Tonight's message almost did not happen. We, my wife and I, had just returned from the Annual carol Service at church, and within a few minutes of starting, all I had written disappeared....happens all the time. So clearly what I thought about to write, was not the Lord's will, but mine. I then locked off the computer and thought I would write tomorrow night when my mind was more relaxed. And as opened my Bible and " happened" upon a meditation, the message from the Lord, and the accompanying passage of Scripture all came back. What's the message? Do not allow the media or the world to unduly influence our conversations and thoughts!
This message is so relevant to us here in Jamaica...and no doubt the USA also.... as the airwaves are being flooded with campaign ads from both of our two main political parties. All geared towards influencing an increasing mature and sophisticated electorate in pursuit of gaining state power the day of national elections scheduled for December 29th. But it is a message that has resonance outside of the election period, as the electronic and print media have become so much an important, if not almost an indispensable, part of our daily lives. Thus our conversation as home, our arguments in the public square, and the decisions made on our behalf, as is the case as highlighted in the USA this week on Yahoo news and the decisions that President Obama makes, are heavily influenced by the news carried by the media.....and increasingly, for better or for worse, by the social network organizations.
So how does that reality fit with:
" Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. The commandm that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates". Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NIV
This text comes in the middle of the Lord god warning the children of Israel, whom He had rescued out of the hands of their enemies with His strong right hand, not to forget Him. And thus he continues......when you eat and satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.....
How does one ...talk about God's commandments when you lie down...when almost everybody now has a Television in their bedroom? How do we .....talk about them when we walk on the road....when many young people have earphones permanently in place listening to the latest songs, or even watching the news on their mobile TV! These are indeed challenging times for people of faith, as we are under constant attack by the enemy, to be distracted from hearing the still small voice of God...even at church with all the noise that happens in some places of worship. So, our God who is God who promises " never to leave us nor forsake us", guided me to reflect on the words of a hymn and tonight, a meditation from a well known Christian of old.
" O Jesus the very thought of thee,
with sweetness fills the breast.
But sweeter still they face to see
and in thy presence rest.......
Actually I did not get much past the the first line, as just the very thought of Jesus, and how He has provided for me, and for all mankind, with power, filled me with so much joy, in the midst of my contemplating the challenges that we face as Christians.
Then just tonight this meditation " caught my eye".
CONTINUE IN HIS PRESENCE
Verse: proverbs 8:30
There is no sweeter manner of living in the world than continuous communion with God....
If I were a preacher, I would preach nothing but practicing the presence of God. If I were to be responsible for guiding souls in the right direction, I would urge everyone to be aware of God's constant presence, if for no other reason than because his presence is a delight to our souls and spirits.
It is, however necessary. If we only knew how much we need God's grace, we would never lose touch with him. Believe me. Make a commitment never to deliberately stray from him, to live the rest of your life in his holy presence. Don't do this in expectation of receiving heavenly comforts; simply do it out of love for him.
Put your hand to the task! If you do it right, you will soon see the results.
As I wrote and reflected on Brother Lawrence's message and the message from Deuteronomy, two thoughts came into my mind.
One, that it is God who makes us stand form in Christ Jesus...not our own ( puny...in the grand scheme of things...) efforts alone. " Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ". 1 Cor. 1: 21. NIV
Secondly, there is a hymn which speaks directly to the penultimate point made by Brother Lawrence...and amazingly it was in a sermon that I preached today.
" My God I love thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
nor yet because who love thee not
are lost eternally.
Thou, O my Jesus, thou didst me
upon the cross embrace;
for me didst bear the nails and spear;
and manifold disgrace.
and griefs and torments numberless,
and sweat of agony;
yea, death itself--and all for me
who was thine enemy.
Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
should I not love thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
nor of escaping hell;
not for the hope of gaining aught,
not seeking a reward;
but as thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord.
So would I love thee, dearest Lord,
and in thy praise will sing;
solely because thou art my God,
and my most loving King.
So let us, love the Lord with all our heart, speak to our children often about Him; let Him be the focus of our conversation, and let all the neighborhood know that we belong to him. And the same God who rescued His children from the hands of the Egyptians with mighty power, will provide a way out for us in these times of distractions and heavy influence by the things of the world. But this can only happen if we listen to Brother Lawrence and learn to " practice " the presence....be aware of...the presence of God in lives and love Him...and obey Him..... only because He first loved us, and showed the full extent of His love for us by sending His Son, not just at Christmas, but to die on the cross for all mankind.