Sunday, April 19, 2009

There is power, power, wonder working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb

This past week was a most difficult for me, as I listened to, and empathized with, people in deep pain. A young woman mourning her husband killed recently in a motor vehicle crash. A young couple grieving over the death of their only child, a two years old, and a recent victim of a hit and run motor vehicle crash. A pastor all broken up by both the loss of a colleague's daughter, sixteen years old, through illness, and the murder of another colleague's son, twenty four years old. Add to that people suffering from the pain of relationship issues, job losses and an uncertain future in a country where the dollar continues to be devalued almost daily and the murder rate goes on unabated. In fact we awoke this morning to the horrible news, that four people had been shot and killed at a wake in the Western part of the island.

So what good news did the Lord send in midst of all this suffering? Preach Christ and Him crucified, as all power to effect change, to stand by and provide help for a suffering, and a sinful people, comes from our placing a focus and priority on the great act of Redemption wrought on the cross of Calvary.

No doubt the seed was sown by my Pastor who, in a most profound statement, reminded us in the midst of the Easter Sunday celebrations, that Christians move from Good Friday to Easter Sunday and then back to Good Friday. It is an issue worth pondering, as if accepted, would make a mockery of some of the superficial " denials" that we engage in during the Lenten period. And therefore the most important lesson to be gained from the Lenten experience is that the denial of self, and our own ambitions and agendas, and suffering with Christ, is the way of the cross, and the only way by which Christians can be endued with power " from on high " to help suffering and sinful mankind.

Then the Lord validated all of this by leading me to reflect of St. Paul's great teaching experience on suffering which is found in 2. Corinthians.

" To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, " My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness". Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That's why for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2. cor. 12:7-10 NIV

This is really counterculture stuff!. Can you imagine, and do we believe, that we are called not just to endure suffering, for Christ's sake, and complain and lament and pray for deliverance. But rather to find peace in the midst of the suffering, as the joy of being strong for the Lord far outweighs any difficulties. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can assist us to believe first of all, and then actually look forward to suffering with Christ, in order that suffering humanity may benefit from the power, the " streams of living waters" that will then flow through us. Is this what our children are learning about the faith? Is this our adult understanding about being a disciple of Christ?
There is more. And also in 2. Cor. It's one of the most wonderful books in the Bible. At least for me. This time St Paul reflecting on the fact that, we who are the body of Christ, and children of God, have been given the message and ministry of reconciliation, and that we are " being transformed into his likeness, with ever increasing glory", makes two statements which again the Lord led me to reflect on this week - in fact the latter I have been meditating on for some time now.

" But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed"
2. Cor. 4:7-12. NIV

Again the promise of suffering, but always " not abandoned", is made for us who have this great power. It is the same power which suffering Peter and John possessed which helped them to say to the beggar at the church gate, " Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Acts 3:6

Would to God that our suffering with Christ, our faith in Him, and His grace and mercy would all result in this kind of power flowing through the church to suffering and sinful mankind.
But for me the final example about suffering in this message, and they are many others in the Bible, is one about which I have been praying for some time now.

" We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our than death is at work in us, but life is at work in you".
2. Cor 4: 10-12 NIV

I pray God that He will answer this kind of prayer from all of us, so that " life may be at work" in suffering and sinful humanity with whom we come in contact daily or weekly or yearly. And that "times of refreshing" may come upon our people.

Finally in this context, the words of an old song which again carried the same message. The power of the great act of redemption on the cross.

I am Thine O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee


Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To the cross where Thou hast died,
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord
To Thy precious bleeding side

Consecrate me now to Thy service Lord,
By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine


O the pure delight of a single hour
that before Thy throne I spend;
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune with as friend with friend.


There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee

Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord
To Thy precious bleeding side