I have gotten used to flying over the years, having flown all over the world, literally, so really not sure what happened on the way back from Toronto to Miami. Terrible thoughts of crashing and leaving my family constantly came into my mind. From the night before until we landed in Miami. Just really really morbid thoughts, and weird as I had a really great time in Toronto meeting with relatives and friends from Jamaica whom I had not seen for a long time . However, on the leg back home from Miami to Kingston peace reigned again. Then I got back to a country in turmoil, but was at peace, as this was home. As no matter where in the world I go and who I meet, my children and grandchildren, close relatives and wonderful friends, it is always a great joy to be back home. So I slept like a baby and did not even turn that night though my wife was still in Toronto with relatives.
What news greeted me that night and the next day! A five year girl old shot and killed. A deacon shot and killed in his home. All in a orgy of violence over a twenty four hour period leaving 11 persons dead. A couple mornings later whilst completing my early morning walk, I met a senior member of my profession, whose only comment was " What are we going to do about the violence? ". Then I read that the the infamous Al Jazeera media house had taken an interest in my country. Yes, the same one whose name conjures up on line live killing - beheading - of captives in Iraq and elsewhere. And so as I went to work and all the talk was about the increased level of violence in the country and what was to be done about it. And indeed, not just in Jamaica, but across the world extreme violence is raising its ugly head, as the news just in tonight on CNN, that a major blast in Times Square in downtown Manhattan was averted by alert cops on duty there.
In the midst of these two experiences with evil and trials, the God who is always, always, ahead of us led me to read the following meditation.
SUFFICIENCY AND STRENGTH CHRIST TIEGEN APRIL 27
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9
We hate our weaknesses. We see them as our downfall, not as assets, so we put a lot of time and effort into eliminating them. That's why most self-help and personal growth sections of bookstores and Web sites are often the most frequently visited . That's why we invest thousands of dollars in things that make us look better and live better. And that's why we put on a different face in public than we do in private. if our weaknesses can't be overcome, at least they can be hidden from view.
God instructs us, through Paul, to take a different approach. Instead of covering up our weaknesses or trying to discipline ourselves out of them, we can open them up for God to use. We can invite Him to fill the cavities in our soul with Himself -- a better substance than anything we could put into those holes. His presence wherever we have wounds, emptiness, and brokenness turns those weaknesses into strengths.
We don't know what Paul's " thorn" was -- some say a physical infirmity, though the word is used elsewhere in Scripture to mean persistent opposition -- but we do know that he wanted it to go away. God said no. Why? For one thing it kept Paul humble. Those who have been filled with the Spirit of the eternal King and who have received eternal truth can become complacent or proud. But it also led Paul to realize that a God-filled weakness in a person is a better solution than a new-and-improved person. That's a truth that can completely change the way we live.
When you come face to face with one of your weaknesses, realize that the normal human way of overcoming such things is not the best solution. The better way, though it goes against every impulse we have, is to embrace the weakness and invite God into it. His grace will sustain us. When we exchange our weakness for His strength, His presence will make us stronger that we could ever otherwise be.
Also in the morning of the flight the Lord woke me up very early - to read Psalm 91. And the verse that kept me sane, literally, during the flight was :
"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide in the shadow of the Almighty".
And not just me, but for my wife who flew down today to Miami as :
" If you make the Most High your dwelling
even the Lord, who is my refuge
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near to your tent
For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.......
So I traveled with the Lord, with His Word in my heart and His angels around the plane and a promise to protect my wife today too. Oftentimes when I travel abroad, and with the knowledge that violence is not as pervasive in North America, as in Jamaica, if one is not careful, "languid prayers and dim faith" can easily become a temporary reality. And so the nightly prayers to the Lord that sustains us in this land of madness, " the angels of the Lord encampeth around those that fear him", can seem not so urgent. But I was reminded by my experience, as Jesus reminded His disciples that " we should not just fear him who can kill the body but rather fear he who can cast both both and soul into hell". And so the constant appeal to God for mercy in all situations is of paramount importance, especially when we are high up in the skies, in the middle of an aircraft and absolutely dependent on God, not even the pilot, to bring us safely back down.
Or down on terra firma but under attack by the evil one who can place all kinds of thoughts into our minds. Also that God's Word is alive and active and will sustain us once we call upon Him in faith.
The other matter that weighed on my mind was the absolutely intolerably crime situation here in my country, and, as my early morning partner agonized " what's to be done about it?" Perhaps now that many Jamaicans, both within and without the church, who have come to the conclusion that man can no longer help us, and that we are at the mercy of these gunmen, maybe, just maybe, as a nation, we might begin to really cry out to God, and ask for mercy, as we have come to our wits end. But God always responds to the cry of humanity by pointing us to His glory, to the sacrifice of His Son and now to the church, the body of Christ. This is the understanding of the passage that I was led to read during my devotions yesterday morning. So when the nation turns to God, we must be clear about the nature and history of the God on whom we call for mercy and His relationship with mankind
" Therefore remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called " uncircumcised" by those who call themselves " the circumcision" ( that done by in the body by the hands of men) -- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ , excluded from the citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in the flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the Cross by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which the God lives by his Spirit.
For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of the you Gentiles --
Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you., that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as i have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the workings of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given to me: to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 2:11-3:12 NIV
Before I share what the Spirit of God has said to me in this passage please make note of two other revelations:
" In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
Hebrews 1: 1-3 NIV
....The Lord is faithful to all his promises
and loving to all he has made.
verse 13 NIV
First of all, to approach God for help, we must accept that this Holy One of Israel reveals Himself through revelation - to those that believe in His Son. Which really means that God fully reveals Himself and His ways to those who are at their wits end, to those who who have come realize that they have no other help but God, and to those who understand their sinful nature before a Holy God. And so they abandon themselves to His mercy and His grace. For God will not be used for our own ends, but He acts to defend His glory and to fulfil his promises made through His powerful Word.
Secondly, therefore, we need to reflect deeply on the fact that before Christ, and now without Christ, we were and we are without God and without hope in the world. This is a most profound revelation with which many, perhaps even in the church, and certainly outside the church, continue to struggle today. So which Political leader, which business leader, which professional leader, which leader in the media and in the communities and homes across the country, will so abandon all which they have formerly learned about human strength and human wisdom, and accept that only in Christ is there any true wisdom, sustained power and everlasting life.
Thirdly, the revelation that both Jew and Gentile, in Christ have been made into one new man out of the two who were formerly separate, speaks to God's purpose in human history. And therefore signals to us, that our ways are far from His ways. That His eternal purpose for us in Jamaica, in Russia, in Canada, in the USA, in Nigeria, in India and Australia is not just to provide for our, very great needs - including the cessation of violence and the relief of poverty and the release from fears - but to satisfy the need for freedom from sin and to perish - from the penalty of the "old man", before Christ.
Fourthly, and I shall leave the members of Seventh Day Adventists church, many of whom are part of this ministry and my dear friends, and whom I know love the Lord Jesus with all their hearts, to ponder on " by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandment and regulations". But rather highlight the fact that we need to ponder on the revelation that " through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known...". The question , therefore, is not that the secular world, the political directorate over the years and the media have successfully portrayed the church as, another part of the " social sector", as that is the nature of those without the benefit of divine revelation. But rather, how come we, the body of Christ, in whom God lives, have allowed ourselves to be so treated and portrayed. And even more importantly have allowed God's name to be so tarnished! This is the indictment, this is the challenge now as the nation turns to the church for us to " perform magic" and stop the violence. Yes we who are in Christ and can therefore approach God with freedom and with confidence must respond. Yes, we who serve a God who is faithful to all His promises and loving to all who He has made, must respond to the needs of the suffering people around us. But let us made it clear that this God also calls all He has made, to repentance and to judgment in and through the same Christ Jesus. That He has revealed Himself through the church, and that our role is to manifest His grace and mercy and love to a dying world and to lift up the name of Jesus and to bring honor and glory to God - lest any man or woman boast before the Lord.
So we pray God that, we who are eternally aware of our weaknesses, and also aware that the power of God often flow through such infirmities, give Him all the glory in our personal and national woes, so that His name and the Name of His Son maybe lifted up in all situations. And that men and women may abandon themselves completely to Him and witness the power and wisdom of Him who can do abundantly more than we can hope or imagine. Once we believe.
I delivered you when bound
And when wounded healed thy wounds
Sought thee wandering, set thee right
Turned thy darkness into light.
Verse of a hymn " Hark my soul it is the Lord"
In a desert land he found him,
in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young.
that spread its wings to catch them
and carries them on its pinions.
The Lord alone led him;
no foreign god was with him........
Jeshurin grew fat and kicked;
filled with food, he became heavy and sleek;
He abandoned the God who made him
and rejected the Rock his Savior.
They made him jealous with foreign gods
and angered him with their detestable idols.
They sacrificed to demons who are not god -
gods they had not known
gods that recently appeared,
gods your fathers did not fear.
You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
you forgot the God who gave you birth.......
They are a nation without sense,
there is no discernment in them.
If only they were wise and would understand this
and discern what their end will be !
How could one man chase a thousand
and two put ten thousand to flight
unless their Rock had sold them
unless the Lord had given them up......
Deuteronomy 32: 10-12; 15-18; 28-30 NIV
Thank God for Jesus and pray for Israel as we pray for ourselves and for respective countries