminds us that : " But I, when I am lifted up will draw all men to myself". John 12:32. That is, when we tell people the gospel story of how Jesus died for all mankind on the Cross of Calvary, He will, by the power of the Holy Spirit touch the hearts of those who are humble. It means that we by the force and strength of our of argument , like the King of Israel, have no power to heal sinful 'daggering' mankind. But Jesus can. Our role is to tell the Prime Minister to send those Rampin Shop people, to call them our selves, and point them to Jesus, who alone can convict people of sin and shame. So that they may know that there " is balm in Gilead" indeed.
The further question is, are we as guilty as Gehazi, the servant of the prophet, and have compromised ourselves by seeking to prosper materially from spreading the Word of God. Is this the time in Jamaica , when so many 'hurting people' are in need of help, and in their own, oftentimes twisted ways, searching for peace and for God, for Christians to be exercising their
" right" to make millions of dollars from gospel music? What signals are we sending to the potential if not actual Namaans of this 21st century world. Does the free gift of Salvation, of Jesus' death on an old wooden Cross, for the sins of mankind, does it come with material benefits? If so, can we therefore negotiate with God before. " Lord if you prove yourself and provide me with a house and car, and send money by western union to pay my overdue light bill, I will follow you and start going to church". Or are we so much 'in bed' with the power brokers of this world, and the " glitterati", depending on them for the collection plate, attending their parties, featuring with them in the newspapers, that we are compromised and afraid to challenge them in the way they treat the poor and the disadvantaged. Is this really the time to exercise our rights as Christians, and minister only in areas where we are comfortable, speak only to people who " do not stress us too much", and live in circumstances where neighbours are civil and decent? Is this the time to exercise our right to " run away" from the problems of this nation as there is a concern that things can only get worse. Is this the time to be fearful, or is this the time to believe and trust and pray to God for the healing of this nation and point this hurting nation to Jesus.

Then I " happened" upon this meditation in the Classics Devotional Bible.

THE GOOD OR THE BEST? Genesis 13:9
Oswald Chambers

As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and physically gratifying possibilities will open up before you. these things are yours by right, but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise the your rights to waive your rights and let God make your choice for you. God sometimes allows you to get into place of testing where your own welfare would be the appropriate thing to consider, if you were not living the life of faith. But if you are, you will joyfully waive your rights and allow God to make the choice for you. This is the discipline God uses to transform the natural into the spiritual through obedience to His voice.

Whenever our right becomes the guiding factor of our lives, it dulls our spiritual insight. The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. In this passage, it would seem that the wisest thing in the world for Abram to do would be to choose. It was his right, and the people around him would consider him to be a fool for not choosing.
Many of us do not continue to grow spiritually because we prefer to choose on the basis of our rights, instead of relying on God to make the choice for us. We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eyes focused on God, And God says to us, as he did to Abram, .....walk before me.......(Genesis 17:1).

Perhaps Gehazi thought he had a right to receive gifts from those who had benefited from his masters prophetic gifts. Perhaps we too think that we have a right to make the 'intelligent' choices that we do in respect of living in this troubled land and indeed this world. But is that what God wants for us? Is that part of His plan to use us for His own purpose? Is that how He will heal a daggerin nation? Our choice may lead us to the King who has no power to help.
God's choice will always lead us to Jesus - who alone can save Jamaica.