This Sunday heralds the start of the most holy week of the Christian church - Passion Week. This time next Sunday we will still be celebrating Easter - the time of the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus. So, now it is time to put away the celebration of the greatest and most competitive high school athletic competition in the entire world - on which stage international stars like Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown first made their mark - which was won by Wolmers in the year when we are celebrating 100 years of " Champs" - I was there on the historic night cheering on the winner even though it was not my school. It's time to shift the focus away from extradition matters which is still a hot topic in my country, and from the pain and shame of the continuing bloodletting - one day this week 15 persons were murdered. It's time to change gears and get away from IMF agreements, the new budget - crafted in Washington and delivered in Kingston according to one newspaper - and other pressing national issues. Time to give CNN, HGTV and BBC a break, and yes, even FaceBook and BB messenger. Time to forget about the upcoming Football World Cup, the Cricket, the Tennis, even time to forget about Tiger Woods and the date of his return.
It's now time to take a journey with Christ, the Saviour of the world, and to be with Him as He is heralded as a King on Palm Sunday only to be crucified as a blasphemer on Good Friday. To be with Him in those final days on earth. The Last Supper, the final temptation in the garden of Gethsemane, the mock trial and the crucifixion. As only then can we enter fully into the joy of the risen Lord on Easter morning and find peace for our weary souls in these troubling times.
So as we walk with Christ this week, what is the word from our Lord. Twice I was awakened, in an unusual way this week at minutes to five, to begin my devotions and was led to the passages of Scripture which really touched my heart in a special way. One of which I sent out only to members of my church family And one meditation from Chris Tiegen in particular touched my soul.
The First Message sent to my church on Saturday morning
I had no plans to get up early this morning. It's my weekend off and I came home late last night. So when the Lord woke me up at minutes to five this morning, there had to be a good reason. And the message did not take long in coming as I began my devotions.
One message is ( a reminder) that our Lord Jesus always lives to intercede for us. The other, is that, this morning, at this specific time, there is a specific prayer, written by St. Paul, that He is praying for all of us. And further, that we should believe that the same power which raised our Lord from the grave, is available to us - through faith. Finally, as we recall His Passion next week, we should use this celebration as a reminder to pray for all believers in all churches in Jamaica and across the world. I pray God that all of us who are in need of such a wonderful reminder of God's love and power, at this particular time in our lives, will be blessed by this message, and will in turn use it to bless someone else.
Lord renew thy church beginning with me.
Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s)
The Lord's peace be with you.
" For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in this present age but also in the one to come."
Ephesians 1:15-21. NIV
" Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office ( read Hebrews 9 for the context); but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."
Hebrews 7:23-25. NIV
Open my eyes of my heart Lord,
Open my eyes of my heart Lord,
I want to see you,
I want to see you.
To see you high and lifted up
Shinning with your love and glory
Pour out your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy.
Open the eyes of my heart Lord......
The second Scripture passage(s) which I read this Sunday morning, during devotions before church - which rarely happens as worship constitute my devotions on Sunday mornings - having been awakened by my wife's phone which is normally off.
"To God's elect, strangers in the world............Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of our Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance than can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory an honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him and even though you do not see him now you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets ...searched intently ....trying to find out the time and circumstance to which the Spirit of God in them was pointing when he the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled, set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who calls you is holy, so be holy in all that you do; for it is written: "be holy, because I an holy."
Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives here as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you by your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him and so your faith and hope are in God.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable but of imperishable through the living and enduring word of God, for,
" All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,'but the word of the Lord stands forever."
Peter 1: 1-25. NIV
CHRIS TIEGEN'S MEDITATION MARCH 22.
MINISTERS OF GRACE
" Just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort comes." 2 Corinthians 1:5
The Christian life is painful. We may not like acknowledge that fact -- we prefer to focus on the joy and peace, not the pain - but it's true. Paul and Barnabas told the believers in Antioch that , " we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God." ( Acts 14:22) It's a promise that's rarely claimed by faith, Jesus even guaranteed His disciples that they would suffer in this world ( John 16:33). if that doesn't fit today's concept of the Christian life, it's no fault of the Bible. No, the Bible is very clear. We will have hardships and pain until the Kingdom comes in all its glory.
For that reason, the New Testament writers continually urge believers to bear each other's burdens and to be an encouragement to others in the faith.......
Think about the times another believer has encouraged you. You can probably recognize that an act of encouragement had the power to change your perspective on your situation or at least help you to make it through the day......Think of someone who needs encouragement. Tell that person that you are praying for him or her, or that God cares, or something that will convey the Father's . You are doing more than prompting a smile. You are administering the grace of God.
For me the take home messages from these passages are that:
During the first Holy Week God put in motion a plan to save all mankind from sin and death unto everlasting life.
That this plan was ordained before the creation of the world
That we who believe are strangers in this world. Our final home and our inheritance has already been kept in heaven and cannot perish nor spoil. And that we are called to live a holy life.
That grief and trials are an inevitable part of the Christian life, as our Saviour experienced so acutely during Holy Week, but so too are power - the same power that was used to raise Christ from the dead - and an eternal hope that the risen and ascended Christ reveals to us and to the world. A Christ who called out " Forgive them Father for they know not what they do". A message which was delivered very powerfully by the preacher at our church this morning
That we should carry each others burdens, out of love, in the same way that Christ died for us and ever lives to pray for us who believe. And that we should pray regularly for all people of God across the world
That all the excitement about celebrities and infamous men, sceptics and critics of God, is pointless and of little value as they like the grass will soon wither and die, but the Word of God will live forever.
Pray that these and other messages will challenge our souls, help us on our spiritual journey, and enable us to build God's Kingdom here on earth, all because of the very special events of Holy Week.