Thursday, March 3, 2011

Repentance, mercy and faith showing the glory of God across the entire world

The unfolding events in the Arab world continue to dominate the news. And in the middle of it Libya's strongman Ghadaffi, clearly doing violence to the reality around him , declares that " My people love and will die for me". Meanwhile on the other side of the world, and closer home, Reggae icon Buju Banton faces the possibility of spending many years behind bars as a Florida court rules again him in his high profile case. Then " down under", a terrible earthquake destroys most of Christchurch in New Zealand,and many souls perished, and not even local Cathedral offered any protection and many died in the rubble as the historic building collapsed. And we here in Jamaica continue to "enjoy" prime time " entertainment" as the Commission of Enquiry into the Mannatt Phelps and Phillips affair moves to its climax.
This week, whilst so much turmoil was taking place across the world, the words of a hymn came home to me in a special way.

God is working his purpose out as year succeed to year,

God is working his purpose out and the time is drawing near;

nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be,

when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as waters cover the sea

From utmost east to utmost west wher-e'er man's foot has trod,

by the mouth of many messengers goes forth the voice of God,

'Give ear to me, ye continents, ye isles give ear to me,

that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

What can we do to work god's work, to prosper and increase

the brotherhood of all mankind, the reign of the Prince of peace?

What can we do to hasten the time, the time that shall surely be,

when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

March we forth in the strength of God with

the banner of Christ unfurled,

that the light of the glorious Gospel of truth

may shine throughout the world.

Fight we the fight with sorrow and sin, to set the captives free,

that the earth may be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.

Then tonight I was led to read two of my favourite stories in the Bible. Both of which point to how God's glory will cover the earth; reach out to a confused conscious Rastaman in Florida; comfort grieving people in New Zealand; carry the truth to a delusional leader in North Africa; give direction to suffering people in the Arab world and rescue Jamaican from " Presidents" and other " Dons' who have taken over the minds and hearts of many of the youth and dancehall artistes in our land. And some would include in that lot, a not inconsiderable number of our politicians.

The first story, has the point in the climax. " Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven loves little." The great problem with the world, and I daresay in the church, thus limiting her effectiveness, is that people think too highly of themselves and of their abilities and of their goodness, in the face of an Almighty and Holy God. No wonder then, in the Matthew version of the second story ( The Parable of the Sower) Jesus calling on the words of the prophet Isaiah warned that:

" You will ever be hearing but never understanding;
you will be seeing but never perceiving.
For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
they hardly hear with their ears
and they have closed their eyes......."

The reality is that God's wisdom and mercy and love flows so much more richly on those who, like the sinful woman, understand the full extent of their failing before a Holy God, and cry out for mercy. Try and visualize yourself like this woman.

" Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them".

The story continues with Simon the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to his house, learning a profound lesson as he complained, in his mind that Jesus should know better than to " entertain" a sinner around him.
"Simon, I have something to tell you......
Two man owed money to a certain money lender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them Had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which one of them will love him more?"

And so Jesus spoke a message which has echoed across the ages, that those who have been forgiven much, those whose many many sins have been canceled by the blood of Christ, love much. And that's why they can hear God's voice and see the Lord in action, and can help to spread the glory of God across the isles and across the continents to New Zealand, Florida, North Africa and Jamaica.

The Parable of the Sower has a similar message. But this time the issue of persevering figures strongly. As it is the the man who perseveres, according to the Luke version, who brings forth a good crop, good fruit. And thus reveal the glory of God, that will cover the earth. The seed, The Word of God which falls on the path is taken away by the devil and so people do not believe and become saved. Primarily on account of a unrepentant heart. Then there is the seed which falls on land which has no root support it, no faith, and in times of testing they fall away. next in the story is the seed which which falls in the thorns, but is choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures - too much time watching TV, worrying and counting money, and too little time meditating on God's word. But the seed which falls of good ground is the noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it and by persevering bring forth good fruit.

We need more persevering Christians who have a repentant heart to allow God's glory to cover the earth, and rescue captives from trusting in Rastafari, in faiths which have no power to redeem, and in men with power but with no moral foundation.

In this context, last night the Lord woke me up to contemplate one of the great verses in the Bible:

" For God has bound over all men to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them". Romans 11:32 NIV A mercy which finds it full expression on the cross of calvary

Finally a reflection on repentance from one who was beheaded for his principles

Thomas More

Good and gracious Lord, as you give me the grace to acknowledge my sins, so give me the grace in both word and heart to repent them and utterly forsake them. And forgive me those sins which my pride blinds me from discerning.
Glorious God, give me your grace to turn my back on the things of this world, and to fix my heart solely on you.
Give me your grace to so amend my life, so that I can approach death without any resentment knowing that in you it is the gateway to eternal riches.
Glorious God, take from me all sinful fear, all sinful sorrow and self-pity, all sinful hope and all sinful desire.
Instead give me such fear, such sorrow, such pity, such hope and such desire as may be profitable for my soul.
Good Lord, give me this grace, in all my fear and agony, to find strength in that great fear and agony which you, sweet Savior had on the Mount of Olives before your bitter passion..
Almighty God, take from me all desire for worldly praise, and all emotions of anger and revenge. Give me a humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, generous, kind, tender and compassionate mind.
Grant me, good Lord, a full faith, a firm hope and a fervent love, that I may desire only that which gives you pleasure and conforms to your will.
And, above, look upon me with your love and your favor.