Monday, September 19, 2011

Famous abroad but suffering at home: Only God can help us!

With all due respect to VCB, Shelly Ann-Fraser, Melaine Walker and other athletic stars, Jamaica now has two authentic superstars - Johan Blake, and Usain Bolt. And with the fabulous run by Blake, just missing Bolt's world record in the 200, over the weekend, many would argue that I got the order correct. Sadly though, with all due respect to those who continue to hold our flag high, for me, the story of the week was the slashing of the throat of a ten year promising young man, by his sister. This is just too much. Too much to live with in a country, even where violence has been a part of of culture for far too long. But this act of barbarity, by a family member is just too much. And then over the weekend another person was beheaded. How does a nation, any nation, and many other nations are grappling with similar problems, deal with with this outrageous act of inhumanity? A few nights ago, the Lord woke me up to read a passage of Scripture with a message to send to select members of my church grappling with challenges inside the Anglican church worldwide. But on reflection , the message from the Holy Word of God is applicable to all situations which we find confusing, horrific, degrading to the human spirit and just simply barbaric. The following was the message: The context of all my messages is my prayer: Lord renew thy church beginning with me; Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s). Last week the Lord Lord woke me up to read the Ezekiel passage about being a watchman to the children of Israel, even though their hearts were stubborn. And which is ( part of ) the role of the church in any society today. This morning, at 4:00 am He woke me up to read a very intriguing passage of Scripture. But before reading it I was led to: " Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me though they had seen what I did. For forty years long I was angry with that generation; I said, they are people whose hearts go astray and they have not known my ways So I declared on oath in my anger, They shall never enter my rest. Psalm 95:7-11 NIV The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it. Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for the loaf they had with them in the boat. be careful, Jesus warned them, Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod. They discussed this with one another and said , It is because we have no bread. Aware of their discussions.............Jesus reminded them about the feeding of the four thousand with the seven loaves and the many baskets which were filled with left leftovers........and then , " He said to them, Do you still not understand" Mark 8:11-21 NIV I pondered for a moment and then used my reference Bible to read the story about Herod and his immoral lifestyle which John the Baptist denounced and for that lost his head. And also read two things this about the Pharisees. One earlier in Mark, where Jesus rebuked them for abiding by the traditions of men and setting aside the law of God. The other: " Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works works through the whole batch of dough? get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new patch without - as you really are. For Christ our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth." 1 Cor. 5: 6-8 NIV The context is the opening sentence of the chapter: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, of a kind that does not occur even among the pagans: A man has his brother's wife. And therefore Paul ends the chapter with: I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.......but now I am writing you that you must associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside. God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you". One of the sad things about my country, and I am sure it is the experience in others parts of the world, is that many years ago, people saw the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod, begin to "work its way through the whole batch of dough", and warned the nation. But few took heed. My country was a relatively peaceful place. The kind of immorality, slackness and violence which is so much a part of our music and culture today, was foreign to us in the early days. And no doubt the experience is the same for other countries. The pervasiveness of the gun culture, the aggression that we have towards each other and to strangers in our communities, is in fact a "stranger" and an unwanted one, in the Jamaica in which I grew up. The animosity among the political leaders of our time, and the level of corruption in public life was unheard of in the early days. The unvarnished lack of respect for the basic laws of the land especially in the public square, the aggression between youngsters attending schools, the loutish behaviour of too many who enjoy the privilege of being on radio or television, and especially the behaviour of some of our "men of the cloth" is simply shocking. So Jesus' warning to " beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod - who had John the Baptist beheaded, in the final analysis because he Herod, was consorting with his brother's wife, and John rebuked him. So this madness which is abroad in my country, the country of Usain Bolt and Johan Blake, has been long in the coming, and now we are in a crisis and few have any answers. This week the God of all comfort, who comforts in all or sorrows so that we may comfort others who are going through the same troubles send a Word from Brother Lawrence who was a Roman Catholic mystic in the 17th century, and who work found favor more in the protestant churches than in his own. It's simple message. An old message which forms the heart of the gospel. And which if followed carefully will lead to the Revival about which the Lord has speaking to me through a hymn this week. And if the church undergoes a revival in any country that country will indeed be blessed and not suffer from the kind of barbaric acts at home even while we celebrate great things abroad. CONTINUE IN HIS PRESENCE Brother Lawrence 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 soul is a delight to our souls and spirits. It is, however, also necessary. if we only know how much we need God's grace, we would never lose touch with him. believe 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. To practice without ceasing, to be in constant communion with God, as Jesus was in constant communion with His Father, is the highest calling of the Christian life. Not just to go and do things for God. For if we are not careful, many of the things we end up " doing for God", has more to do with our own undisciplined imaginations, rather than as a result of the movement God's Spirit. And such endeavors, which do not spring from the abiding presence of God in us, have no power to fight against evil, nor can they bring about the kind of revival that this country needs. As this is what the songwriter expressed in the hymn: Search me, O God, and know my heart today; try me, O lord, and know my my thoughts today, I pray: see if there be ome wicked way in me, cleanse me from every sin and set me free...... O Holy Ghost, revival comes from thee; send a revival - start the work in me: they word declares thou wilt supply our need; for blessing, now, O Lord, I humbly plead The only was that God will search us, at our request is if we are in continually in His presence. Further, revival is something which comes from the Holy Ghost, not from Jamaica House or the White House. So no politician, no matter how gifted he or she is, can bring about a revival in the fortunes of a nation. Only God can. And such a revival begins with those of us who are completely surrendered to Christ, and stay deliberately and intentionally by asking, in His presence all day long. It that possible you may ask. Recently my Blackberry has been down. So no immediate access to my e -mails, no constant access to facebook, no tweeting - well I was really not on twitter in the first place, no BBM's requiring immediate responses, pictures to respond to. So is it a coincidence that God sent the message from Brother Lawerence at this time when my mind is not being bombarded continuously by my Blackberry? Technological advances have their place in a modern society, but when they begin to rob us of time which we absolutely need to spend in the Lord's presence, then we have some decisions to make. Listening to music has much to recommend it, and watching movies/TV or reading a good book can bring a lot of pleasure and help to stimulate the mind. Further, reveling in the exploits of Blake and Bolt and VCB and company on the track can bring us a lot of pride and promote a sense of community in our nation. But what is the priority for a child of God horrified by the winds of change around us. And even more fundamentally, what is the priority of a child of God who has been rescued by a generous and merciful act God in Christ Jesus on the Cross of Calvary? Is it not to " dwell in the house of the Lord forever", as the Psalmist wrote in the famous Psalm 27. Is it not to " Abide in the shadow of the Almighty, as the same Psalmist wrote in Psalm 91. Brother Lawrence is right, our role is to begin to practice the continuous abiding in the presence of the Lord and watch how His blessing will flow to, and through us, as a revival begins in the church and flows over into the community. Then and only then will sisters take care of their brothers and people will die of old age and not because they are beheaded or have their throats slashed. That's why we continue to lift up the name of Jesus in all we say and do. That's part of the reason why another Psalmist wrote the famous words: How good and pleasant it is when brothers ( and sisters) dwell together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes, It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessings, even for life evermore. So we pray for God's blessings, His revival on our nation(s) as we dwell in unity in the presence of God. Amen Praise God.