Her story did not make it in the newspapers, the radio, on TV Face-book or Twitter. But it troubled my heart greatly. Five of them were inside watching world famous and the immensely popular Asafa Powell (despite his seeming inability to beat the awesome "Mr Bolt") win the 100 metres dash at the Jamaica National Trials. They were excited and forgot to lock the grilled door. In a ghetto, and in fact anywhere in Jamaica today, that can be a fatal mistake, even in the pouring rain. In a flash, three heavily armed gunmen took control and ushered all of them under one bed. Threatening to kill them the 'wicked' demanded cash. Every single dollar. Not even the money for the dialysis next morning, as explained to them, they spared, this after being shown the " catheter' in the neck of the sick man. Terrified, they prayed, and they prayed and they prayed, even though they were not all Baptized , but they feared God, and thus prevailed upon the only true and living God who could save them. Her sister was an asthmatic and began wheezing badly. And so in desperation one man decided to "save " her even if he was shot, and bravely got up to fetch the pump, the inhaler. Thank God by then the gunmen had exited the house. That was one experience by one of my staff members that touched my heart this week. And thus we praise God for His mercy, as others have not been as fortunate. The other touching experience was the sharing by the wife of friend and pastor, with whom I visited in a local hospital in Jamaica, and who became ill in the USA with a form of leukemia. Miraculously, she, having been referred immediately the diagnosis was made, arrived at the University Hospital, of that state, on the same day that a nationwide famous specialist in that field was on his scheduled visit to that hospital - once per year. And thus was able to commence care with the best possible treatment available. Further this lady who along with her husband ministers in the ghetto had to teach those who loved her about the God whom she serves in the midst of her her struggles. As they kept asking , " why you". And her answer was that " God is sovereign, who can explain His ways of dealing with us". Praise God indeed. Finally my encounter with cows on the highway. Coming home in the dark one night last week, on a highway which is fenced to keep out animals and intruders, I barely saw a huge white cow, and then a black one, to my right - which means that they jumped the median. No mean feat. I was convinced that I would crash into them, but God in His mercy took over, as I swung to the left and managed to escape and thus was able to call home to tell my wife of the good news, rather than someone else callingg her.
And as I listened to the stories of God's mercy and reflected on my own story, the Lord led me to read the following passages. First a meditation from Chris Tiegen
JESUS AND OUR NEED
" But what about you?.......Who do you say I am
IN WORD WE have heard the common answers to this question - good teacher, moral leader, tragic hero, well intentioned martyr etc. - and most of us have found them to be insufficient. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God. As a matter of the witness of Scripture and the faith that we hold dear, we know this to be true. Many of us have even boldly proclaimed it to others.
But we must ask ourselves this question. Who do we say He is? Perhaps an even better question would be this: Who do we really - deep in our hearts - believe He is? We must go beyond the pew and the pulpit and into the our living rooms and offices for the answer. We must wonder if this is true for us on Wednesdays just as it is on Sundays. We must come down from the mountaintops and answer from the valleys. Why? Because regardless of how long we have been Christians, this answer must be more than theology in our heads; it must be the truth that grips our hearts.
IN DEED When your situation is dire - a relationship has broken, finances are looking impossibly bleak, a disease is pronounced incurable, or tragedy strikes a loved one -- who is He? Is He a theological tenet or really your Savior, your Provider, your healer and Friend? When you are tempted beyond your strength - immoral desires are running rampant, an ethical compromise would come seem so easy, or you are pressured to conform to the world's expectations - who is he? An ancient biblical character or your Righteousness, your Strength, and your refuge?
Know Him in your innermost being. Jesus doesn't help us much as the center of our theology; He helps us as the center of our lives.
At four am this morning, in the midst of my own struggles with faith and trust in a Sovereign God, and sorely tempted to find my own solutions and " help" the Lord who was taking too long, despite the Lord working many miracles in my life in recent times, and therefore not really trusting Him as outlined above, the Lord woke me up in a now familiar way and led me to read and to seek forgiveness.
" How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you". Psalm 31:19
" Blessed in he who whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.......Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not over up mine iniquity. I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord - and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." Psalm 32:1-7
" Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm."
God is indeed a faithful God, and is calling us to regain that childlike trust in Him as God who is Sovereign over all things, even when we cannot see our way out of a particular situation. When we trust Him in desperate times, in small things and in weighty matters then He gets the glory and the honor, even if we suffer much in the process, as " thine is the Kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever". Amen. Praise God.
Then having read the following passages, I sent out an e -mail to some powerful people today, as they too need to be reminded that God is Sovereign.
" Come to me, all you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light." Matthew 11:28-30 ( The gospel reading for the Anglican church for Sunday coming).
" This is why I told you that that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him". John 6:65
Hear my cry O Lord, attend unto my prayer......for your Word says : " Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance". Psalm 33:12...and we are praying for our nation.
So we pray that the Lord may enable all of you to turn to the Lord Jesus and find rest for your souls, and so help this nation to find peace in Christ Jesus. Why?
" I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are very wise and very beautiful: but I never read in either of them: " Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." - Augustine of Hippo ( 354-430) ...son of a pagan father and a Christian mother....he established the doctrine of the church, gave a clear statement concerning the person of Christ, and made the grace of God the theme of theology in the West...and became of the great Bishops of the church after living a wayward life for over twenty years during which his mother prayed for his soul without ceasing. Amen
Finally a meditation from one of the world's great poets reminds us of the need to protect our mind from the devil's schemes by inviting this same Sovereign God into our hearts so that " the angels of the Lord may encamp around us", and so that the Spirit of the living God may direct all our paths. So that we may learn to pray, and pray, and pray always for grace and mercy in times of trouble, and to give God all the glory.
THE HOUSE OF PRAYER
Verse : Matthew 21:13 " It is written, he said to them, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers".
Thy mansion is the Christian's heart,
O Lord, thy dwelling-place secure !
Bid the unruly throng depart,
And leave the consecrated door.
Devoted as it is to thee,
A thievish swarm frequents the place;
They steal away my joys from me,
And rob my Savior of his praise.
There too a sharp designing trade
Sin, Satan and the world maintain;
Nor cease to press me, and persuade,
To part with ease and purchase pain.
I know them, and hate their din,
Am weary of the bustling crowd;
But while their voice is heard within
I cannot serve thee as I would.
Oh! for the joy thy presence gives,
What peace shall reign when thou art here!
Thy presence makes this den of thieves,
A calm delightful house of prayer.
And if thou make thy temple shine,
And if thou make thy temple shine,
Yet, self-abased, will I adore;
The gold and silver are not mine,
I give thee what was thine before.
Is " the thievish swarm", of the cares of this world, the pleasures of this earthly life, the pressing needs of our affairs , and the temptations of Satan, frequenting our minds, stealing way our joys and robbing our Savior of His praise? Have we really trusted the Sovereign God, as individuals, as married couples, as communities, as political parties and as a nation in the midst of trials, or have we looked " back to Egypt" for solutions? Are we trusting in " chariots", in technology, in weapons, in our own wisdom when confronted by evil, or do we " trust in the Name of the Lord Jesus" - The Sovereign God. " Your name and your word, O Lord, have you exalted above all things".
As we go about our business this week, may the name of Sovereign God be praised, in our hearts, in our homes, our communities, on Facebook, on Twitter in our e-mails, and repent of our sins and unfaithfulness and seek His face while He may be found, as surely the mighty waters are rising, and who can withstand them without the help of the Sovereign God. May the God of all compassion, who died for us on the Cross of Calvary, forgive all our foolish ways and lead us back into His presence in and through Christ Jesus. The One who invites us to come to Him all who are weary and heavy laden and promises rest for our souls.