Sunday, May 1, 2011

William and Kate, Bin Laden and Prayer

My wife got up at 4:00 am to watch it. I had to go to work, so 6:00 am was good for me. Spent a few minutes looking at it on TV, but devotions, exercises and getting ready for work were greater priorities. But there was no mistaking the impact that this wedding of of the year (and of many many decades) had on me and quite a few billion people across the world. Kate's dress, William's " you look lovely" whisper, Pippa Middleton, the flawless reading by the brother, the richness of the Anglican worship, the awesome nature of Westminster Abbey, the royal party, the kisses, the wedding car, the one million faithful some of whom camped out for days to get a prime position, all made for a memorable occasion indeed. So I caught everything when I came home the evening, and even some of what my wife missed, on Yahoo news - Pippa's evening gown for example. For a while the entire world was caught up with this specular event.
So, in the midst of all this media frenzy, what did my Lord say to me this week. First that, at the end of the day, what really took place was that Kings and Queens, Princes, Princesses and commoners attended a ceremony in a church built to honor and to allow praise to flow to our Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly that what shall it benefit a man, or woman or future King or Queen to gain the whole world - literally - and lose their soul. So it was good that the two young people got married, but it will be even better if they, like Joshua and his house, choose to serve the Lord.
In addition the Lord led me to read and reflect deeply on a meditation that captures the essence of life - to pray without ceasing lest you fall into temptation - the temptation to believe that life is all about Camelot, Hollywood, Buckingham Palace, Usain Bolt, Bob Marley's music, Kate Middleton's dress or even Osama Bin Laden's death which is the breaking news on CNN as I write and about which President Obama is about to speak, or whatever else the media would have us focus on. NO, life is really about communicating with God in prayer. And which reflection led me to write the following e-mail to my church.

Read this meditation several times, and each time I can identify with it in my own experiences with trials. But more importantly, it strengthens my resolve to regard, even more highly, what our Lord told his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He died; " Pray without ceasing lest you fall into temptation". And which exhortation, I believe, is the essence of what He taught in " Our Lord's Prayer". " Lead us not into temptation......". The temptation to go without praying for anytime. In fact to be constantly in touch with the only One who can protect us from evil, cure us of all ills, and save our souls from sinning. All three of which issues are ever with us - without ceasing.


Martin Luther

Verse Isaiah 30:19

"O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you."

You must learn to pray and not sit alone or lie about, hanging your head and shaking it, brooding over your thoughts, worrying about how you can escape and looking at nothing but yourself and and your sad and painful condition. Get up, you lazy villain, then fall upon your knees, lift up your eyes and hands towards heaven, take a Psalm or the Lord's Prayer, and pour out your trouble with tears before God, lamenting and calling upon him.....

The lifting up of hands, prayer, and the mentioning of trouble are sacrifices most pleasing to God. He desires it, and it is his will, that you should pour our your trouble before him, and not let it lie upon yourself, dragging it about with you and being chafed and tortured by it, so that in the end you will make two, or ten or a hundred calamities out of one. He wills that you should be too weak to bear and overcome such trouble, in order that you may learn to find strength in him, and that he may be praised through his strength in you. Behold, this is how Christians are made.

A couple of points.

1. This exhortation may seem a bit harsh to folks going through dire troubles, especially terminal illnesses. But remember that the advice comes from the same Martin Luther who God used powerfully to usher in the Reformation - sola fida, sola Scriptura.

By faith alone and only by Scripture - the word of God. Arguably the most important event in contemporary christian history, outside of the events which ushered in the existence of the early church. And who himself suffered much.

2. The exhortation really reaches its climax in its wisdom in the final two sentences. So, its all about our understanding how weak we are and thus when strengthened through prayer, God's holy name is praised. That's in fact the only thing we are called to do - to give Him all the honor and praise. Both of which issues sometimes escape us, if we are not vigilant - realizing how weak we are, and resolving to give Him all the praise. In fact a recall of a passage from 2 . Cor. 1: 8-9 may well be useful here.

" We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.'

3. Finally....that's how Christians are made .... through believing prayer in the midst of the severest of trials. As only that kind of faith can help to renew our church, and our country so desperately in need of God's Power and Love. So for the sake of God's Name and His honor, and the honor of His Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ the crucified, risen and ascended One, for the renewal of our church, and for the rescuing of our country, let us resolve to pray without ceasing. Amen

One of the great challenges in these modern and media controlled times, is for people, especially Christians, to blank out the world around us and listen and speak to God. Otherwise we find ourselves at the mercy of forces beyond our control and guidance from our Lord through His Holy Spirit is left for times of crisis - and when it is often too late. This need for constant prayer came home to me very pointedly yesterday when on alighting from my car parked in the supermarket parking lot, my ears were assaulted with the most sexually explicit music and lyrics that I had ever heard in all my life. Coming from right across the road in a inner city " ghetto " area! And which partying, in the late afternoon featured a bevy of dance hall ladies in full flight, and beside them were little children, boys and girls, not just watching, but " doing their own thing " also. While all this is happening, polite society is debating the new budget put out by the government, the middle class has its own grand carnival party on a Sunday, and the numbers in the mainstream churches continue to decline. So the Lord reminds us that the only real power we have to rescue a society, and a world, in deep decline, is to appreciate our weakness and cry out, literally, for His help. For only God can help us when children, the next generation, are being " dragged up" in the midst of such degenerate behaviour. And which "low life ", sadly not confined to where the poor and marginalized and often the-do-not know-better live, can only serve to perpetuate the worse aspects of human nature, and which anti-social actions have made us infamous as a nation of murder and crime and violence.
These then are indeed, the best of times for some, but also, the worse of times for others. And only God in Christ Jesus can bring peace in the hearts of human beings. Whether in London England, Kingston Jamaica, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Libya. And that relationship is built on the quality of our prayer life. Thank God for the many who have been faithful in believing prayer. That's why Dudus is no longer in control in Jamaica. That's why Bin Laden's time is up. That's the only way to rescue William and Kate from a superficial life of pomp and pageantry. That's the only way my country is going to be rescued from poverty, injustice, murder, corruption and gross immorality.
Finally a Word - about Prayer - which helped me along a lot these past days.

" For though we live in this world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets up itself against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it captive to Christ." 2 Cor.10:3-5 NIV