Two issues dominated the minds of most persons around me this week. The " prophetic" message about God coming and the end of the world as we know it; and the exposure of the " secret lives" of two prominent citizens of the world. One accused of attempted rape. The other admitting to fathering a child with his household help. All three lost their credibility in the eyes of the world, with two having to pay a significant price for their actions, whilst the third, so far, just ends up looking foolish. Is there a lesson here for many of us who follow the "stars" of this world - those with power based on the positions they hold, the money they earn and their access to the media. Persons on whom who we unwittingly or quite often consciously try to pattern our lives - that's why the advertisers pay huge sums to enlist their help in selling their products. Are we then destined to " fall" or fail, as many of them have. And often quite ingloriously.
Not so, says the Lord God of hosts, as long we chose to follow Jesus, rather than the " princes" of this world. This is the central message to us in these times when " fire ", completely unplanned for circumstances, reveals just how ephemeral, how transient and superficial is the power, which many revel in and of which many are so envious, and hunger for, that they go to extraordinary lengths and spend huge sums of money in an effort to try and achieve the same results. And quite often leaving broken homes, broken promises and "broken bodies" -ill health - in the wake. A message that affirms the fact that those who trust in the Lord, and truly follow Him, shall never be ashamed.
First came a reflection on an old hymn during a reading, again, of John Stott's "Life In Christ", in which he features the various aspects of the foundations of Christian life using the prepositions found in the New Testament: Through Christ our Mediator; On Christ our Foundation; In Christ our Life-giver; Under Christ our Lord; With Christ our Secret; Unto Christ our Goal; For Christ our Lover and Like Christ our Model. The introduction to the hymn came as follows:
" Not only has Christ made promises in his word, but he has pledged himself to his people by an everlasting covenant. This covenant he ratifies by the blood of Christ, guarantees by his own 'steadfast love which endureth forever', and renews to us each time we come to the Holy Communion, which is a solemn covenant sign. With these foundations of faith we really have no excuse for our faithlessness. Edward Mote, a Baptist pastor in Horsham, Sussex, for twenty-six years in the middle of the last century, had clearly grasped these truths. One of his best hymns, which Bishop E. H. Bickersteth once called a 'grand hymn of faith', he entitled ' The Immutable basis of a Sinner's Hope'. You will see that this basis is compounded of the righteousness, death, name or character, grace, covenant and promises of Jesus Christ. With such a sixfold foundation, what is there to fear.
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
no merit of my own I claim,
but wholly trust in Jesus' name.
Refrain: On Christ the solid rock I stand -
all other ground is sinking sand.
When weary in this earthly race,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every wild and stormy gale
my anchor holds and will not fail.
His vow, his covenant and blood
are my defence against the flood;
when earthly hopes are swept away
he will uphold me on that day.
When the last trumpet's voice shall sound,
O may I then in him be found!
clothed in his righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before his throne.
On Christ the solid rock, I stand -
all other ground is sinking sand
Clearly that's what Messrs. Straun-Khan, Schwarzenegger and the " doomsday prophet" are experiencing, even if they they don't consciously accept it - that ' all other ground is sinking sand'. In fact that's a message to the entire human race which began since God Created the world and then Redeemed it from Sin and destruction, by the Blood of Christ on Calvary, that all other ground apart from Christ is 'sinking sand'. It is a message to the Tiger Wood's of this world, the Michael Jackson's, the Elvis Priestley's, the Lady Gaga's , the Beyonce's, the JayLo's, the Mavado's, the Vybes Kartel's and all who would believe the hype that success and power and fame can " see them" through this world. It is a message that Barack Obama, and David Cameron and Prince William and Princess Kate - the bright young stars of this world would do very well to learn , before unforeseen events overtake them. No doubt many of our local political - real and aspiring, young and the more mature - and business leaders could well learn a lesson from this hymn also. For the benefit of our nation and for the healing of their souls, lest they too are " overtaken" by circumstances that never even entered their minds.
Interestingly, and I have stopped believing in coincidence a long time ago, in respect of the " solemn covenant sign " that Holy Communion represents, and about which Stott writes in the introduction to the hymn, in recent times , and today was no exception, I have been led to reflect deeply on the following hymn before participating in Holy Communion each Sunday. And a verse of which I sent to persons this morning by text and by BBM.
Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face;
here faith would touch and handle things unseen;
here grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace,
and all my weariness upon thee lean.
Here would I feed upon the bread of God;
here drink with thee the royal wine of heaven;
here would I lay aside each early load;
here taste afresh he calm of sin forgiven.
I have no help but thine; nor do I need
another arm save thine to lean upon:
it is enough, my Lord, enough indeed,
my strength is in thy might, thy might alone.
Many, many times, having committed, especially the last verse, to memory, I've had reason to draw upon the strength of that solemn assurance in my personal struggles with sin, the devil and ill health, with always God God rescuing me from every situation. In much the same way that " Great is thy faithfulness ....and " there is shadow of turning with thee" has provided the same reassurance as has many many Psalms - " Thy word and thy Name has thou exalted above all things O Lord". Praise God indeed.
Finally a meditation by C. S. Lewis ( one the world's great theologians and an author, and who was once an atheist) on this very topical issue of the God coming again. A message that we all need to heed. Especially those who have built their lives, their reputations, their assurances on the " sinking sand" that this world and it's allurements have to offer. Acquiring the kind of knowledge, choosing the kind of path, placing their hopes on that which runs contrary to one of the great commands in the Bible, and which message still continues week after week to consume all my attention:
" Trust in the Lord with your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5
WHEN THE AUTHOR WALKS ON THE STAGE
C. S. Lewis
Verse: Joel 2:11
I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what will it be like when he does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on his side than, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else - something it ever entered your head to conceive - comes crashing in ; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late than to choose your side. There is no use saying you will choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. it will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it.